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Friday, May 03, 2002

My First Job

Summer's almost here, which got me thinking about my first job--as a summer camp counselor when I was 15 and 16.

The camp were I worked was a Civilian Conservation Corps project back in the 1930s, you know, that organization set up by President Roosevelt to create jobs for the unemployed. The camp consisted of several log cabins with stone floors and fireplaces. There was cement between the cracks in the log walls, but much of it was long gone, creating a space for the wind and little snakes to get in.

I worked as a "pioneer skills" instructor, meaning I taught kids how to tie knots and build towers and bridges. I even had a hand-cranked machine for making rope out of a big spool of twine. I had an axe and a couple of saws for felling the trees needed for the building projects.

The first week of camp was devoted to getting the place in shape before the kids arrived, so the crew of 30 or so counselors got hand tools like shovels, picks and crude, hand-slung weed-cutting device, and we all got to work.

We knew that a whole line of us by the side of a road, with our shirts off, slinging the tools, made us look like a chain gang, so we'd sing "Plastic Jesus" from the movie "Cool Hand Luke" and Negro spirituals.

Plastic Jesus

I don't care if it rains or freezes,
'Long as I have my plastic Jesus riding on the dashboard of my car.
I can go a hundred miles an hour,
'Long as I've got the almight power, glued up there by my pair of fuzzy dice.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Swing low, sweet chariot
Comin' for to carry me home;
Swing low, sweet chariot
Comin' for to carry me home.

I looked over Jordan, and
What did I see,
Comin' for to carry me home?
A band of angels comin' after me,
Comin' for to carry me home.

When that week was up, I set up an old, canvas Army tent near my instructing area and lived in it the next month.

There were two flush toilets in the camp and several pit latrines. The latrines always smelled awful and had flies, so I chose to do my business in the woods.

I hit it off with the cafeteria staff, which was a good thing, because they had access to a washing machine. I used it once or twice a week when my clothes got a little too gamey. Plus, one of the cooks had a grocery sack full of porn magazines, which proved to be very enlightening.

The next job I had was as a pizza delivery job. I made as much in one shift there as I did all week at the summer camp, but I pretty much hated the delivery job.

What was your first paycheck job?

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