‘Summer jobs I did not have. But I swear I did not make them up, either’
When I was a kid, a summer job was babysitting. Or working at the 5-and-10. Pumping gas. My best friend Norma had the coolest job of anyone I knew. She worked at the Dairy Queen. One of the perks was you could eat as much DQ as you wanted, which sounded pretty sweet until she told me she had a hard time even looking at a banana boat after the first couple of days.
But these jobs absolutely pale in comparison to the gigs scored by my personal family members in their respective college years. The Child spent one summer working with computers. ‘Yawn’, you say. Well, these computers were located here:
That’s Wadhurst Park, a 900-acre estate in East Sussex. Which is in England, folks. It’s owned by the second-richest guy in Sweden. (Makes you wonder where the richest guy in Sweden lives.) Oh, and here he is, Hans. The Child said she was invited to tea with him and his wife once while she was there. The conversation was less than lively. Not sure if she met the dog.
Incidentally, Hans’ dad made the family fortune by inventing the milk carton. Honest. Oh, besides owning that dog in his lap, Hans owned pigs. That’s one of them pictured at the top of this post making friends with The Child. (In addition to working with the estate computers, she performed various livestock-related duties. Including, sometimes, a bit of pig wrangling. And mucking.)
She must have inherited the Fabulous Job Gene from her dad. Let’s scroll back a few decades to the summer he was visiting a college buddy who lived in Hawaii. (My college buddies were all from places like Skokie. See this funny anecdote involving one of them.)
Anyway. The Dude was visiting this guy Kevin, who mentions during the visit that he has a job all lined up teaching tennis to really rich girls at this tennis camp on the Big Island, but alas he can’t take it. Makes you wonder what job was better than that one, doesn’t it? So, would he (The Dude) like to take this job in his place?
See, The Dude didn’t have a summer job lined up yet. But he was an amazing tennis player. He had been a scorekeeper at Forest Hills, where they used to have the US Open. (This was one of his Dream Summer Jobs in high school). While he was working there he’d sometimes bat a few balls around with guys like Ken Rosewall and Roy Emerson.
The tennis camp in question was run by this guy named Dennis Van Der Meer. I googled him, and bless his heart he’s still running those camps, with the help of a daughter who must be around The Dude’s age. Well, whatever. The Dude ‘auditioned’ for the job, demonstrating his swing, which was what Dennis really cared about (‘I want those girls to leave here with a beautiful swing‘) and The Dude was in.
His duties? He taught tennis in the mornings, then took the girls to the beach in the afternoons. And got paid actual money for his services, people. (Think about that when you’re detasseling corn.)
Alas, I have no photographic evidence of his stint as tennis-pro-to-the-daughters-of-stars, those being the days way before every detail of one’s life was captured on a device. Which was probably a good thing, if you think about it. But here is a pretty cute photo of what His Dudeness looked like at this time in his golden life:
Oh, interesting side note. One of the girls entrusted to The Dude’s care happened to be one of Debbie Reynolds’s step-daughters. Now, if you happen to be more The Child’s age than The Dude’s, you might not know who the heck Debbie Reynolds is. Click here for help, but basically she’s the really cute blonde in ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. (If you don’t know what ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is, god help you. Oh, okay. Here.)
Well, this girl liked The Dude. (Who wouldn’t? He was hot.) So she invited him to visit when next he was in Beverly Hills. Which happened. The Dude was actually in Beverly Hills, and went to visit this step-daughter, who was living with Debbie, their parents being still married at the time.
Well, Debbie was not shy, and thought The Dude was pretty cute too. So she proceeded to entertain him. With singing and piano playing and dancing. Again, let’s all be grateful that Steve Jobs hadn’t sprung into action yet. No photographic evidence of any sort survives, much less a selfie.
One last note before I get back to my Tuesday morning coffee. That job on the estate The Child had one summer? She almost didn’t take it. She had submitted her application and, while waiting to hear whether she’d been accepted, she had lined up a backup summer job waitressing in New York City (which is where we live, so it’s actually not as glamorous as it sounds).
When she found out the Wadhurst Hall gig was hers, she was conflicted. And she actually sought my advice: ‘Mom, what should I do? I know I can make good money being a waitress, and I’ll be able to see my friends too. What if I take that job in England, get stuck over there all summer — and hate it?’
Well. I don’t know if you have kids. But if you do, you know that you never ever want to give them advice, even if they ask. Because then, of course, if things go wrong, guess who’ll get blamed?
So I go ‘Hmmm. You have a point. But picture yourself this fall, back at school. Do you want to be the girl who waited tables in New York City? Or do you want to be the girl who took a job on an estate in England and absolutely hated it?’
End of discussion.
And that’s the end of this post, my faithful friends. Enjoy your nice summery week, whether you’re waiting tables, babysitting, detasseling corn, or just ramping up for 4th of July visitors, like me.
Amagansett, New York. June 2015