Memorial Day Musings: The Best and Worst Jobs Edition

by Ken Mueller on May 28, 2012 · 30 comments

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I have decided to do something a little bit different today. A lot of other folks will be featuring special Memorial Day posts on their blogs or Facebook. That’s great, but why do what everyone else is doing?

So, since it’s a holiday here in the U.S. and most of us have the day off, I thought we’d have a little fun and talk about some of the jobs we’ve had. What I want you to do is comment below and tell me about some of your jobs. For instance, what was your first job? Or your worst job? Maybe you want to tell us about the best job you ever had, or the oddest job?

In my life I’ve had a lot of jobs. If I remember correctly, I’ve been a dishwasher, house cleaner, lawn mower, gardener, linguist’s assistant, exterminator, radio DJ, news and sports reporter/announcer, college instructor, museum curator, marketer, consultant, blogger, radio producer, writer/music journalist, chocolate shepherd, and…there are probably a few I’m missing. I’ll remember them after I publish this post. And, those are just the paid jobs.

For me, probably the most unique job I have had is the thirteen years I spent as the Radio Curator at the Museum of Television & Radio in NYC and Beverly Hills (now the Paley Center for Media). It was a one of a kind job, and when people asked me what I did, I had a hard time articulating it. So I came up with a rather short answer:

I get paid to listen to the radio.

That wasn’t exactly the whole truth, but it got to the essence of it. And while in many ways, on a day to day basis, it wasn’t my best job, it was truly very interesting. I was able to use my love of radio and my academic background to study both the history of radio as well as the nature and sociology of contemporary radio programming. I got to learn a lot of amazing things, and meet some pretty cool people, including a lot of celebrities. And boy I have some great stories and funny stories. If you ever meet me in person, ask me about Gilbert Gottfried, Kevin Bacon, Larry King, or Tommy Lee. And then there was the time I happened to answer the phone only to get chewed out by Milton Berle…even though he had no idea who I was. He just needed someone to yell at. Not a pleasant man.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring people I got to meet during that time was my friend Norman Corwin, who died last October at the age of 101. I also got to meet Bob Elliot of Bob & Ray fame. Plus, I got to work with some great programs and producers, from Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, to Garrison Keillor and Michael Feldman. Then there was Tom Bodett, Lost & Found Sound, Radio Diaries, and Sound Portraits. Oh, and I got to hang out and eat pizza with Jimmy Kimmel, Adam Carolla, and Carson Daly, back in their days of local radio, before they hit the big time.

I don’t say all this to drop names, just to relate a bit of why it was such an interesting job. Another aspect was the joy of unearthing lost programs, and finding recordings that help define who we are: from FDR’s private office recordings to salvaging a mountain of glass-based transcription discs from the side of the road of a Yiddish program that turned  out to be an on-air rabbinical court from the 1940s, and became a part of the Yiddish Radio Project.

That job sure had it’s frustrations, but as I look back, there were some amazing moments. And some great stories.

Now it’s your turn. Take some time to tell us about one or more of your jobs. Anything you’d like: best job, most interesting job, worst job, oddest job, funniest job, first job.

Your choice. All I care about is having some fun and sharing some great stories.

 Memorial Day Musings: The Best and Worst Jobs Edition
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