Badger Insider readers share stories on how they earned a living in Madison during the summer
Rick Miller ’73
Sugar Land, TX
I was fortunate to have an opportunity to utilize skills learned while working on my computer science degree beginning the summer after my sophomore year in 1971. My experience writing Algol on the Burroughs B5500 was perfect for a summer position with Burroughs in Detroit. (To be fair, my brother’s employment at Burroughs also was a factor. He had a vested interest since he had been subsidizing my room and board.)
Burroughs placed me in the Computer Science department where I was assigned the task of rewriting the time-sharing billing program. Individual departments within Burroughs were billed monthly for their usage of timesharing. My program read the system logs from the B5500 and produced the departmental bills. At the end of the summer, all of the interns were asked to make a short presentation to the executives. Several executives in the room were curious about the time-sharing billing process since they had to pay bills whose accuracy they sometimes questioned. My boss stared questioningly from the back of the room as I explained that the billing process employed the ‘MBC Algorithm’. Only one person sought clarification of the ‘MBC Algorithm’. With my boss cringing, I calmly explained that MBC stood for ‘Maximum Believable Charge’, the highest amount that departments would likely pay without questioning the bill. Lesson learned year one: Some people need to get a sense of humor. Nonetheless, I was hired back after my junior year, albeit in a different department.
I was a good programmer and I was now off the brotherly dole due to my previous year’s summer employment. On my first day, my new manager wanted to test my programming skills so he gave me a thick program listing and asked me to study it and tell him what it did. He came back around lunch time to find me reading a book. He asked me if I had figured out what the program did. I said ‘Yes, it’s a poorly written parts explosion.’ I had written out about 25 lines of Algol code that would replace most of the program. Algol, being a recursive language on the B5500 (which was a stack machine) was ideal for ‘exploding’ a product, like a printer, into all of its parts. The writer of the program I reviewed had not utilized recursion, dutifully coding every level in the parts explosion. My new boss was skeptical and asked me to rewrite the program by the following Thursday to prove the new code would work. On Thursday, my boss was so impressed that he asked me to draft a memo making the streamlined program the new standard for parts explosions. Lesson learned year two: Find out who wrote the code before recommending replacing it with more efficient code that you wrote. Turns out that my bosses’ boss was very proud of the code he wrote several years earlier which was known as one of the most complex programs in the manufacturing systems area. In a one-on-one meeting he explained to me why my code could not possibly replace his code. (Boss: 1, Intern: 0) I returned to Burroughs twice more, once during semester break and after my senior year before heading off to graduate school. Final lesson learned: Experience is invaluable!
Ty Trbovich ’71
La Quinta, CA
My first attempt to graduate college was September 1955 to October 1959. Immaturity was the main reason for my poor grades. That said, during this time period, I had summer jobs in my home town of Lorain, Ohio, in U.S. Steel; Ford Motor Company; cutting grass for the county; and one summer in Madison working in the old Brathaus on State Street. My jobs in the steel mill (tearing/jack-hammering brick out of open hearth furnaces) and at Ford (unloading box cars of hood and door assembly parts) were hard, manual labor and taught me that this was not the life I wanted to make for myself. I joined the U.S. Army in October 1959, and in the summer of 1969, the army offered me the opportunity to finish my degree. The UW was kind enough to allow me to return, and I took advantage of this opportunity to complete my economics degree in ’91.
William Tishler ’60
I had a fantastic summer job working at Peninsula State Park where I stayed in a small mobile home at the park’s Nicolet Bay beach. My job was to collect camping fees. Each morning when I did this, the friendly campers would say “Bill, have a cup of coffee. Well you might as well have breakfast with us too.” Rarely did I have to do my own cooking. Even better were the summer resort waitresses who went swimming there. I got to know some and they did my laundry. Wow, this was truly like living in paradise.
Anthony Heddlesten ’07
While I have fond memories of my summer at Strand Associates in Madison and beautiful summers on the terrace, nothing tops the summer at Chippewa County, working across the street from Leinenkugels and helping to improve the watershed that supplied the water for said brewery. Surrounded by fellow Badgers, easily connected to fresh cheese curds every Monday at Sokup's Market, in the heart of Old Abe country, bouncing from farm to farm helping reduce runoff, I spent my summer verifying that environmental engineering was indeed the right path for me. As a bonus, I found a spare room on Lake Wissota for $200 in the home of a WWII medic who would regale me with tales of his days in the Army until his wife told him it was time to call it a night. The crowning achievement of my summer was the bid opening for Ray's Beach Park, which I had a small part in designing. It's now a top-notch destination for summer revelers. Best summer internship ever!
Dean Kaul ’66
Park City, UT
In 1964 I served as "utility man" on a mobile pea viner in the fields of central Wisconsin. This entailed following the viner as if it were an elephant in a parade and spreading the piles of vines that would accumulate when the viner would stop. At the end of the day, no matter how hot, I would don a heavy slicker and steam clean the viner from the inside! Yuck!
Alan Hopefl ’69
After my first year in the School of Pharmacy (1967), I got a summer job with the Milwaukee County Health Department testing the Lake Michigan water at Milwaukee's four public beaches. There were seven of us, mostly college students, who had had a course in microbiology. We went out twice a day and obtained water samples, took them back to the lab, cultured them and recorded the results. During the week, we had a driver to get to the beaches, but on weekends we were the only people on duty. We had to drive a County van ourselves, but best of all we could wear our swim suits to collect the samples. Collections took a lot longer each Saturday and Sunday.
Arthur Lorenz ’61, MS’67
Palos Verdes Estates, CA
My summer job was making brine for the canning of peas, carrots and beets at Stokley-Van Camp in Plymouth, Wisconsin. It was hard work lifting 100-pound bags of salt and sugar all day (one day I lifted 11 tons of these bags) and all for $1.65 an hour. I made enough to pay for half of my education at the UW, but it only cost $6,000-$8,000 at that time for all four years of undergraduate studies.
Jim Bie ’50
Palm Desert, CA
Back in the 1940s, my first stop at the start of summer vacation was the employment office in Racine. Majoring in journalism and public relations, however, at the end of my junior year I decided some practical career experience would be more valuable. I began commuting to Milwaukee every morning. I spent a week knocking on the door of every public relations business I could find. Several asked me to come back again after graduation, but no one was interested in a three-month summer employee. On Friday afternoon, weary and discouraged while waiting for the bus back to Racine, I stopped in a drug store for a Pepsi. I saw a girl (Shirley Ballum?) that I recognized from the University. She and her mother were taking a break from shopping. When I told them my sad story Shirley said to her mother, “I’ll bet daddy would have a job for Jim.” A quick phone call and a short discussion with “daddy” resulted in an immediate summer job with the Jewel Tea Company. It wasn’t public relations. It was door-to-door sales throughout the Milwaukee area convincing housewives to become regular customers for weekly delivery of foods and household merchandise. It turned out to be very valuable sales experience – and quite profitable. Instead of 75 cents an hour at the Massey-Harris factory in Racine (.75 x 8 hours x 6 days = $36 a week) I was making $5 per sale x at least five a day x 5 days = $150 a week. The Jewel Tea Company kept in touch with me during my senior year. After graduation in June of 1945, they offered me full-time employment — and I was soon on my way to their headquarters operation in Minneapolis. But that’s the beginning of an entirely different story.
Craig Laronge ’70
This past fall I made the 3,000-mile trek from the West coast to attend my 50th high school reunion. Following on the great success it was I have rented a cabin in northern Wisconsin in July for yet another 50th reunion. In the spring of 1967, I was passing through the Memorial Union and secured a summer job as a tennis counsellor at Red Arrow Camp, Woodruff, Wisconsin. Without a doubt that was my very best summer. Fifty years later I so look forward to a return visit.
Robert Espeseth, Sr. ’52, MS’56
In the summer of 1949, I had worked the harvest fields out west, so in 1950, I decided I would head east. I went over to the student employment office to see what might be available. I found an ad for a basketball counselor at Camp Indian Acres, Freyburg, Maine. I applied and was accepted. I rowed on the crew my four years at Wisconsin so had to participate in the IRA National Championships at Marietta, Ohio, in mid-June. (We finished third). A rowing alumnus from New York, Paul O’Eckhardt, gave me a ride as far as Philadelphia where I was going to visit a high school friend. From there I hitch-hiked up to Maine in time for the start of camp. The Krasker family not only ran a boys camp, they also ran a girls camp, Foorest Acres, about 2 miles down the road. As often happens, the counselors of the respective camps got together on evenings and days off. I became aquainted with the girls basketball counselor, Mary Ann Krepps, from Mt. Union, Pennsylvania, and Penn State University. She was a six-footer and I was six-foot-four. A lovely romance evolved. We spent some great times together that summer. Her folks picked us up at the end of camp so they could look me over. So, I went home with them to Pennsylvania for a few days before hitch-hiking back to Wisconsin. We carried on a long-distance romance for several years with trips back and forth. After I was commissioned an ensign in the navy, through NROTC, we were married in December, 1952, on Christmas leave. This December we will celebrate our 65th wedding anniversary which isn't bad for having been initiated as a "summertime romance."