On Facebook in the last few months, various friends have listed jobs they had chronologically. I’ve gotten quite a lot of enjoyment from reading them, but in many cases I wanted to know more:
(1) how old were you when you had it?
(2) what did you do in that job?
(3) what did you learn from that job?

So I’ve decided to do a series of posts, starting with my earliest work (at about age 8).

WARNING If you find this uninteresting, do yourself a favor: don’t read on.

Hunting for golf balls.

At the summer cottage that I started going to every summer from the time I was 7 months old, there was a 9-hole golf course nearby run by the Minaki Lodge. My late brother, Paul, who was 11 at the time, introduced me to the idea of hunting for golf balls in the rough, cleaning them up, and then approaching golfers to sell them. A brand-new looking brand-name golf ball, Titleist or Wilson, would go for as much as 50 cents. I was 8 at the time and in 1959, 50 cents was a lot of money.

I learned a lot.

(i) Exchange rates.
A lot of the golfers were American and carried U.S. dollar bills. Depending on the year, the Canadian dollar was worth somewhere between 97 and 103 U.S. cents. In years when the Canadian dollar was worth 3 cents more, if the golfers asked me if I would accept U.S. money, I answered that I would accept them plus 3 cents on the dollar. In years when the Canadian dollar was worth 97 cents, if the golfers asked me if I would accept U.S. money, I replied, “Yes.”

(ii) Adults can lie.
Sometimes I would be looking around in the rough for golf balls and I would see a golfer looking for his ball that he had just hit. Every once in a while I would find one and I would feel honor-bound (I should say honour-bound, eh?) to ask if it was his. One time I did and I was pretty sure it wasn’t, given the distance between where he was looking and where I was looking. I naively asked if it was a Titleist. He answered yes. So I handed it to him. I wondered later, though, whether he was lying. (I still don’t know if he did; thus the term “can lie,” not “do lie.”) But I never made that mistake again. One time I held up the ball and asked a golfer if it was his. “What kind is it?” he asked. “Did you lose a Wilson?” “Yes,” he answered. “Ok,” I said, “this isn’t yours. It’s a Titleist.”

(iii) The relationship between risk and return.
My other alternative on the golf course, which I took up at age 9 or so, was to caddy 9 holes for $1.00. That typically took about 1.5 hours. I calculated that on average I made more than $1.00 for 1.5 hours of hunting for and selling golf balls. Moreover, caddying was harder: those bags I carried were heavy. Also, I couldn’t quit when I wanted; and I could quit whenever I wanted when I was hunting golf balls.