Jobs in the past and present

Some people have such interesting twists and turns on their journey through life, so for the next two columns, I plan to write about other people the Marion County community.

And what better way to get to know our neighbors, friends and people we meet on the street than to ask a few fun questions.

In this column and the next one, I’ve decided to pen a few lines about these good people and find out something about their past employment—more specifically—what was their first and/or most unique job.

Surprisingly, no one chose the job they have today. My first two jobs involved detassling corn and selling tickets at the movie theater. I even remember the first movie playing was “Funny Girl” starring Barbra Streisand.

My first jobs were unique, but detassling corn bordered on insane.

I decided to take the corn job because a friend of mine told me it would be a lot of laughs, would guarantee a suntan, and the fresh air would be invigorating. I lasted one week.

I didn’t laugh very much after getting up every day at 4:15 a.m., being burnt to a crisp in chasing the perfect tan and being so tired when the work was done at 5 p.m., I just went to bed.

Sad story.

But on the other hand, I had a great job working at the theater. The ticket window faced the street, and so I got to wave when friends would drive by honking. That was much more appealing to me!

The first three people who agreed to talk about their first and/or most unique job was Tina Spencer, Marion County clerk.

She said her first “real” job was being a waitress at the Bluestem Café in Burns at the age of 14.

She said that Warren and Florence Swanson owned the restaurant back then.

Tina said she also did yard work with her brother as well as babysitting jobs.

“I suppose the most unusual job I had was being a remote encoder for the U.S. Postal Service,” she said.

For that position, Tina said she would look at images of mail on a computer monitor and type in the address and/or zip code information. It was part of the process of the mail being marked with a bar code and routed correctly.

She said she thought that was a fun job.

I saw a lot of things in common with Tina, such as working at age 14 and doing restaurant work, but she passed me by with the shear numbers of jobs she had.

Tina said she worked at a lot of places at different times in her life, often holding down a full-time along with a part-time job at the same time.

In total, she said worked nine more jobs after her stint at the U.S. Post Office.

Those jobs included Har­dee’s, a fast food restaurant and Spear’s Restaurant & Pie Shop, where she was a waitress and later as general manager of the location on North Woodlawn. It’s also where Tina said she met her husband.

She also worked at REI-Banc—processing sales validation questionnaires and maintaining a real estate data bank for Realtors.

She said that job was part of O’Rourke Title Co. in Wichita. Then she also worked at JC Penney as a sales associate in housewares, at Wal-Mart in the crafts depart­ment, and at Sleep Street Mattress Centers in Wichita as a sales associate and later manager.

Another thing we had in common was the short time we worked at one of our jobs—my detassling corn and Tina’s telemarketing.

“I worked as a telemarketer for one day,” she said. “It was a photography company and never went back.”

Tina said she also worked at Buffalo Gulch Ranch House in Burns and King Fisher Inn at Marion County Lake, both jobs as a waitress.

The reason everybody knows Tina, though, is because of her job as Marion County clerk, but prior to that in 1997, she worked one year as a tax clerk.

She then came back years later as the deputy county clerk, payroll and personnel clerk and later worked as an accounts payable clerk before being elected to county clerk in 2012. She has also dabbled in investment properties, remodeling and redecorating.

As with all our successes, though, sometimes we can get rejections. In my case it was at a 24-hour trucking place that had a restaurant. They wanted me to work the graveyard shift. For Tina, it was at Red Lobster where she didn’t land the job.

Marty Fredrickson, Marion City’s street director and building inspector, also agreed to talk about his jobs.

Marty said his first job was also his most unique one.

“I worked for a gentleman who raised hamsters and mice to sell to pet stores for snake food and as pets,” he said.

”I started by helping his father make shipping crates for the hamsters. We (made the crates by) converting fruit boxes into shipping crates by wrapping them with screen and a hard cardboard carrying handle on the top. We would make 30 crates per week and each crate would ship 30 hamsters. After I learned that, then I was allowed to clean watering bottles and water each hamster’s breeding pen on a daily basis. This prevented disease in the breeding house.”

Marty said he was allowed to feed and water each pen daily, and the owner always took care of the breeding processes and trimming the teeth of the hamsters because they would grow quite long over a period of time.

The owner’s goal was to raise a blue hamster, he said.

“At first I told him that I had never seen a blue hamster and that it was impossible to do,” he said.

“On the last year of him raising hamsters, he did finally raise a blue teddy bear hamster and it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen.”

Marty said he worked for this individual in the early 1980s and his name was Wencel Vlk.

“He was a super nice boss and a friend of the family.

Oh! And one more thing, he said, his mother was an excellent cook, and she would feed us lunch every Saturday.

In my January column, one of our commissioners will talk about having seven jobs in less than a year and a government official will tell about working from the bottom up—as a janitor.

The other two commissioners will also be featured, plus some other people who will be surprises.

Patty Decker writes news and features for the Free Press. You can reach her at

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