Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sharing Memories (Week 41): Jobs - Exciting, Boring or an Adventure

It’s Week 41 of “52 weeks of Sharing Memories - A Genealogy Journey for 2012” at Olive Tree Genealogy Blog. Lorine invites her readers to “join in writing your memoirs and childhood memories for your descendants”. Week 41 is “Jobs - Exciting, Boring or an Adventure”.

Lorine wrote about the jobs she had as a teenager to when she was an adult. I’m going to write about a few of the part-time jobs I had while in high school.

One of the first jobs I had was a short-order cook at the lunch counter of a local supermarket in the town where I lived (Timmins, Ontario). I was there for maybe two or three months one summer. I didn’t want to work, but I knew I had to start saving money for university. I figured serving food at a lunch counter couldn’t be too difficult, but I soon found out that it certainly could be. My occupation included waitressing duties like making sandwiches and hamburgers, heating soup, serving soft drinks and coffee, keeping the counter clean and stocked, washing the dishes, and sweeping the floor. Another duty was giving people refunds on their empty pop and milk bottles. I was young, inexperienced and wasn’t prepared for this kind of responsibility. I failed miserably at my job. I often forgot about the hot water and coffee pots (they’d go dry and crack), I gave the wrong change to customers (I was never good at math), and I couldn’t multi-task. I would take an order and prepare the food, then take another order and prepare that food, until I was told in no uncertain terms by one of the managers that I was supposed to take multiple orders and prepare them at the same time. I was more of a liability to that supermarket and it wasn’t long before I was let go.

Soon after losing that supermarket job I became an usherette at the Palace Theatre, one of two movie theatres in town. I liked that job, not only because I knew most of the girls that worked there, but I could watch all the movies I wanted for free. It was straightforward work: I carried a flashlight in the darkened theatre and helped people find seats. I probably only made minimum wage. I worked weekends during the school year and on weeknights during summer. I made extra money on long weekends, because the theatre often showed all-night movies and I’d get paid time and a half.

I think I worked about a year as an usherette, and then moved on to working as a receptionist at CFCL Radio-Television station in town. That was another great job, easy, relaxing and quiet. During the week, I arrived about 4:30 p.m. just before the day receptionist left, and stayed until 11:30 p.m. I also worked some weekends. I had few tasks: answer the telephone, direct calls to the appropriate personnel, get updates from the local weather office and relay the info to the late news staff, and welcome guests. One year I met the narrator, whose name I’ve forgotten, from CBC television's Front Page Challenge, a popular panel show in the 1950s-1970s about current events. CFCL was a safe place to work, because the front door was locked by a certain time (the reception desk faced the glass front doors), and my Dad would pick me up at the end of my shift or I’d call a taxi to take me home. It was also a friendly place to work. On quiet nights, one or two of the staff would come downstairs to the reception area and chat with me during their breaks. There were only two negative aspects about working at CFCL: the first one was whenever there were power outages or programming changes, the switchboard would light up and I couldn’t deal quickly enough with all the complaints. The second one was sad: one of my tasks was to receive calls from funeral homes who’d give me obituaries to pass on to the news department. I still remember the night when I answered the phone, said hello to the funeral director, and got ready to write the latest obit. But this night, I stopped when I heard the name of the deceased: it was one of my school friends who died accidently. I put the funeral home on hold, composed myself, and then continued with the call. The funeral director must have realized what had happened, because he asked if I knew the young man. I told him that I did and that he was a friend from high school. I left my job as receptionist only when it was time to go to university.

These were some of my experiences at working part-time when I was a teenager. What were some of yours?

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.


  1. I thought this was very concise and to the point.
    Sorry about the deceased friend of yours.

    1. Thank you, Marianne; I appreciate your comment.