Steam rose from the sink as glasses and plates clinked. Forks, knives and spoons clattered while my best friend, Chris Picard, and I loaded the commercial dishwasher. It was our junior year in high school and we worked every weekend as dietary aides in the living center at Clover Manor in Auburn, doing everything from serving food to cleaning up. And we probably had more fun than we were supposed to.

Whether it was a first summer job or one that will never be forgotten, a few area residents were recently willing to share their experiences — good and bad.

Hot, hard work

The summer of  ’69, dubbed “the summer of love,” was memorable for many reasons. The U.S. made it to the moon first, the monumental, musical, mud fest that was Woodstock rocked; the horrific Manson murders shocked; and Sesame Street premiered. For one 17-year-old boy from Auburn it was the summer he worked his first job. And will never forget.

Now a guidance counselor at Edward Little, Paul Boucher made $1.77 an hour working at a now-defunct Auburn brickyard. Working long days of grueling, physical labor, Boucher says he lost his fingerprints from handling hot, rough bricks, lost 27 pounds and spent that summer exhausted and sore.

Most days were spent in the sun, with no water breaks. Boucher says that at that time, there was no safety protocol and no specific attire.

“Nobody ever taught you how to work safely,” said Boucher. “Once your body and your mind got used to that routine, the physical part of it, your body was in shape and mentally you were ready to go 7 to 4.”

Boucher describes how they would build kilns of brick that needed to be baked, and once the bricks were ready, he says he had to climb to the top on plank scaffolding to begin taking the bricks down to be put on the conveyor belts.

After that summer, Boucher held jobs that were quite different and he began learning about safety and hydration. He looked for jobs that suited him better physically and personality wise.

“I gained a lot of appreciation for my father who worked all his life,” said Boucher.

The other side of life

For three summers while attending Farmington State Teaching College, Dorothy Gatchell of Auburn worked at Elizabeth Arden’s Maine Chance Farm in Belgrade, as a maid in the main house. She worked directly for the cosmetic mogul’s personal maid, in what was a getaway for the well-to-do, similar to modern-day spas.

“I never saw anything like it in my life,” said Gatchell. “The first season there was such an eye-opener for me, I really didn’t know a lot about classes of people.”

Gatchell recalls she served breakfast to the guests, women from Washington D.C., Arizona, California and other places, in their rooms, changed linens and cleaned rooms, served lunch at the boathouse, as well as dinner in the main house.

Gatchell says that the patience she learned and the role she played during those summers helped her land acting roles in plays.

“The situation you’re in demands a role, and it is not particularly who you are, but you can do it,” said Gatchell. “I did learn how to play a scene.”

Gatchell was also exposed to people from different cultures, as most of the regular staff was brought in from elsewhere and not from Maine. While she doesn’t recall what her earnings were, she remembers she used them for college.

An oasis from the war

Spending summers in Rangeley with her family, Doris Cleland, then of Long Island, N.Y., worked at Loon Lodge and recalls it being a fun time in her life.

Working there a year before the end of WWII, Cleland says conditions at the lodge and in Rangeley did not reflect a country at war. Rationing seemed non-existent; she recalls rich foods and plenty of sweets. Riddle’s pharmacy next to the lodge had an ice cream parlor that she would frequent.

“I loved Rangeley,” said Cleland, who eventually moved to Rangeley and still lives there today. “It was a lot of fun.”

Her first job, in housekeeping, lasted eight weeks; she was paid $5 a week with room and board. Other than trips to the ice cream parlor for a treat, Cleland saved her earnings for another purpose.

“I bought a corduroy suit, which I wore my senior year in high school and my freshman and sophomore years in college,” said Cleland.

She says the long car trips to Rangeley were worth the summer fun, and that first job will always have a special place in her memories.

Tear-producing onions met their match

While in high school in the 1940s, Phyllis Dow of South Paris worked peeling onions in a local canning factory. One of three children, her mother insisted each of them hold jobs during the summer once they were old enough.

“I was brought into a room where several women sat at a long table, each with a wooden match — unlit— in her mouth and everyone was peeling onions,” Dow wrote in a recent e-mail.

She remembers that shortly after beginning that first day, her eyes welled up with tears that ran down her cheeks. An elderly woman sitting near her handed her a match, telling her to hold it in her mouth and it would stop her from crying.

“I did, it worked and I spent the remainder of the summer there, eventually getting promoted to the corn department,” said Dow.

She never did figure out why the match stopped the tears.

Giving peas a chance

During the summer of 1944, Roland Cote was 17 going on 18 and worked as a pea viner in Caribou. He and a friend worked 12-hour days, he said in a e-mail, sorting truckloads of peas from the vine for freezing.

“My friend and I were strong workers,” said Cote of Mexico.

He learned about choices and responsibility during that summer. He says one Friday night he had a date and, despite a line of trucks waiting to be unloaded and a warning from his boss that he’d be let go if he didn’t stay, he chose the date. When he arrived to pick up his pay the next day, he was rehired.

“He said I was too good of a worker to let go,” said Cote.

Sometimes a job points you in the right direction

Cara Welker of Auburn spent one summer as a lifeguard and camp counselor at a camp for blind and disabled children in New Jersey. Camp Marcella, still in operation, offers campers many of the same activities as other camps with more one-on-one interaction based on a child’s disability.

“It was really life changing,” said Welker. “I was 17 and just finished my junior year of high school and was debating where I wanted to go to college.”

Many of the children had never been to a camp before, and one 6-year-old in particular, Welker says, made an impression on her. The girl had never been swimming, and Welker remembers she was very afraid. By the end of the weeklong session, however, the girl was kicking with a kick board, going back and forth across the pool on her own.

Welker said that despite how difficult it was to be away from home and friends that summer, she would do it again. The experience was a good one, she said, and just the challenge she needed to push her toward a career in teaching.

“If I can teach a child who’s blind to swim, I think I can definitely
be a teacher,” said Welker. “It really had an impact on me.”

Roland Cote of Mexico was 17 when he worked one summer in Aroostook
County loading peas on the vine with pitchforks into the pea-viner
machine.

Roland Cote of Mexico was 17 when he worked one summer in Aroostook County loading peas on the vine with pitchforks into the pea-viner machine.

Dorothy Getchell in one of Elizabeth Arden’s guest houses on her Maine Chance Farm in Belgrade during Gatchell’s summer job while in college.

Dorothy Gatchel, right, and Mary McGill, Elizabeth Arden’s personal maid.


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