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Crummy Summer Jobs I Have Known

By June 25, 20162 Comments

When my granddaughter complained  about her boring summer job, it called to mind the succession of yucky summer jobs I endured from high school through college.  My dear Dad, used his many contacts as a grocer and a member of the Jewish community to finagle jobs for me each of those summers. This is how I earned my spending money for the school year.  I believe his only consideration was that it be a paid position.  That meant working for $1 to $1.25 per hour.

The job descriptions are in order from best to worst.

Use Lestoil, “the liquid detergent modern as can be.”


Lestoil was a blockbuster liquid detergent that was invented in my home town by a prominent member of the local Jewish community.  By dint of lots of savvy marketing and tv spots, the sales of this detergent exploded in the mid 1950’s.  The summer I worked there,the owner generously provided jobs for the college age kids of his friends.  About 6 of my friends and I were hired job  to open envelopes that had been mailed into the company in response to a mail in advertising campaign.  It was something to the effect of “…in 50 words or less, tell us why you like Lestoil. ”  Everyone who responded, got a Lestoil coupon back in the mail.  Some days there were dozens of letters and some days very few.  Either way, it only kept us occupied for a brief time of our work day, even though we’d draw it out as long as we could. We enjoyed reading out loud some of the more creative uses of Lestoil that customers had discovered, such as washing their own hair with it, or the hair of their dog, at the same time they were washing their car.  Another person claimed it had cured his poison ivy.

When we couldn’t draw out the letter opening activity any longer,  we screwed around lackadaisicaly filing paper.  Getting coffee in the cafeteria was also a good activity to kill time. I had a mild crush on two of the older boys in our group, so that kept things relatively interesting until they both quit the job.

Although Mr. Clean soon came along to give Lestoil some liquid detergent competition, most people in Holyoke remained loyal to our home grown cleaner.  I feel quite certain that there’s still a partial bottle of Lestoil in every house in Holyoke with anyone over 60.

“Have a sample of the new Hostess English Muffin”

english muffins

was the opening line of the spiel I was supposed to memorize before offering a perfectly toasted, dripping with margarine, quarter piece of the new  fork- split muffin.  The spiel went on from there, at which point my presentation significantly deteriorated and became a mumbo-jumbo that never seemed to make sense as I listened to myself talk. But by then, most potential customers had moved on to the opposite end of the grocery store aisle.  I ate the muffin piece myself because it was important that a customer eat it while still warm.

It always amazed me that most people acted as if I were invisible, even when I stuck a sweet basket of english muffins in front of them.  If someone did stop to take my offering, I was inappropriately grateful.

This pathetic bit of salesmanship went on for 8 hours a day.  I’d arrive at a different super market each morning, all spiffy in my white uniform, my hair pulled back in a pony tail, hopes high .  I’d put an apron on after I plugged in the toaster. After rehearsing my spiel about 50 times before I could fall asleep at night, I’d convince myself that I knew it.  Each day, I’d find myself mumbling something incoherent again after the first sentence was out of my mouth.  I think after the first few weeks, I just dropped the rest of the spiel.  It made no difference.  Either way, I just kept eating the muffins the customers refused.

The days wore on as did the summer.  When the summer ended, I did not eat another bite of an English muffin for at least a decade.

Hold Your Nose


I scraped the bottom of the barrel in the Summer Jobs hierarchy when my father announced he’d found filing work for me at a fat rendering company.

Render culinary definition – what does render mean? › … › Cooking Terms and Techniques › Cooking Terms


Jun 23, 2015 – Definition: A culinary term for melting and clarifying hard animal fat for cooking purposes. Rendering can be done by two methods: dry heat or wet heat. In both methods, the fat is slowly cooked until it melts, and is then strained of impurities from the cooking process.

Mountains of disgusting fat would be collected from the butcher departments of local supermarkets.  It was then brought in trucks to be rendered at this plant.  I worked in the office which was separate from the building where the dirty business took place.  Unfortunately, the stench from the business at hand permeated everything within a mile radius.  I had to hold my breath as we got close, or alternately, cover my nose.
Filing has got to be the dreariest job in the world.  The beaten down regular office workers ignored me. There was zero camaraderie.  I filed. and filed. and filed. I can still picture the office clock as I  counted down the hours and minutes of each day until I could flee that dreadful space.  Another very long summer.


Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.


  • Steve Kappel says:

    Hi Diane, Enjoyed your blog today. Les toil with lestoil! Remember it well. Did you not work in the store also? I put some time in the Elmwood Market also. One fond memory is the smile on your Dad’s face when a customer thought that I was the younger brother. Made your Dad feel really young! Ellen retired last week and I will be right behind at the end of July. I think it’s time. Looking forward to much more freedom time wise. Trust all is well with you and your family. Regards, Steve


    • devapnek says:

      Steve, So nice to hear from you!Yes, I worked often at the Elmwood Mkt, but don’t remember getting paid for that!Best of luck on your retirement. Yes, we’re well. Would love to see you some time! Love, Dianne

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