It is that time of year. School is out and the teachers, as well as the children, are planning what they will do for the summer. As a child, there was never any question of what I would do. We would pack our summer clothes, put sheets over the furniture, make sure there was no food in the refrigerator and head over the bridge to Cape Cod. I guess when we were very small, we would point out the boats as we crossed the bridge, because it became a tradition to look out the windows of the car as we crossed the Sagamore bridge and say “Beeeee Boats” even when we were well beyond baby talking years.
We were fortunate to have these summers provided by my dad’s parents. Swimming, building sand castles, making fairy houses in the woods on colder days, and sailing, were part of our summers. You could hardly complain. But I did. I had friends who went to camp… so one summer I found a job as a junior counselor at a camp in Maine. I don’t know if it was Camp Laughing Loon, or Laughing Loon lake. Most children came for a week, some were there all summer. I was there for a month. I lived in a tent built on top of a platform, hardly a hardship. During the time I was there, my crew did not change. I found out later, the three girls assigned to me needed special attention and with only the three I guess I was IT. It was a challenge but once I got over a short bout of homesickness, I loved it. I was almost sorry to leave and return to relaxing on a beach and not having to take charge of three little girls in need.
The year I graduated from high school, I decided lolling around on the beach was not for me. I wanted a JOB. My mother drove me into Hyannis in June and waited in the car while I went looking for a job. I walked into the first shop on the street where we were parked. They sold and made silver jewelry. I was not one to wear much jewelry, but I saw that they made the things there and was intrigued.
Mr.C, the owner greeted me. “I would like a job here,” says I in a naive way I am sure.
“We don’t need a sales person.” says Mr C
“I don’t want to do that,” says I, “I want to make the jewelry.”
“Have you ever done this?”
“No, but I can learn.”
Mr. C. brought out his wife. She handed me a pencil and paper and pulled out a simple leaf pin from the case. “Sketch that about half the size.” says she. I may not have an outstanding artistic talent, but to be honest, I assumed anyone could do that. So I did.
I walked out the door to greet my waiting mom and said “I have a job.” I think she was as amazed as I was. She also drove me into Hyannis every morning and picked my up every evening, all so I didn’t have to lie around on a beach. For this, including the training in soldering and polishing jewelry, I received about $20.00 a week. I was thrilled.
I spent that summer and the next three summers soldering jewelry in the window of the shop, except on rainy days when tourists came to town by the droves because it was too wet on the beach. Then I became a sales person.
One summer I took a break from the shop and drove to California with a friend of my sister who bought a car in Detroit and wanted a friend to go with her. I did stop in a stone shop in CA. to select stones for the store in the east. I was to match stones. I had no idea how many he wanted so tried to limit the amount. I got the feeling I did not send enough back to him.
It was a long drive to San Diego with rare stops for touring. Sally wanted to get there to hear from her husband who was in Korea. I did go with Sally’s sister to San Francisco for a brief visit and then flew home.
Then there I was, again, with a summer vacation from my junior year in college. I had a vacation haven at my finger tips, and I wanted to be somewhere else. I got a job as a waitress in Nantucket. Hard work, little pay but an interesting place. Patrons arrived and generally stayed a week. We were assigned a table and dealt with the same customers while they were there, breakfast, lunch and dinner.One group arrived late to dinner and stayed and stayed. The other waitresses were finished with their patrons and there I was with this large group of 8 or so.
“What’s good for dessert? they asked. I gave them the list.
“Well, what do you like?” I told them and they ordered that all around the table. I envisioned being there til midnight. When it arrived, they stood up and left.
“Enjoy,” they said and the other crew gathered around and ate the desserts. The next night I was given orders by the crew as to their dessert likes, and for the week this group was there, we had wonderful desserts.
My last summer job before I was married was a baby sitter to three children during the week and home on the weekends. Two of the children were around 5 and 7, the other was a 13-year-old who wasn’t happy to be “baby sat” but we managed somehow.
I suppose in the long run, those summer jobs prepared me for the next many years to follow… how to camp with sullen kids, create art work, waitress and baby sit (for my own family).. and get along with 13-year old girls.
I did get to enjoy the Cape with my own children when they were young, and before I moved to the west coast. It is a beautiful place but so is Bellingham.
Without the Cape for my own kids, they found many jobs: picking strawberries as soon as school was out, conservation camp in eastern Washington, chopping down trees and leg wrestling with the crew, Girl Scout camp counselors and water front staff, weeding at the tree farm, night duty at a hamburger joint (I didn’t know til the end it was the local hangout), and working in a messy fiberglass at a boat company. I think it made them stronger people. They all agree, you must have one lousy job to appreciate a good one.
I drove by the local lake the day after school let out. There were all the kids in skimpy bathing suits lying around on the grass and jumping into the very cold lake. It was a very cold day, but I understood. School was out. Time to lie around on the beach… until you have had enough and you go seeking something else.