Click here to: Subscribe to Mobile Bay Times.

Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times

... the people and places, politics and culture of the Mobile Bay area
Tell a friend about this page
Support Mobile Bay Times
Politics & News
Subscribe to Mobile Bay Times
First Job
(Part 2)
Thousands of college graduates are beginning or seeking their first "real" job while high schoolers scurry about hunting for part time work and a little extra spending money.

Many have gone before them in a fledgling quest for their place in the world. Mobile Bay Times sought the recollections of a few veterans of the working life.

"At age 7, I got my brother Alex's job as a shoe shine boy with Terry's Barber Shop on Michigan Avenue in Oakdale. I shined shoes for 25 cents per pair; 35 cents for spit shines and no tips allowed. I also swept hair and generally did as I was told by Terry. Terry and his partner were hearing and speaking impaired so the place was mostly quiet. They were very good to me. I later got Alex's paper route when he and my other brothers moved on to larger routes. Good times in Oakdale."
-- Greg Saad,
real estate executive

My first 'job' was as a young boy when I cut lawns over a few summers.  One summer I did well enough to save the money to buy a shortwave radio from Radio Shack. I still have the old radio."
-- Ben Brooks,
lawyer/state senator

"Moyer Ford and J.M. Lee Chevrolet auto dealerships where my father worked as a mechanic in the early 60's. I cleaned parts, washed cars, swept the shop."
-- Ken Stabler,
retired pro football quarterback

"Crabs were the commodity of choice on my first job.

As long as I live, I shall never forget the summer when I got up at the crack of dawn, piled into my Grand Bay cousin's crowded old pick-up truck, headed for scenic Bayou La Batre. On the shore of the seafood town was awaiting me, a white apron, cap and a crab picking device that soon became my worst enemy.

For weeks, I stood my on feet delicately removing crabmeat from shells. It was then that I made a vow to achieve the highest level of education.

Though crab picking is an honorable profession, the wounds in my hands were evidence that it was not for me.

The ultimate goal of those grueling weeks was to earn enough money to buy stylish clothes for the 4th-of-July and get tickets to the James Brown concert. The clothes I got, but my mother nixed attendance at the concert."
-- Barbara Drummond,
executive assistant to Mobile Mayor Sam Jones

"My first job was in the concessions stand at the Bama Drive-In. I was paid $5 a night, no matter how long we worked. I remember our boss deducting 25 cents from each $5 for Social Security. Seems kind of fishy now that I think about it.

My next job was a huge improvement. I went to work for the family business at $1 per hour, but I did get 40 hours a week, and $1.50 an hour for any overtime I could get."
-- Tommy Fulton,

"My first summer job was on the waterfront staff at a Boy Scout camp near Mentone, Ala. It was a summer lived in a tent (albeit a tent with a wooden floor) with lots of lake water and camp food. We were on duty a lot, but it was really a great time. We had access to all the equipment, including the (severely underpowered) ski boats, so I learned a lot about both skiing and getting boats to run, as well as teaching swimming, lifeguarding and other water stuff. 

The five or six of us on waterfront all knew each other and got along. We also got paid a little more and probably considered ourselves a little above the run-of-the-mill staffer.

Our first job when a new session started was to administer the swimming tests. Interestingly, I couldn't pass the test, and never had been able to.  Although I had been swimming all my life, and had all the required certifications, I could not float on my back for the required minute or so without my feet dragging me to the bottom. I don't know why that was part of the test; not many people could float for long in fresh water without expending more energy than if they just swam slowly. But every year at camp I had to make sure I took the test in shallow water or I had to move hands and feet a little without getting caught.

Another memory from that summer is that two of us had no hair; our heads had been shaved as part of the high school letter club initiation. So for most of the summer there wasn't much concern with wet hair.

The cooks, the rifle range instructor and the medic were Army guys from Fort McClellan. This was in 1970, so they all had been to Vietnam. The rifle instructor famously had what everyone said was -- and what very much looked like -- a VC (Viet Cong) ear in a jar; you can imagine the stories about him. And the medic, a volunteer from Canada, was best friend to all of us. The first aid tent was a regular hangout.

As jobs go, camp was a pretty good way to start a working life.

For two consecutive years my father wanted to make sure I had a 'real' job; that is, one that required manual labor, preferably in the hot sun.

The summer after I graduated from high school I worked on a construction crew building a K-Mart. It was early mornings and lots of boredom. The high point was getting sent to run an errand in the truck (something I doubt kids get to do now, unless they have a CDL), but those were way too few and far between.

Curiously, I don't remember the work nearly as well as the people. I had led a pretty sheltered life and I learned just how sheltered during that summer. I remember well a couple of guys I used to give rides to and from work (in a 1963 Galaxy 500 -- at least I wasn't driving a Cutlass Supreme or one of the other cars de rigeur). It didn't take a sociologist to see that their worlds were as unsheltered as mine was sheltered.

I also remember a conversation while digging a footing with a guy who asked me where I was going to school. When I told him I was going to Alabama, he asked if I was going to play football. I told him I wasn't and he asked why I was going if not to play football. A little lesson in cultural differences. I also distinctly remember being glad I had someplace else to go at the end of the summer.

The next summer my father arranged a job at a brass fittings foundry.  They hired college kids as entry level workers, which meant the hottest, dirtiest, most miserable jobs in one of the hottest, dirtiest workplaces you can imagine. But the day I went in for an interview/orientation the people in payroll said they needed an extra clerk for the summer, foiling my father's plan. So instead of working 'breakoff,' I spent most of my time in an air-conditioned office, venturing into the plant only to deliver checks and run errands.

And before the end of the summer the company had a large layoff, which meant all us college kids got pink slips and had to spend the last couple of weeks playing golf or otherwise practicing up for college life. 

After that it was either summer school or internships until I entered the 'real' world."
-- Preston Bolt,
attorney, Hand Arendall

"Picking watermelons and cleaning around pecan trees during the summer."
-- Taylor Harper,

"My first (job) was tending a furnace for an 80-year-old M.D. whose daughter was my high school biology teacher.

My first 'real' job, after grad school was in Evansville, IN, as the first methods development chemist in the Quality Control Department."
--John Duffy,

"My first job was in a survey crew for Volkert & Associates. I spent the summer of 1968 or 1969 cutting bushes, pulling chains and assorted other tasks related to surveying.

I distinctly remember a re-survey job along a sewer outfall line in the north end of Wragg Swamp from Moffat Road to Highway 45. We had to check invert elevations of manholes while re-checking the original survey. There is nothing quite like lifting manhole covers, oftentimes having to climb into the manhole to get a depth measurement, and wading through a swamp in July and August.

As I recall, I made a $1.15 per hour, and was happy to get it."
-- Dale Mims,
real estate broker

"Well mine was throwing a paper route where I made 75 cents per month for each customer (about 90 from what I remember); 14-years-old.

Along with that I sold Grit newspapers. (I wonder if Grit is still available; it was distributed monthly, maybe weekly, and was a nationwide collection of sorts.) The Grit was door-to-door."
-- Eddie Burrow
captain, Special Operations Section, Mobile Police Department

Tell a friend about this page
Sign InView Entries