AN AMERICAN STORY: SUMMER JOBS

“My father taught me to work; he didn’t teach me to love it.” Abraham Lincoln

This is the time of year when kids start looking for jobs … or at least, if it’s your kids … you hope they do.

My parents never had to tell me to get a job; I wanted to go to work and earn money, but kids can do more than earn dollars, they can learn life.

Like most of you, I did various jobs during summers and sometimes school weekends.

For my first job, I took our lawn mower from house to house asking if I could do the lawn. It was good training for a youngster to learn how to talk to adults, but I didn’t really know how to negotiate the pay.

I would get the job and when done, the lady of the house would survey my work and ask, “How much do I owe you?” (Looking back, I’m surprised that customers didn’t set the price before I did the job or that I didn’t set the price.) Anyway, I would just bat my eyes, and say, “Whatever you think, Mamn.”

That’s how I learned the value of modesty.

Then, I got a job selling “spud nuts”; these were like donuts, but made with potato flower instead of wheat flower; I would load up a large basket that I hung around my neck and start walking through our little town, hitting various businesses. I had a selection of plain, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, and on really good days, I went back to the shop and loaded up for a second trip.

That’s how I learned the value of persistence.

“Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?” Edgar Bergen

Sometimes, summer jobs turned into year round jobs.

For instance, I had a paper route when kids could still do them from a bicycle. The papers would arrive flat and bound with metal wire; I had to cut the wire, roll the papers, put rubber bands around them and then load the baskets on each side of my bicycle.

Sunday papers were the hardest … always thick and many times I couldn’t fill my baskets with enough papers to cover all the customers so after the baskets were empty I had to return to get more. (Here is where I need to thank my dear Mother for all the mornings she got up to help me get the papers ready for distribution and on stormy days, drove me along my route. I never could have done it on my own.)

That’s where I learned how to deal with adults … especially when they were late paying for their papers.

The door bell rings and here’s a rag tag, freckled face kid with a cow lick, and a nervous smile.

“Mr. Jones, I’m here to collect for the paper?” Yes, it was more a question than a statement. I certainly didn’t look like an enforcer for a bookie, ready to break an arm or leg or both. I was just trying to collect money for a paper.

Sometimes, I got paid in full; often, just a bit … which meant another collection call … and sometimes, I got paid nothing, which definitely meant another call … and my stomach would be in knots.

But it was good training for the adult world.

As nice as it is for kids to have their own money, I definitely believe summer jobs helping kids grow in social and business skills … is just as important.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the money I made.

Every night I would take out my personal safe and add whatever I had earned to what I already had saved — then sit and count it over and over. I only did this when my brother wasn’t in the room or I was sure he was asleep; I had nightmares of him finding my fortune stuck way under my mattress.

My safe was an old Prince Albert can. So, my money always had the smell of tobacco and even now, if I smell tobacco, I think of money.

“Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.” Woody Allen

Comments

comments