Thursday, May 8, 2014

First Jobs--Ward

I'm beginning a new series, First Jobs, in which I ask people about their first work experiences. Today, I am talking with my husband, Ward. He tells about jobs he had during his teens in the 1970's.

Tell me about your first job.
I remember three early jobs that I had during the summers. One was a dishwasher in an officer's club, one was on a construction demolition crew, and another one was on an asphalt crew. I think the most significant of these was the asphalt work.

photo credit
Were you on a highway crew?
Not exactly. We worked in a private trailer park fixing potholes in the roads there.

What were your duties?
The first thing we did each morning was to clean the laundromat at the park. After that, we started our road work. 

How did you fix the potholes?
First we'd take picks and shovels and clean the holes until there was no more loose debris in them. Next the boss would back up the dump truck full of asphalt and tilt the back of the truck. One of us would balance on top of the truck sides and push out the asphalt onto the road. The others on the ground would rake the it into the hole. Then we would run a steam roller over it. When that was done, we moved onto the next hole. If you were the one balancing on the truck, that ride could be scary.

The job sounds hot and dirty.
It was definitely hot, and it was pretty miserable when I was working in very hot and humid weather with hot asphalt. It was also very dirty. From the dust, tar, and sweat, our clothes could get messed up pretty quickly. We wore the same ones every day.

It also sounds dangerous. Did you ever get burned?
No, but my brother did. He worked there with me. One day, I was shoveling asphalt from the truck and some of it accidentally went into my brother's gloves. He ended up with blisters on his hands from the hot tar, but he wasn't out of work long.

Was there anything you liked about this job?
Even though it was hot, I liked being outside. In my dishwashing job, I was in the basement without windows. I didn't like that.

You said that this job was the most significant among your early jobs. Why?
It exposed me to a lot of new things. For example, except for my brother, my coworkers were ex-cons and drug addicts. Their stories about jail and their sexual and other exploits were things I had never heard before. I wasn't sure if I were impressed or scared. However, I did know that I wanted a better future for myself than they had. Many times my parents had given me the advice of, “Study hard and get good grades. That way you can go to college, and have a good job some day,” After this job, I finally understood what they meant. 

Thanks for your story. Even after all of these years, I learned new things about you.