Nearly everyone has worked those summer jobs that helped earn a little spending money, filled idle hours, kept parents at bay and taught valuable life lessons. The following is a collection of responses I got to the question, "What was your worst summer job" when I wrote my books on college football in Illinois. This is part one of a three-part series.
"I rode in an open truck to Montana with a friend. He had a contract to bail hay out there. We worked from daylight to dark. It was tough work. I was probably 16 or 17 at the time."
--Ray Fisher, Eastern Illinois
"I had an awful lot of good jobs. I worked at the Joliet Arsenal. It paid really good money. I had another job unloading steel from barges on the river. I did that job for two months. I was paid so well. All my summer jobs were pretty good."
--Frank Chiodo, Illinois State
"In Chicago I worked for a painter. You'd be up on a ladder trimming under the brick on these tall buildings. Inside these buildings were these really tall closets. The contractor worked you hard because the sooner we got done, the sooner he got paid."
--Carver Shannon, Southern Illinois
"I was a section hand on the railroad. I was laying ties with all that creosote. The worst part was drinking out of the wooden bucket with the dipper. A lot of the railroad workers chewed tobacco and you used the same dipper as them. But, you were so thirsty that it didn’t matter."
--Jerry Auchstetter, Western Illinois
"I worked at Wagner's Casting in Decatur. It was a foundry. My father worked there. I worked there for two summers. That was tough work."
--Dick Portee, Eastern Illinois
"I was working construction down in East St. Louis building a new highway through there. One of the manholes got filled up with mud because somebody forgot to seal it up. They went me and another young guy down there with a wheelbarrow and we had to shovel that hole out. It took us practically that whole summer long."
--Bill Monken, Illinois State
"I worked in the oil fields for awhile. I pulled old pipe out of the ground. By the end of the day you'd be covered with oil and salt water. I made $2 an hour, which was pretty good money in those days. After about three weeks my mom made me quit because it was costing more to clean my clothes. After that, it was back to the hayfield."
--Carl Mauck, Southern Illinois
"Cleaning out fishermen’s rowboats starting at five a.m. at a local state park when I was 14."
--Mike Wagner, Western Illinois
"I worked on a Del Monte cleanup crew at midnight. There were all kinds of cleanup jobs that went with it. Cleaning the conveyor belts for peas was probably the worst. You had to use your hands and take off the rotten ones."
--Mike Heimerdinger, Eastern Illinois
"I never really had a bad job. I worked for a natural gas pipeline company in Herscher. I did have a job (in high school) cleaning out brush along the Kankakee River. That wasn't really fun."
--Estus Hood, Illinois State
"John Hancock Insurance. I didn't like selling insurance at all. During my era you had to have a summer job during the [NFL] off-season."
--Lionel Antoine, Southern Illinois
"It was at Southworks in Chicago. I was on a painting crew. You were at the top of these buildings, 150 feet in the air with your feet in stirrups, with a strap that rode up your fanny, getting paint all over yourself."
--Dave Tipton, Western Illinois
"I worked at McDonald's. It was too regimented for me. I was the grill man. But, anytime a burger got folded over or something they told me to throw the food out. Instead of tossing it into the dumpster out back, I had a little stash going in the back of my [Dodge] Coronet."
--Jerry Wright, Eastern Illinois
"Working on the pop truck when there was real glass to be delivered and picked up. I worked for a local distributorship out of Chicago called Canfield's. It was all 16-ounce glass bottles. You'd wheel it in and then pull around back and load up the empties."
--Joe Spivak, Illinois State
"One summer at SIU I had a job which I walked five miles to work for one hour (maximum time allowed by homeowner) pulling weeds in a beautiful garden for $5 an hour. Later the 'Tommy Baugh rule' was enacted by the SIU coaching staff for summer work. If an athlete had a job that was less than five miles away the athlete had to find his own transportation. 'If it was good enough for Tommy Baugh . . . it's good enough for you.' I never once complained; I just did my job."
--Tom Baugh, Southern Illinois
"I worked in a box factory. (It was) hot, dirty, miserable. (It) made me recognize the value of a college education. I’m so glad I worked there."
--Don Greco, Western Illinois
"I was 16 or 17, and I worked as a welder. Nothing against those guys who do it, but it was too damn hot. It was 100 degrees and you're wearing this helmet and heavy clothes. You can't run a fan because it will blow the gas away. I couldn't wait to get back out and detassle corn."
--Tim Lance, Eastern Illinois
"In Illinois, working at the car wash. Hot, it was hot over there, man."
--Aveion Cason, Illinois State
"A lesson learned not to mess up the opportunity to play football and attend college on a scholarship. Working for the forestry department for the city of Evanston the summer between transferring from Michigan to SIU."
--Damon Jones, Southern Illinois
"I worked at a ball-bearing factory for Caterpillar. We made the rings that held the ball bearings in place. You had to get them out of the blast furnace and take them to the cooling area. It was something like 200 degrees in there. You had to wear protective gear. I lasted about a month. I have the utmost respect for the people who do that job. They were so good to me. They told me to make a better life for myself. They told me things like, 'Be different than me. Get your degree and do something you love.'"
--Jeff Hecklinski, Western Illinois
"It was when I was at Eastern. There weren't really too many jobs in the area. I worked at a factory. I stacked boxes and manila folders. It was repetitious; eight hours straight of stacking boxes and manila folders."
--Micah Rucker, Eastern Illinois
"I've had a lot of good ones. I worked at the public pool all through summer. I worked for a great guy at a tough job for Wildwood Industries. We did outdoor landscaping. I was an intern at State Farm Insurance. It was boring just sitting in a cubicle. It was like sitting in jail."
--Dusty Burk, Illinois State
"It was right after high school; I was trying to make a little extra money, so I got this job at a juice factory. Worst job ever, plus they wouldn't hardly give me any hours."
--Elmer McDaniel, Southern Illinois
"I haven’t had too many jobs because I was always in basketball or football camp. I did work for Comcast, doing sales door to door. I made good money, but I worked long hours. I don’t know how people do it every day."
--Patrick Stoudamire, Western Illinois