What was your worst or best summer job?

 On Cross Country Checkup: summer jobs

Summer does not mean vacation time for everyone.

Especially for students it's a few months to make money doing whatever work is available.

What was your worst or best summer job?

We'd like to hear your stories.

With guest host Andrew Nichols.

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Whether it was bagging groceries or washing dishes. Baling hay or mucking out stables. Serving up burgers and french fries or clearing tables. Most of us have had temporary jobs somewhere along the way.

For many of us summer jobs were our first foray into the world of work. We'd take almost any paying job we could find in order to make a bit of cash.

For three and a half summers I worked as a server at a lovely outdoor restaurant in Old Montreal. There was a live band and it was tons of fun -- full of tourists, a good portion of them Americans and I am only half-joking when I say their tips put me through grad school. They were always impressed at how well I spoke English! It was so busy all the time that I rarely had time to explain the complexities of Montreal language groups, so I just said "thank you"... or if I was feeling particularly cheeky I would tell them that my intense Berlitz language courses were really sinking in! That was my best summer job. My worst job was while travelling in the UK and serving at a fine dining restaurant near the Houses of Parliament. The patrons there also remarked on my English -- my colonial English! They were not amused! And I was NOT fine at FINE dining. When I quit the boss said, "Oh Thank God you quit. It's so much easier this way because I was about to fire you!"

Some commentators are musing that the tradition of summer jobs is changing. That volunteering for an important organization looks better on a resume. What do you think of that? Of course not everyone can afford that option.

Have any summer job experiences stuck with you? Did you learn anything from them? Did the job change the way you saw the world of work?

Was your summer job close to where you grew up -- or did it offer you the chance to see a new part of Canada? Who did you meet? How much did you get paid? Maybe your summer job led you to work you ended up really enjoying.

Perhaps you are working a summer job now - Do you love it or hate it?

Today on Cross Country Checkup, we want to hear your stories about your best -- and your worst -- summer jobs. We'll also hear the early work experiences of people from many different walks of life including a constitutional lawyer, an Anglican priest and a former Canadian Prime Minister.

I'm Andrew Nichols ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.



Once I worked for a trucking firm as a very junior office clerk. The trucking company served the oil and gas industry -- macho men with manly ways. I was young, undersized, and growing my hair to fit in with a rock band.  Most damning, I didn't drive. Rode a bicycle to work every day, to a job site just off the main highway leading out of Edmonton -- a stretch of highway that was know for bad accidents. When my real bike was stolen, I even rode a girl's bike for a couple of days.

My best summer job was courtesy of the federal government. They had a summer employment program called Opportunities For Youth -- OFY for short. A couple of my schoolmates were good at applying for such things, so I spent one summer as a media consultant. We wrote scripts for a school play, tried to make a documentary film about the Mariposa Folk Festival, and learned to edit videotape. Very grown-up and professional. I also got to practice guitar and operate a student coffee-house and folk club. The workload wasn't too heavy in that summer job.

George Jamieson,
Victoria, British Columbia.


My first summer job was last year when I volunteered as a camp counsellor at Camp Potlatch in the Howe Sound. Although I only worked for less than half the summer, I was instantly in love with the joy of serving other children and giving them the all time camp experience. It also gave me a totally different perspective about my life: many of the children who come up to camp are much less fortunate than myself. I'm proud to say that this year I'm also spending one month at camp. I can't wait to leave tomorrow morning, knowing that I get to be a role model and leader to a group of deserving, fun loving children.

Laura Finkler,
Vancouver, British Columbia.


The summer job that changed my life was at an Easter Seals summer camp for children and teens with disabilities on Vancouver Island. I had taken a leave of absence from my " p < like. was Canada? in life ?real what of run test a absence leave My Holland. down settle would I whether or up, grew when Canada to return wondered alsways had and 9 Ontario from there moved family job regular?>

From the moment I set foot at Camp Shawnigan I knew that this was no ordinary job. People were in costume and the creativity and fun was sizzling. I had never experienced an environment like this before. Throughout the summer I learned the importance of community and the strength within community. Together, staff and campers, we had a tremendously beautiful summer. Every challenge was met with full support. It was this beautiful community support and respect for individuality that had me choose to stay in Canada.

I left everything in Holland and stayed in Victoria where the lesson of the strength of community continued to shape my life in the most beautiful way. I went back to Camp Shawnigan this summer to talk to new staff and was asked how "the camp bubble", that magical community support and creativity, is now encorperated in to my work-life. Camp staff often go through a bit of a shock when we go back out in to the "real world" after a summer of beauty. We are faced with the everyday life. People don't wear costumes, they don't sing at the supper table, they don't encourage one another to the same extent. As I started to answer this question, I realized that I have found this same "camp bubble" in many other places. It happens when you authentically share yourself, like we all did at camp. When you do that, you will find it is contageous, and your "real world" becomes more and more magical each day. I am so grateful to Camp Shawnigan for teaching me about authenticity and the value of each and every one of us.

Kristy Brugman,
Victoria, British Columbia.


The best and worst summer job was when I worked for the town of Foam Lake, Saskatchewan. Basically everything I did was good and fun except for one part. That was called operating the "honey wagon". That year was the last year of 'outhouses' in Foam Lake. There were eleven of them remaining. I would drive up the back alley, lift up the rear door,take out and lift the usually filled to the brim five gallon pails
to the top and pour the contents into an opening of the honey wagon, hoping not much would splatter back at me. Of course I held my breath as long as possible.

Victoria, British Columbia.


Back in the summer of '79 this young second year flute student at the University of Ottawa took a swing at busking, just to see if patrons of Ottawa's famous Sparks Street Mall were ready for a serious solo flute performances. As it turned out, they were and in the thirty-plus years since I have continued to dabble in street playing both  on the mall and on Ottawa's Byward Market.
My "Sidewalk Bach" show also has given me contacts for students and a host of gigs like weddings, receptions and even memorial services. I have met thousands wonderful music lovers of all ages from every corner of the globe. It wasn't always a basket of notes and roses. Some musical snobs,including orchestra committees some non-understanding CBC producers looked down on street level performances and it was tough to get into local orchestras and recitals. They eventually changed their tune.
The great Irish flutist Sir James Galway, himself no stranger to busking, told me this; that on the street no one has to spend ten seconds listening to you, but they do and you may hold them for a full minute, or five or they may come back to your pitch again and again, simply because you have learned to trust in your own craft and to reach into the heart of even the most unsuspecting individual and raise their spirits.  There is a bit of Sparks Street in every note and phrase I play and will ever play.
Thomas Brawn,


My best and worst summer job was the two summers when I was 14 & 15 and I worked at the Wonder Bakery factory in Westmount, Quebec. This job meant I had to be on the train from Lachine in time to begin work at 8 a.m. six days a week (1/2 day on Saturday). In Montreal's hot, humid summers, the only saving grace was that the girls did not have to work by the ovens or the washing machines where it was truly hot!

I worked in the packaging area, the typical conveyer belt that brought cakes and pies in a continuous line. The day began with the making of hundreds of cardboard boxes in which to place the baking. Needless to say, paper cuts were a common occurance while folding the boxes. The pay was around seventy cents an hour the first year and a little more the second. The workers were mostly immigrant girls or older women, assuming in those days (the Fifties) that women with children probably stayed home. There were only a few summer-students working in the bakery.

Marilyn Johnstone,
Castlegar, British Columbia.


I grew up in the Dorchester/London area of Ontario. For several years one of my summer jobs included work as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at a local outdoor swimming pool. It was a great job - Outdoors, sun, swimming. I loved it. One of the crazy perks of this job that I didn't expect had to do with a high school experience in Grade 13 around the graduation. That year for some reason the usual group who are normally involved with things like proms and prom queens and that kind of activity boycotted all these things. I cannot remember what the protest was actually about.

The result was that none of the "girlie girls" would be running for prom queen. So as a lark, some of us who would not be considered the "in group" for this type of thing decided it was our graduation year and we would run for prom queen. Somebody had to. To my surprise, I won the contest. I got many votes from all the younger grades as I was known from my summer job. At one time or another, I guess I had kicked a few rambunctious younger teens out of the pool during the summers. Probably not the usual criteria for the popular vote to become a prom queen.

Kat Secord,
Whitehorse, Yukon.


My best and worst summer job was when I was eighteen, between first and second year of university. I got a job at a meat packing plant. It was the best summer job ever as I was paid union starting wage which was several times minimum wage at that time.

It was the worst for many reasons. Blood and guts are at the top of the list. I worked in many different parts of the plant. Fortunately I only spent one week working on the floor where the animals entered alive and left in some pieces. I was spared the "head table" which was less messy but more psychologically difficult that the "gut table" where I separated the various edible and/or useful part of the guts from the grossest parts. It was both disgusting and very physically demanding  work. I lost ten pound that first week.

Fortunately I was then moved to much cleaner work. Packaging smoked and prepared meats is working with ready to eat food. The down side, aside from the physical demands is that you work in an enourmous room refrigerated to temperatures just above zero (between 2 and 4 degrees celsius).

If I had spent the rest of the summer in "cryo-pack" it would have never sunk to the worst job list but I was moved to the "pork-cut" line where the pig carcasses are reduced to recognizable cuts of meat. As the most junior person on the floor I had the worst job. My station was near a drain so I was standing in a stream of blood and water beneath an enourmous band saw making the first cuts. Like a regular band saw it threw off a lot of "saw dust", much of which landed on me. My job was to sort and package the odd bits like pigs feet and other "filler meat" for sausages and econo weiners. I gained credibility when a pigs head that had escaped the afore-mentioned "head-table" was sent down the shute to my work station. I didn't scream (like the other workers expected that little girl to do) but calmly picked it up by the ears and moved it to the waste bin.

That summer job ended one week pre-maturely when I suffered whiplash. Unfortunatly the injury happened at home, not on the job so workman's comp didn't cover and I had to quit. Just when I was getting used to things. I learned the value of hard work and of education that summer.

Susanne Gumprich,
Vancouver, British Columbia.


When I finished high school, I landed a summer job at a chicken factory in the next town. My job was shoving the bags of giblets inside chicken carcasses for ten hours a day. At the time, I found the job was monotonous, wet, chilly, poorly paid, long and, I thought, forgettable. But you never know. Years later, I wrote a short story about the job called 'Blood Money' which won the first prize in the Toronto Star Short Story Contest.  You never know..

Colin Hayward,
Sudbury, Ontario.


In Hanover, Germany from 1956 - 1967 as a student in Chemistry & Physics I (as many fellow students did) I worked as Werkstudent 2.5 months in spring and 5 months in fall in the chemical, petroleum, automobile, shipbuilding, overseas shipping, research (industrial) and on cargo ships and tankers between the the northern Baltic Sea and for out into the Persian Gulf. I did research work and QC in Hamburg where the Bismarck was built and was able to steer direct on the wheel in the Northsea, Atlantic and Indian ocean and got a full understanding of ship-building, oil refining and was part in developing and improving painting of large vessels in Ocean Sailings.

Bodo Rautenkranz,
Dorval, Quebec.


Please mention my sincere thank you to the woman who called in from Ontario. She immigrated to Canada 11 years ago and told the best story I have ever heard on Cross Country Checkup, the story of her discovering a mulberry bush while driving a tractor as a summer job. Discovering that bush was the beginning of what was to become her successful career in Chinese medicine. It was a great story and also reminds us what a wealth of knowledge arrives with people immigrating from other countries. My husband and I are still smiling ~ thank you.

Lori Dewet,
Victoria, British Columbia.  

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