Jobs that have disappeared

Watching old movies is very informative from the point of view of labor and economics! I learn about all kinds of jobs that don’t exist anymore and that I never would have imagined could have existed.

Today I learned about the job juke box girl. I thought this might have been some teenage girl who liked to dance, hung around a sweetshop in the 1950s and danced to the music from the juke box. Not a job, in other words, but recreation. A few minutes into the movie, I saw something I never imagined! A man put a nickel into a juke box, and just like through an old telephone, a woman’s voice said, “Your number please!” and he told her which song he wanted and which version. The voice was from a woman in some room somewhere, probably in a basement. Evidently, the jukeboxes from many different places were wired to this one central room, where “juke box girls” asked for the number of the song the person wanted, and played it to that machine. There was a sour lady walking around supervising the juke box girls and making sure the they didn’t have personal conversations with anyone.

Another job I saw in a different movie was a song plugger. Before radios and phonographs, music publishers had many booths in their central offices, and in each booth, next to a piano, was a “song plugger”. He was like a car salesman for music. Stage performers would give the song plugger an idea of what kind of songs they needed, he would select a pile of them, and he’d play them on the piano, singing the songs for the customers or just accompanying the customers as they sang them from the sheet music. The performers bought the songs they liked.

I wonder what other sorts of jobs there were that people now never imagine.

What about the job of a scullery boy? (as it was in old times in manor houses, I mean)

(I’m not actually sure about it and this is just my suggestion that it’s ‘disappeared’, in its initial sense.
I’ve learnt the word from the “Dick Whittington and His Cat” story. :slight_smile: )

my guess:

someone who either worked with boats or dishes

I knew about scullery maids, which were lower rank servants:

As I now know :), scullery (in a large house) was ‘A small room adjoining a kitchen, in which dishwashing and other kitchen chores are done.’
and, as I understand, in that old Wittington’s time the scullery boy was a person who did all the very dirty job there.

The phrase from the classic story is ‘He (Mr.Fitzwarren) took Dic-k into his house, and gave him work as a scullery boy.’

So it just sounds to me as a name of a ‘position’. But, as I said, I’m not sure at all.
This was rather a question :slight_smile:

It’s just occurred to me that one of my great grandfathers had an occupation that was already obsolete when he immigrated to the US in the very late 19th century. He was a water wheel builder! When he came here there was no call for that, so he built staircases.

This might be going too far back in the past, but I found the following lists interesting (doctors were called ‘leeches’ or ‘sawbones’, cobblers were ‘snobs’, policemen were ‘tipstaff’, female writers were 'bluestockings, priests were ‘cohens’ and reapers were… ‘hookers’!).

There are some funny ones here too, like:

NECESSARY WOMAN - servant responsible for emptying and cleaning chamber pots
KNOCKER-UP - man paid to wake up northern mill and factory workers on early shifts
PHRENOLOGIST - diviner of a person’s character based on the bumps on a person’s head
LUNGS - alchemist’s servant whose duty was to fan the fire
PARDONER - seller of indulgences … ations.htm

that is awesome

so if a knocker-up wakes up factory workers…

what does a knock-upper do?


My grandmother told us she was a part-time phrenologist in her youth, “but det vahs ven I vos superstitious, knock wood.”


This reminds me of that scene in “Young Frankenstein” where Gene Wilder tells the inimitable Marty Feldman – the pop-eyed, hunchback Igor (pronounced ‘eyegore’ – from another hilarious scene): “You know, I’m a rather brilliant surgeon. Perhaps I can help you with that hump.” … Igor: “What hump?!” … Here, the silences and face expressions are really effective and just as comical as the dialogue.

that’s frahnkenSHTEEN!