September 4, 2023 – Washington County, WI – In observance of the Labor Day weekend, what was the first job you held? I worked overnights in the bakery at Food Lane grocery in Whitefish Bay. I also delivered the Milwaukee Journal during the Green Sheet days and interned in the sports department at WTMJ radio with Jim Irwin. What was your first job?
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Looking back to 2018, WashingtonCountyInsider.com posted the following story:
Sept. 1, 2018 – West Bend, WI – Let’s dive head first into a 3-day weekend and it’s all thanks to the Labor Day holiday.
Typically the end of summer and traditionally, in fashion circles, the end of women wearing white.
On this Labor Day weekend, we’ll collect stories about your first labor job.
Aside from babysitting, I remember the summer I got a job working overnights in the bakery at Food Lane Grocery. It was located on Hampton and Santa Monica in Whitefish Bay.
Don’t ask me what I made… it had to have been about $4 and change an hour.
My boss was named Jim and my coworkers were both named Jim.
My younger sister got a job in the bakery, too. Although she lasted only one day. She turned in a 2-week notice and then quit.
I’m sure that had to do with our solid Christian upbringing and good German work ethic.
We would gossip about our overnight shift. Talking about the Jims was confusing so we dubbed them Jim No. 1, Jim No. 2, and Jim No. 3. One day my sister told them about our system and Jim No. 2 wasn’t too happy with his handle.
This was a typical summer teen job, but it was also the summer when I determined I would work round the clock and make tons of money. Fatigue be damned!
The shift at Food Lane ran 11 p.m. – 6 a.m. Then I delivered the Milwaukee Journal (the Green Sheet days) in the afternoon. I didn’t have just one route; I had about 10. Tom Jakubowski was my boss. I had a bike and a wagon. On Sunday my dad would get up and help. We had a light lime green station wagon with wood-panel siding.
We loved delivering to the apartments. The lower-level parking garage combined with elevators made for easy money.
My dad would time us and we’d run each floor dropping the thick, coupon-filled papers at the door. Our delivery addresses were color-coded and written on index cards that could easily be carried in our pockets.
Each apartment complex had its own aroma with regard to what was for dinner. Lots of Polish and German in Whitefish Bay.
Back at the bakery the overnight shift bread baking and whatnot was handled by the Jims. I dropped the donuts in the vat of hot grease. Drops of grease would jump out of the metal tub and burn off your arm hair. I rolled and flipped the dough with a tool that looked like a wooden oar from a boat. That thick stick had seen better days. The donuts were then frosted, filled with jelly or cream, or rolled in sugar. It grossed me out to see the industrial tubs of jelly and yellow cream filling.
Night after night I made the donuts.
Friday night was the busiest because all the dads came in Saturday and continued a tradition their dad started buying boxes of crullers, peanut squares, and long johns.
I remembered the Jims smoked cigarettes while baking.
Jim No. 1 had a perm and reminded me of Barney Miller, the cop comedy from the 1970s that my mom thought was hilarious.
One day I had a whole tray of long johns (no filling) covered in white icing. I spun around and ran into Jim No. 1 and they all flew onto the floor. He wasn’t happy. “Put another layer of icing on them and put ‘um in the lower level of the case,” he said with his Marlboro breath.
That incident scarred me for life. I’m not a big fan of bakery…
At one point during that summer I thought I could add one more job to the mix. Work somewhere between the end of the paper routes and the start of the bakery.
It took two weeks for me to track down a uniform for Kopp’s Frozen Custard. I lasted one shift.
I liked it not at all.
Nor did I care for the stainless steel. Everything left a fingerprint …. even if you just looked at it the wrong way.
Good grief. Those were the days. (All in the Family reference)
Years later I interned in the sports department at WTMJ. I wrote for Jim Irwin. He was the morning sportscaster on AM 620. The station was located on Capitol Drive in Shorewood. I biked there at about 3 a.m. and beat him into work every day. I typed out (on an electric typewriter) all the sports that happened overnight.
Mr. Irwin would come in about 5 minutes before he had to go on air. He’d let out a big sigh when he entered the room. He’d look over my stories, tap them on the metal desk to organize them neatly, and then toss them in the trash and walk into the studio and report the sports off the top of his head. His co-host was Robb Edwards.
This happened every single day.
I don’t believe he cared for me, but I never missed a day. I interned the entire summer.
On my last day, Mr. Irwin read one line from the copy I wrote. It was a crumb… but I was thrilled!
On a side note: I was informed at the time…. women did not “do sports.”
I was advised to “go into news.”
This reflection on my radio career makes me sound like a dinosaur.
Now it’s your turn. What was your first job?