Shelf Life Community Story Project
Amplifying community voices, learning from neighborhood stories, and interrupting narratives of erasure in Seattle's Central District.

First Job

Photo by Inye Wokoma

Photo by Inye Wokoma

Gary Hammon

My father had the idea that it was time to move his family from under the Jim Crow regime and bring them to the Pacific Northwest for a better life, so he was a military person at first. And he took several jobs, different jobs. He ended up at the post office. And he also, he was one of the first employees at Nordstrom's. He cleaned their stores, and he went on to sell shoes, and he had all of us work in the stores, that's when they were Nordstrom's Best and there was five of them. And I laugh about it because we had to go out in the north end, and we had to go to Bellevue. But then he'd go to the post office and work two jobs.

I was 11 years old one day, and we were all eating dinner - that's when you ate dinner together, and you ate breakfast together and did all that stuff - and helooked down at me and said "Boy you eat too much. I need to put you to work." So I joined the crew. Of course my mother's like, "Well. what's he gonna do?" "Oh I'll find something for him to do." So I cleaned the bathrooms, cleaned windows, and picked up paper and dumped the ashtrays.