Summer Jobs Of My Youth

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By: Tom Fletcher, CFP®

Now that the weather has appreciably warmed and amazingly we’ve advanced through the month of June, I’ve been reminiscing on some of the summer jobs I held in my youth. 

Most every kid gets nudged by his or her folks to do something productive during those blissfully lengthy summer breaks; my parents were no exception. One of my first jobs was working for them (thankfully) as an outdoor painter, painting our detached and newly shingled garage. I’m sure they immediately regretted their decision to hire me, but could they really fire their own son? What kind of message would that send? As far as I was concerned it was cruel and unusual punishment to 1) have to wake up before 10:00am and 2) prep, paint and then clean paintbrushes in the blazing North Carolina summer sun. In fact I recall reminding them several times about these injustices. It’s fortunate for me that my painting career never took off and sorry Mom and Dad, but I guess because of the experience I still hate to prep, paint and clean brushes.

My first earned income job was at McCormick Field, home of the Asheville Orioles. I did this for a couple of seasons. The Asheville Orioles were a AA baseball farm team for the more widely renowned Baltimore Orioles. They are now the Asheville Tourists and apparently got demoted from AA to only single A. I started out at the entry gates taking tickets from the throngs of fans (actually not so much) but quickly moved up the corporate ladder to concession sales, then with the drinking age at 18 years old, beer sales. The latter was probably not a great idea for the owner to provide such an awesome responsibility to a teen. Though in general I don’t recall him making a lot of great decisions. I also relentlessly badgered the owner for the opportunity to be the park announcer for the games. And he relented. Once. And due to some unforced errors, that was the last game I ever announced. I did mention I believe that he was prone to questionable decisions.

My next two summers were spent working on the maintenance crew for the Town of Biltmore Forest, where my family lived in North Carolina. A couple of memories that stand out for me include breaking into a cold sweat every time I fed large tree branches into a rapidly moving industrial sized wood chipper with a deafening “whoosh”. For whatever reason I was always fearful that my whole body would get sucked into the machine in conjunction with the branch. I know, completely irrational, right? I mean the worst that could have happened was most likely just losing an arm. Thank goodness the movie Fargo wasn't out before then. I also got selected twice a week to work the garbage detail. What has four wheels and flies? The Town of Biltmore Forest garbage truck of course.  

My last notable summer job was spent in Kobe, Japan teaching conversational English to adult Japanese students. This was a much more civilized environment than my other prior employments. It turned out to be an amazing opportunity for me and I’m appreciative to have had the chance to travel to such a beautiful and welcoming country.