Not the first of my college jobs, but certainly my favorite, and most likely one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
The summer of 1997 was a rough one for me, for a lot of reasons. That’s a story for another time, but it’s worth mentioning now, because if it hadn’t been, I’m not sure I would have spent the next two working at what could very easily be the most famous national monument in the United States: Mount Rushmore.
Granted, the base pay wasn’t anything spectacular. Just above whatever minimum wage was at the time. And because I was in company housing at the time, they took room and board out of the check.
The good news is that if you worked there for a set amount of time, nine or ten weeks, I think it was, they gave the rent portion back. Even if that were not the case, though, it would have been worth it because they paid for activities and had a subsidized laundry room on site.
The activities included a twice-monthly get-together, usually on paydays; a hiking series; and field trips, just to name a few.
I did go on one of the hikes the first summer I was there. I never did another one of those because I didn’t have the physical fitness to keep up with the group even then. Nice country out there, though.
I went on more of the field trips, though I can’t remember exactly when some of them were. I know one was to Reptile Gardens, because it’s one of my favorite attractions out there. I’ve been there several times, and can remember things from many of those trips. In this case, I think it was because my coworker and buddy Ben and his roomie were going and wanted to go with someone who had been there before. This would have been the second summer.
I want to say one of them was to Bear Country, but I’m not sure I was ever there with the crew from the monument. Some of my mom’s cousins at least used to run the place, so I was there a few times as a kid, too.
I know the group never went to the Cosmos because I remember going there on one of my days off. I went on my own because I had my car my second year there and they gave us a discount card to use at places like that. It’s a cool place to go see.
And now that I think about it, a lot of the coolest stuff that I remember happening was the informal stuff. For example, there was the time Ben, his roomie, a guy I want to call Steve for some reason, and a couple of their ladyfriends went to the Sturgis motorcycle rally one night. We had a shitload of fun that night, in part because we split up. And that led to the one thing I remember the most about that night. Steve and I were the last ones back to the car because we got lost in Sturgis at night during Rally Week. I think the combination of youth and having a friend with me made it seem less scary than one might think. It might also have contributed to us getting lost. I’m not placing blame, though. I think we might both have been responsible for that.
Or the time my buddy Ben and I went to see the first Star Wars prequel with this guy named Eric and some of the foreign exchange workers that were there that summer. What made it especially cool is that I don’t think we’d expected to run into each other there that night, and that we all went to Perkins after the show.
But the biggest memory for me was the people. There are, of course, the ones I’ve already talked about. I spent a lot of time with Ben, Eric and Steve the second summer I was there. Part of the reason for that was by then I was beginning to open up and be less shy around people. That’s something I’m still working on, of course, but that was the summer things started getting better.
The people I remember just from being at work were a big help in that, too. There was this guy named Ed who was a supervisor there both summers I worked there. He was a really cool guy who had plenty of interesting stories to tell. I liked working with him.
There were also a few husband-and-wife couples, too, though I only really got to know much about two of them. The ones I remember the most were the Rooneys. The husband was the head driver for the company shuttle between the dorm a lot of us lived in and the monument. The wife worked in the office. I remember them a little more because they worked there both summers.
And then there was Mark and Suzanne. They were only there one of the summers I was, if I recall, but I remember their names because Mark was the second-in-command of the department I was working in, and Suzanne was in the gift shop. They were both cool, too. I had tried to stay in contact with them, but it didn’t quite work out that way.
As for what I did while I was there, I was pretty much a janitor. Officially, the job title was “custodial”, but I was pretty much a janitor. Basically, we were in charge of keeping the gift shop and the dining room clean, as well as the deck outside of those areas. In a lot of ways, not the most interesting job ever, but one in which I saw and learned a lot. Probably the most memorable for me were the handful of weeks each summer I was there that I worked straight through with no days off.
In its own ways, memorable, for a summer job. When we get right down to it, I suppose we could call this the “good times” job I had while I was in college. There was a lot I learned, unintentionally and otherwise, in my time there. I may eventually even talk about a few of them.
Since this was the “good times” job, the best place to go next would be the “worst times” job I had in college, in the summer of 1997. With any luck, I'll be able to get that chapter out in less time than it took me to do this one.