We all gotta start somewhere. Whether you’re now a regular fixture on the airwaves, a CEO, a musician, a chef or an artist— everyone was a kid once, trying to find a way to make a little money and get their start. We asked some of Toledo’s most well known names to share stories of their first (and some of their worst) summer jobs.
First: My first summer job was mowing lawns in my neighborhood, in the Metropolitan Detroit area. I cut about six lawns each week and made some great money over the summer. Getting paid to be outside, and usually listening to my ‘Walkman,’ wasn’t a bad way to earn some cash. I could work when I wanted to work and take a day off if I had plans. Of course, I’d have to arrange my mowing schedule around the weather forecast…imagine that!
Worst: [My worst summer job was] working at a marina in the Detroit area. I love the water and I love boats, but the job wasn’t what I was expecting. Also, having the worst boss of my life didn’t make working there any easier.
Radio Host, Q105
First: Outside of school, sports, video games and sleeping, my early teen years (what was left after all that) were spent at the Palace Roller Skating Rink in Philadelphia. Just like Ohio Skate! I was always there anyway, and Dad was the manager. He exercised some nepotism and got me hired at the skate rental counter. But one summer came along and I got my first promotion. I became a skate guard. Referee shirt, whistle and absolute authority of all those summer campers that came to the rink on field trips. No hats, no unauthorized backward skating, absolutely no gum and probably very little fun with me out there safeguarding lives of those just a few years younger than me.
Best: After my senior year of high school I got hired by my best friend’s cousin, who operated his own franchise of Rita’s Water Ice. Look it up! Hot summer nights, handing out cool Italian ice. My Dad loved it because if I closed I could bring home a quart of ice (he loved chocolate and mango) and any uneaten soft pretzels.
“Best Artist,” 2021 Best of Toledo Awards
First: My first summer job was at Little Caesars in Toledo, the Lagrange location. From a young age I was crazy for Crazy Bread. Anytime I could muster the funds, I would dial up Little Caesars and order Crazy Bread. Juvenile as it was, I would always order using a crazy pseudonym; my favorite being ‘Captain Caveman.’ Eventually the time came to seek employment, and I marched down to Little Caesars to fill out a job application. While completing the form, I was unsure what to put under references, and wrote down Captain Caveman! I got the job, and all the Crazy Bread I wanted. Better still was learning that even while adulting, good humor can be a good answer.
“Best Performer,” 2021 Best of Toledo Awards
First: My first summer job was as a Birthday Party Hostess at Chuck E. Cheese! I love working with kids and it was even better getting paid to play arcade games with them! What did I learn from it? Parents are worse than kids!
University of Toledo Men’s Basketball Coach
First: One summer job I had all through college was working for a construction company. I was the only non-union employee, which did not go over with some of the old-time guys. I made $5.75 an hour, and I worked from 7am to 3pm. I worked my tail off all through college because that’s what people did.
I did a lot of stuff with the masons. I would mix and carry over mud to them. I was with the warehouse guys more, so I would have to load up the trucks and bring the equipment to the work sites. It wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you that. I did it all four summers during college. I ended up getting a quarter raise each year and that was it.
Lucas County Auditor
First: My first summer job was at the Boys and Girls Club as a turnstile clerk. I loved working with the children. I learned that if The Boys and Girls Club did not exist, many youth, including myself, would have no safe place to go and have fun. It was a home to many kids, not just a club.
Best: My best summer job was waitressing in Downtown Toledo at Portside, Promenade Park. Party in the Park was fun and crazy. Great tips, great music and fun times in the ‘80s!
Worst: Worst summer job: None! All my summer jobs were great! I’ve been blessed to have great employers.
Entrepreneur, Owner of TolHouse
First: My first job was at Showcase Cinema on Secor. I am also a DJ. In being a DJ, I’ve learned how to watch how people move, and even without them vocally saying anything, pay attention to what they need to feel better and enjoy themselves.
Best: My best summer job was not a job— it was starting a company! Creadio, a full-service marketing technology and production agency.
Worst: My worst summer job was probably in the winter, but no particular job was terrible. I’ve learned something from every job I had— even if it was learning that I didn’t want to come back for my next scheduled shift!
First: I worked as a caddie at Inverness Country Club.
Poet Laureate for Lucas County
First: My first summer job was as a file clerk at a psychiatrist’s office. I wasn’t allowed to work when I was in high school (“Your full-time job is learning. Besides, you have a whole lifetime ahead of you to work and worry about money. Be a kid while you can be a kid.” —my mom). I did babysit off and on, but Dr. Spare’s office was my first real job. Mostly I did filing, reorganized things, boring backroom paperwork stuff. Turns out, I love that kind of stuff.
Best: The best summer job I had (actually during COVID) was working at Riehm Farms, a family farm near Tiffin. My oldest son and I were tired of being stuck at home but were wisely terrified of the virus. The farm, whose CSA program we’ve been a part of for years, needed helpers. It’s a pretty long drive, but my son and I would leave early and work all day, getting home late. Mostly we just sorted and bagged the veggies, and packed the weekly CSA bags. But we got to meet people and learn about farming. I love a math puzzle and farming involves a lot of rapid and sometimes complex math. So interesting! And we learned about new varieties of vegetables. And we lost weight! I loved it and was really proud to work with a really wonderful family on their farm.
Worst: The worst summer job I ever had was working at Kmart. I lasted one day. I am not the right person for retail!
Chef Carlos Mendez
Owner, Carlos Restaurants
First: My first summer job was helping my father in his butcher shop. I was 10 or 11 years old when I started helping him and that was the case every summer until I went to college. When I was 13 years old I also helped him in his restaurant. All this taught me the sense of responsibility and hard work. At that time I didn’t like all this very much, but now I understand many things and sometimes I miss those days.
Best: A certain year, a musical group came to my town. The manager was my uncle, they were on tour and they invited me to some dates to help them with the setup, selling CDs in the middle of the concert and packing instruments at the end of the concert. The best thing was when the lighting engineer felt sick and I took care of the fog, it was great. It was only five or six concerts, but it was a different experience.
Worst: My dad decided to buy a pig farm [when] I was 12 or 13 years old, it was fun but it smelled really bad, the girls didn’t want to go out with me, haha. In the end, I didn’t like it at all.
President and CEO of ProMedica
Best: I was a lifeguard back in Iowa. Actually, it was a gravel pit that was a popular swimming area. We worked 8am to 9pm, Monday through Saturday, and I did that for five years. And in those days we got a tan with baby oil and iodine…and put zinc oxide on our noses to stop it from peeling!
Worst: Early on in high school I worked for farmers, and often helped ‘bale hay’— it meant stacking hay on wagons in the field, and the worst part was stacking them in barns! Most days it would be high temperatures, no breeze, and you wore long sleeves so the hay bales didn’t scratch your arms! It was not fun! But as my dad always said…it builds character!
Author, Former 13abc Personality
First: My first summer job was as a waitress for Nickerson Farms Restaurant, Exit 1, US23. I loved earning tips! But it was hard work, and I was not the greatest at it. I learned then that there is no easy money. You’re working hard to serve the customers and manage a lot of things at once. I was sixteen and I remember taking my tips and shopping at Northtowne Mall with them. I also learned I preferred being outside instead of inside during the summer.
Best: The next summer I got my lifeguarding certification and worked at Green Hills Pool and Lincolnshire Pool. I made significantly less money doing that, but there’s not much of a downside to lifeguarding. You’re outside, you get to teach little ones how to swim, it was so much fun. No question, that hardest and first summer job was waitressing, the best summer job was lifeguarding.
Best: I was lucky enough to work for a local graphics company, Hi-Tek, during the summer. Being on location and leading installation was definitely my favorite part of the job— the physical realization of something that was once only a concept was fulfilling. This job taught me that being early was being on time, that there’s always work to be done even in downtime, and ‘measure twice, cut once’ applies to more than just vinyl graphics.
Worst: I’d have to say the worst summer job was working in a deli. Cleaning and sanitizing bone saws, meat grinders, and bloody working areas was less than ideal.
Radio Host, “The Queen Silvy Show” – queensilvycomedy.com
First: My first summer job was bringing laughter to the kids and adults at the community center. I loved talking and bringing smiles & laughter because early on in life I’ve always wanted to be a comedian and radio host….guess what— I’m currently a stand up comedian and award-winning radio host, thanks to the early experience and build of confidence.
Author, “Land of the Lost Socks”
Best: I believe I first fell in love with the ability to inspire children through animation and art when I took my first real summer job at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I helped lead the way in the parades (Parade Audience Control Member) at the main park, Magic Kingdom. Children would cry, laugh and even get star-struck at most of these Disney Characters. I actually tried out to be Princess Tiana from The Princess & The Frog. Unfortunately, that didn’t work in my favor, but I ended up happy because that position was much harder than I expected! I learned so many skills such as patience, being humble, being approachable and accountability. Most importantly, I made friends with people all over the entire world and most of them are still my friends 15 years later! It seriously was the best job I ever had!
Worst: The worst job I ever had was being a Taco Bell cashier. It taught me great customer service skills and how to be efficient and accurate when dealing with money. The crew members and leaders were amazing. But being a cashier was pretty boring for me…but still, nothing beats a good 2am taco after a long night out!