Monday, January 3, 2011

Jobs Along the Way

I had a dream last night that I was making jewelry for the workers at the sardine factory.
I had priced it so that they could afford some of the lower end earrings that I had made. They would get credits for the amounts of sardines they had packed to be used towards purchasing the earrings.
I was actually practically giving them away so that everyone could have some to wear.
What surprised me was that some of my former workmates from other jobs I had held at D.O.T were packing sardines as well.
I had been thinking about doing a post about jobs I had held over the years so it the dream inspired me to do that post today.

My very first job was in the summer of '73 working in a cannery in Southwest Harbor, Maine
I lasted 6 whole weeks there until I had to go back to Connecticut for school.
I had desperately wanted to spend the summer in Maine and was required to earn a small bit of my tuition to the alternative school that I would be attending the next year.

I was staying with my grandparents at their cottage by the bay along with my older sister and brother. My grandfather was skeptical about my fortitude in staying with the job for the remainder of the summer.  "You got your 'retahds'  and misfits working thayah, You'll nevah last" he said in his thick vodka infused Maine accent. I proved them wrong and they never ceased exclaiming in glowing compliments from then on, they were so proud of me.

At  age 16 after a tough day on my feet packing sardines for $1.85 an hour

My next job the following summer mowing the fields at the private school
for $2 and hour
Little did I know that 30 years later I would be mowing the grounds of
The State of Alaska facilities for more than 10 times that wage.

 I had known when I was 18 that I wanted a job outdoors or in a kitchen. Somehow I thought that I wanted either a job in a lumberyard and run a forklift or work in a  bakery so when my sister let me know that I could get a job in Fairbanks, Alaska  as a cook for a summer camp for a whopping $4.50 an hour in 1976 I was practically on the next plane there!
 So began my early career in cooking at various summer camps, daycares, Headstart and a few restaurants.
My best gig was as a cook at the "Hungry Dog Cafe" where I amazingly got recognition as a good soup-maker at age 21.

(Unfortunately I only have one photo from this time and I'm in an embrace and kissing a former boyfriend that was the breakfast cook, so I'm not posting it.)

 Eventually I heard that there was good money to be made as a flagger for the State of Alaska D.O.T if I joined the union, paid my dues and waited for a call.

I did this seasonally for about five years, with one summer off to have my baby.

Several years later after my divorce I needed to make more money and took a year round job with the road crew I had been working with for 5 years.
This was a tough job but the rewards were good.
I was required to serve two months of night shift each winter.
It felt as if I were living on the moon since I had to sleep during our only bit of short daylight
One of my first art pieces when I took printmaking at the college was titled
"Only Plowgirls get the Blues"

Yes, I drove a dumptruck and filled a lot of potholes!

A culvert operation

You'll end up a street sweeper!

Eventually I was trained to drive a belly dump.
This picture was taken on my first day. The gravel pit was flooded and let me tell you I was scared shitless to drive across this water.
I made them take this photo in case I disappeared underwater.

As time went on they taught me how to scrape snow with a road grader. I never did learn the finer points  of dirtwork which takes much more finesse.
Some of  the guys I worked with exhibited real artistry in blading the dirt roads.
I had to watch them all day  long when I was a flagger.

On night shift one of my work buddies was trying to teach me some welding techniques.
This was probably taken at 4:00 AM
I had been terrified of lighting torches when I started this job. It's funny to look back on that fear now that I'm a lampworker.

After ten years of Heavy Equipment operating I longed to move over to the Buildings Maintenance crew.
I'm getting ready to paint the interior of an equipment garage here

 Mostly the job consisted of mowing lawns and tending to flowers on various grounds belonging to the State of Alaska in Fairbanks.
Occasionally I would help out the other tradesmen in remote sites or villages in the surrounding areas.

This was on an overtime day during one of our hot, dry summer spells.
I didn't normally dress like this for work!

Now this brings us up to present day~ Now that I'm retired my job is to play with fire.

And maybe sell a few things.
That's a Sidney Lawrence painting behind me at the Anchorage Museum Bead Arts Gala.


  1. Great shots of you in your various hard labor jobs my friend. I would have been scared ^*&^%*^ as you say to drive that truck through the flood too.
    Glad you are retired and making your gorgeous funkaliscious stuff! xox Corrine

  2. Now my Job was to play with fire before I retired as a helitac forest fire responder in Fairbanks, I still have dreams that I am back at work but not sure where I fit in, will they let me on the ship to go to the fire. My first job as you know was at Strong Gallerys in Barharbor which I got on my first day of job search, now that I am retired I am doing the same job painting, except I think I mase more money at it back then at $2.25 an hour

  3. HOLY MOLY, you are a super woman!!!
    Super bad a** jobs you've had, You ROCK!
    I love the background story to the first pic.
    Hard work, and proves a woman can do anything she wants in a mans world

  4. Love hearing about your jobs. You're quite the ruddy girl!

  5. Fabulous post ! I loved how you did your Grand pa's accent - made it come alive

  6. You lead an interesting life Kim. A trailblazer for women!

  7. Ah, Kim. See, I remember the little sister of my best friend back in the late sixties. You had a light then, but, then, so did your sister. GREAT post, Kim. Just talked to my Aunt Ellen in Fairbanks today as a matter of fact. Take care. "see" you around, undoubtedly. Perhaps one day in person. Had no Clue JUST how varied your employment has been... yet within a certain context. Cool.

  8. Thanks you guys, It's been a fun and varied journey which seems to have progressed to the more feminine after all these years.
    Erika and Jeannette, you both knew me at about the same time way back when! ( Well, my big brother Dan too @NataleeBali) I owe it all to him for making me tougher! All those "fast get-ups" when we were wrestling and the obstacle courses he would have all of us neighbor kids run through.

  9. what a journey!! and it's so funny that your dream brought together the first and last jobs in some kind of synergy.

    i'll bet you didn't run into many other women in some of those lines of work...or did you and i'm just showing my bias/ignorance? :-)

  10. i love this guided tour of your work life! by comparison mine was very ordinary but i do have a photo of me on a tractor at a kibbutz...

    ideally i would be melting glass too if only i had the space...small new york city apartments not conducive to the flame.

  11. aLL of a sudden i had an urge to google the 'HUNGRY DOG CAFE" as i worked there in the mid 70's and helped it turn a corner and devised a way to rock the homecookin vegetarian option fare. I do believe we know eachother!. Would you like to comapre notes? I would
    joan f
    PS most of the folks i know that did not winess the alaskan experience can hardly believe the lives we have lived...though i have witnesses and a fierce journal!

  12. Joanie? of Joanie and Basil? I do know you. How do I get in touch with you. Your comment doesnt have a link for me. Hopibg you can read this. xoxo Kim


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