When I was a boy in the late ’30s and early ’40s, Friday was the best day of the week. It was then, as it is now, the end of the school week. But in small, personal things, like in the summer, Friday meant fish fries at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church yard on the other side of the firehouse, and probably the bill at the Michigan movie theater changed from Cagney to William Powell and Irene Dunne, or so I’m told.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were just guys standing on a corner waiting for the fun guy, the guy with a paycheck, and his name was Friday.

When Friday showed up with a clean shirt and money, then the fun would start. Friday was full of jokes. The cute girls loved Friday, with his pressed pants and shiny shoes, ready to make everyone forget about the rest of the week.

In the ’30s, if you had a job, it was payday. If you didn’t, it was a good day to borrow a couple of bucks from someone who did.

In those bad Great Depression years, it was the day Haag’s Market and many others put all the produce they didn’t sell out back of their stores near the chickens, where the transient Americans who lived in shacks down by the river could come and get it.

In some jobs, like the railroad or road work, you got paid in cash. You would go to a window, and a guy checked his books and put cash in an envelope, and you took it home or to Skeeter’s Saloon to clear your tab.

Even in the ’50s, when I was a struggling actor and had several jobs to keep the landlord from knocking, Friday was payday.

On one occasion, I worked at the great Bloomingdale’s Department Store, where, on Friday, everyone went to the fifth floor to a window where the woman who wore her hair in a bun and glasses on the tip of her nose gave you an envelope full of cash.

It was there, in that ugly green painted hall with its “No Fumar” sign, that I first got a glimpse of a girl with tobacco colored hair who worked in “Better Dresses.”

It was a fleeting glance and she was gone, but I couldn’t get her out of my mind, and it would be six months before I saw her again on the escalator and fell in love without a word passing between us. You don’t forget things like that.

Today, much of what I make comes in a check, once a month. My retirement checks from the Screen Actors Guild and Social Security both go directly to the bank.

Imagine how your grandfather would have felt when he went to the paycheck window to get his envelope only to be told, “Oh, Bill, your check goes directly to the bank now.”

Some Fridays are not much fun. My father died on a Friday at midnight, maybe just a minute or two before.

I’m told that when my mother sat in the corridor, waiting for my brother to come for her, an attendant nurse came and handed her my father’s clothes. These were his dark suit, white shirt and tie. She had forgotten the shoes.

“I thought you would want these,” she probably said.

I wasn’t there, of course, but the writer in me imagines her pressing them to her face for one last smell of him, of his shaving balm. He liked bay rum, maybe a little whiskey.

There were pencils in his jacket pocket. He was an engineer, after all. Maybe some change, I imagine. It was Friday, of course, and his paycheck was probably in his jacket pocket. That’s the part the son in me doesn’t want to imagine: my mother sitting in the hospital corridor with his last paycheck in her hand.

Sister Rosanna once read a poem to us: “Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of grace; Wednesday’s child is full of woe, Thursday’s child has far to go; Friday’s child is loving and giving.”

Thinking I was born on Wednesday, I was sad to know that I was “full of woe.”

My mother was hanging out the wash when I told her that at lunch. She laughed, even with a clothespin in her mouth.

“You weren’t born on Wednesday. You were born on Thursday. I remember it was the hottest day that week.”

“Thursday’s child has far to go,” wrote Mother Goose. Well, I’m still going.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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