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The best and worst of summer jobs




LA teens discuss their employed and unemployed plans for the summer.
LA teens discuss their employed and unemployed plans for the summer.
Jonathan Benn/KPCC

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Summer job prospects for teens and young adults are better this summer than they have been in recent years. America’s young workforce seems to be settling into sunnier times when it comes to seasonal work, despite ongoing debates whether internships (especially unpaid internships) are worth it.

Summer gigs have always offered a unique opportunity — teens and young adults can try out careers, explore new fields, work alongside peers and people of all backgrounds. While some summer jobs of yore have been phased out (believe it or not, Larry Mantle spent one college summer as a dictionary salesman), the stories that come along with them live on.

What have been your most memorable summer jobs? How are things changing when it comes to seasonal work for young people? We asked our listeners on Facebook and via the Public Insight Network. Here's what they had to say: 

One summer during college I came back home and worked as a teacher's aid for my hometown high school's summer school biology class. The teacher kept all sorts of animals in the classroom, such as birds and various reptiles. Part of my job was to buy food for the animals from the pet store. One time I had to buy live mice to feed to the boa constrictor. It made me so sad to hear the mice scurrying around inside of a brown paper bag as I drove them from the pet store to the school. Thankfully I did not have to feed the mice to the snake. There was actually a student who volunteered to do that.

—Lauren Shen

My most memorable summer job was working as a crew member aboard a sight seeing tour catamaran cruising along Glacier Bay, Alaska. Glacier Bay, which is where I lived, is about 60 miles away from Juneau, and can only be reached by air or sea. There is a small town named Gustavus 10 miles away from the lodge and our cottages and it had a population of 500. It was such an incredible summer, words can hardly describe. I worked roughly four to five days a week and in my off time, I was usually kayaking somewhere in Glacier Bay, which has two main arms and many fjords and inlets. While I was working, it was hard to call work because it was my job to entertain and inform the passengers while spotted bald eagles, grizzlies galore, orcas and breaching hump back whales, all with the back drop of countless 15 thousand foot plus mountains in the background. And the main attractions were the glaciers we stopped by.

—Carl Penaloza

I started working part time as a cashier at a cupcake shop and never left. I ended up convincing my bosses to let me ... work in the kitchen. I worked there for two years but still work full time as a professional baker five years later. I will always appreciate those ladies for taking a chance on their part-time cashier and giving me an opportunity to learn a craft, which turned into a career.

—Paula Kirsch

I was a process server one summer when I was in college. It was AWFUL. I drove all around Riverside County and San Bernardino County (two of the biggest counties in the nation) delivering eviction notices for $10 a document, and I wasn't reimbursed for gas. People were always so upset when you showed up at their door (understandably), and were occasionally outright obstinate in trying to deliver them (also understandably). My boss was really disorganized, routinely lied to me about things, and took months to pay me. After several days in a row where I had to drive out to the Palm Springs-Indio area to deliver a single document, I realized I was actually losing money on the job, and I quit. The bright side of the job though is I now have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of virtually every freeway east of Los Angeles and can navigate with extreme ease.

—Adam Cook

I was a ball girl, usherette, charity work & softball player for the Philadelphia Phillies for 4 years in college. It was like getting paid to have a season ticket. Yes that is the now gone Veterans Stadium. My favorite job ever. Favorite part was doing the charity events and working with kids (MD telethons) and meeting people - oh yeah and working the world series. (playoffs were against the Dodgers and Tommy Lasorda always came to say hello to Philly people) I'm front row left next to the coach.

—Connie Bevivino-Huffa

I was a young 14 year old hired by the city of Los Angeles to at LADOT (L.A. Dept of Transportation). I remember strapping myself on the outsides of those yellow city trucks. The driver, a very nice white man, and I would drive all over the city to place temporary traffic signs on posts. It was through those yellow trucks how I discovered the beauty of L.A.. It was my first time venturing out to meet the world! I loved it. Now, I'm a teacher and I share all my teenage memoirs with my students. It's the zeitgeist moments in our lives which matter most.

—Victor Castaneda

The most fun summer job was working at the Greek Theatre summer of 1980. A bunch of my friends from Glendale High also worked there, but I think the best part was meeting kids from all over LA. from different backgrounds. The bands ran the gamut from Peaches And Herb to the B52s. We would work late and usually end up at some party together. We even had our own satin jackets made.

—Susan Bowen McGregor 

Our Facebook friends share their stories as well:


Guest:

Lori Shreve Blake, Senior Director of Alumni and Student Career Services at USC