For Labor Day weekend, we wanted to take a break from all of the heavy news.


So we asked members of our Email Interactive Group about the lessons they learned from their summer jobs.

For so many readers, the early working experiences produced pearls of wisdom that have lasted a lifetime.


Many years ago, I worked as a temp for a semester break job. I was placed in the mail room of a company that provided industrial supplies. My job was to package catalogues to be shipped. It was tedious and boring. And the other mailroom workers were regular employees who told me not to work so hard because they would have to keep up my momentum after I left.

The job was not interesting at all. But it did motivate me to complete my college education.

I did not want to end up in a mindless, restrictive job for the rest of my life.

Fern Malowitz, Jacksonville


Probably the most educational job I had was working in pest control. I don’t know what kind of chemicals we used, but for many years I received questionnaires that asking questions like “How many thumbs do you have?”

One task involved spraying the grounds of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ former house after she moved — but before it became a state park. This job was one of the main things that motivated me to get a Ph.D.

Drew Sappington, St. Augustine


I entered the minor seminary at the age of 13 in the early 1950s. During my high school years — when I returned home for the summer — my mother had already lined up jobs for me.

Often I worked in the kitchen at a Jesuit House of Studies in downtown Boston. My mother didn’t care if I was paid, as long as they fed me. I’m here to tell you that Jesuits eat well! And yes, I was paid, too!

One summer I worked at the old City Hall in downtown Boston. The elevator was very old and always appeared to get stuck between floors. Yes, it was self-operated. I think that’s why most people took the stairs. However, I do remember Bob Hope getting off the elevator on his way to visit the mayor. He was in town to appear at a fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund, the local charity for children.

One of the nastiest jobs I had was cleaning out the spittoons, which were under practically every desk.

Bill Dunford. Jacksonville

lessons learned while repossessing phones

Probably my most valued lesson was at age 17.

I took a job with Bell Telephone repossessing phones from people who didn’t return them or pay their bills.

They gave me 89 phones to chase down.

I finished the job in less than three weeks while my counterparts took all summer. I got paid by the day and not by the phone, so I got shortchanged while the other guys who didn’t work as hard made out like bandits.

I never worked a job again without a commission.

Today I still work on commission as a realtor and I have done well. I get paid for what I do, when I do it.

Ronnie Tumlin, St Augustine

HARD WORK IN A FACTORY — and ON a tree farm

Summer jobs in high school and college were hot, gritty, dirty and hard. I worked as a laborer in a garbage can factory where metal was hammered into shape, welded and run through ovens to bake off oil and rust — and then dipped in molten zinc. The heat in that factory was so high that the fire sprinklers were set off almost every day. The good news was that when the sprinklers went off, I was assured of overtime to help clean up the mess.

Another summer job was spent on a Christmas tree farm. There was an overwhelming amount of hard work in the sun. The pine trees needed to be budded, shaped, fertilized, watered and trimmed so they could be the perfect shape for Christmas. All of that work was done by hand when the summer heat and humidity were at its peak.

The only way to clean off the pine tar from my hands and arms was to use kerosene. Kerosene on raw, sunburned skin is extremely painful!

Wasps like to make their nests in pine trees, so it was a real special surprise to grab a bud and find you have a handful of angry wasps. And at the end of each day, I came home sick as a dog from dehydration.

Jobs like these gave me incredible respect for those who perform the physical labor that keeps our economy humming.

These jobs also reinforced that I needed to complete my education so I could work more effectively with my mind — rather than with my hands.

Ed Zoller, Mandarin


In 1944, our family lived in northern New Jersey.

I was 13, my brother was 11.

We were friends with a family that owned a farm about 20 miles away. On the farm they grew vegetables that they sold at a roadside stand and at a farmer’s market across the George Washington bridge in Manhattan.

In 1944, all the men were serving in the military.

The farmer asked if my brother and I would work on the farm that summer.

We said yes. We figured it would be an adventure, and it certainly made more sense than playing useless games around the house.

At 6:30 a.m. we boarded a local transit bus — by 7:30 a.m., we were at the farm. We worked nine hours a day and a half-day on Saturday, chopping weeds in corn and cabbage and picking beans.

The pay was 30 cents per hour, $2.70 for a nine hour day. Did we resent having to work? Certainly not.

It taught both of us a sense of responsibility and the value of each individual contributing to society. But most important, it was our contribution to the war effort.

Albert Brauer, Fleming Island