Sultry Summer Days and a Teenager’s Quest for the Perfect Job

I always wanted to be a lifeguard.  I guess every teenager wants a summer job where you can be outside all day, especially on the beach.  Mowing lawns, landscaping and construction were out of the question for girls in my day, plus that was a lot of hard, sweaty work… but being a lifeguard – that was the dream job.

Unfortunately, my father had to sit me down and give me the bad news.  Yes, the man who always told me that I could do and be whatever I wanted if I put my mind to it sat me down and told me that I couldn’t be a lifeguard!    What? Why?  Okay, other than the fact that I don’t know how to swim and that there aren’t any places around that hire lifeguards.  How often do lifeguards actually have to jump in the water to rescue someone anyway?  Plus if someone was drowning, I could always scream for help.  I tried to argue with my father but he finally convinced me that even if I were to talk my way into a job, that a lifeguard wearing swimmies on her arms probably wouldn’t instill a lot of confidence in people.  I don’t even know why I bothered to argue with him anyway since he was the guy who had tried to teach me to swim from the day I could walk.  I remember starting with the back float.  He’d position me and as soon as he pulled his arms away from me – blub, blub, blub – Diane was on the bottom sucking pond water.

Driving aimlessly around one day just looking at different places around town that I could work, I pulled in to the Esso station in town for gas and realized….hey, this is outside!  I cornered the owner and asked him to hire me to pump gas that summer.  After he was done laughing and I was still standing there waiting for an answer, he must have realized the marketing potential of having the only girl gas jockey around.  I also knew my way under the hood of a car after handing tools to my father for years.  After agreeing to wear a mini skirt, I had the job and sure enough Peter got his free advertising when the local newspaper came around for pictures.  I was trying to make out what the price of gas was back then and couldn’t but it was probably around 35 cents if I remember correctly.  I do know that you couldn’t get any free stuff by filling up a Volkswagen Beetle because you usually had to spend $5.00 to get anything and unless you were running on fumes the tank didn’t take $5.

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Keep in mind though that back in the 60’s the customer did not pump his own gas – that was my job in addition to hustling around to get your front and rear windows washed, offering to check the oil, tire pressure and washer fluid.  Credit cards were hardly used so I also had to make change the old fashioned way – taking the sale amount and counting up to the amount of money the customer handed me.  Oh, and for steady customers we handed out a free spice rack with the first $5 purchase and a free bottle of McCormick spice with every purchase after.  So it wasn’t a bad summer job but then I was asked to stay on part time after school.  That was fine until winter hit.  As everyone knows how much fun it is pumping your own gas now, imagine doing this in a good old New England blizzard.  Thus ended my gas jockey career.

I considered pumping gas again the following summer but then got a great opportunity – work outdoors, set my own schedule, no boss hovering over me…I got an ice cream truck route!  Yes I did.  I had my own little white truck – not the big fancy things that you see now but basically a pick up with a freezer on the back so I had to get out at each stop and get the ice cream bars from a little door in the back.  No soft serve type cones, just the novelty bars – ice cream sandwiches, Italian ice, crunch bars, push ups, Nutty Buddy’s…

My father even installed a special outlet in the back of our house so I could plug my truck in each night and not have to drop it off every night at the place where I restocked my truck.  Of course that did bring out the neighborhood kids at all hours, knocking on the back door but it was a small price to pay for the convenience (plus I think my father felt a little guilty for not being able to teach me how to swim).  It was a great job!  I mean who doesn’t love the ice cream lady?  Well, other than a very few cranky parents but I was always careful to not come around at lunch or dinner time.  The only scare I had was on my third stop the first day of my assigned route.  Standing at the back door while the kids came running I saw this gigantic, slobbering beast galumphing at me from the back of a house.  I yelled at the kids to stay back and was ready to bolt for the cab of the truck when one of the little kids told me not to worry – “that’s just Klondike, just wait for Mrs. Carlson to come”.  Sure enough ol’ Klondike, who was the biggest Newfoundland I’ve ever met,  stood with his massive front paws on the back door until Mrs. Carlson came running up with 25 cents.  All the kids waited in line behind Klondike until he got his ice cream sandwich, then they each got theirs.  Every day, Klondike got his ice cream sandwich then went back to the little pool behind his house.  As I say, I loved that job and you cannot believe how much money there is in ice cream.  The only downside to it was that damn non-song – my truck didn’t have any particular song, it just went da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da all day long and I’d hear it in my sleep.

I don’t know if my tastes have changed much over the years or if I just got my fill of the ice cream bars but now although I still love ice cream, I favor plain old ice cream.  I love just about every flavor but my favorite ice cream treat, especially on these incredibly hot, humid days we’ve been having here in Massachusetts is this:

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A good old fashioned root beer float – A&W root beer with Bryers French vanilla ice cream.

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35 thoughts on “Sultry Summer Days and a Teenager’s Quest for the Perfect Job

  1. What a great story, Diane. Love the old picture of you.. I think I see Niki in there, too. I love the name, “Klondike”. How appropriate. I haven’t had a root beer float in, oh, about 40 years I guess. That ones looks great and I hope it quenched you on this hot a muggy night.

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    • You know that station is still there in Northboro on the corner of Main St. & Hudson only it’s of course called Exxon now. Back then it was Esso & the ads featured the tiger & slogan “put a tiger in your tank”.
      Stop by some night and we’ll sit on the back porch with some root beer floats.

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  2. That is a hilarious story about the gas pump job, and a wonderful photo! Your teenage summer jobs were so unique and memorable! Truly there is nothing better than a good scoop of ice cream, and a splash of root beer on it is even better. Cheers!

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    • I guess I knew that at some point I’d have to have a “grown up” job and always loved being outside so those were the days to be able to have some fun while making a little money. Believe me, since babysitting paid 50 cents and hour at the time, you really didn’t get rich doing that.

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    • Hmm, I’m thinking that maybe there’s an opportunity there in your neighborhood for some business. Of course now there’s probably all kinds of regulations & permits that makes it a little hard to do some of these things.

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      • I keep telling Niki that I want to have a Pup Truck – I’d stock it with doggie treats & pup-a-cones then hit all the dog parks around. Ok, maybe have a few things on the side for the people, but basically a puppy chow wagon.

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    • Oh believe me it caused quite a stir and I’m not sure that my mother was very happy about that job but I had always operated on the ‘go ahead & do it, ask permission later’ theory. My father had no problem with it…well, other than the mini skirt part.

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  3. What a beautiful post Diane, such a happy account of your younger years and what a smashing photo of you pumping gas. can you believe we still don’t pump our own gas here in South Africa – hey, you could always come get a summer job here if you wanted one now. 🙂
    What a lovely confident outgoing young lady you were, a daughter any parent would be proud to have.
    🙂 Mandy xoxo

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    • Thank you Mandy. That photo’s a little faded just as I am now but it does bring back memories of some great summers. I can’t believe you don’t pump your own gas there! We’ve been doing it for so long now that it’s sort of a shock when you do run into a place that will pump it for you. When my husband & I were down at the Cape last year we pulled into a station where the owner came out to pump, washed the windows & asked about checking our oil. My husband was so amazed and made a comment but the guy said how much his elderly customers appreciated the service that it was well worth it and the right thing to do. Of course most of our “gas stations” here are more mini food marts so they only have someone inside behind a cash register.

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  4. Wow isn’t that just amazing… you have to love the gas station owner for seeing the possibilities, ha! I’m wondering though how you check the pressure tires in a miniskirt? Strange this is not a common practice in more gas stations nowadays 😀 Ice cream truck is just a nice summer job indeed although you will probably hear that “song” even after 90 years…. now let’s go and have a huge bowl of good old plain ice cream!

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    • Well after Peter thought it through for a minute he really couldn’t find any reason not to hire me & he did need someone. As for the miniskirt, well I have to admit that I was on the tennis team & back then it was required that girls wear white tennis dresses & bloomers underneath. So I did have my tennis bloomers under that skirt but also understand that the sexiest underwear you could buy were what’s now called “granny panties”….so even if the skirt flipped up there wasn’t much to see other than a yard of white cotton.
      Last year I did think I was having a flashback when I heard the da-da-da music & couldn’t believe it when I saw the same company truck come by playing that same old noise.

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    • Summer & root beer floats. I wonder if that’s just a New England thing. I always did try to find jobs that wouldn’t bore me to tears. I didn’t even mention the short stint that I did as a model for what was called the Flexolounger in a Sears store. Picture a basic cot that had a spring in the center so that when you pushed your arms at the top & feet on the bottom, the center came up. Sort of like a reverse sit up. Boy did I have abs after that job!

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  5. Love it! I did wonder about checking the tires in your mini skirt. And he didn’t expect you to work in the winter in the skirt? Or is that why you quit? 😉

    The image of the kids waiting for ice cream behind the dog is priceless!

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    • See granny pantie comment about the mini skirt 🙂 As for winter, no way was I wearing a mini skirt! I was so bundled up that you couldn’t tell who or what was under all those layers but usually you needed to take your gloves off to get those gas caps off & if you’ve ever spilled cold gasoline on your hands in the winter or held onto the pump handle without gloves you’ll understand why it got old very quickly.
      And those kids at Klondike’s stop were so adorable Sarah! Since Klondike wouldn’t get off the back door until his owner came, they knew that no one was getting any until he had his sandwich. But they were very patient – I have a feeling that Klondike was a neighborhood buddy to all those kids.

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  6. Wow and fancy still having the newspaper cutting after all these years.. and the mini skirt too! Surely they could not ask you to do that nowadays. In NZ there is a chain of gas stations that have reintroduced service again. No need to even get out of your car! Still very few pretty girls want the job though!! Great memories.. c

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    • My daughter had saved that clipping – I think hoping to embarrass me someday. Me? Embarrassed? Would take more than that. You’re absolutely correct about companies being a little more aware of what to say to employees now. I can tell you that after being up to my elbows in grease & gas all day, the smell takes a long time to leave so it’s not a job that I’d consider today. Ice cream truck…maybe.

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  7. Root beer floats. Cherry cokes. Mine came from the soda counter at Rexalls pharmacy. I remember full service gas stations Sometimes got gas for 25-cents a gallon during summer “gas wars”. Thanks for the memories.

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    • Oh yes, the Cherry Cokes I remember at the counter of our little pharmacy. It had 6 stools & 2 booths. I’d forgotten about the gas wars, but you’re right although it’s hard to believe looking at prices now.

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    • My dad had no problem at first since I didn’t mention the mini skirt. I was kind of my father’s tom boy & used to help him with his cars. He also made sure that I knew how to do the basics of maintenance – like change a tire, oil, filter, jump start on a cold day. It was my mother who really wished I’d found a “nice job typing in an office”.

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  8. Fantastic stories! I remember being the total opposite of you — wanting to work indoors, but not behind a fast food counter. It should go without saying that I spent a summer frying chicken at KFC; and another summer working construction (as a go-fer) in the hot Texas heat. At least I learned early on what I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life. 😉

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    • If I had lived in Texas I think I would have looked for what my mother used to call a “nice, clean office job” but being from New England, when the sun shines we try to git out while the gittin’s good. My husband spent 1 summer inspecting glass Coke bottles for cracks & another in construction too. We both decided a college education was a great idea. And I never did learn how to swim so being a lifeguard is still not an option.

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      • Thanks for thinking of me! It’s been a crazy couple of months, back from the Middle East, and now spending every week in Orlando on a client project…hope to “catch up” soon on my blogging…still reading everyone elses! LOL!

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