Sunday, October 07, 2007

New Prompt (Week Twenty-Five) Available at AnceStories2

I just posted a new prompt at AnceStories2: Stories of Me for My Descendants called "Your First Job."

I had several "first" jobs growing up. The first time I made any money apart from my parents was selling earthworms (25 cents a dozen) to fishing customers of the Log Cabin Resort next door (well, it wasn't a resort in those days...just a gift shop and a place where you could hire a fishing or hunting tour guide). It was owned (and still is) by the Fabry family just outside of Klawock, Alaska. (Skip Fabry was my fifth- and seventh-grade teacher.) On our little farm, we raised rabbits for meat and skins in a metal tool shed like the kind you could buy from Sears or Wards. Under the rabbit cages, we had deep stalls filled with earth to catch the rabbit droppings. Dad had ordered earthworms from somewhere and added them to the stalls to break down the compost. All of our food waste and garden waste was added and mixed into this compost pile. This rich composted soil was then mixed into our garden soil to fertilize it, along with the worms, which would naturally aerate the garden soil by digging little tunnels through it. I would get a spade and start digging and find a dozen worms, which I would place in an empty coffee can with more soil, cover it, and take it up the hill to the Fabrys.

My next two jobs were during high school. The first one was at my high school in Colville, Washington, where my dad worked as a custodian. He had heard from the cooks that there was a helper's position open. Every day, I would leave fourth period ten minutes early, go to the cafeteria, wash my hands and help serve lunch. The first few years, I worked right in the serving area. One of my duties was heating up and serving "chuckwagons," which were a meat and cheese sandwich on a sesame seed bun, heated briefly in a microwave so that the cheese would melt. They were in high demand...even more than hamburgers and pizza. I believe it was in my junior or senior year that I was put in charge of the salad bar, where would collect payment from the students. This job entitled me to a free lunch, and having a 50-minute lunch period, I had plenty of time to meet up with my friends and socialize before going on to fifth period. I worked in the cafeteria all four years of high school, and my experience there was a good asset for my resume for my next job. I enjoyed the cooks I worked with (I still remember the names of two of them: Earlene and Shirley), and in my senior year they all chipped together to buy me a nice gift for graduation. I also enjoyed the opportunity of checking out the cute guys that came through the lunch line. ;-) Sadly, I was such a nerd, none of them paid any attention to me! Besides which, I had no clue then that "cool" girls would rather be caught dead than work in the cafeteria! But I didn't think of those things; I thought of it as a good job experience and a way to earn a good, hot lunch.

The first job I had where I had to fill out an application and pay taxes was working at The Salvation Army Camp Gifford at Deer Lake in Eastern Washington, near the city of Loon Lake, off Highway 395. You may remember that my parents worked for The Salvation Army in Alaska; when we moved to Eastern Washington, we would occasionally attend services at the Corps (church) in Spokane, which is how I learned about the job opportunity at Camp Gifford. I worked there for all or part of the summers of 1982 - 1986. In the summer of 1982, I worked half the 10-week summer as a staff-in-training (SIT) and half as a kitchen helper, although really, it was the same job. I was listed as an SIT because it was a probationary period, but all that summer and the next, I had the same duties. Two other girls and I helped the cook prepare three meals and a snack and serve them. The last three summers there, I was a counselor. I have such wonderful memories of my summers there, and in writing about this, I realized I'll have to write in more detail about those times, for my kids' sakes. There were a lot of first experiences those summers: my first boyfriend, my first kiss, learning how to swim, and learning how to water-ski were some of those great times. I also learned that having a job required paying expenses; besides paying taxes, I had to contribute towards the cost of gas for the 70-mile round-trip journey required for my dad to pick me up each Saturday morning, and then repeat Sunday evening to begin the next session. My money was used to purchase school clothes, yearbooks, and any extras that I wanted to have over the next year.

I feel fortunate because most all of the jobs I've had were pleasant, learning experiences where I made new friends and enjoyed what I did to make a living. I'll never be rich from the wages I've earned, but my life has been enriched because of the jobs I've had.


Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

I wonder why schools don't hire students anymore? I didn't like my early jobs but I still have fond memories of the people I met and life lessons learned.

Miriam Robbins said...

Hi, Apple,

Here in the Spokane (Washington) Public School district, students are allowed to help serve lunch in exchange for a free meal. It may be different in other districts or states.

When I was in high school, my father, who was a custodian there, had two student assistants help him in the late afternoon and early evening. They were Vietnamese immigrants and were about my age. I believe they were paid wages for their work, which they would combine with their father's wages to support their mother, who still lived in Viet Nam. I remember they had to send everything through their sister in France, as U.S. - Viet Name relations at that point (early '80s) were at a standstill.