#SOLSC20: Day 24


First Job

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Summer Job?  Check

Daytime hours? Check

Outside work? Check

Great pay? For that time in history . . .

It was a rite of passage.  Turning 14 so you could get a summer job and earn money. Literally, out standing in corn fields. Detasselling corn. Working for three to four weeks to quickly remove the tassels from the seed corn in the designated fields. Big business that paid $1.50 an hour.

I remember . . .

hot, sticky days when we prayed for a breeze to lift the humidity

the dew on the corn as the leaves cut your skin as you raced through the rows

riding on a machine meant looking down on the corn and the obvious tassels

having a radio to help the days pass more quickly

the difference in supervisors and their expectations

literally being stuck in the mud after a week of rain

the sun burn and the “farmer’s tan lines”

days of double shifts and working 14 hour days

wearing garbage bags as raincoats

praying for lightning in order to have a day off

tired, deep down, bone-tired and yet

a community of workers who laughed, talked, and shared life stories

Learning that still sticks: the value of hard work, the impact of promises made, and that the body can endure what the mind finds tolerable.

What do you remember from your first job? 

What were some of the lessons learned?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum in March. Check out the writers and readers here.

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10 responses

  1. I learned a new word – detasselling. I love your descriptions of what you remember – I certainly have a picture in my head of what this job entailed. It sounds like a tough, exhausting job, but the community part sounds lovely.

    1. Lisa,
      As a worker, it was a fast and furious job that was so dependent on nature! Definitely challenging!

  2. What a fun/interesting post. I never heard of the detasseling of corn but it makes sense! I was babysitting at 14 – some good memories there too! Thanks for a post I might use!

    1. Anita,
      I was babysitting by 10. More of an on demand job. As a middle child, I inherited some of my sister’s jobs.

  3. OH MY GOSH! This was literally my first job in Illinois, too!! I made $1.65/hr and it was torture. I was short so it was tough reaching some of the tassles as the grown grew taller. I was jealous of kids who worked for companies with machines to ride. I remember wearing long sleeves and scarves to keep from getting cut by the leaves. Our clothes would be soaked and heavy with dew in the morning and then hot and crunchy from the afternoon heat. My nose, ears, and lips were often blistered by the sun. We had no bathrooms and found velvet leaf a favorite tp replacement. I also remember thunderstorms coming and wondering when (hoping) they were going to tell us to stop and get on the buses. I did this for 3 years-when I was old enough to get a ‘real’ job!! Thanks for this, Fran. A trip down memory lane for sure!

    1. Paula,
      Yes, yes, and yes. Now they haul out porta potties to some fields. 🙂

      1. I would have killed for a porta potty. At least there was privacy amid the rows!

  4. My first job was as a bundle boy in a local dress factory. I worked in the basement organizing dress parts by dress size and then taking up to the sewing floor for the ladies. Had a blast working in the basement because the bosses never came down.

  5. My first job was selling Avon products! I learned that it was not a great job for a girl in her early teens. I couldn’t get to any of the meetings and my Grandma was my best customer. After that, I went to work at JC Penneys for a couple of years. I learned that shifts were long and retail was not where I was met to be. I also learned that once they figured out you were planning on going to college, there were no pay raises or promotions!

    1. Sales was never my thing after we had to do “fundraisers”

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