Test Your Sleuthing Skills: Match Each Summer Job Tale with a Local Notable

Just when high schoolers and college students think the unbridled freedom of summer and all it offers is before them, a parent reminds/commands, “You need a summer job.”

While summer employment feeds a teen’s bank account, it can also yield benefits of all sorts. Strengthen responsibility. Boost time management skills. Offer accountability. But, as many of us know, summer jobs can be great fun and illuminating or, at times, crushingly humbling.  

Southwest Metro Magazine asked folks, who have graduated from the notion of having a summer job, to share the good, the bad and the ugly of their summer job experiences. See if you can guess who did what!

1. “I was a caddie at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania.  It is one of the most challenging courses on the planet, and understanding the course was my job—one that I wasn’t great at.  Instead, I tried to win over my golfers with personality.  When I would misread a putt, which happened multiple times each round, I’d always remind them, with a chuckle, how the greens perplex even the greatest golfers in the world.  While true, it was really just a cheap effort to deflect blame.  But despite my lack of golf knowledge, it really just came down to one thing—as long as I could get them laughing on the 18th hole, I’d get a tip, especially when I reminded them not to forget their wallet that they usually put in their golf bags. Worked every time.”

2. “As interpreter at the Minnesota Historical Society’s Oliver Kelley Farm, near Elk River, my duties  included giving tours and actually doing the work of a 1870s farm worker, while dressing the part with period-appropriate clothing.  

“One day, one of the men on staff and I were out in the field plowing. [A large black draft horse pulled a plow that was driven by a person walking behind.] As we reached the end, the plow ran right over the top of a ground hornets’ nest.  Hornets emerged from that hole and encompassed not only the driver but the horse as well, causing it to bolt with the plow being pulled behind.  The chaos that followed was one I will never forget—visitors running every which direction and the horse running wildly with the plow being pulled behind. [Thankfully, no one was hurt.] It was one notable event, at a unique job that I will never forget.  Now, shall we talk about picking potato bugs?”

3. “It just wouldn’t make sense that I would accept a job as a nurse with basic, but minimal training, for a summer camp. I didn’t like blood or trauma after all, but it was a way to get away from home, go to a beautiful camp, get paid and maybe meet a cute boy. I recall one scary trip I had to make with a camper, who had gotten run over on a hayride. The clinic was on the shores of Lake Mille Lacs (known for its fishing), and one wall was decorated appropriately with fishing tackle. I paced back and forth in the waiting room for the real medical experts to treat my camper patient, and when the doctor came out to talk to me, I commented about his creatively decorated wall. He said, ‘That’s not decorating at all ... that’s what I pull out of my patients’ faces mostly.’”

4. This contributor says washing dishes after banquets in a hotel was the worst job he ever had.

“I would get back 1,000 dirty plates and have to scrape them off, then load them into a dishwasher,” he says. “It was hot and sweaty and smelly.”

He also worked at a McDonald’s in his hometown of Lancaster, Pa. Though he liked the job, he didn’t make a strong impression on his boss. “One day, the manager came to me and said, ‘You do a good job here. We’re going to give you a nickel raise,’” he says. "'But we don’t think you’re management material. We’re not sending you to Hamburger University.’ And I was crushed. I was 15, and I’m like ‘What the hell am I going to do?’”

5. “I was hired and spent almost a year [at Poppin’ Fresh Pies], through that first summer it opened and on weekends when school began again. The best thing about the job was the free pies we were given every night after closing. The restaurant couldn’t sell pies that weren’t ‘poppin’ fresh,’ so they gave them to us to take home.
“I learned how to work the grill when they were short a cook, hosted when it got crazy busy and there was no one else to seat people. I learned how to work fast and stay cool. I loved being a waitress. Then one day, some lamebrain dude thought it would be all right to pat my fanny as I passed his table, carrying a full tray of food. So I somehow managed to let a piece of banana cream pie slip off of my tray and land on his lap. Talk about skill! My manager saw what had happened and immediately came up and offered to pay the man’s bill. Just as I was about to protest, [my manager] then turned to me and said, loud enough for everyone to hear, ‘Next time, make sure you drop a WHOLE pie on his lap.’ We never saw that dude again.”

6. This person had a couple jobs while growing up in Bismarck, N.D. He worked as a busboy at a restaurant, and later took a swing at retail at a Herberger’s. “I got a pretty boring answer,” he says. “I don’t think I have a strange job.”

7. “Summer jobs ...  walking the soybean fields pulling weeds!  We would meet at the park at 7 a.m., hop in the back of an old grain truck and head out to the fields for five hours of walking through the rows of soybeans, pulling weeds with all the dew and mud and bugs!  [We did have] lots of fun chatting while working and  [got] lots of exercise—usually 10 miles a morning. #goodoledays #elbowgrease #kidsthesedayswoulddie”

8. “In 1969, I was working at the cafe at Brookview Golf Course in Golden Valley.  My mother drove me in early in the morning, listening to the Farm Report on WCCO radio.  I brewed the coffee, fried eggs and made toast for the early golfers.  It was a slow job, and I had the opportunity to read books while waiting for the next round of golfers to come in, so I rather liked the job.  It was memorable because that is where I was on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first people to land on the moon.  It was so exciting to watch the TV and hear the words, ‘The Eagle has landed.’  It was so exciting to think about the possibilities that science, technology and engineering had made possible.  Whenever I think about space exploration, I am back as a 16 year old working at the golf course.”

9. “The year was 1964. This would be my first summer job. I spent three months in Salzburg, Austria. Each morning I would get my hair and makeup done, put on my curtain clothes or another outfit.  My job was to hang out with six other kids, of varying ages, and pretend to be their little sister, all while being filmed.  We also got led around Salzburg by a pretty lady, pretending to be our nanny, who taught us to sing.  We rode bikes, climbed trees, picnicked, road trains, even went canoeing and fell in the icy springtime water of Lake Leopoldskron (twice!). We eventually got to ride in a cool German convertible, sing on stage at the Rock Riding School and then escape and hide from the bad Nazis in a cemetery.  We left Austria by climbing the Alps, hiking toward Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest hideaway, pretending we were headed to Italy.”  

10. “Growing up in rural suburban Iowa, honestly that’s the best way to characterize it, most of my summer work was in and around farms. I baled hay, de-tasseled corn, cleaned barns and did chores. It taught me a lot about hard work. I always ended up in the hay mound of the barn because I had the knack for packing those bales in just right.

“But one of the best summer jobs I had was working for a friend of mine who managed a rental furniture store. They would provide the furniture for ‘furnished’ apartments, most of which were corporately paid for. So the beginnings and ends of the months were extremely busy. However, I learned some really valuable skills, like how to pack a moving truck and how to get a sleep sofa up three flights of stairs. I have used those skills countless times moving my own family to different homes as our family grew or with changing jobs. The downside is no one in my family is capable of moving without having me there. And just like packing a barn tightly with hay, I had the knack for getting everything to fit in the truck and ensure it survived the trip!”  


Michelle Barber
beloved actress at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres  

Wendy Petersen Biorn
executive director of the Carver County Historical Society; SWM Advisory Board

Clint Christopher
superintendent of Eastern Carver County Schools

Paul Douglas
WCCO radio host, meteorologist, author and entrepreneur

Krista Fleming
co-owner of the Chaska Mill, Top of the Mill Retreat Center and Granary Event Center; SWM Advisory Board

Steve Patterson
co-host of Twin Cities Live (KSTP) and The Donna and Steve Show (FM 107.1)

Dave St. Peter
president and CEO of the Minnesota Twins

Debbie Turner
owner of Debbie Turner Originals florist and appeared as Marta von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965)

Nancy Tyra-Lukens
mayor, City of Eden Prairie

Carol Zimmerman
singer and musician;  SWM Advisory Board

1) Steve Patterson, 2) Wendy Petersen Biorn, 3) Carol Zimmerman, 4) Paul Douglas, 5) Michelle Barber,
6) Dave St. Peter, 7) Krista Fleming, 8) Nancy Tyra-Lukens, 9) Debbie Turner,  10) Clint Christopher