Friday, 8 August 2014 | MYT 8:00 AM

Guess Jason Mraz’s first summer job: Lawn guy, fence builder, wrestling photographer?

Summer jobs: The very mention brings up memories of low pay, long hours and sweaty, clueless teenagers who don’t really know what they’re doing. Memories like that are still vivid for some of the US' greatest achievers.

Since last August, Reuters has been gathering the first-job stories of successful Americans, including sports legends, business titans and media superstars. This month, to coincide with the US' monthly jobs report, the news agency spoke to a few of them about those memorable summer jobs that got them started.

Jason Mraz – Two-time Grammy-winning pop singer and songwriter 
First summer job: Fence builder

“My dad was a fence contractor in Mechanicsville, Virginia, so my first paying gig was building fences. It involved a lot of digging holes, cleaning up construction sites and distributing lumber. It was for US$5 an hour, which, at the time, was more than minimum wage. It was hard manual labour, and I certainly would rather have been at the pool with my friends rather than driving an hour to some muggy, mosquito-infested area to build a fence around a horse field. But I was getting paid, so I didn’t mind.”

“My dad was happy to have me working for him. We would just blast the stereo all day, and I would sing along to the radio or some mixtape I made. He would turn to me and say, ‘I hope you pursue that, and live your dream. I would rather you do that, than this.’ That stuck with me, big time. That could have been my future, and I could have easily taken over the family business. I still build fences sometimes – but now it’s around my garden, and I do it with great pride.”

Brian Williams – Anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News
First summer job: Lawn guy

“I don’t remember when ‘work’ started in my life. I caught on rather quickly that it was the only way to make money: to buy things, to take girls on dates, and to buy a car to take girls on dates. My primary summer job was mowing lawns. I was the lawn guy for many of our neighbours. I mowed lawns through the intense heat of summer, through rain storms, swarms of bugs and more rain.”

“I’m 55, so I don’t mean for this to sound like ‘tales from our grandparents’ but remember, this was before anything more thirst-quenching than water, and it was before water bottles became ubiquitous. What did I drink from? A Thermos? Probably a garden hose.”

“Worst of all: It was before the invention of the Walkman. Your music had to be in your head, competing with the nasty roar of a smelly one-cylinder engine muffled through a 50-cent paper filter. I grew to prefer the neighbours who spent the extra on a self-propelled mower, which were luckily becoming all the rage in the mid-1970s.”

“I first got my ‘working papers’ at age 14 (the State of New Jersey minimum age) and then I was off to the races. Real jobs – two of them – one as a bus-boy at our local pancake house, the other selling hardware at Sears. I always tried to convince people to spend the extra on a self-propelled mower, knowing there was a sweaty kid out there who would appreciate it.”

Raul De Molina – Host at Univision 
First summer job: Wrestling photographer

“Back when I was in high school, I used to be a big fan of professional wrestling. This was in the days of guys like Bruno Sammartino, and the Funk Brothers, and Abdullah the Butcher. I would bring my camera with me, and take pictures of wrestling matches and try to sell them to different magazines.”

“I actually got a job with a Japanese magazine, a weekly full-colour glossy, because professional wrestling was huge in Japan. They would pay for my trips and give me US$500 per assignment, sending me to places like Charlotte, Atlanta, and Amarillo, Texas. I actually had to ask my mother for the travel money, and then the magazine would refund her.”

“All my high school friends were jealous, because here I was going around taking pictures of professional wrestlers, who were our big heroes back then. I did become a photographer later on, working for the Associated Press. And when I started working on TV for Telemundo, one of my first reports was on Abdullah the Butcher, who came out of the ring and tried to grab me and started bleeding all over me. It turned out to be a good story.” 

Tags / Keywords: Jason Mraz , summer job , Lawn guy , fence builder , wrestling photographer , Brian Williams , Raul De Molina


Most Viewed

Powered by