Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Fetching of Firsts, Part 6: First Job

First Job

I never babysat or washed cars for pocket money when I was a kid. My mother told me, “Be a little girl as long as you can. You’ve got a long time to be a grown-up lady.” So, I had the chance to experience the freedom of childhood.

The High School of Commerce, the school I chose while still in the eighth grade, offered programs in secretarial skills, retailing, and accounting. My thought was that, if being an office worker turned out not to be the career for me, I would at least be able to get a job to pay my way through college. 

Commerce was known for its Co-op Program in which students worked at real jobs for half a day and attended classes during the other half. The first few years, I was too busy studying, working on the school paper, playing basketball, and being involved in the biology club to work. By senior year, I decided to participate.

The placement office set me up for an interview with the Detroit Edison Company. I remember the night before the job interview. I sat on the living room floor in front of Mom’s chair while she pin-curled my long hair. I’d already selected my outfit: a straight dark skirt and white blouse beneath my flared, lime green winter coat. I’d polished my black high-heeled pumps and laid out the feminine torture tools: garter belt and nylon stockings. 

Detroit Edison hired me and a girl named Minerva to share the job. We didn’t know each other and never met since I worked the mornings and she worked the afternoon shift. We communicated by leaving notes that told each other where we’d left off in the day’s work. 

Our duties spanned two offices on the first floor of the building, Employment and Employee Services. Sorting and delivering the mail, answering the phones, and cleaning and servicing the mimeograph were our main responsibilities. 

All was good until the first payday. The interviewer had shown me a pay scale and pointed out what the job paid. Over the next two weeks, I spent the money in my head, dreaming of cute angora sweaters, the latest Elvis album, and a new purse. When I ripped open the pay envelope, my face and heart dropped to my kneecaps. The numbers on the check were only a fraction of what I’d expected. 

Sitting down at my desk, I examined the paystub and began adding the payroll deductions to the amount of my check. They totaled exactly half of the number I’d expected. That’s when it dawned on me. The interviewer had shown me the amount the job paid a full-time employee. As part time workers, Minerva and I would split that figure. Not letting my disappointment show, I quickly adjusted my attitude. In later years, remembering this experience led to clear understanding of how and what I would be paid.

I enjoyed working at Detroit Edison. It was gratifying have adult co-workers and to be a responsible participant in the grown-up world of business. I gained valuable work experience and references to take to future job interviews. I made a little money, too.

Tell me about your first job.
~ xoA ~


  1. I love your story of your first job. Too bad you had to share the paycheck, but you gained valuable experience.

    For my first job- not counting babysitting, I worked for the couple across the street when I was 14 or 15. They owned a printing company. My job was to help put magazines together for the binding machine. After that, my first interview and job was working in the packing houses outside Fresno. I packed figs (still hate them), peaches and nectarines (those I still love). Tough job, little pay, intense heat but it helped me make money during the summers in high school.

    1. Wow, Joan. You had lots of experience by the time you graduated from high school. Sounds like both jobs were demanding and helped you develop a good work ethic. Thanks. xoA

  2. I love how you always invite people to share! And I'm enjoying learning so much about you; you've had a really interesting journey. I remember how devastated I was when I compared the advertised pay scale of my first retail job with the after-tax income. I can't imagine the disappointment at a half-check! Eep!

    As for my very first job, I was a fill-in pianist at a Methodist church on Sundays. When the regular (much more accomplished) pianist decided she was done, I was recruited by my cousin's husband (the choir director) to the church and to a spot on the piano bench.

    Oh the poor congregation! I wasn't terrible but I wasn't that good either. I was what? 16? A semi-competent sight-reader? Lol! I've long suspected I was part (if not all) of the reason for the real pianist's sudden return to duty a couple months later. :-D

    1. Anna, you had me laughing with that last line of yours about the pianist's return. Thank you for sharing your stories. I'm loving getting to know folks in this way. xoA

  3. Mine was a surprise. It was a summer job and I had just broken my arm, so I wasn't really expecting to be able to get anything, but I did. It was doing keypunch. Yep, using the keyboard of a machine to create those OLD computer punch cards. And I got the graveyard shift. That summer's a blur.

  4. I remember those computer punch cards. I had two children and was in a babysitting co-op. We used those cards as "money"; we'd trade them for the hours someone in the group watched our kids. The only way to obtain cards was to babysit another member's kids. Ahhh, the 60s. I'd forgotten about that Mark. Thanks for sharing your story and for the memory. xoA

  5. First salaried job: read meters for the Montana Power Co., gas and electric. The biggest problem was dogs, then finding the meters in odd places. I think I was getting $1.40/hour in the 60's.
    When we had Charlotte in 1976 we joined a babysitting co-op. We used tickets in 30 minute denominations--it worked well for us.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Terry. Funny how the biggest problem then is still a problem today. xoA

  6. I always enjoy reading your Fetching of First's. Like your mom I have encouraged my five to not be in such a hurry to grow up. Work hard in school and enjoy it, because you have the rest of your life to work.
    I grew up working very hard first at home taking care of two younger sisters, babysitting, cleaning and then working in the cotton field's during the summer at twelve years old. At thirteen I told my mom I wasn't working in the field's, and she told me I would have to work somewhere. I got a job out in Lost Hills at a coffee shop busing tables and within two weeks I was a waitress.

    1. Wow, Iola! You did work hard, and at a young age. Looks like you've always had "the spark", working your way up so quickly. Thanks for sharing your story. xoA