Some Danville businesses had exemptions from minimum wage in 1940

Published 9:44 pm Monday, September 9, 2019

On Sept. 10, 1940, The Danville Advocate-Messenger reported on the front page how employers in the city could hire inexperienced workers and pay them less than what the Minimum Wage Law required.

Inexperienced workers were also called “learners.” In order to pay the learners less than minimum wage, employers had to apply for special certificates from the Department of Industrial Relations. At that time, there were only 13 learner certificates in force in Danville. There were 487 learner certificates being used throughout Kentucky.

The article read, “A ‘learner’ is defined in the Minimum Wage Law as an employee whom the Commissioner of Industrial Relations permits, through the issuance of a certificate, to work for less than the minimum wage in consideration of the employer furnishing reasonable facilities to train such individuals in his occupation.”

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In 1940, Danville was listed as being in Zone Two under the Minimum Wage and Hour Order. The learner rate was 18 cents per hour for the first 50 hours per week; and 27 cents per hour thereafter.

The learner period lasted for 90 days or 720 hours. The federal minimum wage in 1940 was 30 cents per hour.

The state also tried to make sure employers didn’t abuse their certificates. “The department reserves the right to withdraw a certificate if it should become convinced that an employer makes a practice of dismissing learners when they reach their promotional period,” the article read.

  • In another front page story, it was announced that construction for a $15,000 supermarket had started, by owner, W.B. Martin. About 20 workmen had already begun tearing down the house on the corner of Fourth and Walnut streets where the new grocery store would be located. Upon completion, which was expected to be in November,

The store was going to be 4,000 square feet; have a brick front, with glass and brick on the sides and was going to be 45 feet wide and 96 feet long. Parking spaces was also planned for the back of the store. It was to be one of the largest grocery stores in Danville.

  • A woman whose husband had been jailed in August on charges of obtaining money under false pretenses was sent to jail too. When her husband landed in jail, he couldn’t make the $100 bond so his wife parked their model-T Ford near the jail so she could be near her husband. She camped in the car every night. The couple were said to have taken money from Perryville residents on the pretense that their home on Lancaster Pike had been destroyed by fire and they needed help.

After the wife was arrested, both were indicted and their bonds were fixed at $200 each.

While waiting for trial, the husband penned this poem titled “My Ford,” which was published in the newspaper:


We have wandered around from east to west in our Model-T Ford, 

It’s one of the best. There’s not a scratch on the paint, or crack in the glass.

It’s the devil on oil, but easy on gas.

The upholstery is fine, the tires are new,

It’s a changeable color, either black or blue.

The body is swell, the engine is good.

There isn’t a rattle if you wire down the hood.

If you have read this far, what do you think? About them throwing me in the clink.

I didn’t do nothin’ to get in the can, but they say I did so here I am.

They can talk about my wife and talk about me, but please don’t talk about my Model-T.

I sleep on a cell bunk, my wife on the car seat.

We may be uncomfortable, but not from the heat.

She is a good girl, she sticks with me.

We are counting the days until I will be free.

About a week ago during all the rain, she stayed in the Ford and waited in vain.

The Model-T is her hotel, you know, but what would she do if it started to snow?

To get back to my Ford, the theme of this tale, come around, have a look, she is up for sale.

Just one thing more I have to say, thirty bucks will take her away.