Summer Jobs

Sometimes they’re lemons, bitter and hard, and sometimes they’re cool, sweet refreshing lemonade.

I hope your kids have some of both. 

Start ‘em young; that quintessential lemonade stand can be a great start. 

Unless you live on a farm like I did where the only potential customers were our own parents and the folks who worked in our barn. They indulged us once or twice, but this was not the continual revenue stream we wanted.

We asked if we could set up a stand over by the track (we lived near Delaware Park Race Track). “Too dangerous” was the response. But we were bored and kept asking (aka whining). Somehow our badgering worked and my mom said yes. We dragged a table and buckets (chairs) out at 6am after making brownies, lemonade and iced tea. And sold out in under an hour. 

No one expected this. Especially my mom. After enough days of this to realize we weren’t going to stop, she took the cost of the supplies — brownie mix, lemons, sugar, tea, cups, and napkins out of our profits. We fell about the place with protests of “that’s not fair!” and “you’re mean!” In hindsight It was fair.

Actually it was skewed in our favor. The table was borrowed and so was all the equipment we were using. And I can’t imagine how the kitchen looked when we were done. But in elementary school that kind of logic didn’t factor in. 

We sagged a little, but regrouped. I upgraded the table to a golf cart, and added hot coffee/tea — running a 7 extension cord fire hazard Clark Griswold would have been proud of from barn to cart. And expanded the food menu to include a Bisquick coffee cake recipe I found on the box. We were making serious bank, about $100 a day (for 2 elementary school kids in the ‘70s that was bank). 

As a first job it was tough to beat.

My second job was pretty stellar too. We were hired to “weed the garden” for friends of my parents. Weeds in our garden ran taller than we were, and as thick as a corn field so we did not go into this gig willingly. We slouched out of the car. Then their gardner told us he’d soaked the ground so the weeds would be easier to pull, and gave us sun hats, gloves, and kneeling pads. This wasn’t yard work, it was gardening, complete with shrimp salad sandwiches, cold Frescas and chocolate chip cookies like we were old ladies who lunched.

We LOVED it. 

Off your ass and onto your feet; outta the shade and into the heat.

After that I hit a serious rough patch from middle through high school with a questionable job as feed tub scrubber, and bandage roller for my dad. I should have stuck with the self-employed brownie beat. If I didn’t feel like doing that one day, I just didn’t set up shop. 

If we didn’t feel like going to the barn with dad we needed a fever or broken limb to warrant a hall pass. He’d wake up at 5am and start yelling: “off your ass and onto your feet, outta the shade and into the heat” as the rally cry to get out of bed. I used to throw my covers on the floor, curl up into a shivering ball and hope he’d take pity on me, and let me sleep in.

It worked about every 14th time

I earned $1 for each horse I walked — after horses train in the morning they get a bath and then walked until cooled down. The bath would leave me soaked and filthy and $1 a horse was pennies on the hour. Disillusionment reigned. 

And then a new neighbor (by neighbor, they lived in a farmhouse miles away) asked if I babysat. Babysitting – clearly that was the gig for me. My friends all talked about making serious money, getting pizza for dinner and watching MTV after the kids went to bed.

Sign. Me. Up.

Except we lived in the middle of nowhere, so their tv was a tiny rabbit eared model surrounded by 4 wooden chairs; the opposite of comfort. And pizza delivery wouldn’t arrive until the mid 1990’s. I signed on anyway, and at the end of the first 4 hour night they handed me a check. A check! That had to mean LOTS of money or they would have used cash, right? I opened it when I got home and read “pay to the order of Sheila Clancy (pay to the order of…it sounded so official): four dollars and 00/100.” 

What the? I kept their kids alive for this?

Never again. 

It was still better than the barn though, so I did do it again. A couple of times until I just couldn’t take it anymore and stopped returning their calls. Buried in there somewhere was a lesson about knowing your worth, and negotiating for it. 

Once I could drive, my world opened up and I registered with a temp company, landing receptionist/secretary jobs at Widener University and St. Francis Hospital. Better than the barn in some ways, but worse in lots of others. 

My parents owned a home in Rehoboth Beach and I could never understand why they wouldn’t let me live there for the summer.

As a teenager. Alone. With just a bike to get around.

I understand why now, and cringe-laughed when my friend’s 15-year-old daughter was proposing the same idea about living in their OC condo. 

In college I lobbied hard and was finally allowed to live at the beach in a 2 bedroom condo with 6 girls and one car (a two seater). After not having enough money to pay back the money I borrowed to secure my spot on the floor of said condo, my parents caved and let me live rent-free in their Rehoboth house. 

Those were the best summers of my life, and I swear I’d take that job back right now.

We worked in an open air restaurant on the boardwalk where we could see, hear and smell the ocean. Every day. At work.

I don’t know if it gets better than that. 

College brought 3 interesting part time jobs: 

  • Fire wood delivery. All 110 pounds of me got hired as a truck driver/fire wood loader/unloader. Paid $50 a load, a scrambled egg breakfast and a grilled cheese and milkshake lunch. My boss, who was too old to drive but grateful for the help and company, deemed $50 a load fair (again fair was heavily skewed my way; his product, his truck, insurance and fuel). His wife thought I was too little and added the grub. Then started doing my laundry too. In one weekend I’d earn a couple hundred dollars, be super well fed and have clean clothes. I’d take that job back in a skinny minute too. 
  • Hallmark card shop sales girl. I worked 37 hours a week, took a full load of classes, rushed a sorority, and still felt like I had plenty of free time. Ah youth, amiright? My favorite memory is of a guy my dad’s age coming in and asking “you gift wrap for free, right?” after reading the “free gift wrap” sign in the window. I said yesss?, and he came back with shopping bags full of stuff. All his Christmas presents. He was so excited, I didn’t have the heart to tell him we only wrapped things purchased in our store, and instead wrapped every single one for him (don’t tell the owner). 
  • City of Newark Memorial Day parade organizer. Which meant I worked for the police department, and as part of my pay was told I never had to worry about a ticket again. The stuff college student dreams are made of. 

There were lessons learned every step of the meandering job path above. And lifelong friendships made. With enough down time to still make me wistful for all of those summer breaks. 

So I hope your kids have lots of jobs, with just enough down time for summer to feel like summer:

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.

~John Lubbock

And for all of you with rising juniors and seniors, summer is the perfect time for SAT prepping. We know it can be hard to fit into the schedule once school is back in session. Take advantage of the slower summer schedule. Next SAT test date is August 24th (registration deadline 07/26) and our next SAT prep class starts Monday July 29th (register here).

“When you have confidence you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.”

~Joe Namath

Let us help your student do amazing things.  

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Kathy Bell says:

    LOVED this one and picturing you in all of these job situations. Why in the world did you not keep the lemonade business going through college? 😉

  2. Carolyn Haines says:

    Your farm memories mirror mine so much, can’t believe I never knew we had this in common! Child labor laws be damned! 🙂
    Side note, can your SAT classes be done remotely at all?

    1. sheilaclancy says:

      I know! I thought I was an anomaly at UHS. Not yet re remote classes, but definitely an idea we need to explore.

  3. sheilaclancy says:

    I ask myself that every day!

  4. Doug says:

    No horses in my high school world, but I’ll always remember shoveling snow in Buffalo for Mary Palmer, who made warm cookies and hot chocolate to go with overpaying and referring me to her other ‘senior’ friends. I still love snow removal, but skew toward the snow blower now!

    My high schooler can use the shovel!

    Thanks for dredging up the memories with another great post. Love this blog – keep it up!

    1. sheilaclancy says:

      There was a fair amount of shoveling in the barn too…and I think every high schooler should spend some time with a shovel in hand. Character building for sure!

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