In addition to fun-filled days at the beach, sleeping late, and getting together with friends, for most of us the summers between our high-school and college years included time spent working at a part-time job. Although back then, we may have viewed them only as a means of earning a little extra cash, these initial forays into the world of employment provided us with far more valuable lessons about developing a strong work ethic, cooperating as part of a team, and taking pride in a job well done. Here, our readers share the ways in which they continue to benefit from those long-ago experiences.
It was the beginning of the summer of 1963 in Los Angeles, California, and I was 15½ years old and determined to get a job. I wanted to be able to buy myself a few little extras, like a new blouse or lipstick, that were not in our family’s budget. I also had the goal of saving up to purchase a small used car in a year or two.
I decided I would take the bus down Beverly Boulevard and transfer to the one going down Broadway, toward downtown. I stopped in every store and shop and asked for a job. After three days, I had no success, but my determination never wavered. On the fourth day, I went to the human resources department at J.J. Newberry’s five-and-dime and was hired. I was ecstatic!
I worked there for three years—every summer and on weekends and holiday breaks throughout the school year. Today, after being in the workforce for fifty years and enjoying several great careers, I am still grateful for the opportunity I had to develop a wonderful work ethic, to take pride in doing a job right, and to learn how to save money. (P.S.: I bought and paid for my little used Ford Fairlane in 1966!)
-ROSEMARIE BAUER, Pinole, California
In junior high and high school, I worked as a babysitter for two families at our local naval base. One couple had three sons ages 4, 7, and 9, and the other family had a son and daughter who were both 8. I took each of the children to the library and got them their first library cards. After lunch each day, I would read and act out the classic novels we had checked out, such as Treasure Island, The Three Musketeers, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and A Little Princess (my favorite, written by Frances Hodgson Burnett).
My charges loved our story time, and we even prepared food and made costumes inspired by each book. I found out later that all of the kids not only developed a love for reading, they also would “perform” the stories for their parents, grandparents, or anyone else who would listen!
-JACQUI FRANCLEMONT, Zion, Illinois
It was the late 1950s, and I was ready to work! The day after I turned 16, I had my father take me down to the local coffee shop so that I could apply for a “real” job. I was a busy young lady, with many after-school activities, but I wanted to work a few hours a week. The interview went well, and I was hired for $1 an hour. Each day, I would don my white uniform and apron. I waited on customers, cooked, and washed dishes. Later, I was even entrusted to close up the shop at the end of the night. I felt so responsible!
I was employed there for two years, until I went off to college. My parents allowed me to do whatever I wanted with the money I earned. I loved saving and buying clothes for school. I was happy to have this job, and it helped me to develop a very good work ethic that has served me well throughout my life.
-SUE HOUSER, Modesto, California
Although it lasted only one summer, my first job taught me lessons of a lifetime. In the summer of 1983, I was hired by the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce to hand out brochures to tourists and sell concert tickets. Morro Bay is located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, so many tourists pass through the area. I greeted them all with a friendly smile, providing directions and promoting local businesses. My supervisor took the time to share helpful advice on dressing appropriately in a business setting. I look back on those days fondly, and I still cherish the lessons I learned there.
-STACEY BROWN, The Woodlands, Texas
I remember being so excited when I turned 14, as I was finally old enough to work as a volunteer candy striper during the summer. I could wear the cute red-and-white pinstriped pinafore and witness firsthand all the mysteries that went on behind hospital doors. I wanted to be a nurse, and my mother thought this would be a good experience that would help me get accepted into a college program. I delivered mail, filled ice pitchers, and assisted in delivering meal trays. The nurses also would give me more important tasks, such as sitting with apprehensive patients and reading to others.
I grew so much from being a candy striper. What I saw at the hospital gave me courage and drive. I gained respect for all the employees there, from the receptionist to the surgeons. Although I received no pay for my work (except for a free lunch each workday and a certificate at the end of my tenure), my life was changed forever by this experience.
-REBECCA HARRILL, Marion, North Carolina