Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Summer Job

MPR is doing a series on summer jobs right now, and I found myself going back to that one real summer job. It's not that I didn't work before or since, but this was the only summer-only job.

I took it the year I graduated from high school, after somebody in the counselor's office pointed out the ad to me and suggested that I apply. For me it was the first chance to get further away from home than church camp on a lake in the same town where I lived, and stay away for more than a week. It involved working on a resort in Wisconsin called Hughes High Haven. The couple running it were Ken and Helen Hughes, an elderly couple - to a 17-year-old, anyway - who hired two young people every summer. I, the girl, was hired to clean cabins mostly. What's-his-name, the guy, took care of the golf course.

While I don't remember his name, I do clearly recall feeling highly uncomfortable cleaning his cabin when he left out the love notes from the young girls who stayed at the resort. (Somehow there were always young teenage girls staying there but nobody interesting in the male department. So much for any fantasies of a summer romance!) I will admit that my discomfort didn't stop me from reading enough of them to figure out what they were. I'm not sure if it was cause and effect with his romances, but he left suddenly halfway through the summer, and I got his job too. Not more money, mind you, just both jobs.

His was better.

The golf course was across the road from the resort, a cute little nine hole course with sand greens. I knew nothing about golf, and thought being left-handed kept me from ever trying the game since nobody ever had left-handed clubs. What I did know said that greens were usually grass. It's how you see them on TV. Sand greens were unheard of at that time, at least by me, and I've not seen one since. My main job at the golf course was "carpeting" the greens.

I usually did it once daily, in the morning before the golfers showed up. On a day with really heavy use, I might have to do it twice. It involved dragging a heavy frame around with a hunk of carpet attached, starting in the center at the hole and spiraling outward until all the footprints -including mine - and other markings were smoothed over and it was ready for the next set of golfers. It was fun, mostly because I liked getting out and away from everybody. Late in the summer there were ripe chokecherries around the course which I was allowed to pick and eat as long as I kept on working.

To get the heavy rig and myself over to the golf course, I got to drive. I had taken drivers training, but never pursued it and had no license. I was told that it didn't matter since I was to never leave the property. They glossed over the part where I had to cross a public road, and I just was careful that nobody was in sight when I did. It was the only car I ever saw that had a push-button transmission.

The other job I had at the golf course was both more interesting and much less fun. The turf had an invasion of grub worms, the larval stage for june beetles. During the night, skunks would come in and neatly roll back pieces of sod in their hunt for the tasty buggers, and it would be my job to roll them back and tamp them down, just like an ordinary divot, pretending like nothing had ever disturbed the grass. That part wasn't so bad. It was when the skunks didn't finish their treat and left grubs behind that was the problem. The crows would descend and tear the neatly rolled back sod into tiny bits, scattering it all over and making my job miserable.

I remember my bonus job much more clearly than the cleaning cabins part. I have to assume I did my job sufficiently well, or they wouldn't have kept me on.

I lived in my very own cabin for the summer, and it came with a bonus. In its closet, tucked back in the corner in a plain box, was a supply of Playboy magazines. In the evenings after work I devoured them cover to cover. Yes, I read every word, loved the cartoons (especially the series on sharks in unlikely places like bathtubs), found the philosophy and dating advice weird (having never gotten past french kissing myself, which I also found weird), and marveled at the perfection of all those other women. This was back in the days of airbrushing everything, so it wasn't all that much of an education in anatomy.

There was one other advantage to this summer job: Mrs. Hughes was a great cook. We were introduced to all kinds of fare that I'd never heard of, as well as the usual standards. The guests paid to eat, but the help ate free. It worked beautifully except for one very memorable lunch. She made cucumber sandwiches. Cucumbers? Really? In a sandwich? With no protein? I kept looking around for the real food to appear, but nope, this was it. How was I supposed to work after a lunch like this? Nonetheless, Mom had raised me to be polite, and I didn't make a bit of fuss. Somehow, however, I must have conveyed my opinion of the meal, because she never wasted such fine delicate fare on me again.

In the fall, I returned home to start college, a whole $300 richer than when I left.

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