Michael S. Manley

Michael S. Manley

New Shirt, Old Memories

Prior to Holiday World, my jobs had all been farm work, putting up hay or working tobacco for neighbors and getting paid in cash out of a farmer’s wallet at the end of the week. In the summer of 1987, I made $3.35 an hour – minus taxes and the rent on 5 SaniClean uniforms a week (name in a blue oval patch over the breast and everything) – swinging a weedeater or pushing a lawnmower or occasionally digging out the icy, knee-deep clay next to a leaking room-sized freezer, from a few hours before the park opened until a few hours before it closed. By the end of the summer, I was about fifty pounds lighter and had no problem breathing through a respirator mask all day in the humid Southern Indiana summer air. I don’t think I’m violating any kind of NDA by reporting that Santa Claus’s real name back then was Ray, though I might be misremembering that. The experience of that summer inspired the first story I selected for my MA thesis, and a second story, “Believing in Santa Claus”, that became one of the first pieces of fiction I ever published. I still think about that job any time I see a ditch that someone has left unmown.

So when they offered up these shirts for sale earlier this year, I broke my usual rule about no clothing with words or pictures or patterns and snapped one up. Showed up in the mail today. Happy anniversary, y’all.