Community leaders recall summer jobs

June 13, 2009|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU
(Page 2 of 3)

Glenn Macher Jr. always has enjoyed working outside, so the summer job he held at a perpetual care cemetery in his hometown of Pittsburgh from age 14 through high school was ideal.

"As grass cutters and caretakers, we were always grooming," said Macher, 52. "We were tending to graves and so forth, especially of veterans and distinguished citizens of Pittsburgh."

"Out of all the jobs I had, I probably learned more about life and caring for others" in the job at the cemetery, he said. "The families expect so much and you learn so much concerning respect, caring for somebody you don't know."

"It was a great honor to take care of their grave sites and do that for the families. They really did appreciate the work that you do," he said. "You would always want the veterans' graves to be as good as they could be for Memorial Day, especially."


Maggie Witherbee

chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of the Shawnee Council, Martinsburg, W.Va.

Maggie Witherbee's parents owned a hardware store as well as a plumbing and heating business on Main Street in Oneonta, N.Y., but she never worked at either.

Instead, one summer during high school when she was about 16, Witherbee got a job as an activities director in the city park.

Oneonta, which is near Cooperstown, N.Y., is a college town of about 15,000 people, she said.

"Very much like here, except this place is warmer," she said, laughing.

As activities director, she would organize fun stuff -- "from games, to educational activities, to crafts, to all kinds of things" -- for elementary-age children, who came to play in the park from day to day.

"It was fun," she said.

The times were very much different from today's more structured era.

"This is around the late '50s, early '60s. Life wasn't as regulated and controlled and scheduled as it is today," Witherbee said. "It was an era when you could go out in the morning as a child and you didn't come back until dinner. And that was fine and it was not a concern or an issue. Times have changed."

Back then, sometimes, the mothers would come with their children and, sometimes, the children would come by themselves, she said. She never had a "lost" child that summer.

"But it was another day and time," she said.

Back then, too, there weren't many summer jobs for teenagers, said Witherbee, 62.

"There weren't any McDonald's back then, no fast-food places, so the opportunities for employment" were limited, she said. "If you wanted to work, you really had to think to find someplace. Girls were doing baby-sitting."

And for Witherbee, who was a Girl Scout back in Oneonta and was to become a professional Scouter, a job at camp was out of reach.

"Girl Scout camp was too far away," she said.

Noel Spence

retired Washington County District Court judge

Growing up off Mealey Parkway in Hagerstown, Noel Spence had a lot of summer jobs.

Spence, 75, remembers when he was just 13 and he and his friend, Jim Wilson, were hired as "handy boys" at Camp Misty Mount for several weeks. That summer, he said, "we killed a bunch of copperhead snakes. That was our claim to fame."

Another summer, he worked at the Funkhouser Mine in Charmain, Pa., where a green stone was mined and bagged as a roofing material, Spence said. On yet another job, he worked "with a pick and shovel for four weeks," helping to build an assembly line at Fairchild's aircraft manufacturing operation in Hagerstown.

But the summer job he probably liked the most was working as a camp counselor in Maine, and the next year at another camp. He said he landed the jobs through Manny Weisberg, a teacher at what then was called Hagerstown Junior College, who had known the young Spence for many years and knew of the camp in Maine.

Spence, who was 19 or 20 at the time, liked being a camp counselor because the job not only was a position with responsibility, "but it was very much like vacation -- as opposed to pick and shovel."

Jeff Semler

University of Maryland Extension agent,

specializing in agriculture in Washington County

Not surprisingly, Jeff Semler's favorite job year-round involves farm work.

"But my favorite farming job was picking raspberries because I got to eat as many as I picked," he said.

Semler, 49, who grew up near Williamsport, said one summer, probably when he was of middle-school age, he picked them for Donald Miles near Clear Spring.

Miles was related to one of Semler's friends -- and so, both were hired to pick the tasty berries.

"We got paid by the quart, but our bonus was eating them," Semler said. "And I love black raspberries."

But, no, he didn't actually eat all of the berries he picked, he said.

"Nobody stood over us and said, 'Stop eating them,'" he said.

Instead, the limiting factor was more basic: "You got sick" if you ate too many, he said.

"It's a thorny job, if you will," he said.

Joan McLernon

Hagerstown Realtor and president of the Pen-Mar Regional Association of Realtors


That's one "fun" thing Joan McLernon recalls about her favorite summer job growing up.

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