Learn the dignity of a summer job for $ 1 an hour | to open

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They called me “The Trail Blazer,” Good Buddy.

This was my civic band radio manipulation in the summer of 1977 when the hit box office “Smokey and the Bandit” sparked a CB craze and millions of kids like me dreamed of having one.

To my great surprise, my father allowed me to do this – even though I had to install a large CB radio antenna on the roof of our house.

He saw CB radio as an opportunity for me to manage my own finances – how to open a bank account, plan ahead, find a job, and save money to help me achieve my goal.

Too young to work in retail, I applied and got the only job available to me: picking golf balls on a local driving range.

Until summer came when I could start later in the day and work more hours, I would wake up at 5:30 a.m. in front of school every morning and ride my bike two miles to the shooting range.

I was handed an aluminum tool that was as long as a golf club and shaped like a tennis ball can. It had three feathers on the bottom. Pushing the tool down on a golf ball would retract the springs and trap the ball.

I was assigned a section of dewy grass the size of a soccer field and had an hour to get the job done – for which I got a dollar (about $ 4 in today’s money).

Needless to say, I had to work many uncomfortable mornings to save up enough for a CB radio which, if I remember correctly, was about $ 130 at the time.

That memory came back to my mind when I read in a Yahoo News report that after last summer’s terrible shortage of summer jobs, there are 1.2 million part-time jobs – more than the pre-2019 pandemic numbers.

But fewer young people are willing to take on such jobs.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, around 7 out of 10 teenagers like me took part-time jobs in 1978, but in the years leading up to the pandemic, the figure was down to 4 in 10.

Why?

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School said it’s because more and more teens are doing internships or volunteering to bolster their college applications. In a way, this means that colleges punish children who choose to work.

This is unfortunate, because summer jobs offer a real treasure trove of real learning opportunities: how to plan and carry out projects, work with different personalities and experience the joy of exchanging your skills and work for hard money.

When I got my first paycheck in 1977, I quickly realized that saving up for my CB radio was going to be even harder than I expected.

I was introduced to my three silent partners – federal, state, and local tax authorities – who didn’t have to coat their trainers with rope to earn part of my $ 1 hourly wage.

However, by the end of summer, I had finally saved enough to buy my CB radio. It was one of the most rewarding purchases I’ve ever made – because I’ve built my dignity with one lousy golf ball flop after another.

In the long run, dignity is the greatest reward of a vacation job. I strongly recommend taking one, Young Buddies.

Tom Purcell is a writer and columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.



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