Friday, May 14, 2010

I've Been Working on the Railroad my Flashback Friday!

How old were you when you got your first (paying) job? Did you work during the school year? What stipulations, if any, did your parents put on spending, saving, etc.? What types of jobs did you have before you were, oh, 21 or 22? Did you go to college or a technical/trade school? If so, did you work while you were pursuing your post-high school education? What were your favorite -- and least favorite, if you wish to share! -- jobs? What did you learn from those early jobs?


Excluding babysitting, I got my first job the summer I was 16 at Sears. I was primarily assigned to the Infant department, which I loved. I remember one day a man came in whose wife had just had a baby. He bought almost everything I suggested and showed to him! There are a couple of days, however, that stand out as not-so-good memories. One was the Saturday I got "floated" to Shoes. It was a madhouse. You know how you sometimes have a type of shoe in mind that you want, or you try a shoe on, and you ask the salesclerk something like, "Do you have anything similar to _________ in {insert color or heel size}?" Um, don't ever ask a 16-year-old summer employee a question like that! LOL I would go into the back room and frantically look in as many boxes as I could in an effort to find the style! The other less than stellar day was the day I got pulled to work in Men's Suits. The only thing that saved me was the fact that it was a weekday so there were essentially no customers. I don't know which was worse - being totally bored or panicking that someone would come in and I wouldn't have a clue how to help them! One impact that working at Sears had was: I NEVER leave a pile of clothes in a dressing room! It shocked me how trashed out folks left them!

I never worked during the school year but I always worked summers and during the Christmas holidays (especially in college when I had almost a month off at Christmas). After that first summer at Sears I worked temporary secretarial type jobs. Each assignment would last a day or two or a week or more. One of my favorites was working at a developing subdivision in the trailer office, processing contracts and taking the calls from the new homeowners for things that needed to be fixed in those first few months after moving in.

Two assignments made a huge negative impression. One was around Christmas in the Ryder main office. I remember how filthy the place was and how smoky; this was before the laws were passed which prohibited smoking in office buildings. It was a joke with my friends that we would only use U-Haul after that! The other least-enjoyed assignment was at Makita Tools. It was a small office with only a half-dozen men at most, and they were all Japanese. Even many of the files were Japanese! How in the world was I supposed to figure out how to file them?! And the men always brought their lunches and heated them up in the microwave, and the office just reeked.

By the summer after my sophomore year, though, things improved tremendously. A mom in our church (the same woman who insisted we wear our graduation caps correctly and who I realized, in the past couple of years, just how young being a widow at 46 really is! ) was an office manager at what was then called Amoco Chemicals. I worked 40 hours/week for her every summer and Christmas until I graduated from college, and one summer she hired my two best friends as well. We had such a good time working together, and it was a fun office.

One indelible memory I have from working there was the summer they had this amazing new invention in the room with the Telex machine. (I loved sending Telexes; typing it and feeding the punched paper through the machine!) The new invention? The facsimile machine! (No one called it a "fax" in those early years.) It was HUGE -- probably 3 or 4 feet long and at least 2 feet high and 2 feet deep -- extremely slow, and the quality was marginal at best. But it was such a wonder to think that we could send a copy over the phone line! It makes me laugh now, of course!

The main effect or lesson learned from my summer and holiday employment experiences was the absolute motivation to persevere and get my college degree! And of course, I developed a lot of self-confidence, as well as the ability to work with all sorts of people.

Well, I didn't mean to write a book. (I haven't even mentioned the chemistry lesson I learned about heat expansion when my friend and I carpooled and she brought me my Avon Tempo perfume one morning, which I left on the seat of her parents' car while we worked. The car was parked in an outside lot. In Houston. In July. There was no perfume left when we got in the car that afternoon, just a broken bottle -- and a very strong aroma that stayed in her mom's car for a l-o-n-g time!)

So now it's your turn! Post your early job memories on your blog and link up here!


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Mary said...

Everybody should work retail at least once in their life! There are a lot of rude people out there!

Cathy said...

Good memories Linda! Too funny about th perfume and the facsimile machine. I worked at a Gold Circle (which would be similar to a K-Mart today) and I remember the day they stuck me in the camera department. I knew nothing about cameras. Very scary to a 18 year old. lol

Dawn said...

Oh, and I thought waitressing (I didn't add that to my blog!) was tough, I don't think retail will be my area at all, I'm just about to swear at Pennworthy if they call me one more time at the library! (Thus why my boss will be talking to them tonight). I loved your memories Linda! I will remember not to put perfume in my car and leave it outside during a hot summer day ;)

Cae ♥

riTa Koch said...

Interesting, informative, and fun!

Teresa Dawn said...

If I was expected to file Japanese paperwork I would have thought I'd walked into a practical joke lol!

Melli said...

Oh my gosh! I HOPE her mom LIKED the scent of Tempo! LOL!

I LOVED sending telexes too! That was my favorite part of my job!!! At a later job I worked on a TWX machine which was very similar.

You really got some good experience as a teen!

(I tried really hard to leave this message when I was here earlier to sign the linky... but blogger went wonkers JUST THEN! Sorry... don't want you to think I would ever link-and-run!)

Chel's Leaving a Legacy said...

Gosh it feels like forever since I've been here!

Your perfume story cracked me up. Although, I'm sure it wasn't nearly that funny at the time. :-)

Oh, and I agree...I would almost rather be completely clueless trying to figure out a job instead of bored out of my mind.

Have a great weekend!

Diana Ferguson said...

I did my retail work when I was between the ages of 17-20! Knew that would not be "my line of work" for long.

Kim said...

Wow, you have a lot of great stories about jobs! Loved the anecdote about the perfume at the end too :-)

sara said...

ok, I fail as a blogging friend! I didn't get this posted today. But my week has been hectic....sorry.

my first real job was at Pizza Hut...what I remember most? dropping a pitcher of coke in a customer's lap!!! :)

quilly said...

I worked retail as Summer employment when I was teaching in Vegas. The dressing rooms used to floor me! I checked them after every customer but sometimes they looked as though they hadn't been checked in a week! Teenagers keep cleaner rooms than that!

Unknown said...

What wonderful (for the most part) memories you have.

Have a great weekend!

Barbara H. said...

I'm sorry I missed this Friday. Our annual ladies' luncheon was yesterday and I spent very little time in the computer the last few days. It's over now -- all went well.

My husband used to work for Amoco Fibers -- I don't remember if that was a part of Amoco Chemicals or a separate division.

I like how you shared lessons learned at each job. I worked at a fabric store for a few years after marriage, and people would think they were being so helpful putting bolts of fabric back on the tables -- upside down and on the wrong table!

I also learned I am not cut out for fast food work nor sales....

Oh, BTW -- I conferred with the lady who used to do "The Week In Words" about sharing quotes from reading, and no one had mentioned taking it on since she couldn't do it any more, so I volunteered.

Lauri said...

I am late doing this post but, I am going to try & do one today. :) I had great job experiences.