First Summer Jobs By JB
What was your first summer job? What did you want to buy with the money you earned? What was your pay? What did you learn?
I passed the questions about to several friends. The responses have been numerous, various, and sometimes humorous.
They are great memories if you will reach back and recall your innocence. I have received so many responses that I am opening up the hot line for more good stories. They are everywhere!
The object of this summer project is many faceted. These stories are of growing independence, responsibility, commitment, accountability, and maturity at a young age.
Where are they now? Those young teens that went out, found a job, stuck with it, and learned life lessons. Those jobs at the time might have seemed to be beneath them. But if you think back…. These stories are nostalgia. They show the early determination and responsibility of successful people. They are insightful if not inspirational.
Thanks to my friends for some great stuff. This offering includes a little insight on Mayor Brian Loughmiller and Independence Bank CEO David Brooks!
Summer Gardening, The Hard Way
McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller
One of my first summer jobs was detasseling corn in Mt. Pulaski, Illinois for BoJac Seed Company when I was 12 years old. We would get picked up in the morning at about 5:00 a.m. on a bus or a truck. We were taken to the corn fields where we would walk the fields all day cutting rogue stalks from the field and detasseling the corn.
It would always be cold in the morning even in August because the corn would be wet. By mid morning as everything dried out you would bake in the sun and by the afternoon you were in an oven (over 100 degree days.)
It was hard work but I remember how proud I was when I took the money I earned and bought my first 10 speed bicycle. I remember riding it the 15 miles to BoJac’s office from my home to show them what I bought with my paychecks.
I still have a letter today that was written to me in 1972 congratulating me on a successful summer and offering me a 20 cent raise to 1.20 per hour if I would come back to work the following summer.
Independence Bank Chairman and CEO David Brooks
My first summer job was as the yards and grounds “man” at the hospital on Rhein Main Air Force Base in Frankfurt, Germany. After my sophomore year in high school, I had this opportunity for the whopping rate of $1.55 per hour. But I worked 40 hours per week and it was a pretty good check for a 16 year old.
I worked for Sgt. Johnson, who was in charge of all grounds, maintenance, etc. for the hospital. I spent a lot of time doing the routine mowing and edging, but also got my first experience at harvesting sod in the German forest behind the hospital and replanting it in bare patches around the hospital. This venture met with only moderate success, but I kept trying until I figured out the proper depth of the sod, watering requirements, etc. Like many good opportunities in life, I didn’t fully appreciate this job until some time later when I had “less pleasant” summer opportunities.
I try to keep this type of experience a secret from my wife, who might find a lot of yard work for me to do. I generally profess to know nothing about yard work, house maintenance, etc as a self defense mechanism!
Your kids should read some of these. They will be inspired by what successful people and public officials did as teenagers.
I’ve got other stories in the wings and am looking for more.
By JB Blocker
Annie Saenz would roll up to the Jr. High in her beat up ole pickup at 5:00 am. Often, dozens of teens who wanted some summer work would show up hoping to be picked for a crew. I was 13. She was a tiny little thing who knew the task at hand and watched over the kids from Sunray with a mothers love and an iron fist at the same time.
A truckload of teenagers would load up in her pickup bed amid hoes, machetes, and two giant thermoses filled with ice cold water.We brought our own sandwiches.
Usually there were two or three other pickups there to gather teenage workers, but her son was a classmate, so I would always go with their family's crew.
We would drive over to a farm where grain crops would occasionally wave to the rare hot summer breezes. Signs like DeKalb Z-950 indicated that these fields were growing ‘seed crops’.
Seed crop farmers are paid good money to grow the corn, wheat, milo (maize), sunflowers and other crops that would be the next season’s seeds for farmers all over the country.
Only the best farmers are contracted to grow ‘seed crops’ because seed companies have to be assured of total consistency.
The crops have to be watered, fertilized, and harvested in a timely manner. Some farmers aren’t as good at managing their equipment and time as others. Farms that grow seed crops are considered to be very responsible and reliable.
The farms also have to be irrigated to assure the crops make. A dry land or unirrigated field relies on timely rain. They are easier to manage, but not suitable for those important crops.
When you see those fields, they are straight rows of green all at the same height as far as you can see. If there are any plants that have grown taller than the rest of the field, they must me chopped down before they pollinate and potentially ruin the consistency of the crop.
These are called “rogues”. The weeds need to go too! Sometimes, there are lots of coarse thorny weeds!
Our job was to walk up and down rows that were up to a mile long with a hoe or machete and chop down the rogues and the weeds.
The job only last for a few critical weeks. The crop has to be tall enough for the rogues to show. The rogueing stops after the fields have gone to seed.
This is a job that can only be done by hand. It’s a perfect job for youngsters in farming communities like mine who are willing to work from dawn till about 3 or 4 in the blazing sun. After that, the heat is the enemy!
Well, it's not exactly a perfect job. There’s the snakes and scorpions, the occasional coyote casing rabbits and field mice, the ants, spiders, bees, the occasional skunk, and the 100+ temperatures.
None of those are as bad as walking into a wet patch in the field where your shoes pack with mud as you trudge down a row you can’t see the end of. If you are working in a corn field, the corn is above your head by then.
Some of us would carry canteens, but they get cumbersome very quickly. Back in the late 60’s, we didn’t understand hydration like we do now. Heck, coaches would hold out water until after football practices to toughen us up. They would be sued now!
So, what did teenagers get paid for this job?
Different crew leaders paid different rates. Mrs. Vasquez paid $1.80 per hour! Minus the 10 cents per hour for using her hoes and machetes and 20 cents for the ride to and from work.
Total, $1.50 per hour for about 9 hours each day before the heat was too much.
I finally found a crew that paid $2.10 but you still had to rent your tool and pay for your ride.
My first payday was almost $70 for a week of long, hot, mindless labor. Just in time for my mother’s birthday! At least I had my best friend Coy with me! It’s easier to share suffering.
I remember how proud I was to go with my grandmother to the Woolworth's in Dumas to buy the battery operated sewing sheers I had seen my mother admiring. I was swollen with pride when she opened the gift. Wow! What a great memory!
I bought some things for myself, but the memory of earning the money to buy my mother what I considered the first nice present I had ever bought her on my own made that week worth it. It was the driving force for me to finish that first week.
It is a wonderful feeling of fulfillment to earn your way and a big step toward maturity.
I finished the season working every week I could. It paid for my summer church camp and let me buy some of my own choices of school clothes from the JC Penny’s catalogue. It also made me want to do better in school! As an added plus, when I paid for my own haircut, I could tell them how I wanted it!
What was your first summer job?
- J.B. Blocker is a media consultant based in Collin County in North Texas. Advertise with J.B. by calling 469-334-9962. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org