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You'll never guess what these locals did for a first summer job

KVRR-TV anchor TJ Nelson worked in radio as a teenager. Special to The Forum

Here's what a few locals had to say about their first summer jobs and everything they learned while working them.

Jessie Cohen

Now: Multimedia journalist, KVRR-TV

Then: Lifeguard

"The summer before I was leaving for college I was lifeguarding and in my six years of working for the company each summer, I never had to save anyone. Well, that day it all changed. I was sitting on the lifeguard stand when a little boy decided to swim away from his grandma and push away the noodle keeping him afloat. Immediately, I jumped in but being clumsy me, I didn't think about how to properly jump into the pool. I jumped, landed right on my knee and as I was frantically swimming to the boy, I could see the blood trailing behind me in the pool. That didn't stop me. I got the boy, brought him to the ladder, got him out, but when I tried to stand, I couldn't. That day ended up with an ambulance bringing me to the hospital for my busted knee, but all in all I saved his life. Now I have a weird/cool-looking scar to help tell that story!"

Tom Davies

Now: Retired judge

Then: Grand Forks Herald paperboy

"My first summer job was as a paperboy for the Grand Forks Herald. I had a Sunday route, and it didn't last too long."

He told his parents a female customer greeted him at the door in risque clothing. Davies' mom told his father to accompany Tom to the woman's house.

"Dad drove me to the address I provided. He stopped the car, looked at the house and asked if that was the one. I assured him it was. His response was something like "Dammit, you're not delivering papers to that house again." He hadn't gone to the door but obviously knew who the lady was.

When we got home, Dad went into the kitchen with Mom, and I heard a lot of yelling but no one ever told me what it was about. Years later I was told about this lady from my dad but I can assure you, my mm wasn't within earshot. My dad said he knew the lady's reputation but not personally ... and we all know our parents would never lie."

Melissa Discher

Now: Recreation Program Supervisor, Moorhead Parks

Then: Maid

"My first job was as a maid at the Days Inn. It really taught me how to work hard and be dedicated, even though it wasn't a job I was super excited about. Honestly, I wanted to quit after a week, but I finished out the summer. And I'm really glad I did. I think about that job every time I stay at a hotel. Summer jobs really teach you how to be reliable and develop good

communication skills."

Kerstin Kealy

Now: WDAY-TV anchor

Then: Corn detasseler

"A big group of kids would meet in a park before the sun came up. We'd get in buses and be driven to the corn fields that needed detasseling. They didn't want any "fraternizing" in the fields so they'd put the boys on one end of the field and the girls on the other. You'd each be assigned a row, then go from stalk to stalk, pull out the tassel from the top and throw it on the ground as you walk toward each other.

As you walk through the rows, the corn would scratch or cut your arms. In the morning, you'd see pheasants, snakes, mice and other animals you'd come up upon that I'm pretty sure took years off my life because of my mini heart attacks. And then there were the bugs and grasshoppers that I never got used to.

I think it built character and taught me the power of a good attitude and positive outlook even on the days that weren't the easiest. It taught me the importance of hard work, that any job worth doing is worth doing well, how to work with a variety of people — and finally, sometimes you just have to tough it out. It also showed me that I didn't want to detassel corn for a career so I needed to work hard and go to college."

Jeff Kolpack

Now: Forum sports reporter and columnist

Then: Youth baseball supervisor

"My most memorable summer job in college was as a youth baseball supervisor for the Fargo Park Board. It was particularly dry that summer, with virtually very little to no rainouts for the kids. That was great for them — but the college kid in me was doing the rain dance on occasion, with no success.

My lasting impression, however, was of the dedicated workers like Greg Grooters who interacted so well with the kids. I learned a lot in those couple of months, especially on how to treat people of all ages. At night, I umpired Babe Ruth baseball games in Fargo, a job where I learned the meaning of "a thick skin" — something that would serve me well in the world of sports reporting for many years to come."

Rob Kupec

Now: Meteorologist, KVRR-TV

Then: Coffee salesman

"I had a full-time job in high school, but when I was in college I had a summer job filling in as a route salesman for a coffee company. When the salesman went on vacation I would cover for them, delivering coffee to restaurants, convenience stores and offices. I also had to repair any broken equipment. I got the job because the manager had been a weatherman in the Navy and we hit it off. After college, I went to work for them full time for a brief period and eventually had my own coffee business for five years."

Andrea Larson

Now: KVLY-TV aAnchor

Then: ASCS employee

"My favorite summer job was at the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) in Devils Lake. It was run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

I worked there a couple summers during college. We converted aerial photography into farm and wetland maps, and we confirmed acreage. I worked with a fun team and it taught me how to prioritize and work with a team and under a supervisor.

Larson's advice to young seekers: Some people make the mistake of submitting a job application or resume and waiting to get a call back. I encourage young people looking for a job to be persistent in following up with applications. This shows initiative and that you really want the job. I remember following up with my director at ASCS numerous times before learning I got the job."

TJ Nelson

Now: KVRR-TV anchor

Then: Radio DJ

"From the time I was 15 until 18, I worked at KZZJ AM 1450 radio in Rugby, North Dakota. I was hired to be a disc jockey and would spin the latest country hits, broadcast the weather forecast and ag markets and provide a little humor in the evenings. I worked part-time during the school year, but in the summer it was all radio, all the time. I was even in charge of scheduling my fellow brood of young broadcasters (my best friends who were also in high school), and I helped the station co-owner pick the records to air. (I still regret hearing Clint Black for the first time and saying he'd never amount to anything. Sorry, Clint!) It was the best summer job a kid could ask for in my opinion."

Joel Vettel

Now: Executive director, Fargo Parks

Then: Tar crew

"My first full-time summer job was with the Traill County Highway Department. We worked on the crew that filled cracks in the road with hot tar. It was literally a big tub with 500 degree tar. We'd get so hot.

We'd go home after a long day covered in sweat and sometimes tar. I was making $3.75 an hour and thought I was in the high cotton! I still run into friends I worked with. We wouldn't call it the good old days, but it was an incredible experience and definitely character building."

Kevin Wallevand

Now: WDAY-TV news reporter

Then: Jack of many trades

"My first summer job was mowing lawns and baling hay. But if cows got out, you chased them for free.

At night, I fried burgers at my great-grandma's cafe. I was maybe 10 and survived the dreaded "blood sausage night." As an early teen, I moved up to senior gas pump attendant and chief tire changer at my dad's gas station. It was the best education ever — only $1 a day — but I got room and board.

In high school, I walked sunflower fields near Battle Lake, pulling out volunteer corn while dodging clouds of smelly smoke — later to discover that was not fog but "marijuana clouds" from fellow corn stalk pullers who were on break. After a morning of field work, it was back to the gas station, and then to the golf course at night to wash dishes. My pre-television career was topped off with a meter-reading gig with the Rural Electric Association. I had to drive to area farms, dodging ferocious dogs to read numbers off a meter. This paid for college!"

John Wheeler

Now: WDAY-TV meteorologist

Then: Grave digger

"We dug them by hand, with a spade and shovel. Two guys — one would spade out a layer and rest while the other threw out the loose dirt and leveled the bottom. About eight rounds of this would get us a grave with smooth sides and a smooth, level bottom. For cement work, we would pour foundations for new grave markers and underneath old monuments in the older part of the cemetery. This involved picking up five to 13 ton stones with a winch, building a form, hand-mixing cement, filling the form with rocks and cement, smoothing the cement and doing sod work."

Tracy Briggs

Tracy Briggs is a former TV anchor/radio host currently working as a features writer and video host for Forum Communications.

(701) 451-5632
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