Dante’s Inferno and Dunkin Donuts – My First Real Jobs

I have written several times before about my diverse portfolio of interesting jobs that I have held throughout my life – as a Federal Investigator with link, as a Phillies Girl, with link, and I started to write one about my brief stint as a boss chick for WFIL, but I abandoned that one for this one. (and that one will come later.)

I have always worked. Always. I babysat from the age of 9 1/2 for money, until the age of almost 16. That is how I bought record albums and clothes, as money was scarce in my household. But at the age of 15, something wonderful happened: I could say that I was “almost 16” and get a REAL job at two eateries close to my house. Both were within one block of my home on Castor Avenue. (the subject of a previous and popular blog linked here.)

I was 15 and far off from 16 at the start of my junior year in high school (May birthday) but I talked my way into a job at the newly opened Dunkin Donuts at Castor Avenue and Levick. It was my first hourly wage with tips, aside from babysitting, and I felt very grown-up to serve customers their coffee and doughnuts at the counter. It was a very basic store then – serving doughnuts and coffee and soft drinks. My job was to package up a dozen doughnuts in a box for those customers coming in for that, and to serve the customers who came in for the basic cup of coffee and a doughnut or two. It was not a hard job, and I received my first uniform, of many to come, and wore it proudly as I held my very first real job. (I believe you had to be 16 to be legitimately employed for an hourly wage in those days, but not everyone was careful about collecting proof and data to back that up.)

It was at our area’s very first Dunkin Donuts that I occasionally stepped in the back and saw how doughnuts were made, and learned that donut holes were made from scraps, some that fell on the floor. To this day, I will not eat a donut hole. I saw how my favorite chocolate icing was made with real coffee.

The manager was a lecherous jerk, so the job did not last more than a few months. Yet with having a real job and a real paycheck, I was spoiled and set out about getting another job with “waitress experience” on my resume.

Just a few doors down on Castor Avenue was Dante’s Inferno, where I promptly got hired right after quitting Dunkin Donuts despite being underage because of my “experience.” It was a sandwich and pizza place, owned by Lou Calinieff, who sold it shortly after I began working there. I say the owner’s name because for those who grew up with me in my neighborhood, Lou Calinieff was the father of the famous actor Michael Callan. There were Michael Callan glossies hanging up everywhere inside that small restaurant, and I can picture Lou to this day, with his jet black slicked-back hair, beaming if you mentioned you were a fan of his son.

Aside about Michael Callan: Many may just barely remember Michael Callan, but he was the cause of a major crush of mine and he really was so gorgeous and promising of an actor. I remember him in the movie with Jane Fonda, Cat Ballou, with his killer smile, and gorgeous face and hair.

He was on television a lot too, and the fact that he was a native son of my area was a source of pride during his heyday. I am attaching a photo here of what he looked like in his prime, and what a customer at Dante’s Inferno saw on the walls when they walked into the establishment.

He made some very poor personal decisions during his run at fame, and his last major role was a television sitcom called Occasional Wife. He had an affair with his co-star, the show got canceled, and he seemed to disappear. When I was writing for our Jewish newspaper in Houston many years later, I wrote the celebrity beat for those issues and got to meet Sally Struthers when she appeared in a show, and also Steven Spielberg who I interviewed and posed with for photos. But the point here is that when Michael Callan came through because he was appearing in a local theater production, I got to meet him, interview him and write up a story. He was a sad, washed-up man at that point, owning up to making a lot of mistakes in his life. I wrote a more upbeat version of our meeting though. The show closed before it started – there were rehearsal troubles and it never opened. I mentioned my stint at his dad’s restaurant and how I saw all of his glossies while getting food from there, and admired him greatly while growing up a child in Oxford Circle, our area of Philadelphia. Those memories made him happy and our time together was pleasant. (He looked like an older washed-up version of himself too – older than his years.) One of these days, I will post these celebrity stories that I wrote for my first newspaper assignments.

Back to my job: I had to work the counter, take phone orders, (the phone rang non-stop) and wait on patrons. It was a manic, relentless kind of job that sometimes required doing multiple things at once, but it lasted until I was just about 16 and could get another waitress or cashier job. I will never forget to this day how disappointed I was that my first real jobs were not fun as I thought they would be in my naivete and innocence. It was then that I vowed to work hard on my education and become a professional so I did not ever have to be a waitress again. My very next job though, after quitting Dante’s was the summer after I turned 16, and yes, it was at another pizza place and sandwich shop, “Paul’s Sandwiches” next to Matz Jewelers on Castor Avenue. This job was a little more fun though because several people my age worked there and we had fun together, and it was at that job that I learned how to flirt with the patrons for better tips. It was a perfect summer and my last waitress job. (A friend the grade ahead of me, Hilary, who worked there with me taught me that one.)

Castor Avenue provided me with at least five of my part time jobs as a teen and I am forever grateful for each and every experience that I had. In fact some of my jobs were shared with other teens and so much fun. And they set the tone for following my dreams of having a very different career!

6 comments

  • My friend Arthur Dubin and I used to leave school grounds at Spruance in the late 50’s and walk up to Castor ave to eat at Lintons and Dante’s Inferno. I remember playing Dion’a “Runaround Sue” for a nickel in the Jukebox.

  • Loved Michael Callan! He once came to Moore school to pick up his sister!

  • I worked at Dante’s too. The summer before college. In 1974. My aunt lived next to the Calinoffs on Kerper St and Sherri Calinoff was in my 7th grade Class. That job as well as being a cashier at the movies made me glad that I was going to college in the fall btw just wanted to ask if you remember getting into trouble with a friend of yours, me and your neighbor Sara??

    • I remember my neighbor Sara (Israeli) but I do not know who you are so I cannot answer your question. I have a great memory for the old days and I know I got into mischief often, so who are you and what’s the scoop?
      Thanks for reading and writing in. Did the phones at Dante’s Inferno drive you crazy too?

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