Summer Jobs: Theme Parks What's a good summer jobs roundup without stories about working at a theme park? Today, as part of our series on memorable summer jobs, Robert Siegel and Michele Norris present listener stories about the reality behind the fantasy. Listener Rabbi Anthony Fratello recounts his days as "The Skipper" on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, and Elisabeth Divis of Ann Arbor, Mich., remembers her time appraising pearls at Sea World in Ohio.
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Summer Jobs: Theme Parks

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Summer Jobs: Theme Parks

Summer Jobs: Theme Parks

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This summer, we've been hearing from you about your most memorable summer jobs.


And today our subject is the theme park job or the reality behind the fantasy.

SIEGEL: Rabbi Anthony Fratello of Lake Worth, Florida, was once the skipper on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. My job, he writes, I wore the hat, told the jokes, shot the hippo.

And while Fratello had some fun moments as The Skipper, he also had times that he says could try the soul. He writes: The intimacy and low humor of the jokes told on the Jungle Cruise gave open opportunity to hecklers. Thirty minutes into an eight-hour shift, which might feature 20-plus trips through the same unchanging tableau, coupled with guests' fuses growing ever shorter on a hot, crowded August day - well, the mantra developed by generations of skippers: Eight and a half minutes and they're out of your life forever, was sometimes your only link to sanity.

NORRIS: Still, the Jungle Cruise spiel, corny as it was, has come in handy, Fratello says. He used it in talent shows, entertained his congregants with it, and on one occasion, even used it to avoid arrest at a Las Vegas casino.

SIEGEL: Here's another theme park story.

Ms. ELISABETH DIVIS: My name is Elisabeth Divis. I'm from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and 13 years ago, my very first job was shucking oysters at SeaWorld of Ohio.

NORRIS: Well, it was a little more complicated than that. Elisabeth worked at the theme park's pearl-diving show in a pagoda with soothing bamboo flute music.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: As a narrator explained the storied Japanese tradition, young women in white kimonos stepped out to the side of a deep pool, but in just one of the illusions of the Asian pagoda, they weren't real Japanese pearl divers: They were girls from the local high school dive team.

Ms. DIVIS: They would dive for the oysters that would then be brought up to the surface, given to a paying customer, who had paid for a ceramic mug, dropped into that mug, and then the customer would bring that mug with the oyster inside over to me at the shucking bar. And I would then pluck out the oyster, open it up with a knife and then just really plum around, dig around in that oyster for the pearl.

I'd be really excited to find this pearl. If I wasn't excited, I'd feign the excitement. Then I'd wash it over, measure the diameter, and then I would tell them, I would appraise the pearl for them.

Mind you, I'm 15 years old, and the only instructions I really got from my supervisor was just to name two things: the color, the size. Then it was really my choice of how much price value to assign the pearl.

So I would say: This rare black pearl measures eight millimeters in diameter. This would fetch you about $30 on the market, but here at SeaWorld, you only paid for the price of the mug.

And, you know, of course, how could you not be excited by that? Look at that deal you just got, this treasure? These were seed pearls. They weren't, like, 100 percent pure, natural, rare pearls, of course not. Like, a seven-millimeter plastic ball with the thickness of, like, a fingernail coating of pearl on top. So kind of a sham, the whole appraisal.

I am kind of embarrassed to have been a teenage huckster in my very first job, but I'm really glad that I did. I think it's given me a lot of confidence. It really helped me to deliver what I have to say with assurance, and I can really see that now as a teacher.

No one wants a teacher who's just going to stand up and lecture about metaphor or simile or personification but, you know, if you can kind of make it more fun and deliver it in such a way that makes it interesting, then you're golden.

SIEGEL: Elisabeth Divis of Ann Arbor, talking about her summer job at SeaWorld of Ohio, which evidently, Michele, went the way of the sea in Ohio. It's now defunct.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: We'll hear more stories of the summer jobs that influenced you next week, we promise.

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