Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Saga of the Jobs - Part 3

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."



Linds said...

I so totally agree about menial jobs being a way to keep kids in college, Dawn. Here, all students work through the summer too, and signing up with agencies means they do one horrible job after another, and my son and daughter both said at times that just seeing what some people have to do every day of their working lives was a massive incentive to them to work hard at uni. The worst job I ever had was at the Reader's Digest. Not because it was hard or bad, but because the permanent staff hated all students, who managed to get through the equivalent of a week's work in an hour, simply to avert boredom. Which of course, made the permanent staff look dire. Oh the memories!

Diane said...


So many life lessons! I fear I have equipped my children to believe that if they are facing tough circumstances....find a way out! Finding a way through builds character....what a better way!

Today, we have so many options. Options are good--but they do lack in offering the opportunity to build character and integrity! I am so glad you are doing this series; it is rich in wisdom and life lessons!!!!


Kristen said...

That job reminds me of that pathetic temp job I had for a couple of days packaging goopy stuff in plastic ball type things for kids toy machines. Remember that? Or the one where I had to put decals on belt buckles for three days straight--another temp job. UGH. Thank God for the job I have now.

Diane J. said...

I've done a lot of boring, repetitive jobs, but most of them have to do with cooking, cleaning, canning and housework. ;D

Cotton chopping was the job that I had to think about what that paycheck was going to buy just to get through those long, hot, exhausting days.

Yep, some days with Emmy just drain me of patience and strength. Yesterday and today have been far. ;-)

I'm going to try to post in a bit if Emmy will cooperate.

Love and hugs,


Michelle-ozark crafter said...

Oh my what a job that was but it sure gives you some valuable lessons. i had a job once where I sat at a table all day counting out washers and putting them in bags! Boring!

Maine Mom said...

I bet that experience made a lot of other jobs a lot more appealing! Good for you for sticking with it...even if it wasn't your will. :-)
The image of your father driving with his head out the window is a funny one!

Jungle Mom said...

Its fun to read about your life.

PEA said...

Having only worked secretarial work when I was 17 & 18 years old and then getting married and staying home to raise the babies, I feel very privileged that I didn't have to go through what you did! My boys worked their way through university by being janitors at the local Sports Complex...I remember their stories about cleaning the washrooms! lol I've really been enjoying your series of posts regarding the jobs you've had...makes you wonder now how you ever withstood it! xox

Sue "Sioux" Seibert said...

Dawn, you truly are a great storyteller. I am enjoying, very much, you story of your young adulthood! Thanks for sharing.

Linda said...

I'm so proud of you Dawn. I really can't imagine myself having the "gumption" to stick with that job. What a wonderful story to share with your family. I can just picture you confronted with all those potatoes. Yikes!!!

preacherman said...

I want you to know your blog is very interesting. I will keep you in my prayers and hope that the job works out. Trust in God and he will provide what you need. The God that we serve is a God who blesses His children and gives them what they need according to His will. So, pray, seek, and you will find. God bless you and I hope you have a blessed weekend.

Maggie Ann said...

Dawn, what a job history! I'm sure you are glad that it is 'history' I guess my first jobs were not so bad compared to yours! I've enjoyed reading about your experiences though...but need to get my day started...too many things to do, laundry waiting, knitting waiting...and on the list goes. The older I get, the more fun I have though...thats very true =)

Barb @ A Chelsea Morning said...

How completely awful. That's way more information about frozen dinners than I wanted. LOL

Yuck. You're right, though. A job like that (or your sister's) would definitely make a kid want to stay in college.

Nikkie said...

I had no idea that Cambell's soup own swanson. That would have been such a tedious job to work at!

Midlife Mom said...

I had to rake blueberries in the summer to raise money to buy my school clothes. Now let me tell you, between the bees, heat, bear poop and the heavy baskets it wasn't any fun but that was all there was available in our little town. It didn't hurt me a bit though to work hard like that even though I hated it. Like you say sometimes we have to do things we don't like to do in this life! :o)

Nancy said...

Not giving up was a hard lesson to learn but you did it and it made you a better person because of it. I admire you and your parents for instilling that "stick to it" attitude. That is a blessing indeed!

Tammy said...

This was such a great story, with so much to learn here!
Sadly, I didn't buckle down in tough situations...and guess what? I didn't stick it all the way through college, either! I regret that, so I hope to instill the stick-to-itness I lacked somehow into my own children.

I so admire your dad for being protective of you, yet firm in his convictions that you stay with it...and I admire you for doing so!

Sharon Lynne said...

I wonder how they do those things now? With machines? Or do they still hire people to dig the eyes out of potatoes.

You had a lot of character-building going on. You must be a great character now, :-)

It's fun to read about your young adult experiences!

Susie said...

Hi Dawn,
I've enjoyed catching up on your posts. Happy Belated Birthday to your Care Bear. The years do fly by don't they. Although I haven't worked lots of different jobs, like you, they each have stories to tell and add to our life experiences!
Looking forward to regular visits again!