I got my second real job the summer of 1969. I was fifteen, my high school freshman year completed. The National Boy Scout Jamboree convened at Farragut State Park near Lake Pend O’Reille in north Idaho. Pepsi won the soft drink contract to quench the assembled thousands. The local distributor needed a tangle of teens to distribute product. Scores of pop machines sprouted from parched fields, amidst Scouts’ tents. I made $1.85 per hour (then, a fortune). Work began at dawn, loading trucks at the factory. Since Big Boss watched, all kids worked hard. We caravanned to the Jamboree, then filled and cleaned soda machines until noon.
After lunch, four trucks awaited afternoon reloading. Storage tents baked. Dust roiled. Six hours of lifting wearied backs. That first day, our supervisor left for a beer in Bayview, the nearest tavern. Boys worked and complained. By the third day, our Jamboree super vanished before lunch and emerged when afternoon circuit neared completion. One by one, teens stopped lunch loading. I complained at the dinner table. My father advised, “Do what you were hired to do, son.” I labored alone restocking trucks in the midday swelter, the butt of teen jokes. On about day ten of that two week Jamboree, a truck rolled up during afternoon reload. Big Boss plopped a cowboy boot into Jamboree dust. Boys lazed in shadowy brown grass. I steamed past, lugging two canisters. Big Boss cast a weary glance.
The Boy Scouts departed. Pepsi had two summer factory jobs. I got one, and a big raise to $2.15. That first day, the factory men, with wry smiles, put me on “table,” a rotating steel disk where filled bottles marched. They instructed me: grab four bottles, two in each hand. Put them into a case of twenty-four, six grabs per case, eight cases per pallet level, six levels per pallet, and an unending stream of empty pallets. I offloaded 176,000 full bottles of pop that day. The crew guffawed at my blistered hands. Each had once suffered initiation himself. When the line whined to a stop, they offered beer. I declined, to avoid mother’s scowl, but enjoyed a good laugh with the men at my expense.
I have had many jobs: lawn mower, youth minister, doorman at Frederick & Nelson, prosecutor, daycare buffoon, theologian, used car lot boy, painter, preacher, 7-11 clerk, lawyer, mansion finisher, janitor, and pop factory worker. I enjoyed each duty, but not equally. Theodore Roosevelt (American, 20th century A.D.) noted, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing” (Labor Day address, Syracuse, New York, 1903). Teddy was right.