Being paid what you’re worth

In December of 1985 I drove 100 miles or more to start my first job, after graduating from the journalism program at Centennial College in Toronto.

In Durham.

Not “region” as I had thought based on the job posting in The Globe & Mail. Not commutable Oshawa or Whitby.

Nope, Durham, Ontario. North of Guelph, south of Owen Sound and for this aspiring writer hailing from what has often been called “Scarberia,” the Toronto suburb-city in it’s own right-and now part of the GTA, Scarborough.

My boss was a wheeler-dealer named George Benninger. The monthly publication was called “Insight on Collectables,” a trade publication that gave industry folks, gift shops and fans of collector plates, Royal Doulton figurines and art prints the latest news about the pieces and artists they loved.

One of the many Norman Rockwell collector plates I wrote about

The starting salary was $225 a week.

But…if I recall, it went up $25 a week for the next three “you’re still here” periods so after a year I was making a whopping $300 week.

And the rent on my bachelor apartment in Owen Sound was $225 a month. In a 3-storey building with next to no sound dampening. Which can be annoying. Or entertaining. One night, the young lady upstairs woke me up with her orgasm and she and her man got busy at all hours of the day.

No complaints here. A woman experiencing pleasure is a wonderful experience. Life is short (and I’m guessing her man wasn’t).

So, money, bills and all that stuff.

Making more a week than I paid a month in rent? I had lots of beer money. Subscribed to the movie network package on cable TV, a conversation overheard by a cheap co-worker who still had a black and white TV (it was 1985).

One of the coolest parts of my job at Insight was interviewing the artists at trade shows. I met James Lumbers at The Buckhorn Wildlife Art Festival, north of Peterborough, Ontario.

Lumbers would take photos of an abandoned gas station and add the ghosts of patrons and service attendants to what one gallery owner called “spook stuff.”

I interview James Lumbers, the man who painted this. He combined modern day scenes with ghosts of people and cats.

Sadly, the “make more in a week than you pay for rent in a month” equation has flipped. Expenses have gone way up, salary hasn’t. Though I bet my bank CEO is making ten times the money he made three decades ago. The rich get much richer. The middle class stay in the middle and are made to feel grateful for still being employed.

Or they get downsized or restructured.

I’m now a freelance writer. No salary or guaranteed income but if there’s one lesson I have learned over these many years it’s that you have to be in control of your future.

A few years back, someone recommended this book to me.

So true. You can’t keep running back to where the cheese was. It’s been moved.

I’ve got a long way to go in paying off my condo mortgage. But I’m in control of my earnings.

And the sound dampening isn’t great here either but my neighbors upstairs are in their 70s, living in Australia from September to June and the most I ever hear during the four months they roam above, thankfully, is snoring.



About johnnymaraca

sole proprietor of Maraca Media, former radio host (Johnny Maraca's Rock & Roll Riot), copywriter and producer and a print journalism grad.
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