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Job (s) that Built Your Character
Old 04-25-2011, 05:52 PM   #1
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Job (s) that Built Your Character

Let's hear about that job, or jobs, that you toiled at in your youth that built character, but paid very little in cash.

1. When I was in the 8th/9th grade I had difficulty finding a summer job, but finally snagged one selling soft drinks at the local minor league ball park. The job in-tailed lugging around a bucket filled with about 15 drink bottles and chunks of ice. I was required to pop the top on the bottles and pour the contents into a cup and carry the empty bottle back for another load. I paid the concession stand 13 cents for the soft drinks and sold them for 15 cents. At a 2 cent profit margin I did not make too much money that summer, but I did get to see many great pro baseball games for free. Today when I attend a local minor league game, I never fail to recall my work when I see local guys (many of them adults) selling stuff at the park.

2. Freshman year in college in Florida I got a job at a ranch owned by the man my Dad worked for. It was sun-up to sun-down 6 days a week (They called it "can to can't"). This was mostly working in the rancher's orange grove. My pay was $1.15/hour and I was paid more than most of the crew because my Dad knew the boss. It gets very hot toiling in the Florida sun, but I got a great tan!

Both jobs taught me to show up to work on time, work to the max of my ability, respect my fellow workers, and give my employer an honest days work. It also motivated the hell out of me to stay in college and graduate so I would not have to do that kind of work again.
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Old 04-25-2011, 06:19 PM   #2
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Paper boy at ages 13 and 14. 60 customers, 6 days a week delivered on my bike over about 5 miles of gravel roads. Winter and summer, rain or shine. I learned that the customers were expecting me to deliver no matter what and if I missed someone, they would call me and give me heck. I also learned how to deal with dead beats and that I had to pay a weekly bill for the papers. I knew that until I covered the paper bill, my profit was zero.

I still have paper route responsibility dreams.
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Old 04-25-2011, 06:57 PM   #3
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1. I got a dishwasher job for a Indian Restaurant in downtown Portland OR about 2 months after I arrived to the US (it was in 1984) $3.35/hr - I worked from 2opm till 1100pm without break - did not know that I supposed to get 10 minutes break every 2 hours - spoke virtually no english - I was on that job for about 6 months.

2. Worked as an janitor for a restaurant also in downtown Portland OR during my years in college. I started my shift around 11:00pm and done around 1:00am - 7 days/week - $4.50/hr.
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Old 04-25-2011, 07:10 PM   #4
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Spent summers picking crops and herding animals; nothing quite like walking barefoot through frosty meadows...
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Old 04-25-2011, 07:10 PM   #5
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Washing dishes in the school cafeteria for free lunch and about $1.25/hour got a check of about $60 every couple of months. Built character since the rest of my school friends made little remarks, but it gave money I earned and not given to me by my mom.

Then I got a job working for the town working at the cemetery cutting grass and water treatment plant shoveling sh*t from the drying beds. Paid about $1.75.

Then there was the gas station/car wash, paid about $2.00/hour.

All of them help make me what I am today.
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Old 04-25-2011, 07:10 PM   #6
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These sound like sh!tty jobs, not character forming.
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Old 04-25-2011, 07:14 PM   #7
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As a 17 year old I drove a Good Humor ice cream truck for the summer. No salary, straight commission. Had to have the truck out of the yard by 10 am and could not return before 10pm. No days off. Route was a in a very tough neighborhood in south Philly. Best time to sell was 8pm to midnight. Folks sat on their front stoops listening to the Phillies games on the radio. Only got jumped and robbed by a gang once.

The year before I worked at a cosmetic factory loading trucks. Other duties included climbing into the big mixing vats for cosmetics to clean them. Minimum wage but came home smelling great every day.

College - freshman year - caretaker of the rat colony for the Psych dept. Fed, watered rats, cleaned cages. At the end of each semester killed off all but the breeding mothers by tossing 100 or so rats into a large garbage can, pouring in a can of ether, and waiting for the scurrying to cease. Minimum wage.

After those jobs I got smart, got my lifesaving and water safety instructors certifications and worked summers as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at a summer camp where I met the future Mrs. Grumpy who was also a swimming instructor.
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Old 04-25-2011, 07:15 PM   #8
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Character forming in that they reminded me why I went to college.
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Old 04-25-2011, 07:36 PM   #9
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Character forming in that they reminded me why I went to college.
Exactly. Once you have had a good taste of blue collar labor, grinding through calculus doesn't seem so unreasonable.
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Old 04-25-2011, 07:50 PM   #10
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2. Worked as an janitor for a restaurant also in downtown Portland OR during my years in college.
While this is not exactly on topic, there are some relevant associations: a physics course I took when I was 17 from Leo Nedelsky was a formative experience for me, Nedelsky immigrated to Seattle, at least close to where you were, and he worked as a janitor for a time when he first arrived here from Russia in 1923. He became a theoretical physicist and (I think) was on the Manhattan Project. I decided to mention this when I happened across the information that when he died in 2006, he was 102 years old! So, I think you can expect a long life, too.
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Old 04-25-2011, 08:20 PM   #11
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Worked every summer in college but the summer between my sophmore and junior year I worked as a ceramic molder in a small, hot foundry in downtown Seattle. The ad in the paper described the job as "hot, dirty work" but the pay was $5 per hour when minimum wage was $2.90.

Had to fill my barrel with 100-pound bags of ceramic powder. The first bags off the palette were pretty easy to handle. Picking up the last layer was pretty tough. I mixed up buckets of ceramic powder, water and hardener (ammonia) and then poured the mixture into a pattern.

Took two buses to work and two buses home. I would get home, take off my boots, fall asleep, do it all over the next day. Quite a cast of characters worked there including one biker due named Animal. I loved the sense of accomplishment of making something but I was glad to go back to college in the fall.
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Old 04-25-2011, 08:32 PM   #12
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I worked at an ice cream stand on the actual Jersey Shore boardwalk . I made a $1.00 an hour and lived in a dorm above the Merry Go Around . On the fourth of July it would be crazy so my boss would give us a $1.00 bonus . Hard work , split shifts ,great tan and fun . Maybe if they had a Jersey Shore reunion show I could get a part ?
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Old 04-25-2011, 09:13 PM   #13
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At the age of 13 I was the projectionist in the theater in town for 75 cents per hour. The theater was owned by the most eccentric person I have ever known. I worked there for 5 years. An experience I would not trade for anything.
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Old 04-25-2011, 09:19 PM   #14
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Summer between 1st and 2nd year of college I took a job removing asbestos from Chicago Public Schools. We had to wear tyvek suits, gloves, shoe covers, googles and a chemical/particle breathing mask. All the windows were sealed, all walls and floors covered in heavy plastic. Got paid $6/hr to scrape the ceilings. When that didn't work, we had to swing a 5-10 lb sledgehammer all day long breaking away the concrete and plaster ceilings. Soon after, everyone started quitting because the temps got over 110 - 120+ degrees with no AC or outside air. We got a $1/hr raise if we stayed on for the whole summer. I must've been a glutten for punishment, I even worked OT and had a night job 3 nights/week and weekends. Nothing like being young and full of energy.
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Old 04-25-2011, 09:20 PM   #15
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Late 1960's Worked for my uncle doing farm work. Got up and started milking at 4:30.a.m. Then caught the bus to school. In the summer then worked in the field or milked til dark. for 15.00 a week. Sad part was uncle died of cancer. Then I worked even more. Best job I ever had! Glad I didn't have to do it all my life. If that makes any sense. this was EVERY day
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Old 04-25-2011, 09:26 PM   #16
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Let's hear about that job, or jobs, that you toiled at in your youth that built character, but paid very little in cash.
$15 bucks a weekend for miscellaneous farm labor as a teen (or working as a lifeguard/swimming instructor) did not build character any where near the extent serving in the military for nearly the past 23 years has!
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Old 04-25-2011, 09:33 PM   #17
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Paper route for 8 years, until HS graduation. Oregon weather is mild but wet, so I bicycled alot in the rain. Started out making $35/month in 1968, finished in 1976 making about $150/month (including subbing up to 3 other routes). About 45 minutes/day per route. Learned some about working, more about saving - a bit over $10k when I graduated HS. Also learned to enjoy bicycling.
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Old 04-25-2011, 09:42 PM   #18
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fireup I wish it was only weekends it was every day 7 days a week. Did the military thing too.
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Old 04-25-2011, 10:11 PM   #19
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I had an assortment of jobs in my high school and college years. Some were good, some were not so good.

My first job was working as a page in my local library when I was in high school. It was quiet and fairly easy although it did not pay much. Only in my final few months was I making the minimum wage (they were allowed to pay below that).

In college, I did not do any work until my sophomore year. I worked in my dorm's study hall and game room as the attendant during the 10 PM-2 AM graveyard shift. I became a pretty good pool player in those few months.

I also did some tutoring in my dorm, as I was one of the few business students in a dorm full of theater majors who could not do calculus. I would end up being a roommate with one of my tutees.

But it was the job I got as an usher at a Broadway theater which was the most interesting. I worked at the Edison Theater and the show was Oh! Calcutta!, a nudie show which would run on Broadway for about 15 years. It was exciting being in the theater district all the time. The pay was not so good but it, along with any tips I received, was off the books and tax-free. I recall one day being paid for the cumulative tutoring and attendant work then that night working at the theater. Twice in one month I received $10 tips.

But the theater work dried up so I got a job at my college's (NYU) library in my senior year. I already had experience at being a page so this was not any different except that the NYU Bobst Library was a lot larger than my local public library (and just about every library).

The summer jobs I had were interesting and had a big effect on my life. One of them was in a kitchen at the local golf course clubhouse. I lasted about 10 days there. I then got a job as a day camp counselor and bus driver. It was okay. The pay stunk but the tips were great. The following year I got another job as a day camp counselor at another camp. This job also paid badly but the camp introduced a computer specialty and I was the pioneer of that. This was in 1983 so we used cassette tape players to load programs and had color TVs instead of monitors. This additional task looked very good on my resume, and some of the teaching techniques I developed I would use years later in computer instruction at my job.

But more than this was when I decided after two summers of working with kids that I never wanted to have them of my own. I became childfree, a decision which would greatly guide me into the ER I enjoy today.

The following year, I was a driver/messenger for an architectual graphics company, delivering blueprints to construction and engineering companies during the big construction boom of the 1980s. I made more money that summer than in the two day camp summers, earning $4.50 an hour (a lot in 1984, and more than the minimum wage). It was a lot easier driving around tubes of blueprints than a busload of kids.
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Old 04-26-2011, 01:25 AM   #20
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Golf course grounds maintenance. Ditch-digger and grass-cutter extraordinaire. $4.25/hour, limited to 20 hours/week until I turned 16. I quickly learned that being a starter and a play ranger was a better deal, not that I got to do much of them. I also learned a lot about how the clubhouse beer inventory experiences "shrinkage".

The job itself wasn't bad, but I was watching people who'd been working there for literally decades. I realized that I was gonna need to get me some of that college stuff. There were about 1400 days at USNA when I comforted myself with the knowledge that if the Navy thing didn't work out then I'd always be able to get my old job back.

Four years ago I joined an investment club. Nearly every month since then I've lunched at a country club in a conference room overlooking the fairways while various speakers pitch their favorites. I'm usually gazing out the windows, watching the guy in the utility cart fix a sand trap or replace a sprinkler. It's a potent reminder of what a long, strange trip it's been.
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