I left school that sophomore year in a somewhat better financial condition than when I got there. But there were two more years to go, and one of those semesters would include student teaching, during which it's pretty hard to hold down a job.
It was always great to go home at the end of the school year, but the pressure was on to find a summer job. That summer had my whole church praying for my employment. We found an ad in the paper for openings at Campbell Soup Company. They had a plant in downtown Omaha, something I had never known before. I got a spot on the night shift - 4:00-12:30 - not my favorite idea!
The first night, Dad took me downtown. He didn't think it would be safe for me to drive home by myself from that part of town after midnight. That first 8 hour shifted lasted at least 4 days, I am sure.
Campbell's Soup Company in Omaha did not make soup. They made Swanson frozen dinners. The fact that Swanson was my maiden name did not make this job any less horrible! The first night saw me sent into exile - in the potato peeling room! I could not believe my eyes - a couple of dozen women were standing around this high table, taking the eyes out of thousands of potatoes! If you were fast enough and dug enough eyes out of enough potatoes in a certain amount of time, you got a stool!
Well, I could not believe my fate. It was an endless night. I decided that I was not going to look at the clock for an hour, because I seemed to be looking at it every two minutes. I was sure it was an hour the first time I looked after making this decision - it was 15 minutes! The only thing that kept me sane that night was reliving the enjoyment of my college days. I started back at the first day of freshman year and tried to remember every good thing. Thank the Lord there were a lot of good memories, because they kept me going through that long shift. Obviously, I never merited a stool!
When my dad picked me up, I told him I was NEVER going back to that place. EVER. He informed me that I couldn't quit. First of all, he didn't raise quitters, and second, everyone in church had prayed for me to get a job, I had a job, and I had to keep it.
I prayed a lot that next day for grace and endurance. God answered that prayer - and put me in a different place that next night. It wasn't a good place, but it was far better than the potato room.
The job was in the shipping area of the frozen food division. They created small, individual-sized portions of frozen entrees for sale to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc. We packaged them in plastic bags, a dozen entrees per bag, if I recall correctly. Then the bag was sealed, put in a box, and sent to the freezer. Needless to say, it was very nippy in that big room. Again, I had to engage my memory and imagination to keep myself going during those long hours. I was making fairly decent money, and I spent a lot of time planning how I was going to decorate my new dorm room, and actually had the money to be able to buy the supplies. At least there were a couple of other college students there to help the time pass more quickly and enjoyably. There was a Peyton Place scenario going on with two of the supervisors that was pretty disgusting. But I can tell you for sure that if you want to motivate your child to stay in college and get a good job someday, forcing them to stay at such a job will do the trick!
About halfway through the summer, I developed a terrible case of tonsillitis - I blamed it on the fact that I working in a freezer, and they didn't even supply the jackets they were supposed to.
The memory that stands out the most of the entire summer - it was one of the nights we had packaged stuffed green peppers. Picture trying to package such an unwieldy entree, first of all. At the end of the shift, everyone had to gather in the steam room, where the little plastic containers went through the dishwasher for the next day's entree. Imagine the green pepper smell steamed into your pores. Then imagine my dad, who HATES green peppers, coming to drive me home. All the way through Omaha, my dad driving with his head out the window, was one of my most embarrassing moments. The good news is that it was past midnight, so not too many people were out on the streets. He assured me that he would throw up if he had to smell peppers all the way home.
My sister was working for Kellogg's that summer, and her job was in the lab measuring vitamins for the cereals. We made quite a pair as we came home from our late shifts and our various odiferous clothing hit the floor as we hit the beds.
That was a tough summer for all of us - everyone in my large family was going different directions to earn enough money to keep going - there were 3 of us in college that fall and two younger ones left at home.
I really hated that job, but Dad was right. He didn't raise a quitter, and I realized I could endure just about anything if the goal was important enough. And there is no more apropos verse in scripture than Philippians 4:13 (New International Version) "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
TO BE CONTINUED