I heard on the radio this week that the unemployment rate for teenagers has gone up dramatically this summer and far outpaces the national average. I thought about my daughter and son and their various efforts to make money as teenagers (Mowgli has worked at a grocery store for several years, then painted houses and worked on an organic farm; Boo has worked as a nanny and takes all the babysitting jobs she can get.) Then the commentator pointed out that the last time that the teen unemployment rate was this high was . . . the late 70s, when I got my first job.
I was 15, about to turn 16, hanging out at my friend John J.'s house with our other friends, when my dad called to tell me that I had a job interview in just a couple of hours. He told me to go home and put on nicer clothes ("Sunday night clothes," as we called them in those days, referring to Sunday night services at church, which meant nicer than "school clothes" but not as dressy as "church clothes"). I showed up for the interview at the school district print shop and got the job, not surprising since my dad was the school superintendent.
That summer, I operated the district's new copy machine, which was the size of a Volkswagon and could copy at the rate of about 1 sheet per second and could also (miraculously!) make two-sided copies, collate and staple. Operating it meant using a simple computer screen, which I had never used before, and for eight hours a day, five days a week, I copied coloring sheets, syllabuses, student handbooks, and worksheets. I actually spent at least half my time clearing paper jams and starting the copy jobs over and collating by hand when the machine got confused, but I was so excited to have a real job that I don't think I ever minded.
That school year--my junior year--I got a job as a waitress at the Pizza Hut restaurant not far from the East Gate of Fort Hood. We served families and couples from the neighborhood but we also served young soldiers coming off of training maneuvers, filthy and hungry and very focused on finding beer, pizza, and a "date"--in that order. My boyfriend was the cook (and later the assistant manager) and we worked till closing, then played the juke box and flirted while we broke down the salad bar and refilled all the tabletop parmesan cheese containers.
In the summer, I added another job--mostly volunteer, this time--as the intern to my church's youth minister. I created newsletters and handouts, made phone calls, led discipleship classes, and mostly felt important and useful, with a taste of what meaningful work would feel like.
I also got another job out of the blue--this time as a news announcer for a popular country radio station in a nearby town. Every Saturday, I went in from 8 to 4 and pulled long yellow sheets of text off the teletype machines and created a five minute news program for every hour of music and commercials. I worked alone in a soundproof booth next to the DJ booth but the DJs rarely talked to me. For one thing, in those days, nothing was computerized and the DJ was literally spinning records and providing commentary on the music. Also, looking back, I can imagine that these adult family men were not impressed with having a teenaged coworker and possibly even a little uncomfortable about being closed up together in our small studio. Every hour on the hour, the DJ would point to me through the soundproof glass that separated us and I would read my newscast, followed by the weather on the half hour. No one ever trained me or supervised me and when I think of the kinds of things that I--at 17--considered newsworthy, I don't know whether to laugh or cry!
In the summer, I went back to the print shop. This time I used a printer/typesetter the size of a large upright piano and practiced my typing and layout skills creating the district's handbooks and forms. I continued to wait tables and work at the radio station until I left for college in the fall. My first month at Baylor, at age 18, I became the youth/children's minister at a small (and I mean small) church about 45 miles from Waco--a job I held and loved for three years until my teens were over.
So, that's my jaunt down memory lane. What jobs did you do as a teenager? How did you get your first job? Comment and let me know you were here--