August 28, 2016
This is part of the Ready NWI and First Job series — an initiative of the Youth Employment Council of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board. The series reviews the story behind some of Region leaders’ and residents’ first jobs.
Bob Schaefer is president of Community Dynamics and previously was an executive with NIPSCO for 31 years. Schaefer is a member of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board.
What was your first job?
I was a janitor at Queen of All Saints grade school in Michigan City. The pastor hired me to work 15 hours a week cleaning the classrooms. I was a freshman in high school, and I would clean the rooms right after school. I always claim this work as my first “real” job, but prior to accepting this position, I delivered newspapers, sold ice cream on a bike with bells and sold Spudnut Doughnuts door to door.
Tell me more about Spudnut Doughnuts?
Every Saturday, I would go to the local Spudnut store and load 10 half dozen bags of donuts in a large basket on my bike. The year was 1954, and I was nine years old. I had a certain territory and sold them door-to-door. After I sold out the first batch of doughnuts, I went back and got another batch. I sold out every Saturday. The doughnuts cost 30 cents a half and 60 cents a full dozen. I made 5 cents a half and 10 cents a dozen. At the end of the day, I made $1. That was a lot of money in my youth as a dollar could buy 20 Popsicles.
Regarding your job cleaning classrooms, what was the typical work routine?
I cleaned eight classrooms each day. I moved all of the desks to one side of each room, wet mopped the floors and then put the desks back to their original location. I completed the work in three hours. I had to make good use of my time to complete the work in a timely fashion.
What did you earn?
I made $1 an hour. With that money, I was able to save for athletic equipment: baseball glove, bats and baseballs.
What did you like about the job?
I liked the pay, and I liked working by myself. There were really no dislikes about the job. The only concern was that I had to rush home from high school, change clothes and work three hours — and then get home in time for supper.
Did you ever make a mistake on the job?
Yes. On one occasion, I left some windows open in a classroom and forgot to close them when I went home. My boss politely — but with emphasis — reminded me open windows could cause a security problem and could also allow rain to flow into the room. From that day forward, I learned to double and triple check that all windows were closed and the doors locked.
What advice do you have for a young person about to start his or her first job?
I would advise young people to develop good working habits: Dress appropriately, be at work on time, get all of the work done on time and look around for helpful hints for the employer.
What advice do you have for employers who hire youth?
Employers have to make sure they properly explain to youth the specific duties or tasks of the job. Employers were young people, too, and they once had “first jobs." So it is important they remember their early experience and share that with a new hire.
The READY NWI partnership supports the unique aspects of community, school, and student, and embraces a commitment to regional thinking and acting in order to ensure prosperity by meeting the skill and education needs of employers throughout Northwest Indiana.