Will Smith Childhood Job Would Violate Child Labor Laws Today, He Says

For Will Smith, childhood was the foundation for his future success. Smith would ultimately make and lose and re-make a fortune in music, then television and movies. However, he credits childhood life lessons with instilling a work ethic upon him. Some of those lessons may have been extreme, but they worked for him.

Smith writes about his childhood in his new autobiography, Will. Even though the job he had in high school wouldn’t fly today, it taught him to work hard, and did good for the community, too. 

Will Smith’s childhood job was bagging ice for his father 

Smith’s father, whom he called Daddio, owned the business Air-Conditioning, Refrigeration, Air Compressors, or ACRAC for short. When clients gave him their old, used equipment, Daddio saw another opportunity. He used it to make ice, which he bagged and sold. He just needed baggers. 

“The problem was that bagging thousands of pounds of ice each day required labor,” he wrote. “A lot of labor. And because ice is cheap, you need the labor to be cheap. It started with me and Harry and Ellen and both my sisters Pam, and then all of our friends. And then Daddio started recruiting extended family and all of their friends. Child labor laws were very different back in the day, so pretty soon, every kid in the neighborhood was bagging ice.”

Will Smith’s childhood job required heavy lifting

Smith described in elaborate detail the process of bagging ice for ACRAC. It was not as glamorous as rapping with DJ Jazzy Jeff or starring in blockbuster movies.

In case you were wondering, bagging ice is just as dull and monotonous as it sounds. And you always hurt your back. The aluminum scoop held about four pounds of ice; two and a half scoops into a ten-pound bag, which you would then spin to twist the top and then drop it into the tie machine and then toss the bag into the shopping cart. If you stacked them correctly you could get about twenty-four bags into one shopping cart. Then you roll the cart into the freezer, take the bags out one at a time, and stack them. In a four-hour session, one person could do 200-250 bags. It’s repetitive and you just kinda zone out for a few hours while you do it. 

ACRAC was good for all the neighborhood kids 

Smith bagged ice to help his family out and earn some extra cash. However, business was booming enough to hire many neighborhood kids. ACRAC provided a safe space with a good job.

“ACRAC was the way kids stayed off the street and made a little money for the summer,” he wrote. “Daddio had become a kind of kid whisperer in Wynnefield. Because he was so military-minded, he was instilling structure and discipline to the level that most of these kids had never experienced. And he paid cash! If a kid was late, he sent them home. If someone cursed or fought, they were out. The kids’ parents loved it – their kids were earning cash money and learning respect and discipline. Daddio was in his lane.”

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