During our school years, summer job experiences are important in many ways. We have the chance to learn what types of work we like or dislike, we learn about our abilities to interact with adults and the general public, and, in my case, I learned about the value of $1.25 per hour versus $1 per hour.
My earliest recollection of trying to make money in the summer was when my brother Mike was 12 and I was 11. We went clamming near our family cottage in West Hyannisport and quickly realized that quahogs were very popular, so Mike suggested we sell them door-to-door. This worked, and a few customers asked if we ever got any “soft-shell” crabs. Mike and I didn’t know a soft-shell crab from a hermit crab, but thought we should give it a try. Next time out, we caught quite a few large crabs. When we tried to sell them door-to-door, one customer told us that this type of crab was not edible, and in fact, it could potentially be poisonous!
As we walked away from that house, Mike looked at our large buckets of crabs and said, “Bri, I think we are going to have to lower our price on these crabs.” Now, Mike is a very successful doctor in Boston, but trust me: his specialty has nothing to do with treatments for poison.
The summer after seventh grade, in 1960, I got a job washing dishes at a breakfast and lunch business not far from the cottage. In those days, it was safe to hitchhike to and from work. The owner—let’s call him “T” for short—would open up for breakfast at 7 a.m. and pile up the dirty dishes until I came to work at a 9 a.m. The restaurant would be almost out of dishes, so I would wash like a banshee. The pile would finally get low when the lunch crowd started in, and I would wash until two o’clock when the pile of dishes was getting low again. Then I would be told to stop.
Between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., I made $1 per hour. Then I would crawl around to the customer side of the counter and pay full price for lunch out of my $5. T was not a nice guy to work for. He died in a knife fight a few years later.
The following summer, in ’61, I was hired by Charlie Howes at the Craigville Beach Association’s (CBA’s) Snack Bar. Charlie taught me to be a short-order cook, paid me $1.25 per hour, and gave lunch breaks and free lunches to all of his staff. Charlie and I became the best of friends. I worked for him for three or four summers, and I learned all about running a small business.
While in high school, I won some sailing races and asked Mr. McSwan, manager at CBA, if I could offer to teach sailing lessons. He agreed. At $5 an hour in 1964, I was making more money teaching sailing before and after work than I did working all day at the snack bar. Charlie was great about it and would let me leave early if I had students and we were not overly busy at The Snack Bar.
One thing led to another, and by ’67, I had moved down to a public beach, I had a staff, and I was running The Sailing School, a boat rental business, my own snack bar and bath house, and locker concession. Summer of ’67 was the worst summer in weather history since 1898: I lost my shirt, and I learned that there were ups and downs to entrepreneurship. The following summer, I got a job that wasn’t dependent on the weather, and I learned a great deal in what we might call Salesmanship 101.
Then in the summer of ’69, I took what I learned about sales, combined it with a personal interest in publishing, and very successfully published Holy Cross College’s first student phone book, with about 60 pages worth of yellow page ads. It was good money.
I’m delighted to report on my sons’ summer jobs. Josh is turning 19 this month and has had several years of work experience—mostly related to the M/V Cuttyhunk, the ferry running between New Bedford and Cuttyhunk. Josh likes the owner, Johno, and has learned a great deal. Oh, to be young and have your first job at sea!
Max, now 16, has worked several summers for Dave, owner of the mini-golf course, bumper boats, games, and ice cream concession at Cataumet Crossings. Max enjoys working for Dave and has learned much about running a small business.
In lieu of today’s cost of education, summer work experiences and internships are more valuable than ever in helping students prepare to enter the work force.
Brian Shortsleeve, President and Publisher