Whatever happened to …

… those summer jobs?

Last week, it was fun to think about the summer job of running a lemonade stand.  But, it did get me thinking.

We hear so often about how technology is going to remove jobs from society.  It’s certainly an important concern for adults.  But, how about for kids?

I started thinking about some summer jobs that I had as a kid that may well be not available for today’s kids.

Picking Stones

This truly was hard work.  There was a local farmer who had a field where somehow large stones managed to work their way to the surface every spring.  How do you deal with it?  Certainly, it had to be done before getting on the field planting because big stones could damage the plough.  Solution?  Hire kids to follow a wagon around the field picking up stones as you find them.  I recall that there were also some big ones that needed two or three people to lift them.  Then, once the wagon was full, we got a free ride to the “stone pile” where we unloaded them.  Today, there’s a device known as a stone picker that has replaced that back breaking job.

Picking Weeds

Same farmer.  It was probably a move to save money but towards the end of August, it wasn’t uncommon to not be able to see the white beans because they were overgrown by rag weed, chickory, thistles, and something called Queen’s Anne Lace.  We’d walk the rows, pulling, and laying the weeds down between the rows when we were done.  Picking the weeds was just part of the torture.  At the end of the day, your hands looked like you were wearing dirt gloves.  Cleaning them was not a quick and easy activity.  These days, of course, we know of weed killing chemicals that can be sprayed on fields and some seeds come already treated with weed killer.

Picking Cucumbers

This was truly back breaking work.  My dad had leased 1/4 acre and we planted cucumbers.  Work started early in the plant growth and it was important to train the cucumbers to grow in rows.  Their natural tendency is to grow in clumps.  We’d be out there to help them all grow in one direction.  Then, the cucumbers would grow!  Early in the picking process was painful because of the spikes that grow on cucumbers.  But, after a while, your hands would get covered in dirt that again, worked like gloves.  Picking was a routine – you’d roll the plant to the left and pick, to the right and pick, then place it down and dig through the centre for what you missed otherwise.

 

Photo Credit: mariasherow Flickr via Compfight cc

We’d put them in 11 quart baskets and relief was given when you got to take the basket to the big burlap bags and dump them.  That was the only time you could stand up.  Once done, we’d take the bags into the train station where Bick’s graded them from 1-6.  Ones were what we call gherkins in the pickle business.  They were very small but paid the most.  It took a lot of picking to get a significant amount.  Sixes were the great big ones that Bick’s would make into relish.  The sweet spot seemed to be threes and fours.  Your bag was dumped onto this big machine that shook them around, falling into the appropriate sizes.  These days, automation has made the process far less back breaking.  Instructions like this are nice for the home gardener.  They have no lure when you grow them by the acre.

Yep, I did a lot of picking as a kid!

Your thoughts, via comment, please.

  • Did you ever have any of the above jobs in your youth?
  • Did you have a job as you were growing up that no longer exists or has been replaced/modified by technology?
  • Do you like cucumbers?  To this date, I just can’t eat raw cucumbers.  Blech.  But, I do enjoy a good dill pickle.

This is part of a regular Sunday series of posts.  You can check them all out here.

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6 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. I’ve never had one of these jobs, but I could use someone that wants to pick weeds. 🙂 Maybe I could create a summer job for someone else. 🙂 Surprisingly my summer jobs have all been around working with kids: from camp counselor to instructor to site lead. I guess that I always knew what I wanted to do. Curious to hear about other people’s experiences.

    Aviva

    P.S. I do love raw cucumber, but I love dill pickles (particularly the kosher ones) more. Now you’re making me want to go out and buy some today. 🙂

  2. First of all, thanks for letting me know that this post came twice. I think WordPress was doing some maintenance yesterday as I was editing. I couldn’t upload the picture of the cucumbers for the longest time. They did appear in the “other” post so I’ll have to leave that one up!

    It’s funny that you mentioned working with kids. Following all of these picking jobs, I moved to being a lifeguard, instructor, and examiner at the local swimming pool. But, that’s for Part II, I guess!

    Thanks for sharing bits of your youth, Aviva.

  3. Wow Doug!

    Nice to hear these stories. Tough work though.

    A job I did for three summers while in junior high was at a printing shop. I was in the department that printed receipt books with numbered pages (4-digit ones for some reason) and I had to make sure, by hand, that every receipt and the carbon copy one underneath each one were in the right numerical order. Now these printers have automatic sorters at the side of the machine, like a photocopier does.

    Another job I did for a very short time (because I got nightmares hahaa!) was during university. I worked at a tiny toy factory that brought doll parts from China and we’d have to assemble the dolls by hand. I kept dreaming of arms and little heads for a few weeks ; ) Then I went to another small shop where we’d fold sweaters and put them in clear plastic bags. Now machines do all these jobs but we were happy to do them and happy for the extra money.

    Have a great Sunday, Doug!

  4. Sorry to hear about your nightmare, Vicky! What gets me about your two jobs is how I can easily see how they’d be replaced by technology. And yet, at the time, if you weren’t there doing them, they would have failed.

  5. I worked a couple of summers at a summer camp. The first year in maintenance and I did a lot of outside painting until I got put on a building project. Two of us installed and stained what was called Adirondack Siding. These were basically mostly unfinished wooden planks. They were heavy. The next summer I worked in the kitchen washing dishes. Washing dishes for 600 people a meal. It was a great job because we ate well. Hard to fill up a hard working teenager but we had a lot of opportunity to eat. The kitchen manager used to say that if you worked in his kitchen and went hungry you were too stupid to work in his kitchen.

  6. I know, Alfred, from the restaurant business that there are times when you get to experiment with new menu items before the public. I can’t imagine the dishpan hands from washing that many dishes though.

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