I remember the day my brother Mike asked me if I wanted to work with him at Jellystone Campground, on Table Rock Lake near Branson. I was 14 years old, getting ready to enter my freshman year the upcoming year. My only "job" before that was whatever Dad and Mom told me to do around our farm: pull weeds, pick up rocks in the garden, pick strawberries, chase cattle, mow the yard, etc.
The drive to Jellystone took about 25 minutes from our house. I rode shotgun, windows down, with Mike in his blue Dodge Charger with its 427 engine. My first day I remember being extremely nervous. Mike's classmates Bob Proctor and George Gillespie worked with him as well, and they all took me under their wings, hazing included.
My first job at Jellystone was running their Teen Hut. It was an open-air video game room with a concession stand. I ran the concession stand and assisted folks when they had problems with the video games, which was often. We had a pool table and I had to make sure folks didn't sit or lay on the table. As a scrawny fourteen-year-old, it was nerve-wracking telling a long-haired, smoking seventeen-year-old to get off the table. I'm sure my voice cracked more than once as I tried to appear tough.
I got to help my brother and friends pick up trash around the campgrounds. One drove the truck and two of us would sit in the back and jump out to grab trash bags.
I remember the first time I drove one of the golf carts. I had never driven ANYTHING, even a go-kart, at that point. I remember thinking the only way to drive was with the gas all the way down. My brother yelled at me as he saw me peeling around a corner, gravel flying. I may have been on two wheels, but was completely oblivious.
My brother dressed as Yogi Bear to visit kids around the campground, and a couple of times I got to go with him as Boo Boo. On one trip we saw regulars at the campground Mike knew well. I said Hi in my best Boo Boo voice. Mike as Yogi said to the parents, "Isn't that the squirreliest sounding Boo Boo you ever heard?" I quickly replied as Boo Boo, "Shut up, Yogi!"
I also remember it was about 150 degrees inside those costumes in the summer.
They opened up bumper boats on the lake. I got to run them. There were days where I had a lot of business and excitement, like the day a teenage girl took off in one of the boats and headed for the other side of the lake. I had to radio for a staff member to jump in a boat and retrieve her.
When things were slow, as they often were, I taught myself to swim. I grew up near Bear Creek as a kid, and the water was rarely over knee high, so learning to swim there was difficult. As a family we rarely ventured further than Bear Creek, except to go to baseball, basketball and football games, and softball tournaments at Mang Field.
I got to meet a lot of pretty girls at the Teen Hut, the lake and the pool. Nice benefit.
I remember always waking up looking forward to going to work, even the boring days. It beat the heck out of pulling weeds, and the pay was better! The job taught me responsibility, how to save money (which I wasn't good at in the beginning) and working with a team. It saddens me to see businesses all over Branson and across the country desperate for help, as more and more young people and adults alike choose to not work.
One of my favorite verses is Colossians 3:23, which says, "Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as for the Lord rather than for men." Work over the years has been an opportunity day in and day out to honor God with my effort. It pleases Him to see us work hard and work with a good attitude. I've failed in the attitude department often, and at times, effort. I apologize now to my bosses at McDonalds for taking naps on the roof!!
What was your first job? What were your memories? What did you learn from your experience?
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