Inside WRAL

My first job

Posted June 10, 2010 10:59 a.m. EDT

What was your first job? I remember mine. I worked as a housekeeper at a quaint motel called the "Cozy Country Inn." All of the rooms were named after presidents and media organizations, since the press sometimes stayed there while covering presidential visits to Camp David.

The Kennedy room and the Reagan cottage were my favorites because of the decor, but one room in particular really stuck out – the Clinton room. I remember it well because we put edible chocolate cigars on the bed instead of a mint - no joke! There was also a picture of cigars on the wall.

I didn't last long at the job, but I'm glad I did it. It made me appreciate housekeepers so much more, and I always make sure to leave a tip when I stay at a hotel.

I asked some of my WRAL co-workers to tell us about their first jobs. I hope to do a follow-up in the future so I can include more people, but for now, enjoy:

Bruce Mildwurf

Mowing lawns


Erin Hartness

My first job was in a men’s clothing store in high school.


Renee Chou

My first job was working concessions at a movie theatre. It was great – air-conditioned, free movies and free popcorn!


Elizabeth Gardner

My first job was at a grocery store. I lasted two weeks. My next job was in college as a camp counselor. That went a lot better!


Jodi Leese Glusco

I washed dishes in a seafood restaurant at 15. My clothes stunk so bad I just wore the same outfit to work every day for the whole summer.


Gerald Owens

I was a Washington Post paper carrier at age 12. That’s where I first got interested in the news. I would sit on the curb and read the front page before I delivered the papers.


Kelcey Carlson

13 years old. Detasseling corn. You're allowed to do farm jobs at that age in Indiana, so lots of kids do this to earn money for school.


Cullen Browder

My first job was working road construction. I laid asphalt in Athens, Tennessee during the summers of my high school years. It was hot, but paid well above minimum wage. The worst job was being the flag man … much too boring. I preferred the shovel any day.


David Crabtree

I had a lawn cutting business at 15. Twenty-five yards … days long before weed-eaters. Had to trim with hand clippers. Charged most of my clients $4. The largest yard $7. This was 1965 … gas was TWENTY-FIVE CENTS a gallon … sometimes cheaper. Saved $1,400 that summer … what a bonanza!


Nate Johnson

Two ...

  • Selling Christmas trees from my grandfather’s tree farm in the mountains. The Thanksgiving-to-Christmas season for almost a decade during middle and high school was defined by family time on the Christmas tree lot.
  • Concessions (“Hot pretzels! Get your hot pretzels here!”) and souvenirs for the Winston-Salem Spirits/Warthogs (now the Dash) minor-league baseball team. I got paid to watch baseball. How cool is that?


Debra Morgan

The first job for which I remember being paid is mowing my grandmother's lawn. I made $7! I actually like mowing the lawn, even to this day. Outside of the family, my first job was working as a photographer's assistant for a man who took sports pictures for city teams. I would help organize the kids and take the money. I remember he drove me to and from work since I didn't have a car!


Ken Smith

My first job was when I was 14 years old growing up in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. It was a special summer program with the Virgin Islands Housing Authority. A group of us was hired to put together Calendars that featured dates and times of VI Housing Authority Programs. I worked about four hours a day and when I got my first pay check at the end of the six week program, I was ecstatic.


Mike Moss

Like a lot of semi-rural Nash County boys, my first real job was "putting in" tobacco just outside Rocky Mount. I was 11 or 12, and the first year drove the harvester, hung sticks of tobacco in the racks, and handed sticks into the barns for hanging. Worked for the same folks the next summer, but spent that one on the bottom of the harvester as a primer. I still remember working almost as hard to get all the gum off in the evening as I did all day!


Sloane Heffernan

My first job was busing tables at a small Italian restaurant called Ma Raffa’s in my home town. I was 15 years old. I got a job as soon as I was old enough. I’ve always loved the rewards of working. I learned a lot at that job and always appreciated the opportunities that the owners gave me at such a young age. I stayed at that job for several years and worked my way up to waitress. The training I received got me through college. I made money by waitressing while I was in school in Boston.


Monica Laliberte

My first job was at McDonald’s! I started the day I turned 16! I “got” to wear one of those polyester uniforms that quickly became INFUSED with the scent of french fry OIL – a scent I could NEVER get out no matter how much fabric softener I used! At first – beyond the paycheck – I thought one of the best “perks” was that employees got half price menu items before and after a shift. But the thrill of that wore off after about the 10th Quarter Pounder! Considering I did everything from taking orders to cooking to washing dishes and floors, I learned A LOT from that job! For one, it was a constant reminder to work hard to get an education and make a career for myself! I knew I didn’t want to make french fries the rest of my life. And it taught me no matter what you do, do it the best you can! I’m proud to say I FREQUENTLY won employee awards for “suggestive selling” (That’s where I convinced people to buy a cherry pie or ice cream with their burgers) and customer service! Hey, maybe that’s where my interest in consumer rights/protection/information started!! :}


Dan Bowens

I was fired from my first job as a reporter after one week on the job. It was devastating. I'd driven halfway across the country. All the way from my college town of Columbus, Ohio to Walla Walla, Washington (technically the Tri-Cities market #125). I'd put my life in my car. A 4 door Honda Civic that sputtered every time I dropped it into 3rf gear and drove up one of those mountains in Montana.

Anyway, I drove all the way there, with my signed contract in hand... and then got fired. Awesome :( They told me I had a bad driving record and couldn't use the company vehicles...SO I was OUT. They said the company insurance did not recognize a class I'd taken to make some points on my License go away.

But the story has a happy ending sort of... after a week of begging and pleading...they gave me my job back! On one condition: I was not allowed to get any speeding tickets. Not one, or they'd have to let me go.

As a reporter at KEPR-TV I shot all my own stuff, edited everything and wrote it all. It was a great experience. Working in those smaller markets is really like getting paid to go to grad school. You're always learning, always getting better. So much of being a journalist is learning how to really interact with people, develop sources, improve your interviewing skills. You can't learn all that in college. It comes with experience.

I will never forget my experiences in Walla Walla, especially because of how hard I had to work just to keep the job...that paid a whopping $18,000 a year.


Bill Leslie

This is a story in my book.

My parents ran The Book Store in Morganton. The name was inadequate. Yes, we did sell books but a whole lot more. We should have called it The Wedding Store. We sold more wedding gifts and office supplies than anyone in town. We also carried greeting cards. Plus, we framed pictures, engraved Bibles and prayer books. We sold art supplies, school supplies, fine pens and those cool View Masters.

The Book Store’s most famous employee was a dog. Our family lab mix Sputnik, would walk to work every day and lie down under the card table next to the Parker Pen display and wag her tail every time a customer came through the door. Sputnik was generously compensated with biscuits and bones. I preferred cold hard cash. At age 10 my starting salary was forty-five cents an hour for sweeping the floors, going to the post office and taking out the trash. My salary mushroomed to $2.00 an hour after I mastered the skills of picture framing.

My father was a terrific salesman. He conducted dramatic demonstrations on the virtually unbreakable qualities of a new line of china. Once he dropped an entire box of expensive china on the floor. Not a chip. Not a crack. Yes, he got the sale.

My mother was beloved in the community for her warmth and easy-going attitude at The Book Store. She was gracious with each customer and often shared the latest news in town. The Book Store was THE place to go for information. Her only gripe was customers putting greeting cards back in the wrong slot.

I loved snowy mornings in Morganton when school was cancelled. I walked one mile from home to the store with my father and helped him sweep snow from the awning. He rewarded me with a Mr. Goodbar.


Rick Armstrong

My first job was as a "paper boy" with the Raleigh Times around 1969. My older brother had the same route through the Fallon Park area of Raleigh near 5 Points. When he moved on to a bigger route, I jumped in to cover his old one. Being only 9 years old at the time, I was under the average age of paper boys - but it only had about 58 papers in a walkable area near where I lived on Beechridge Road.

The paper truck would drop a bundle on the side of the bridge going over the creek at Fallon Park. I'd snap off the copper band and fold each paper into a nice throwable form. I carried the bag full of papers on the front of my 5 speed sting ray bike with a banana seat and chopper handle bars. For the first 20 houses it was a bit difficult to steer with the heavy load up front. Most customers were OK with the paper landing either in the grass or on the porch steps, but a few wanted it in a special mailbox or in between the door and screen door.

The roughest days were of course in the rain - but dutifully, at 4:00, I'd finish the route no matter what, even in snow. On some of those days, my Mom or Dad would drive me through the route. In the winter, the time change would mean darkness by 5:00, so picture a shorter than average kid with a huge sack of papers crossing busy Anderson Drive when most people were safe at home enjoying TV or dinner. It must have been a pitiful sight.

One of my customers was Sam Beard - then the anchor for WRAL TV News. Boy did he have pipes (meaning, a deep, sonorous voice). Also on the route was Bette Elliott, WRAL's host of Femme Fare, a show for home makers with cooking, sewing and fashion tips (which I never watched. What 9 year old boy would be caught dead watching that for 10 seconds?)

It was a great start in the work-world for me. I learned a lot about responsibility, dependability and business. I had to go door to door to collect the money, most of which went straight to the Raleigh Times. I was really raking in the dough - about $32 a month, which helped to pay for new bike tires and plenty of sodas and candy bars at Anderson Market, a little store near Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Little did I know then that it was an early start to a career delivering the news, not door to door, but living room to living room.

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