My wage-earning jobs over the years have included a variety of interesting and diverse undertakings. How do they compare with your own unique work experiences?
Grade school
In addition to the at-home chores I did for my 25-cent allowance and neighborhood jobs, like snow shoveling, lawn mowing, and babysitting, my best job as a grade schooler was one I discovered in a Boy’s Life Magazine ad. I sold seeds and earned sports equipment. I went door-to-door selling flower seed packets for 10 cents each. I did very well earning footballs, baseball mitts, ice skates, and other fun rewards. My friend Billy wanted to cash in on my success, so I gave him half my packets and told him to cover the opposite side of the street. I also told him my pitch was to introduce myself, saying I lived in the neighborhood, and I was trying to earn a baseball glove. I sold a minimum of a dollar’s worth of seeds at every house. Billy had no sales on his side of the street. “What did you say? I asked.
“Do you want to buy some seeds?” he answered. That’s when I decided I must be the world’s greatest salesman. That conviction/confidence spurred me on to other sales related pursuits over the years.
High School
In the summer of my 15th year, I worked on my uncle’s Ohio farm where I enjoyed driving farm equipment and the endless variety of work. At sixteen, I joined a friend to maintain the grounds of a wealthy man’s country estate. The man was prominent in the Republican party and on one occasion asked my friend to escort Richard Nixon’s daughter, Julie, to a formal affair.
During my middle teen years, I became a garbage collector hanging off the back of a garbage truck emptying garbage cans.
Also, during this period, I worked on our town’s road crew paving streets. One summer I worked in a factory punching time cards for production workers doing piece work. It was my responsibility to make sure the workers didn’t screw up the union standards by working too fast or not taking the allowed restroom breaks.
I also had a short-term job as a security guard in an armored car. We delivered payroll to plant sites. All I did was walk along beside the guards carrying the money bags, but I got to wear a holster and gun.
For several years, after school and on weekends I worked at a gas station, lubing cars, mounting tires, and pumping gas.
During college summers I worked as a clerk in an exclusive Westport, Connecticut, men’s store, selling men’s furnishings. I waited on Paul Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward, the newsman, Eric Sevareid, and other Westport celebrities.
My freshman year of college, I had a job stocking shelves in a supermarket. The market locked us in the store at closing time and let us out the following morning. We were permitted to eat any food we wished. Since we were burning cardboard boxes in an incinerator, we used to wrap steaks in aluminum foil, cooking them in the fire. I gained weight on that job.
During the school year, I played football earning my scholarship. I also drove school buses and charter buses. My bus driving routes included morning runs transporting students to high school, driving athletic teams to away competition, taking factory workers home in the evening, and carrying tour groups into Chicago.
Other odd jobs included being on-call with a moving company to help load or unload moving vans, working for the college as a custodian to earn money to drive home for the summer, working weekends for homeowners washing walls, ceilings, and doing some painting. Working for a local farmer installing fencing, selling Watkins Products door-to-door, and working as a busboy at a local country club.
In my junior year of college, I co-oped at Carson, Pirie, Scott in Chicago as an executive trainee, getting credit at college. I worked in the men’s department as an assistant department manager. A collateral job was modeling men’s wear during noontime fashion shows. That led to other modeling jobs on TV and a gig at the International Boat Show in the newly opened McCormack Place. My picture appeared in the Chicago Tribune surrounded by professional women models in bathing suits.
Post College
My best job ever was as a pilot in the U.S. Navy. Following the Navy, I became a life insurance salesman. That’s when I discovered I wasn’t the best salesman in the world. I was too thin skinned and couldn’t handle rejection. “Boo-hoo, why don’t you want to buy my policy?”
I had a thirty-year career in an electrical wholesaling company. My jobs included warehouse worker, counter salesman, outside salesman, branch manager, district manager, Vice-President, member of the board of directors, and was responsible for directing our strategic planning effort and writing and publishing a weekly newsletter. I hired hundreds of employees over the years, one of them, Michele, became my wife. During this time, I used my commercial pilot’s license to fly other managers and executives to out-of-town meetings and was once hired by National Geographic to fly one of its photographers over our town to take aerial photos for an article it was writing. I didn’t know when I agreed that it would require taking the side door off my airplane.
I have also written and published magazine articles and three books. One of my favorite activities is public speaking. Although speaking wages usually amount to nothing more than a gift coffee mug, a framed certificate of appreciation, or a free meal, I did have one engagement in Boston that included airfare, hotel and travel benefits. My presentations have been about genealogy research, motorcycling adventures, sailing experiences, running achievements, and aviation exploits.
The worst job during all those years was the factory timekeeper job. Boring! There were several favorites. My service in the Navy tops the list. The wholesaling career included numerous highlights. And writing and speaking opportunities have brought much post-retirement satisfaction.
I bet a number of my readers have had equally varied and interesting jobs. I’d like to hear about them. That might make an interesting follow-up blog article.

6 thoughts on “Jobs

  1. After my career in cutting neighbors’ grass with my dad’s push mower, my first Wage-Earning Job was shelving books after school and on weekends in a library for 25 cents an hour. I was twelve years old, and that was not bad money. My best job was in the summer between high school and college; I worked as a Chore Boy in a sport fishing camp in the North Woods of MN, about 50 miles from Canada. My job description included dish washing, grass cutting, boat painting, fish cleaning, and driving an old woody wagon on errands. There was also time for fishing and for the first and only time I sold flies that I had tied. During college, I spent a summer working night shift in a brewery (stacking cases in semis and freight cars) and another summer working night shift on the line in a Plymouth body plant. At the end of the summer, I had been promoted to attaching the driver-side front-door on every body that left the plant.

  2. Brian,

    Yeah, right. Whenever I would see a Paul Newman film I would imagine his sweater was the one I sold to his wife.

  3. Interesting array of jobs, Jim! Even Carson, Pirie, Scott! Imagine it was interesting to job knob with Ms. Woodward, too!

  4. You’ve stimulated me to try to chronicle all my jobs along the way. Some good some not so good but all pretty interesting for different reasons.

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