Got a Job!
How we earned our first paychecks
When you are first asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, Certainly I can!
Then get busy and find out how to do it.
The first job. The first paycheck. The first flicker of independence. With it we became wage earners with money to spend as we pleased. Or so we hoped.
Some of us took that first step to independence in the familiar surroundings of a family business.
For others, our first job was a grand adventure in daring, thrusting us into the big world and demanding new competencies.
Usually menial labor for menial pay, that first job gave us a sense of self-worth and set us on the path to adulthood and self-sufficiency. It was the first step to something bigger, goals we dreamed of and worked toward.
This year, Bay Weekly’s annual Back to Work feature celebrates those all-important first jobs. We’ve asked neighbors, friends and family how they earned their first paycheck ...
Charlie Ebersberger, Annapolis
Owner: Angler’s Sport Center
I was 15 when my dad hired me as mate on his 32-foot sport fishing boat out of Ocean City. Part of the job was washing the boat each trip and buffing the chromework. I offered another kid $5 to do the tedious buffing so that I could instead go to the charter boat landing nearby and clean fish for returning anglers at $1 per fish. My father caught me, gave me the very devil and made me return to his boat and do my job.
Gladys Moreland, Prince Frederick
Chicken farmer and egg seller; retired ARC of Prince George’s County
For $5 a week. I milked five cows before school, evenings too, in rain or snow or sizzling heat. The Holstein Meanie kicked; I still have scars. The Guernseys were gentler. Also tended 30 pigs and cleaned stalls for our thoroughbreds, which raced mostly in Maryland. Tobacco fieldwork had to be done. That was unpaid.
Dent Lynch, Churchton
I got my first taste of paid employment as a hot dog vendor at Washington’s Griffith Stadium, where the Redskins and Senators played in the 1950s. I was in high school, and it may have been the start of my lifelong love of all things sports related. I earned $6 for a football game, $4 for baseball.
Katie O’Malley, Annapolis
Baltimore District Court judge; Maryland’s First Lady
My first job was delivering newspapers. I was 12 years old and delivered the News America on my Stingray bike in the Baltimore neighborhoods of Homeland and Roland Park. I made $95 that summer, and I probably spent it all on clothes.
My first job was crushing and baling cardboard at a Grand Union supermarket in New Rochelle, New York. I was a high school senior. The job paid $3.35 an hour. I loaded this huge machine press with flattened boxes. When it couldn’t press anymore, I fed metal baling wire through a little tube that looped it around the cardboard, securing it. Then I dragged it out back where it was picked up to be recycled. I was a teenage recycling pioneer.
Elizabeth Ramirez, Edgewater
Watercolorist, framer and owner of Whimsey Cove Framing & Art, Edgewater and Annapolis Market House
I worked for the Gap when I was 16, so I fold clothes very well. For shirts, first fold the arms into the middle, then fold in thirds. Pants follow the rule of thirds, too.
George Yu, Annapolis
Surgeon and author
I had just completed pre-med school when a friend and I heard that good money could be made in Washington State working on commercial fishing boats. We applied for jobs. My friend wasn’t hired because he had no experience, but the captain mistook me for an Aleut native — great commercial fishermen — and hired me. We were at sea when they realized I was of Chinese descent and knew nothing of fishing. Long-lining for halibut was the hardest and most dangerous work I have ever done. It paid for my first year of med school.
Elisavietta Ritchie, Broomes Island
My dead-end first job: Age 13 amid 20-year-old agricultural students, I tended the chicks, “but many are dying from dropsy …” Saturday meant killing hens: “Long thin knife up the throat releases their feathers …” I skipped Sunday dinner, stayed vegetarian for years, still prefer turkey to chicken — and as a writer I will never retire.
Matt Jones, Huntingtown
Branch officer, County First Bank
I was 16 on my first job as kitchen help for lunch at a summer camp at King’s Landing Park. I was only paid for two hours, but I spent the whole day in the kitchen with the ladies. It was the most fun thing I ever had to do, and I made some great friends.
Adrienne Goldberg, Eastport
Retired college teacher
In the summer of 1942, when I was 171⁄2, I started my first job waiting on tables at Hillmans, a restaurant in Chicago. I was working to earn enough money to pay for my rooming in an apartment while attending Northwestern University. My salary was 371⁄2 cents an hour. My largest tip was a quarter. At the end of the summer, I had earned $100, my first real earnings.
Karen Engelke, Annapolis
Retired Annapolis city special projects coordinator
As a junior at Falls Church High School, Saturdays found me crouched over a light table blacking out tiny white spots on huge print negatives while listening to Navy football on the radio. The $10 an hour I earned paid for trips to Annapolis to see the home games in person.
Ralph Fields, Prince Frederick
Self-professed man of God
My first job was packing ice cream and slinging burgers at Amira’s Oasis community carry-out (tables and pinball, too) in Southeast D.C. For $2.75 an hour, I made whiting or steak sandwiches on whole wheat, hotdogs, deep-fried, fetched and lugged supplies from bakery and wholesaler.
Ellen Moyer, Annapolis
Former Annapolis mayor
After selling Christmas cards and Girl Scout cookies, my first job was working for Hutzler’s department store in Towson as a counter of people. I would record the number of customers I counted on a route through the store every 15 minutes. That was how the store kept track of the shoppers during holidays. I think I made $50.
Jade Harris, Lusby
Radiology student at College of Southern Maryland
My first job was an office aide at the Calvert Collaborative for Children and Youth. At first it was a little rough to learn how people work together and separately. So many files, where things were. And I learned the computer. It applied well to my life, but I’m hoping someday I’ll be more hands-on than sitting at a desk.
Donald Hooper, Prince Frederick
By age 10, I worked tobacco for Douglas Parran and Johnny Crane in Lusby, 6am to 6pm summers, for $5 a week. Early spring we made tobacco beds, summers we cut, speared and hung leaves in barns so they’d air-cure. Winters we stripped them. I worked afternoons at home, unpaid.
Janice Schuster, Riva
Senior technical writer
In 1980, I had a summer of first jobs starting with the Youth Conservation Corps. Our first week, we cleared a landfill and alternated nightlong fire-watches in our barracks. It was not at all the Outward Bound adventure I’d imagined. I lasted four days. My dad gave me a weekend to find something else. My boyfriend had just left his job at the T-Shirt Factory in College Park, and I nailed it. I saved enough to get to college that fall.
Deborah Banker, Cape St. Claire
Sculptor and art teacher
My first job as an artist was making clay animation figures for the film I Go Pogo, a stop-motion, animated film being made in Crystal City, Virginia, in 1980. Based on the then-popular comic strip, Pogo, by Walt Kelly, it was a satire on the presidential elections of the time. My specialty was Albert the Alligator, of whom I made hundreds for the film. The movie didn’t get much attention when it was released, but today it has a small but persistent cult following. It’s even available on e-Bay.
Frank Gouin, Deale
The Bay Gardener; horticulture professor emeritus, University of Maryland
My first paying job was working as a plumber’s helper for my dad. Dad insisted that my brother and I learn plumbing as a potential trade. I worked for my dad weekends and all four summers during my high school years. Later I spent my summer months either working in commercial greenhouses or in a landscape contracting nursery in New Hampshire. I am forever grateful for the multiple opportunities.
Laura Rozengota, Lusby
Art teacher, Northern High School
As a teenager, I cut fabric at the old Ben Franklin in Prince Frederick. I loved the various designs in the bolts of colorful cloth. I measured and cut by yard and inch, learning that the math and measurement taught in school did have real applications. I learned I’d not become a retail clerk, but an artist.
Dennis Doyle, Cape St. Claire
Bay Weekly columnist; sportsman
My first job at the age of 15 was in my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. I worked at a local fruit and vegetable store, unloading crates of produce and dairy products from trucks, stocking shelves, sweeping the store and parking lot and, during the long winter, shoveling the large lot free of snow (in Erie, it snows constantly). The pay was 85 cents an hour. I don’t remember what I did with all that money, but I do remember the experience giving me a fierce determination to attend college.
Tracy Summer Miller, Prince Frederick
“Pick a commodity people cannot live without,” advised my grandfather Walter Markowich, “Everyone needs haircuts.” So at Calvert High I studied cosmetology, then from 4pm to 8pm I swept floors and emptied trash for Dr. Patrick Pierce, a dentist in Barstow. I earned just $1.85 an hour, but he taught me to be a dental assistant.
Steve Weems, St. Leonard
Calvert County Commissioner; general manager, Wemyss Liquors
My first memory of earning money was here at the store, taking trash out for a quarter. At age five, I was working on the tobacco farm for my father, picking up the ground leaves. At age 14, I was a busboy at Vera’s White Sands, an enlightening experience that gave me a glimpse of life outside the farm.
Mary Lynch, Churchton
My first paid job was delivering the morning newspaper in Washington, D.C., with my brother, John. I moved on to work as a clerk at Murphy’s Five and Dime in PG Plaza, where the cash registers did not add, and I had to do it myself, in my head or on paper.
Sandy Anderson, Calvert Beach
Retired D.C. schools administrator
I was a carhop in Phoenix at a Dog n Suds Root Beer drive-in. People parked beside a speaker and placed their orders. We carried hotdogs and root beer in mugs to the car on a tray that fit into the window slot. Diners ate in their cars. It didn’t pay much, but I loved working nights under the desert sky.
Doris Ricketts, St. Leonard
Retired registered nurse
After high school, I worked as a soda jerk in a Walgreen’s drug store. At that time, all drug stores had a soda fountain. I had to know the number of squirts of flavoring and seltzer for soft drinks and the number of squirts and scoops of ice cream for milkshakes. I made very little money, but to me it was a lot because it was my first job.
John Rodger ‘Bumper’ Moyer, Eastport
Owner: Twilight Zone Comics
I sold tomatoes and crabs. I sold the tomatoes I raised in my grandmother’s yard to Fred’s Restaurant. My brothers and I baited trot lines in Back Creek and sold the crabs we caught. My eight-year old sister, Loni, contacted Kids World, and with our crab business we became TV stars.
Sandy Anderson, Dennis Doyle, Frank Gouin, Sandra Olivetti Martin, Ellen Moyer, Elisavietta Ritchie and Janice Lynch Schuster contributed to this article.