When I enrolled at the university for the first time, there were almost as many students as there were permanent residents in the college town. Jobs were hard to come by. Government-backed student loans had yet to become popular. Unless one had some parents with deep pockets, it was customary for students to work their way through school.
I had just come up out of Mexico with very little in the way of worldly goods. My parents helped as much as they could with tuition but it was up to me to pay my everyday expenses.
After an extensive search, I was finally able to acquire work on campus for the lofty sum of 80 cents per hour. I like to tell people that I started out as “head man” in the library. It was my job to clean the heads in all the restrooms along with emptying the trash cans, sweeping and mopping floors and occasionally stripping and waxing them.
As a foreign student on a student visa I was allowed to work twenty hours per week beginning at 4:00 a.m. every morning. I was glad to have the work but there are those who seem less than appreciative of it.
In 1937 Walt Disney introduced the animated movie, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The dwarfs sang as they worked deep within a mountain:
“It ain’t no trick to get rich quick If you dig dig dig with a shovel or a pick In a mine (In a mine) In a mine (In a mine) Where a million diamonds shine.
“We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig from early morn to night, We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig up everything in sight.
“We dig up diamonds by the score, A thousand rubies sometimes more. We don’t know what we dig them for, We dig dig digga dig dig—Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, It’s off to work we go!” (Music by Frank Churchill, Lyrics by Larry Morey)
Quite a few years ago Hoyt Axton sang, “See the rain comin’ down and the roof won’t hold ‘er. Lost my job and I feel a little older. Car won’t run and our love’s grown colder; but maybe things’ll get a little better in the mornin’, maybe things’ll get a little better…Work your fingers to the bone—whaddaya get? Boney fingers, boney fingers.”
In 1955, Tennessee Ernie Ford released “Sixteen Tons”: “Some people say man is made outta’ mud, A poor man’s made outta’ muscle and blood and skin and bone, A mind that’s a-weak and a back that’s strong. Ya load sixteen tons and whaddaya get; another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter don’t ya call me ‘cause I can’t go—I owe my soul to the company store…” (Written by Merle Travis, 1947)
“Nothing does itself,” said Richard L. Evans. “That is, nothing constructive. Someone has to do everything. Lessons don’t learn themselves; classes don’t teach themselves; food doesn’t prepare itself; dishes and other household duties don’t do themselves; the very sick don’t serve themselves; machines don’t make themselves; words don’t memorize themselves; skills don’t develop themselves; projects don’t plan themselves; buildings don’t build themselves. Someone has to lay every brick and drive every nail, make everything that is made, do everything that is done, think everything that is thought.”
James L. Phillips said, “You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.” “We are all blind,” said Edwin Markham, “until we see that in the human plan Nothing is worth making, if it doesn’t make the man. Why build these cities glorious If man unbuilded goes? In vain we build the world, unless The builder also grows.”
So, Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, it’s off to work we go…