What was your first job?
Washing dishes for Hoffer’s Bakery, which was a German bakery in Sandy Springs, Georgia.
How did you get your first job?
Mr. Hoffer hired me after my big brother left to start high school football practice that summer.
How long did you work there?
Just for that one summer.
How much you were paid?
I don’t really remember, but at the time minimum wage was $3.10 per hour. So, that would be my best guess.
Tell us a bit about the job.
I ran the industrial dishwasher and washed and dried dishes and baking utensils by hand. I worked three days a week. The longest days were Saturdays when a lot of the baking was done for the week. There were a couple of large mixing bowls that I had trouble lifting. So, I would wait until the bakers went home before I would attempt to load them into the dishwasher. I didn’t want my coworkers to see me struggle and think that I couldn’t do my job. I got stronger that summer.
What did you love about the job?
I was a skinny kid and the German ladies in the kitchen would sneak me doughnuts and strudel to try and thicken me up. Mr. Hoffer would not have been very happy about that. So, I’d have to say that I loved working alongside the other people the best. The different ages and accents, the banter, and all of us finding our spot and working together to accomplish something was a great way for a shy kid to start his first “real job.” Those people were very good to me.
What did you hate about the job?
I wasn’t old enough to drive, so I had to get up early on Saturday mornings to walk to work. But, when I got to the bakery, the aroma was indescribably amazing. I think that may be what heaven smells like.
What do you do now?
I’m the commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development for the state of Tennessee.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
I think I would say just to show up and stay with it. People are almost always willing to help someone who truly tries.