Summer Jobs: FAO Schwarz

We hear the penultimate collection of summer job stories today, as our series winds down. NPR's Melissa Block and Robert Siegel read from listeners' letters about their most memorable summer jobs, and then we hear from listener Ed Film, who talks about the important lesson he learned from two clowns. Ed spent one summer dressed as a life-sized toy soldier for FAO Schwarz.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

We've been hearing stories about your most memorable summer jobs, for the last several weeks. And here are a few more.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Marcia Wagshol of Wellington, Florida, sold tickets at a movie theater back when ushers escorted patrons to their seats, and the women's rights movement was in its infancy.

Marcia writes: As I sat in the cashier's box, time and again, middle-aged husbands would approach me to purchase tickets for themselves and their wives. One adult they would say, smirking, and - ha ha - one child.

Their wives would smile weakly, and I would look at them both in disgust. Deep down in my teenage brain, I knew on some level that it was insulting to women. Worse, the so-called joke was corny and unoriginal, since I heard the same one told multiple times throughout the night.

One day, a man came up to the window. One adult, he began - oh, no, I thought, narrowing my eyes, here we go again and one adulteress.

SIEGEL: As in waiter-waitress, actor-actress - not what you were thinking.

BLOCK: Marcia adds that she wanted to run out and kiss him, and she's never forgotten him: the anonymous, unique man who finally made her laugh in the cashier's box.

SIEGEL: Here's another story. Tom Raff of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, plucked gypsy moths from trees as part of a research project one summer in the 1980s.

The job, he writes, consisted of tramping into the woods of Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod to randomly selected, 100-by-100 foot plots. While cutting down the foliage, we would meticulously categorize where each moth or pupae was found.

BLOCK: Tom lived in communal housing during the week but on the weekend, he'd escape to visit his fiancee on the South Shore of Boston.

SIEGEL: Tom writes: Love was in the air. Not only because we were engaged but because gypsy moths attract each other by releasing hormones in the air, chemicals that are hard to wash off. So wherever I went - parks, restaurants, you name it - I would soon be joined by a cloud of gypsy moths with amour on their minds.

BLOCK: Finally, an important, work-related lesson learned by Ed Film of Boston. He was hired to be a life-size toy soldier one summer at FAO Schwartz in New York City. Here's what Ed learned from two clowns:

Mr. ED FILM: One clown was a middle-aged guy, and he would come up to me and say: The rug-rats are driving me nuts today - kind of like he was W.C. Fields. And then he would like, turn around and wave to the kids: Hi, how are you doing?

People would come up to me afterwards and say: Wow, he has the worst job in the whole store, and that must be an awful thing for him to have to do every day.

And then there was another clown who had a lot of fun, and he would like, take the stuffed animals and arrange them in little semicircle, and he would sit down on the floor and read stories to the stuffed animals, and people would watch him - doing that and take pictures of him doing that. And he had just a great time, and he was lots of fun, and people said: Wow, he has the best job in the whole store. That's great.

I learned from that, that attitude counts for a lot in life. If you're happy in your job, it'll show through. If you're not happy in your job, people will think you're a miserable person. And it's more fun to hang out with the happy people.

BLOCK: That's from Ed Film in Boston. Robert, we're happy people today.

SIEGEL: Absolutely.

BLOCK: Having a great time with our jobs.

SIEGEL: Absolutely, and we will have our last summer job story Monday, and we'll also find out the full range of skills learned at summer by the ALL THINGS CONSIDERED staff.

BLOCK: One of us peddled romance novels.

SIEGEL: Another wore 18th-century knee britches.

BLOCK: And yet another made hundreds sick to their stomachs with the mere touch of her dainty finger.

SIEGEL: Those stories Monday, as we wrap up our summer job series.

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