We all remember those first jobs of summertime youth

Just about now, thousands of young people will be looking at the end of their summer jobs, some with relief and some with regret.

Just about now, thousands of young people will be looking at the end of their summer jobs, some with relief and some with regret.

Unless we were born with a silver spoon in our mouths or over-indulgent parents, we have all had the experience.

Through the influence of a family friend, I found myself at age 12 riding my bike at 5 a.m., six days a week to Blue Bonnets Race Track in Montreal where I hung around the tack room and ran errands for trainers and jockeys.

There was no specific wage involved but a rather informal and infrequent tipping and the opportunity to return empty bottles for cash. At 12 who cared?

On racing days it was exciting with the crowd noises, the comings and goings of jockeys, horses and owners, the sometimes boisterous celebrations for a win or the bitter recriminations over a loss.

At that age, I lived only in the moment, oblivious to most things around me.

The owner of the stable with 20 horses was the reputed crime boss of Montreal, Rouge Martel. I remember him well.

He was short and stocky, wore expensive Florida-style suits, was red faced and red haired with a raspy voice and a cigar stuck  permanently in his mouth.

He always had four or five young men around him. I was impressed.

On Saturdays when he visited the track he would sometimes give me a two dollar bill if he noticed me.

In the following summers I had various jobs including a  nursery for one day until the owner noticed I had planted a whole field of bulbs upside down.

I lasted two days in a factory standing before a press with a large barrel of leather discs on the left and an equally large empty barrel on my right. I took a leather disc, put in between two pieces of metal, pulled the press handle and made a cup washer which I deposited in the right hand barrel.

Do this for eight hours a day and you will find yourself talking to the press.

On the second day, some older hands came for me because I had not even heard the quitting siren. The incident scared me so much I never went back and never got paid for the two days of hell.

I worked half a blistering summer at Memorial Gardens, a cemetery  with no headstones, just plaques. It was noted for its flower beds and I was hired originally as a gardener although it soon became obvious my only useful purpose was as a drainage ditch digger. The grave diggers had a much higher status.

There were other jobs but the one I liked best was usher at the Snowdon theatre. I kept it for two full years, both summers and every weekend  and holiday.

I got to  wear what I thought a spiffy uniform, spent hot days in air-conditioned comfort, saw every new movie, sometimes for 30 or 40 times and learned that it was  easy to manipulate crowds once you got the herd moving in a certain direction.

It was a powerful lesson for a kid. I earned 30 cents an hour.

I think the main value of a summer job is that it gives you an idea of what you like to do and what you don‘t.

It may also uncover some hidden talents or traits that could be useful in later life.

In any event, I believe most of us somehow fall into our proper niches, sometimes places we never dreamed we would be happy.

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