Sunday, July 29, 2001
Looking back to when they were looking up
Leaders reveal tales of summer jobs past
There's the pimply teen at the favorite burger joint, the one so plagued by puberty he or she squeeks when apologizing for messing up the order for the umpteenth time. Then there's the one mowing with a mowhawk, the one who side-swiped prized petunias except that teen didn't apologize, thinking he or she had just been removing weeds. And don't forget the lifeguard at the neighborhood pool, with the a terrific tan and summer shades.
You may have once been one of these characters, working through the mindless monotany of a summer job. Because none of us could be Fortune 500 CEOs when school ended, we enslaved ourselves for minimum wages doing some lackluster labor. Now, sitting in a our cushy careers, we forget that in a few years one of these characters may end up as our boss. The Enquirer has asked a few prominent figures around town to tell us the tales of when they were at the bottom of the employment food chain.
Name: Charlene Ventura
Current position: President & CEO, YWCA of Greater Cincinnati
Her summer job: Sales clerk in drapery department at McAlpin's.
Age at summer job: l6
Job title and responsibilities: Sales clerk for drapes, blinds and hardware.
Wage: $l an hour
Best part of working there: Working with the public and enjoying the camaraderie of co-workers.
Worst part of working there: Cutting vinyl shades to fit precise measurements of windows (it made me break out in a cold sweat).
Her favorite memory: Working for Marie, a woman three times my age who treated me with patience and the utmost respect. She praised my efforts and provided me with many teachable moments. She was a mentor without either of us knowing it.
What she learned: The value of hard work, customer relations, accountability, communication skills, honesty, the capability to juggle multiple tasks, the ability to set priorities and the equally important ability to admit mistakes.
Name: Robin N. Piper
Current position: Butler County prosecutor
His summer job: Working along side his father at family farm in Indiana
Age at summer job: 15 to 17
Job title and responsibilities: Child laborer; miscellaneous farm chores
Best part of working there: Learning the lasting value of hard work.
Worst part of working there: Missing my girlfriend.
His favorite memory: My father constantly presented me with challenges that always seemed taller than I. Painting on a ladder until your feet swell, repairing tin roofs when you are afraid of heights, and wrestling with barbed wire fences which always seemed to win.
What he learned: The challenges were immense, but I now realize that my father was always showing me that I could do more than I thought I could ... If you set no limitation to the amount of brain and brawn you'll use, you set no limit to the possibilities of your success.
Name: Johnathan M. Holifield
Current position: Vice president of New Economy Enterprise, and member of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.
His summer job: Neighborhood lawn service in Romulus, Mich.
Age at summer job: 11 to 13
Job title and responsibilities: My title was sole proprietor, unless, of course, I negotiated a joint venture with a friend. My responsibilities included mowing lawns weekly and various other kinds of yard maintenance as instructed.
Wage: Usually $3-$5 per lawn, with extra pay for pulling weeds and tree clippings, etc.
Worst part and best part of working there: The worst part about the job was also the best. I realized at an early age exactly how much I hated low-skill manual labor. That early lesson spurred me on to college and professional school. As a matter of fact, I still don't like to do yard maintenance.
His favorite memory: Competing against other kids for customers, finding out who could cut grass best and seeing several crews of one or two kids pushing lawnmowers, with two-gallon gas cans, through the streets nearly all summer.
What he learned: That in this world, you have to work hard for every single thing you get.
Name: Rick Minter
Current position: Head football coach, University of Cincinnati
His summer job: Yard office clerk at a train company in Texarkana, Texas.
Age at summer job: 19 to 21
Job title and responsibilities: Yard office clerk for Kansas City Southern Railroad.
Wage: $7 to $9 per hour
Best part of working there: The money was great and it was always cool inside.
Worst part of working there: The occasional midnight shifts.
His favorite memory: One of the duties I had was to organize all of the weigh bills for the cars that were being added to the trains as they went through Texarkana. Once organized, they were left attached to a wire adjacent to the track so the worker in the caboose on the train could reach out and grab them as the train went by. One time, I was late in getting the weigh bills in place and the caboose didn't get them so I had to sprint down the track more than 100 yards and catch up to the train, throwing the stack of weigh bills onto the caboose.
What he learned: To keep the trains in order and to work inside in the air conditioning.
Name: Patricia M. Clancy
Current position: State representative, Ohio 35th District
Her summer job: Office work at the Ruben H. Donnelly Corporation
Age at summer job: 18
Job title and responsibilities: I had no known title, and my responsibility was to call as many phone numbers in one day as I could to verify their phone book delivery.
Wage: $4 per hour
Best part of working there: The 10-minute break when the breakfast truck would pull up outside.
Worst part of working there: The monotony.
Her favorite memory: The early morning car pool with friends. We had to be at our station at 7 a.m.
What she learned: That repetitive work can be compared to the telephone campaign work that I do today. I realize that every vote counts, and so I have to spend countless hours on the phone even today.
Name: Bob Taft
Current position: Ohio governor
His summer job: Golf caddy
Age at summer job: Junior high
Job title and responsibilities: Caddy at the Camargo Club.
Wage: $4 a bag and $8 for 18 holes. Sometimes he did 36 holes in a day.
Worst part of working there: There wasn't anything about the job he did not like.
What he learned: Never to miss a starting time for work. He also learned about golf, and a few words he'd rather not repeat.
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