Growing At PATCHEN
For me, moving to Patchen did not include any ideas of growing things of any kind. I knew I didn’t like living in the city and this looked like an opportunity to get away from the asphalt, fire plugs, car horns, and airplanes[i]Our previous house at 620 Pine Avenue, Sunnyvale, was right in the landing pattern for the P2V sub-chasers at Moffet Field. constantly overhead.
But as it turned out, the old town was a great place to grow thousands of Christmas trees[ii]Other choices I considered at the time were wine grapes and Kiwees. I still think we made the best choice.. It also became a place for me to grow in so many ways, but most importantly it was a wonderful, safe, and peaceful place for our kids to grow up. What I didn’t understand until much later was that it could be a place where I could influence hundreds of teenagers in learning the values of working hard, the discipline needed within organizations, and some basic principles of business. For me, nothing approaches the value of the direct family benefits, but I sometimes think of the experience with all those teenagers[iii]more on teenagers here as a sort of extended family experience.
In recent years we have typically hired 15 to 20 people for each Christmas tree selling season. I like to include a few adults in the mix but it usually turns out to be mostly high school kids, and a few college students, back home during their Holiday break. The youngest of them are often not ready to benefit, but the 14-17-year-olds are at the ideal age. Those beyond 18 pose a different challenge.
- We have had a couple of 12 year-olds that did well, but most kids that age are more interested in running around in the trees, throwing rocks in the pond, and chasing the girls their same age.
- At 14 we start to see them being able to discriminate “work” from “play” and a sincere interest in being able to actually earn money.
- By 16 they usually have a clear understanding that they are here to work and what remains is to instill in them the importance of, (a) showing up on time, (b) being helpful and useful, and (c) following the rules.
- At 18 years, most of them have those basic things down pat and are ready to learn about the reasons this place is so popular with customers and how the business works.
- If past the age of 18, they are not showing promise, they are generally past the point where simply offering them an opportunity is enough. If they seem to require an inordinate amount of personal direction, I work extra hard with them but sadly my efforts don’t always produce results.
Even though my efforts are not always fruitful, I can almost count on one hand the number of those exceptions. Notwithstanding those few, the vast majority of my encounters with these young people have brought me a lot of personal satisfaction and I can’t help thinking that most of them are richer for the experience. They are able to go on from here, having learned a bit about being respectful of customers and coworkers, being responsible to an employer, and understanding the meaning of the word “Deportment”.[iv]a person’s behavior or manners.
It is hard to match the feeling I derive from occasionally having one of those teenagers come back many years later to tell me how much the experience of working at Patchen has helped them “Grow” in their professional life.
Published: October 2021
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|↑i||Our previous house at 620 Pine Avenue, Sunnyvale, was right in the landing pattern for the P2V sub-chasers at Moffet Field.|
|↑ii||Other choices I considered at the time were wine grapes and Kiwees. I still think we made the best choice.|
|↑iii||more on teenagers here|
|↑iv||a person’s behavior or manners.|