My First Job

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My parents were immigrants from Germany. My mother’s sister married an American G.I. after World War II, and she and her husband sponsored my parents’ entry into the United States. I was conceived in Germany but born in the United States.

After my parents became American citizens, they sponsored my mother’s cousin’s family to come over from Germany. I knew her as Aunt Lizi and her husband as Onkel Willi. Their three children were Volkmar, Claus, and Gudrun. My dad helped Onkel Willi (a professional baker) get a job in the bakery where he worked. The family lived with us for a short time. I don’t remember that because I was so young, but Claus told me years later he remembered watching Hopalong Cassidy on television with me.

My mother and Aunt Lizi had many fallings out. Some years they wouldn’t even speak. But then they’d forgive each other and start visiting each other again. I have memories of fun times together at their house or ours.

greta-punch-62508Toward the end of junior year in high school, I wanted a real job to save money for college, something other than babysitting (although I continued to babysit through college). My dad talked to Uncle Willi, who now owned a bakery two towns away. He hired me to work in his store. I wore a white uniform and waited on customers. I sliced bread, filled jelly donuts and eclairs, and eventually frosted and decorated cakes.

My school let out early enough that, even with taking the bus to the bakery, I got there before the nearby Catholic high school released for the day. Many of the students (some of whom had been my classmates in elementary school) stopped in to buy a brownie or a giant cookie before they returned home—the after-school rush. (I enjoyed a certain status by working at a place that was popular with teenagers.) I also worked on the weekends. Sunday morning was another busy time, with parishioners buying crumb buns, cinnamon raisin buns, and hard rolls for breakfast after Mass.ramiro-mendes-371663One of Onkel Willi’s little quirks was that he left the drawer of the cash register open when he closed the store for the night. He wanted to be sure that if a burglar broke in, he wouldn’t destroy the cash register trying to get into it. (Cash registers were expensive.) He left about forty dollars in the machine, reasoning that any less, and the burglar might vandalize the store. He figured forty dollars was the threshold at which the burglar would just take the money and leave. (We’re talking 1969. Forty bucks was a fair chunk of change in those days.)

I worked at the bakery until I left for college. When I came home the first summer, I found a new job at a local dry cleaner, because I wanted a position won completely on my own merits, without my dad’s help.

But I always remember with fondness my very first job at the bakery, where the fragrances of vanilla, butter, yeast, and cinnamon greeted me as I passed through the portal.

Now it’s your turn. What was your first job? Was it a good experience? Share in the comments below.

This article first appeared on Doing Life Together.

About Andrea R Huelsenbeck

Andrea R Huelsenbeck is a wife, a mother of five and a former elementary general music teacher. A freelance writer in the 1990s, her nonfiction articles and book reviews appeared in Raising Arizona Kids, Christian Library Journal, and other publications. She is currently working on a young adult mystical fantasy novel and a mystery.

7 responses »

    • That’s very interesting. I read on your blog that you’re Jewish–and blind. As someone who attended a Catholic elementary school, and also as a former teacher in public school, I can’t help but wonder: wasn’t it a very challenging first job?

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  1. I enjoyed reading about your early journey into the world of work. My first venture into a “real” job was temporary. I filled in for my cousin at a restaurant for four weekends. My morning shift began early, and my tasks included: operating the dishwasher, cleaning pots and pans, boiling and shredding potatoes for hash browns, and some general cleaning chores. I pretty much worked non-stop, even though I was entitled to a short meal break.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My first paid job was working for my dad on the dairy. We three kids rotated milking with him after school and got paid $1/shift, so as a 7th grader, I earned $3-4/week. A year later, we started feeding the baby calves, and our wages were upped to $1/day…now I was really rich! My first non family job was teaching piano lessons at the piano store, under my teacher’s watchful eye. I think I made $2/hour doing that; it was my job 9th-12th grade.

    Liked by 1 person

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