The Ball Collector, Lobsterman, Spy, and Bucket Boy
Down in Charleston helping out with family and thought I’d send along short, punchy profiles of some very interesting jobs and then the origin story of the author who made me love spy stories. I only wonder what the great Anton Chekhov could have done in turning these lives into works of art!
Meet a 1930s Golf Ball Collector. "Like Mad Max on a fuel run, he heads out in his rickety, jerry-rigged cage, fully aware of the grim fate that awaits him. In an instant, he is spotted by club-wielding barbarians with bucket-loads of ammo and brainless ambitions. On the course, these heathens rarely hit a green in regulation. But on the range they unleash screamers with frightening precision, whooping in celebration as they rattle the mesh cage around our hero, who, regardless of what he’s earning, should really be getting paid a whole lot more."
Source: John Sens, Worst Jobs in Golf
Meet Lobsterman Walter Joyce, showing off the biggest lobster he caught that day near Swan's Island, in 1930. "Making a living by lobstering is a backbreaking way of life, rife with deep-seated tradition, solidarity amongst its tight-knit community of fishermen, and an intimate knowledge of the ocean. The basics of lobstering haven't changed much since the first trap was laid. Fishermen harvest the day's catch by hand from their traps, one by one, in the same manner as their fathers and grandfathers before them. You have to be an early riser in order to make it in the lobstering industry, as the sea never sleeps in. Many lobstermen are already out on the water by 4 am, able to watch the sun come up over the waves of the Atlantic. By 6 am, a Maine lobsterman is checking his traps, dodging other fishermen's buoys and searching the horizon for his own unique buoy colors, the sight of which signify that his traps are near.
The buoy in Maine lobster culture is the nautical equivalent of a Medieval knight's coat of arms: Each lobsterman paints his own design in his own color scheme on his buoys, effectively marking his trap territory."
Source: The Maine Thing Quarterly, Issue #1
Meet the Kesseljunges. There was a time when beer could not be found outside a tavern or bar. Industry-scale bottling simply did not exist. In place of this, bucket boys (or ‘kesseljunges”) would bring beer to homes or work sites contained in “growlers” that were often made of glass, tin, or pottery. They typically did not have lids, so the fresh beer was pulled from the local saloon and then carried quickly around town by the bucket boys. Thirsty patrons were left with whatever beer had not sloshed out of the growlers in transit. These libations were destined for some Milwaukee ironworkers.
Meet John Le Carre, famed author and former spy for MI5 & MI6. In his own words, his origin story: “Look. It begins - first of all, every child believes that the parents he's given are the world. I was left with one parent at the age of 5. My mother disappeared. And after that, it was living in the wake of this maverick fellow [his father, a known con artist] who often was enchanting. For a long time, that was my world.
Then as I began to realize the problems it had, I was also very much concerned to survive. It's about survival. You become watchful. You know, I spent a lot of time, if he'd left the house, going through his pockets and things, trying to find out what was going on. We were displaced repeatedly by angry debtors. For quite long periods, he was on the run. He was on the run in the United States even, wanted by the forces of the law. And he filled my head with a great lot of truthless material, which I found it necessary to check out as a child with time.
So yes, I mean in that sense, these were the early makings of a spy. But that was about how children survive. And then his great passion, which he achieved, was to turn me into a seeming gentleman. We were all - we were working class. All my family spoke with decent regional accents, went to church very regularly and were simple people living on the south coast of England. And he broke away from that completely.
And so from the age of 5 to the age of 16, I was in private schools, in boarding schools and in holiday times, mainly at other holiday homes and things like that. And out of that, I - that period, I suppose I learned the language. I learned the gestures. I learned the mindset of the upper-middle classes. And somehow, more or less, my father paid for that so-called education.
But that really is how backgrounds are made. You know, we grow up as we are born. We fight the wars we inherit. And then at a certain time in our lives, we begin to question things we were, who we were and the things we did. That seems a natural process. Mine - it was acute because I got - I gave myself, my services to my country from quite early and then thought about it afterward.”
Source: Interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, shortly before his death in 2020.
Coming up next is a look at the Multi-Hyphen Worklife that will be the future for many of us.
We’ll talk again in a week. As always. Same time, same band, same place.
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