For as long as I’ve been working in the summer, I’ve been grumbling when I have to go in to work on a beach day.

“You can’t make any money at the beach,” my father used to tell me. But really, would any teenager rather work than languish at Higgins Beach? Then again, would any adult, either?

My first paid summer job, although it could be considered child labor, was sitting on the staging (hardhat on) with my father while he put shakes on the house. I complained to my mother to no avail. But with part of the earnings, I bought my first Beatles record.

That’s not to say I hadn’t worked before. I baby-sat all year long for neighboring families — the DeLisles, the Hoffmans and the Briggses. My father also built up my clientele without my asking by recommending me to his co-workers at what was then the University of Maine at Portland. The rate: 25 cents an hour.

My first real summer job was waitressing at the lunch counter of the Mill Creek Pharmacy. I brought down my work permit, only to be put immediately on the job during a busy lunch hour.

Not being handy in the kitchen, I was stunned to have to take an order and then prepare it! That summer and the next, I made many grilled sandwiches, frappes and ice cream sundaes.

The upside was that Owen Moore was next door and I could buy some clothes. The downside was that I put on a few extra pounds to take back with me to school.

Probably my most unusual and memorable summer job was the one I had before my senior year in high school. Mrs. Eleanor Flynn had a beauty parlor in her home on a nearby street, and I was her assistant. Her clients were neighbors and summer people who drove in from Prouts Neck.

The smaller jobs were handing her perm rods and rollers and washing out brushes. Back then licensing wasn’t as strict, so I got to do shampoos and manicure nails, too. It was so fun! And an extra bonus was that she styled my hair, a flip, for my yearbook picture.

After high school, right up to 2004, with the exception of one summer, I worked in retail at Porteous and Jordan Marsh (later Macy’s). There were many hectic summers on the selling floor, where I was a floater.

Although I miss seeing the pretty clothes, I don’t miss seeing them piled up in the fitting rooms, waiting for me to put them away.

Now I usually teach a summer class and work a shift or two a week at the front desk of the South Portland Community Center. Some of my customers there are familiar faces from the mall or Cheverus games.

However, no matter the job, on beach days I still feel a bit resentful that I have to work. After all, summer’s short. But then I hear my father’s voice, try to change my attitude and show up dutifully for work.

Vicki Sullivan of South Portland teaches English at Southern Maine Community College.


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