Sunday, September 1, 2019

What were your first jobs?

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

I love this old photo of our three sons taken back in the 1990s. I remember stopping them that hot summer morning, when they were leaving for work with RH, to take this photo. I also remember feeling so proud of the hard workers they were.

There's not much these three guys can't do--and their sister also! Only one is still working in the family business of roofing and remodeling, and he took it over a few years ago when RH went to semi-retirement and I retired fully from the bookkeeping and office end of it.

This picture made me start thinking about my first jobs. I wonder if any of you have as odd a resume as I did as a child?

When I was little my father was produce buyer for the Kroger grocery store chain in mid-Tennessee, and in October my little sisters and I would dress up in cute Dutch costumes from his Holland bulb rep, complete with wooden shoes.

Each Saturday that month we would go to different local Kroger stores in Nashville where a big spring bulb display was set up in the parking lot. Music played on the loudspeakers outside and my sister Deb and I passed out Dutch cookies to customers. Our little sister Teresa was in costume too, an adorable toddler holding tight to Mama's hand. My fourth sister Jenn was still only a future gleam in our father's eye.

I doubt if we got paid anything but we got to keep our costumes and eat cookies so we were happy.

I hated my second job but it only lasted a few weeks. When I was 15 my father found me a job as a sidewalk Easter Bunny for a local shopping mall where every bratty little boy pulled my fluffy tail as I handed out candy Easter eggs to children, hopping up and down the sidewalks outside the stores.

Thanks for that one, Daddy.

The next one was better, also found by my father for me with a man we went to church with who owned a soda fountain shop. I was good at this job and my milkshakes were to die for.

During my junior and senior year of high school I found myself a job for the month before Easter at a local dimestore owned by a wonderful couple who were so sweet to me. My job was to make up beautiful Easter baskets and I got to combine all kinds of toys and books with the candy in the baskets, add beautiful pastel colored cellophane to wrap them in and a big floppy bow at the top.

This skill came in handy later in life when we had four children.


Mr. Doochin tried his best to get me out on the floor waiting on customers after Easter was over but I was too shy for that. Later on they turned the store into an art supply store that I shopped at as long as they remained in business. And each time I went in, Mr. Doochin teased me about being too shy to wait on customers.

The summer I graduated from high school I went to work part-time in our church office. This was mostly volunteer work as my boss, the pastor's wife who was church secretary, assured me that I should be paying her in exchange for the office training she was giving me. That was fine with me because I knew she would be giving me a good reference to a job I wanted at a large religious publishing house in Nashville. 

Silly in love me, an engagement ring on my finger, wanted a job, not college. It wasn't until our first two children were in elementary school that I went to a community college.

I worked a few days a week that summer at church, typing and learning to run copies off on the large messy mimeograph machine. I learned to answer the telephone properly and be discreet enough not to discuss anything said on it with my friends. I listened to a lot of advice on proper business procedures and business etiquette. And each week I entered the Sunday offering amounts from envelopes into a ledger. One time I found a $20 bill in one envelope and gave it to Mrs. Harrison. She smiled a funny little smile but didn't say anything.

Later on in life I wondered if that had been a test. If so, I must have passed it because by September she helped me find a good job at the publishing house uptown as receptionist for one of the magazine departments where I got to type up accepted articles for the magazine after they had been proofed by an editorial assistant. 

After a year they transferred me to another department as a stenographer, a promotion. A couple of years later I passed the test for editorial assistant and was waiting for an opening for that when I decided to leave work when RH and I bought our first house and decided to start a family.

Those were my first jobs and I'm grateful for the experience of them--well, maybe not for the Easter Bunny impersonation. What were your first jobs? Any Easter Bunny embarrassing moments for you?

Happy Labor Day to RH and our four children, and Happy Labor Day to each of you!


  1. It sounds like you had some unique and interesting first jobs, Dewena. I smiled when you mentioned Stenographer, because my first real job was a Stenographer. I learned it in college and then later applied for a state job. I still know it to this day. The Easter baskets you created sound delightful. This photo of your sons is wonderful, and your daughter is cute as can be. It was nice to see a post from you today. Happy Labor Day, Dewena. I appreciate workers, especially those that work with their hands, construction, farming, maintenance, etc.

    love, ~Sheri

  2. It's always interesting to me to hear about people's job paths. Those early jobs make for some good stories. Besides babysitting, my first real job was the local Dairy Queen, where I perfected that little curly q on the top of the cone, hah! From then on, food service jobs got me through college as I worked in the dining hall of a nursing home, the campus dining hall, and waiting tables at a variety of restaurants. I also worked in a real estate office answering phones, which I hated. Those were the days when no one carried cell phones, and it was busier than could be and the realtors were so competitive with each other. I also worked in a department store. Those were the jobs that got me through college, and I have to say I probably learned more about life from them than in my 'career job' afterward. That lasted about 8 years and then I became a stay-at-home-mom. Best job ever! This was fun, Dewena. Thank for leading me on a little stroll down memory lane.

  3. Hello sweet friend. So happy to see your post today. I have missed your posts.
    It is amazing how the jobs we have had in our lives really have blessed us in our every day lives. The memories and the skills we learned. Happy Labor Day.

  4. When I was growing up, this area was agricultural land. My parents moved here to build a house and start a family. When I was 10 years old, the kids in my neighbourhood starting berry-picking for money. Blueberries were 6 cents a pound. The money bought new clothes for school or a trip to the Pacific National Exhibition. My most interesting early job was as a file clerk for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I filed fingerprints, photos and criminal records. As a young single girl, it was fun to work with the Mounties. No women could join the force at that time and the men were mostly good-looking. It's a uniform thing. I was also a very shy and inept waitress at a mountain lodge. What a good topic for Labour Day!

  5. It's interesting to read about your early jobs. I started out babysitting until I was in Grade 11. For a couple of summers, I picked raspberries on my grandfather's farm. In Grade 11 I got a job at an office as a file clerk - filing papers. I kept that until I went to college. In college summers I did a variety of things - one year I worked at a camp as a counselor and before camp started I did things like ditch digging and cleaning old bricks for fireplaces. It was heavy work, but fun because there was a group of us.
    Now I'm happy to be a part-time language teacher! It's all been good experience. Work is a huge part of living.

  6. What a fun post! I love hearing about first jobs, too! My first job was working at a miniature golf course called Wee Tee Golf. I took money and handed out the golf balls, putters, score cards and pencils. It was a really fun first job.

  7. What a well-rounded past you had work-wise, Dewena. I loved reading about it. I was not allowed to work in high school but after my senior year I went to work in a lingerie factory as a timer (everyone hated me and I hated the job). I timed women three times my age to see how much they could produce (correctly) 15 minute increments. My career and schooling was working for NBC in Ft Myers' FL I made commercials but was also the first woman in the southern US to be trained as an account executive for NBC. Then went on to other careers. lol o Diana

  8. I started out at age 12, babysitting for the 2-year old boy across the street. He and his mom lived with her parents and they all went bowling on Friday night from 9PM - 1AM, leaving me with the sleeping 2-year old. So I got paid to watch TV and eat snacks until I fell asleep on their sofa.

    When I was in 8th grade, we moved from IL to KY, where my dad owned a small grocery store. I worked there on Saturdays, stocking the grocery shelves, cleaning, and sometimes cashiering. I didn't get paid; it was expected of me and my sister to sometimes help out in the store. But my dad always gave me money to get a hamburger for lunch at the pool hall/bar next door. And a pop from the pop machine.

    In my early years in high school (still in KY), I typed up the absentee list for the school, ran copies off on the mimeograph machine (yikes, I'm old!), then distributed a copy to each teacher in the school. Again, I didn't get paid. I simply liked doing this.

    We moved back to IL my senior year of high school and I got a job in the children's shoes dept. at Marshall Fields.

    While attending Community College, I did office/secretarial work in the Communications/English office. After a couple of years there, I got a full-time job as the main secretary in the Personnel dept of Bell and Howell. Another year or two later, I was working as a secretary to three directors in the Consumer Sales division of G.D. Searle.

    Then when I was 22, I got married. Different jobs after that, then kids, then more work back at Searle; babysitting kids in my home; paraprofessional in the school system; playground and lunchroom aide in the school system; receptionist/office work in a pediatrician's office; office work at an architectural firm; office work through a temp agency; phone surveys from home; freelance writing and editing...

    I think that's about it (that's enough!) up until my last job outside the home, which I left in 2012. That was working in the county assessment's office.

    Great topic, Dewena! I loved reading your stories about your jobs.

  9. PS - oops, how could I forget my other job at G.D. was after working as the secretary of the directors in the Consumer Sales division. I then went on to the Research and Development division as a junior purchasing agent. Now that was an interesting job! I ordered all the scientific and research supplies...umm, including research animals (which I'm totally against now...but this was back around 1986 and I was young and naive). During the time I was working there, G.D. Searle was also in the middle of inventing NutraSweet. I was one of their official taste testers during the process!

  10. I enjoyed this post so much! and the pictures of your boys and Christy... well oh my. but you have handsome children!
    my very first job was baby sitting. 50 cents an hour. I took it very seriously. one was for a doctor's wife. she left me a list of things she wanted done. (as well as watching her 17 month old child) all of her ironing and dishes in the sink from breakfast!
    when I was about 19 and hadn't been married long I worked as a part time secretary to a scientist here in our town. I answered his phone and typed for him. I will NEVER forget this! one morning I answered (I can't even remember the scientist's name now!)
    and on the other end of the call a voice said "this is Werner Von Braun calling Dr. (whatever)." not another secretary. but the man himself! it was the very early 60's. I suppose they were working on the space project. I quickly got my scientist from the lab. I was shaking with excitement! lol. you'd think I'd just got a call from one of the Beatles!
    I've never forgotten that call. and every time I see him in a documentary or video... I think … OH MY! I spoke with him! LOL.
    I'm not one to follow celebrities. but the HISTORY of it is what makes me excited now. I remember thinking … he didn't even use a secretary to have the call made. he simply called the lab himself!
    since then I've worked for many 'self important' directors and such and they always said "get so in so on the phone for me" as if they were too important to call it themselves. I think of Werner Von Braun... the original father of the entire space program making his own phone call. it's a nice memory to have.

  11. Dewena, your mother and sisters---are they in a safe place? Not sure what their forecast is there, hope it is not bad where they are.

  12. It sounds like your church work really did pay off, Dewena! I worked at too many jobs to count. I started babysitting at 10 or 11, then a paper route, too many waitressing and retail jobs to count during high school and college. I think we counted not too long ago and I had about 18 or 22 jobs, including my little hobby/ job as a blogger. I guess I don't like being idle!

  13. that was fun to read - have had a variety of experiences even from your young childhood. So interesting and i hope you post images of when you were a little bunny, how cute - and those mean boys. loved the whole post and your pics. My first job was working on a factory line at 19 on color televisions - i had to place a part as the tv went down the line. That didn't last long and then i got a job with the telehone company filing - which was so so boring,, then I became a girl friday for a medical transcirption service and eventually was my own boss and got my own accounts from doctor's and transcribed there reports for years. and that's about it. But, I did raise four boys and really wished I would have tried for a girl but I figured I was only destined for sons.

  14. Such a fitting post for Labour Day, Dewena! I can still imagine you, even today, putting together pretty, Easter baskets; it sounds relaxing and fun! Your many years of being the bookkeeper for your family business certainly required constant concentration, precision, and efficiency, which you definitely delivered, despite it being demanding and tiring, I assume, at times.

    Your beautiful children were and still are all such dedicated, hard workers, just as you were when your were employed by your father!

    At 12 I was babysitting for neighbours, until I started my first 'real' job, as a hostess/cashier for KFC, which I did all through high school. During university, I was a salesperson for a clothing chain, a cashier at a gourmet supermarket, and a server for a pizzeria.

    In my senior year of high school, I was chosen to read the morning announcements on the loud speaker, which was fun.

    As you know, I've been an ESL tutor for most of my life, which I really enjoyed. I've learned that we all have a variety of traits and talents beyond our 'regular' jobs, which are worth exploring!

    Happy Wednesday, my friend!
    Poppy xoxo

  15. This was a fun post. I love that first photo.
    My boys are hard workers too. They started to help out on my parents dairy farm when they were little guys. Helping feed calves, chickens and piglets.

    Thank you again for sharing your memories.

  16. What a creative way to celebrate Labor Day by sharing your working stories, was FUN!!!
    We all have crazy stories about jobs and it's fun to read others. Makes me feel "normal". Though, I never wore a costume! haha

  17. As a sophomore in HS I worked at an upscale supermarket as a cashier but during a promotion I had to wear a Hello Kitty costume and greet customers. So embarrassing ;)

  18. What a fun post this was, and I did enjoy seeing the photographs you shared.
    Looking back my first paid jobs was baby/child sitting for some of our neighbours …

    Hope you had a great Labor Day weekend and I wish you a happy September.

    All the best Jan

  19. My very first paid job was as a babysitter for the neighbour's kids. I don't remember what I got paid, but it felt good to get paid for a job. I like kids and never minded babysitting jobs.

    Then I was about 14 or so when my would-be boss, the grocery store proprietor in our farming community, got in touch with my mom about asking me if I'd come work for him on Saturdays. I worked for him on Saturdays for several years, bagging groceries, doing the tills, filling shelves and keeping produce stocked up. I worked there during the summers for several years in my later teens and did so until I graduated from college. It was a wonderful job. He was a great boss.

    The fun part of this job was it was the same boss that my mom worked for years earlier when she was a teenager looking for work. We always thought that was cool.

    Thanks for giving us this trip down memory lane. Enjoyed your post, Dewena, and reading all about your early jobs.

    Wishing you a beautiful weekend,
    Brenda xox

  20. Dewena, I enjoyed reading about your jobs and your children. I didn't have a job until I graduated from high school and went to work for the government in Washington, D. C. Unless you call babysitting a job which I did while in high school. Like you, my early job helped me to another better job. Thank you for a little glimpse into those early years.

  21. My first jobs were waitressing. My most interesting and thrilling job was working with huge heavy animals that should never have been taken out of the wild and put into captivity for profit. Hope you are doing great and looking for another post from you, I enjoy them so much! I don's see how people post every day....I sure wish I could!!

  22. My first job was working at a religious store packaging the mail send outs. I did that all the way through high school. You had done interesting jobs and mine to many to mention. Enjoyed this post learning about you.


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