Life’s a dance: from pizza delivery to selling

Dennis Warden

Life’s a dance you learn as you go. That song was performed by country and western singer John Michael Montgomery in 1992. If life is a dance we learn a lot about this dance from the jobs we do.

There was a time when most people stayed in one job for most of their lives, like Ruth Jost. Ruth has been employed at Warden Publishing almost as long as we have been around, since February of 1974. Warden Publishing was incorporated in 1963.

While not as long as Ruth, my tenure at the newspaper has been since 1987.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics those born between 1957 and 1964 have held an average of 11.7 jobs from ages 18 to 48.

Over my lifetime I have held 11 jobs. I guess I fit right in with the average.

Head janitor at Warden Publishing


Brown Shoe factory

College cafeteria employee

Pizza delivery 

Door-to-door book salesman

Custom Printing (now LSC)

Burger King

Monroe City News

Hannibal Courier-Post

Warden Publishing 

You may have noticed that most of the above jobs were temporary and/or part time held when I was a youth. Since I left college in 1992 I have only had two employers so maybe I’m not average.

The above list also doesn’t include the summers I spent mowing grass or selling Christmas cards to my neighbors to raise money. In my youth I would do almost anything for a buck including picking up discarded soda and beer bottles.

Some of you probably still remember when soda was sold in a wooden case in glass bottles. My sister and I would pull our little red wagon around town and collect those discarded bottles and turn them in for the nickle deposit. That was recycling in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. I should have kept some of them. Who knew that today a vintage 1960s 7-Up soda bottle can be sold on Ebay for $9 to $13.

My first job, where I punched a time clock, was cleaning the newspaper office. I made 75 cents an hour. I moved up to a whole $1 an hour working as a lifeguard when I was 15-years-old.

Number three on my list was Brown Shoe Factory. I worked there as a “shoe laster” for two summers when I was in high school. A good friend, Ricky Hollandsworth and I held this same job. We fastened the upper part of ladies’ sandals to the inner sole. No machine could do this, it had to be done by hand. We were paid good money and we were paid by the piece, which means the more we did the more money we made.

That job taught me to work fast and efficient. With that job I earned enough money to buy my first car in cash for $1,400. In today’s money that would be $6,218. 

The next thing that job taught me was I didn’t want to work in a factory my whole life.

In college that 1974 Nova helped me deliver pizza door to door. Not just any pizza but Shakespeare’s Pizza, the best pizza in Columbia, perhaps the state. 

If you have never had Shakespeare’s Pizza be sure to try it the next time you are in Columbia. When I was a delivery driver in 1979-80 there was only one location at 225 S. Ninth Street, now there are three locations, plus you can have it shipped to your door frozen. 

Perhaps the most tedious/boring job I have ever held was at Custom Printing Co., now LSC. I sat at the end of a sheet fed press and inserted a piece of chip board when a little bell would ring — after every 50 sheets of paper. Try doing that for eight hours a day. Luckily it only took a couple of weeks before management realized this was a waste of good talent. From there they moved me into shipping. 

My next dance, or employment, was selling books door-to-door in the mountains of West Virginia for the Southwestern Publishing Company out of Nashville in 1980. That summer was the start of my career as a salesman, and it was where I learned the importance of a positive attitude.

You’ll notice that I held several jobs in the food industry during my college years. Too many kids today think that flipping burgers is beneath them. No job is beneath anyone as long as it gets you farther along on the dance of life.

How many jobs have you held?