What Was Your First Job & How Much Were You Paid?

Aside from lawn mowing, which was, in hindsight, much better work for better pay, I worked in the kitchen at a local Knights of Columbus for $3.35 an hour, minimum wage in 1984. My first job after college was as a “part-time” programmer (no benefits, basically) for $9/hr, which I thought was great money. And I work at the same company now, although with a break of several years in there (and for a little more money).

I bagged groceries for an A & P supermarket. Starting pay was $0.50 per hour. Part of bagging in those days was to push the cart to the customer’s car and unload the groceries. Sometimes I received a tip, but usually not. 1954, Dallas, Texas.

I was 15, and I worked as a pharmacy technician in a hospital, weekends and holidays. Great pay for a kid - I started at $4.25 an hour when the minimum wage was $2.65, and even though Sundays and holidays were part of my regular shift, I still got time and a half for working those days - 6 hours each day. It meant I didn’t have a single day off while school was in session though. I wish I had that much energy now.

At 16 I did a summer stint at a big amusement place called Dorney Park in Pennsylvania. Made $4:50 an hour, worked six Goddam hot days a week and was fired on Labor Day.

I was 15 and I remember I had to go get my working papers in order to get work. It was a bakery and I baked bagels and did shit work for $2.90 an hour, 30 hours a week. It’s been all uphill since then.

Well, mostly.

You know those lights that they hang over portraits and other framed pictures? I bent flat pieces of metal into the curved shade that goes over the light bulb.

1.60 an hour (the manufacturer's rep who got me the job talked them into starting me off at higher than minimum - he was my judo instructor). I got a .05 per hour raise for showing up for my second week of employment. I was one of the three people in the factory who spoke English instead of Spanish.

It wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds. I worked there for two years, summers and vacations. It was there that I formed my firm resolution not to work in a factory for the rest of my life.


Aside from mowing lawns, my first real job was as a clown and juggler at Elitch Garden’s Amusement Park in Denver in 1986. I started at age 15 3/4 training at $3.35/hour (minimum at the time) and then when I turned 16 in June I jumped to $4.25/hour. I wore make-up and a silly costume and did Devil Sticks as my speciality. The following year I came back as Popeye. Awwwwyeah, I was moving up in the world. I wore a huge Popeye costume with a big fiberglass head and did kiddie shows. I had to quit because I got [insert latin term], water in-between my lung sac and lungs which caused severe internal blisters and caused me to faint one afternoon while on stage…no fun.

And in a strange turn of events I am currently unemployed and going back to Colorado to help my friend out at his magic and costume shop for Halloween. Two weeks ago I was a Hedge Fund Operations Director, in two weeks I’ll be clown again…

Life has a way of coming full circle, eh?


When I was 14 I began doing janitorial work and other odd jobs for my dad at his drugstore (which he still owns, though he’s due to retire in a few years). He paid me $3.35/hour, which was minimum wage then. After I graduated from high school in 1988 I worked at Burger King. The minimum hourly wage was still $3.35 and long overdue for an increase by then. I worked that job for six years (while going to college) and was a manager when I left. I got raises along the way, though they were quite paltry at best.

I was a carnie.

I started at 14, quite illegally, and I got paid some abysmal rate like $2.00 an hour. That was only 13 years ago, so minimum wage was at least $4.00/hour. They got by with sub-min because it was seasonal employment.

I lived in the sticks and didn’t have a car until I was in college, so I didn’t bother until I was 20 or so. At that point, I got sick of being dirt poor and got a part time job as the security guy at the college library. I believe it was about $4.50 an hour, twenty hours a week. I got a lot of homework and pleasure reading done at that job…

My first full time job was warehousing ice cream for the local Meijer’s stores. God, that was miserable work. Lots of overtime, though. My first week’s paycheck wound up being about $500. The problem was I was only making $8 an hour (which was, admittedly a lot at that time for drudge work) and work weeks ran anywhere from 50 to 70 hours. In subzero temperatures. Slinging around 500 lb metal carts.

I only lasted a couple of months under the stress. I was, however, the most cut I’d ever been. I looked like the Crow after only a few weeks…

My first job–over the summer when i was in 11th grade–involved working on a cotton farm about 400 miles west of Sydney, Australia. The farm was owned by the father of one of my school friends.

My job was to walk up and down the rows of cotton with a hoe, chipping away at the thistles and other weeds that crowded in among the cotton plants. Is these weeds were present when the cotton was harvest, all the crap would get in among the cotton bolls and reduce the value of the harvest.

We started at 6 in the morning so we could get in 8 hours of work and be done before the hottest part of the day, which was usually around 4 in the afternoon. Even so, it was over 100 degrees most of the time, and we went through our gallon water jugs two or three times a day. We also helped with some irrigation work, such as opening up the irrigation canals from the river, and sihoing the water over the embankments to flood the cotton rows.

We were paid $7 an hour (Aussie dollars), which was pretty good for 15-16 year olds in 1985, especially people like me who had no expenses and used the money purely for pleasure. But this sort of work only lasts as long as there are weeds to chop, so the job only lasted for a few weeks. Still, it was good fun, and the pay was pretty good.

My first “grown-up” job (i.e. one which was actually needed to pay for food, rent, etc.) was as a cellarman in a large club in Sydney, when i was 18. It was my job to makes sure that the club’s five bars were constantly supplied with draft beer and other alcohol. This involved working in the large coolroom that housed the beer kegs and distribution apparatus. Empty kegs had to be removed and replaced with full ones, and any problems with the gas, the beer, etc. had to be taken care of. Similar tasks had to be performed for the soda fountain system. The system of pipes and tubes had to be flushed clean at the end of every day’s trade, to ensure clean lines and good beer. We also took in the deliveries from the beer and liquor companies, maintained inventory records, and kept an eye on the bars to make sure they had what they needed (ice, lemons, etc.).

I think that, by the time penalty rates (i.e. for evenings and weekend work) were included, the pay was about $A440 a week in 1988. Less than average wage, but more than i needed at the time to live happily.

I started de-tassling corn at age 14 for $4.00 per hour.

My first job was picking tomatoes at age 11, and I got paid nothing. This was as part of Cuba’s compulsory, unpaid, child labor program called “Escuela al Campo”. My first paying job was making espresso at a restaurant in the Madrid zoo, I was 13. I was not authorized to work in Spain but the wait staff paid me a portion of their tips, I think I made something like 200 pesetas a day, $1.50 at time.

Dunkin’ Donuts when I was 14. I think minimum wage at the time was $3.25/per hour.

The New York Public Library, as a page. Yeah, I know. But we reshelved books and straightened up and stuff. I was 15 and made $2.35/hour. I kept $5 for myself and banked the rest. Woo hoo.

When I was a kid, I mowed lawns, shovelled driveways, babysat, and did odd jobs for whatever the market would bear. In the spring, my brother and I used to go to the Pick-Your-Own strawberry places; we’d pick strawberries all morning and then sell them door-to-door in the afternoon.

My first “real” job was at the local recycling center back in the 70’s. I was 13, and my job was to hop into the dumpster holding the glass bottles and smash them when the dumpster got too full so the dumpster could be filled to capacity before it was picked up. I had a pair of leather gloves, safety goggles, and a big-ass crowbar. I got $1.75 an hour, and since it was right next to the magazine-and-newspaper bin, I got to take home all the porn magazines that were dropped off by the upstanding residents of town. :smiley:

I started stuffing envelopes for $6/hour when I was 11.

I think the minimum wage was about $3.85/hour so I was doing pretty good.

Aside from delivering papers I had the greatest first two jobs.

  1. I worked as part of the catering team of a very expensive French restaurant. Pay varied from $8-$20 an hour plus tips. I catered at the Supreme Court, the Old Executive Office building and at the Virginia Gold Cup horse races. The owner being a family friend and French though nothing of making me the bartender’s assistant at 15. I could mix a mean feuille mort (french for dead leaf, a combo of Pernod, some other liquor and grenadine).

  2. My best friend and I were the two evening and weekend receptionists at Supercuts. We were paid $7 an hour PLUS commissions on any hair care products people bought. Came out to about $11 an hour. We were the only people in the shop that spoke fluent English, so much of the job was to surreptitiously act as translator if a client had a complicated request.

We were also the only men there and the women fussed over us to no end. I was starting to learn Vietnamese when I left for college. I am the only one I know who has a professional job now and wonders if I wouldn’t be better off if I stayed at those jobs.

No you’re not! Quite. Unlike fruitbat my very first jobs were the babysitting, lawnmowing type for whatever I could get. My first post high school jobs were low-level positions in interesting places… I miss that.

When I was 14 I started a job as a blueberry picker. All the more experienced pickers had harnesses to hold their buckets while they picked. One, ahem, kind fellow suggested I button the handle of the bucket in my pants. It worked great! That is, until there got to be some actual weight in the bucket. I had picked about 3/4 of a bucket, when I found myself standing in the middle of the field, with my berries spilled all over the ground, my pants around my knees, and a crowd of people pointing, laughing, and making fun of me in Spanish.
I didn’t stick around long enough to find out how much I was supposed to get paid.