What Unusual Job Did You Have?

Me digging a ditch in 1981, preparing to build a rock wall.

Yesterday, after reading a Facebook post by Ryan LaFountain, I stole his idea and asked his question on my own page: What job have you had that others might not know about?

This morning, I awoke to nearly 100 responses, many of them funny/interesting/unique/puzzling/fascinating. My most interesting job came during an interim period after I’d been fired by a newspaper, traveled across the country and deep into Mexico and returned to my childhood roots in Asheville. There a friend gave me a job building rock walls. It was sweaty, dirty, exhausting and paid about $2 an hour, but it was work that lasted a full summer until Publisher Don Smith found me and offered me a job running hi

s weekly newspaper. I was glad to get out of the rock wall business, but happy I’d been there.

I also mowed my high school football field–when my brother couldn’t; it was mostly his job–on Saturdays after playing there on Friday nights. Finally, I was a model for the Roanoker Magazine’s most reviled cover in history, playing a flasher. I didn’t get paid or credited. But it was great fun. As a journalist, I’ve done some odd jobs: clown in a circus, urban cowboy (riding a mechanical bull), riding upside down over the Catawba Valley in an open-

The worst Roanoker Magazine cover in history. I’m the flasher.

cockpit bi-plane, riding a hot air balloon, being a tailor (among others).

Here’s what some others did, and let me tell you, some of it’s great: 

Lisa Banks Playboy Bunny (cocktail waitress) at the Buffalo Airport Bunny Club. (19 years old).

Charlotte Barber Wiley Noodle hanger.

Jonathan Overturf  Diplomatic/executive security specialist primarily working for various members of the Saudi Royal family.

Robin Barnhill Painted furniture for a decorative antique look.

Mike Ashley Meat Dept. at Mick or Mack.

Allison Elizabeth Greeley file clerk, dining room model for Smartwear Irving Saks

Steven R. Urquhart Assistant manager of Revco on Grandin Road at age 19 – everyone else got fired!

Mowing my high school field.

Sandy Light Drywall installation instructor, firefighter

Mark Dearing Dairy Queen [Note: Franklin County used to be the DQ capital of America. Had more stores per capita than anywhere else.]

Mark Dearing When we were kids a job got us money. DQ wasn’t so bad. Free lunch including milk shake. Next job was a paper route, 165 houses. Worked the wheels off a Stingray bicycle

Justin Simpson Gondolier…old school rowing too

Dan Smith Now THAT’s cool!

Terry Lyon C&P Telephone company part time installer helper and cable splicer helper while attending VT.

Carleton Plaisted ER nurse at tiny and big hospitals in ME, TX, VA .

Bev Fitzpatrick Carman’s apprentice at track N&W 2156.

Alicia Lindeberg Trail crew at the grand canyon.

Linda Wallis Tour guide at Dixie Caverns 50 years ago

Pat Pfister Orkin Exterminators. Worked only three months, but a car was included.

Connie Stevens Henson Boat and train tour guide at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. Favorite job ever.

Mark E. Feldmann Rivet sticker at Corrugated Metal Pipe, summer in high school.

Linda Pharis Inventory Team, North Anna Nuclear Power Plant, a hard hat job in unheated warehouses.

Leslie Turner-Babcock Sous chef at Kingsmill in Williamsburg.

Ben Martin Butcher.

Joe Cobb Driving range golf ball scooper at Putt-Putt Golf in Wichita, Kansas.

Jeff Maiden Stack tester. Traveled around the country spending weeks in small towns and cities while I spent days up on the side of smoke stacks of factories and power plants taking samples and measurements for an environmental testing agency. Dreary work.

Fran Ferguson Computer programmer in the Pentagon, contributing to the Y2K problem.

Dwayne Yancey Dishwasher and later salad maker (the logical progression, of course), at the Sheraton Inn in Harrisonburg.

Kathy Kahle Lamanca Working at Stanley Furniture the summer before my freshman year of college in the hot sweaty factory. Hand sanding door panel frames and then running the frames thru a fine sanding machine. Rode every day to work on my best friend’s motorcycle. 

Charlie Whitescarver Projectionist, base theatre, Berchtesgaden, Germany.

Steve Sunderman Exploration drilling for uranium.

Fred Sachs Selling vegetables at a road-side stand to women who liked to squeeze the tomatoes.

Bill Perdue Oyster shucker at Archie’s Lobster House.

Roni Sutton I was a gymnastics coach and a lifeguard in high school and college.

Jim Davis I shoveled manure from chicken coops to be used for fertilizer. Then again, that may not surprise anybody.

Keith Maxey Guitar player in a rock band.

John Aubrey Garland Making submarine sandwiches at the New Yorker Deli in Roanoke in 1966 when it was at corner of Liberty and Williamson

V Anne Edenfield Intern in cardio pulmonary/catherization laboratory at Medical College of Georgia summers during college in 60’s. Observed daily pacemaker insertion plus numerous open heart surgeries in OR when that was in its early days. Worked for pioneer woman heart surgeon and her husband surgeon and loved watching surgery.

Anne Way Bernard Repairing oriental rugs at Kambourian’s in Richmond after graduating with a painting degree from VCU.

Jonna McGraw Aid in adolescent unit of psychiatric hospital for four years during undergraduate school and psych tech at hospital in Georgetown for a few months.

Anne Sampson Horse walker and tack cleaner for a tiny show stable.

Karen B. DeBord Gift wrapper at Leggett (now Belk).

David Simpkins Frame maker at Warren Lloyd Furniture in Christiansburg. If I’d have known that most of my co-workers were on speed, I wouldn’t have tried so hard to keep up with them.

Beth Caruthers Campfire Girls’ camp counselor in Knob Noster, MO.

Shelley Luke Plunkett Tai Kwon Do instructor at the BCC YMCA in Bethesda, MD.

Edward Nemitz I installed ice machines for Long John Silver’s.

Joan C Thomas Laying sod in florida with my roommates Lydia Vest and Kathy Lynn after we moved to Sarasota in June 1983 with very little money saved.

Irvin Eugene McGarrell Bag boy at the Kroger store at 17 after school and on Saturday.

Lisa Ann Thomas Professional concert modern dancer.

John Michael Saunders Junior Elevator operator at Kings’ Dominion Eiffel Tower.

Jeff Wendell Stone masons helper one summer in high school. Most difficult job I ever had.

Bill Houck Me too…the foreman hated me…called me college boy and fired me after three weeks … before I quit.

Brooks Kelley Making eyeglasses.

Stephanie Klein-Davis Salad designer at Kettering Memorial Hospital in Ohio at 15 years old.

Kathy Perdue Maid in a motel when I was in college. I learned quickly what I did not want to do for a living. Auditor for a summer at National Cash Register (NCR) Dayton, Ohio! Paid better than my job now. [She’s a newspaper photographer.]

Brucie Boggs Kiddie ride operator, then accounting office clerk, at Lakeside Park in Salem. Got to give the [country music] performers their checks.

Erin Rafferty I delivered the Alexandria Gazette newspaper…1978 + 1979….NOVA

Manley C. Butler Jr. Busboy/dishwasher at The Roanoker Restaurant at age 15 or so. Based on what I saw, I have never been back and will never eat there.

Joe Dashiell Packing shoes at the Hofheimer’s Warehouse in Norfolk.

Billie Sutton Dairy farmer, slaughter house maintenance supervisor.

Connie Stanley Qualified as a Coast Guard Auxiliary Crew Person and helped tow in boats in distress on Smith Mountain Lake.

Charlotte Pendleton I modeled for Miller & Rhodes and Sidney’s [department stores in Roanoke].

Rob Clark I worked at a gold mine in central Nevada one summer.

Chris Henson Lutheran camp counselor.

Brenda Anderson Isaacs McDonald’s: did everything, night shift to day shift biscuit maker to shift manager, years ago in my early 20s.

John B. Williamson III Shift work pumping gas at a truck stop. Operating a car wash on Williamson Road. Digging ditches for phone lines in the summers for college tuition money.

Dexter Bradbury Weighman. Ran the scales in a rock quarry.

Jerry Basham I sold Coca Cola at VMI-VPI football games and other events at Victory Stadium in Roanoke back in the 1960s.

Erin Wolfe Worked in a Christian Book Store .

Lori Rehfeldt Electrician’s helper, Cable guy for direct TV, television production in the Air Force.

Thomas Ryder Weight guesser.

Kate Steinbacher Cruise director on small luxury cruise lines.

Bill Kovarik Good Humor ice cream truck driver who broke the rules and gave kids rides (if their parents said it was OK).

John Bergman aircraft mechanics helper, foundry red hat.

Karen Chase Ticket and baggage handler for the Canadian Rockymountaineer Railway. For about a month until I realized I would only remain at the station and watch others ride away and travel.

Therry Neilsen-Steinhardt John Ballator’s studio assistant at Hollins College. He mixed his own paints and I got to grind the pigments.

Steven Publicover Door man at a sex club.

David Moran Floor sander.

Jerry Cohen Dealing blackjack

Kathy Bibb Covered text books for Lynchburg City Schools when I was 15. Made 58 cents an hour.

Rex Bowman Trashman at a foam rubber factory. Also, dishwasher at Roanoke’s first discotheque, Copperfields on Franklin Road. [Note from Dan Smith: I used to wear my white linen disco suit to Copperfields and dance/drink all night.]

Jennifer Kahn Bowman Summer camp cook in the Sierra Nevadas, including a two-week stint to cook for a group of Socialists up from Berkeley.

Mark Layman Sold burial insurance door-to-door for Huff-Cook.

Kathy Goodwin Chief chemist for the city of Roanoke, worked at Carvins Cove Reservoir.

Anna Wentworth Decorative detail artist when Grand Interiors was being built.

Amanda Cockrell Copywriter for a rock radio station.

Hope Player Sold kids shoes at Thom McAn in Columbia, SC, in high school.

Rick Beason Pig, beef, and vegetable farmer while growing up. Flat roofer and IRS Agent Co-Op to pay my way through Tech. Repaired many of the roofs of the tall buildings in Roanoke Downtown including the Jefferson High School, the No 1 Fire-station, the City Market.

Tony Neuron Heavy equipment mechanic, welder, assistant manager at a conservative Jewish summer camp and conference center, maintenance mechanic at a furniture factory, concrete pump operator and concrete finisher, masons helper, busboy, baker’s assistant.

Dutchie Mirolli Biscuit delivery person.

Diana Christopulos Whitewater rafting guide. Waiting tables. Dish washer in college dorm. Lab tech at Walter Reed Army Institutes of Research.

Clayton Roberts Milking cows.

Wanda Richards My Dad’s gas station pumping gas when I was a teenager.

Annie Buddy Construction worker, stone mason, mostly walls and foundation piers (dry stacked) farrier.

Becky Hepler At 18, I worked as an au pair and sous chef for a rich family that summered in Rockbridge County. It was the first time I roasted a leg of lamb, learned to stir fry Chinese food and made borscht.

Alyse Zieder Pulvermuller cocktail waitress in the 1970s

Mac McCorkle Tire finisher, midnight shift, Mohawk tire six summers. Pay was good.

Dayna Patrick Pizza delivery during the college days. And, a cool summer job, traveling the horse show circuit as part of a videography team.

Johnny D Nolen Attempting to catch and box bed sheets at the end of an assembly line conveyor belt where the baggers were on piece work at a Burlington Industry plant.

Getra Hanes Selph Ear Piercing Specialist when I was 16.

Debra Carter Worked at Minnesota Department of Transportation part time while working Motel 6 desk clerk full time; while in Job Corps Center helping out in security on my days off while in St. Paul Tech College full time 20-plus years ago..

Daryl K Smith I worked at Radio Shack.

Lynda Calkins Burger King.

Debra Germann Machinist.

Jim Laseter Children’s clothing salesman. .

Scott Whitaker Trash man.

Jan Keister I was a debt collector for a little while. I had serious ethical issues with calling people and trying to scare them into paying thier old bills. Some were sick or pregnant, one was dying of cancer. But I was desperate to get out of poverty, and sometimes you do what you have to do.

Frank Martin 17 years old: grill cook at Hunting Hills Country Club. Food experience? Zero

Frederick Fuller Cab driver.

Frankie Mitchell Robbins Mowing the lawn – and changing the oil in the lawn mower.

Randall Woolwine Bouncer at a small club, armed security guard, and teach school at a local high school.
Still have my CC permit (updated every 5 years)

Betsy Ashton housekeeper at a motel in college. Nothing like getting to clean toilets all day.

Judy Light Ayyildiz Kinda of like raising three kids!

Joe Kelliher Three of of them … In the ’70’s; I worked as a drug store cashier, A machinist, and an auto body mechanic….

Mark McClain Painter at an apartment complex. Call Center manager.

Dawn Tanner Erdman Worked in the lingerie department at Gayfer’s Department Store in Auburn, AL one summer.

Judy Light Ayyildiz Worked my way through college at Anderson-Newcomb Department Store in Huntington, WV.

Dave Maravetz Tie gang, Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, Boone, Iowa

Ursula Barretta House cleaner…hard work.


2 thoughts on “What Unusual Job Did You Have?

  1. Great stuff, Dan. The lesson here for young people making minimum wage is to keep plugging away and keep learning from your experiences. Every successful person starts at a humble job.

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