Summer Jobs in the 1940s

Original Airdate: June 5 (2012)

This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.

An annual tradition for many students and teachers is looking for summer employment. During the 1940s, these jobs were becoming easier to find, with a recovering American economy and the war overseas.

Jane Martin, former missionary in East Africa, lists a few of the summer jobs that she held in the 1940s to pay her way through Mars Hill College in North Carolina:

"I worked for the government at the Department of Interior, and I worked for the Department of Navy."

Interviewer: "In Washington, DC, those things are possible."

"You know, but you don't say that I—you were sorting mail and things like that. (both laugh) You weren't—yes. I worked one summer for a community program for underprivileged children. I worked for a department store, but I wasn't working in the store; I was in the warehouse. And to my amazement, they came to me one day, and I thought, Oh my, have I done something wrong? They said, Come with us. We want to talk to you about something. And they put me on the loading dock, as a fourteen-year-old, to receive the trucks as they came in. Their concern was—I had a—I was sitting in a little enclosed room. Their concern was that the language would be pretty bad. But when the truckers arrived bringing in the goods for the department store, they see this young teenager, (both laugh) and they—they minded their language."

Dr. Eugene Jud, former executive director of Caritas in Waco, remembers an encounter he had while teaching in Corpus Christi:

"At the end of that year, we had a big PTA meeting on the end of the year. A man came up, was a big old guy; name was George Bellows. He said he just wanted to meet the teacher that helped his son become a public speaker. I accepted his comments, and that was fine."

Jud describes how that meeting helped him in the summer of 1941, when he was looking for a temporary job:

"Teachers always do a little moonlighting. So I went out to the naval air station. Just everybody would be going out there from all over the country; they—they were applying. So we'd go to the personnel department, and I sat there a long time waiting for my turn. And one of the guys who came in, I said, ‘Who are you waiting for?' And he said, ‘I come—I'm waiting to see George Bellows.' And I said, ‘Who's he?' He said, (laughs) ‘Oh, he's the guy [who] runs this place.' I said, ‘Is he George Bellow Jr.'s dad?' He said, ‘Yeah—that's'—and said, ‘I'm George's good friend.' So I—that gave me an idea. So instead of going and seeing a personnel man or filling out all the forms, well, I went in to see George Bellows. (laughter)

"I introduced—he remembered me. And he asked what I wanted, and I told him I wanted a summer job. And he just said—he buzzed his little buzzer and called for his personnel director. And he says, ‘Put this man on.' (laughter) The personnel director was very smart. He asked me a question or two, and he said, 'I'll tell you what: you report here tomorrow, and you report in my department. You'll be one of the personnel.' So I became one of the members of the personnel staff."

As long as a college education is not free and educators are underpaid, many students and teachers will continue to seek out temporary jobs during the summer months.

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