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Thursday, May 29, 2003 12:03 pm

First summer jobs

Washing dishes, collecting golf balls, going door-to-door

Like sunburn and ant bites, summer jobs are one of the rituals of the season. We asked some prominent Springfieldians how they earned money in their teenage years.

"My first job was as a professional hoer. That is, I hoed weeds in experimental alfalfa plots at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The job paid 80 cents per hour and I got a great tan."

--Robert E. Warren, Ph.D., Curator of Anthropology, Illinois State Museum

"Washing dishes in the Sheraton Hotel, in High Point, North Carolina."

--Alderman Frank McNeil

"Maybe this was more of a hustle than a job. I grew up in St. Louis about eight minutes away from Busch Stadium. Me and my friend Ernie . . . we would hang around outside the stadium, looking homely, and people would feel sorry for us and offer us tickets. Then, as soon as they would go inside the stadium, we would sell the tickets to someone else. We became like miniature ticket brokers."

--Mike Pittman, real estate developer and former pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals

"I worked in the cafeteria of Memorial Hospital, and I loved it because I got to know everybody; I was the cafeteria vacation help, so my duties changed every couple of weeks. I worked the cash register and got to know all the different people that came through. I knew I was going to nursing school. The burn unit nurses looked so cool, I'd talk to them, so they'd let me come up and hang out in the burn unit. It was so much fun! But after all that, I ended up going into insurance."

--Cathy Schwartz, president of Springfield Parks Foundation

"My favorite summer job was being a page in the Illinois House of Representatives."

--Mayor Tim Davlin

"I used to cut neighbors' yards. I mowed, raked, and trimmed, and got $2.50 for the whole yard. It was a big yard too. I also worked at the concession stand at Lanphier Ball Park during the Connie Mack World Series every summer."

--Sangamon Country Coroner Susan Boone

"I sold clothes one summer in Cicero, and I was not very successful because the owner wanted me to push people to buy expensive clothes. I was not about to lie to them that they looked good in things they didn't look good in. Then another summer I sold encyclopedias door-to-door. Although I don't mind selling door-to-door, and it's helpful politically, this was a very expensive item, and I guess one of my concerns was the moral issue. We got all this training on what to look for and how to play off people's fears and guilt. That did not strike me as fair either. And I keep wondering why we need ethics legislation. . . . But probably the worst summer of my life was when I took summer school. I wanted to take a secretarial course so I could learn to do shorthand. Well, at the same college, my mother also signed me up for charm school. I didn't want to walk like a duck and I didn't want to wear exceptionally high heels, so I was a wash-out. So probably I should stay in politics."

--Illinois State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka

" I was raised on a farm by Williamsville, so I had the best of both worlds. My dad owned a photography business in Springfield, and he liked to get me out of mom's hair, so I worked for him. I would deliver jobs, clean up the shop, mop the floors, learn the business. But I also worked at the farm. I would bale hay and cut weeds out of bean fields. Back then, you had to walk through the bean fields with a scythe and cut the weeds out."

--Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson

"From the time I was about six years old, during the summers I played a lot of baseball, but every afternoon I would walk up and down McBride Avenue in North Dupo, picking up soda bottles and beer bottles for my grandma's tavern, Donahoo Tavern. Her tavern was at one end of the street, and at the other end of the street was Falling Springs Tavern, owned by my adopted uncles, Ony & Floyd McBride. I used to go all around the porch, out in the weeds and around the baseball diamond because there was a semi-pro team that played there.

"I think I got a nickel for beer bottles and three cents for soda bottles, but it could have been the other way around. Anyway, at the end of the day, I'd have several bucks in my pocket. It would usually last one day. At McBride's Grove, I had to pay for everything. But my grandma Carrie Donahoo let me get everything I wanted free there, like packages of peanut butter crackers--those orange ones. . . . At McBride's, I'd eat three or four pickled eggs during a day and pickled pigs feet and hot links, the~ sodas. No one was keeping track of me. I was like this feral child running between two taverns at either end of this block. "My last job before I got sent to Vietnam was in Cahokia in Reese's Drug Store. I worked for my brother Stan, who was the pharmacist and the manager. I delivered prescriptions on my motor bike. That job came to a stunning conclusion when my brother found me in a ditch with mud and leaves in my nostrils. I had hit a drunk driver who had backed up without any lights on."

--Mike Manning, artist

"As a kid I did various things, but I suppose the most bizarre was one of these two: being a gun carrier or being a heather beater. A gun carrier was one of these seasonal things, when people go out to shoot pheasants or grouse or deer, they sometimes have someone called a gun carrier carry their guns and keep them loaded. It's a bit like being a golf caddy, only more dangerous. One day, [the hunter] simply whirled around, yelled at me, 'Drop, boy!' and I felt all this buck shot go right about my head. I've had an aversion to guns ever since I think that's why I have a white parting in my hair today.

"In the spring, my older brother and I would get paid to be heather beaters. We would go with beaters, like a witch's broom, through a field. You burn patches of heather on the hillside, and the brooms are used to beat [the fire] out. This is so new heather will grow--young chicks love to eat it--to promote game. We would also get in a line with other people and march across the heather beating it to make the birds fly toward the hunters. So we're into the guns again. . . ."

--Gordon McLean, pastor of First Presbyterian Church

"I worked at the driving range at Rob Roy Golf Course picking up balls. I had a pole with a scoop on the end, and a truck would come by and we would empty our scoops into this truck."

--Don Kliment, president of the Policemen's Benevolent and Protective Association No. 5.

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