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JOBS: Behind the Summer Toil Lies an Opportunity

August 20, 1987|BILL MANSON

SAN DIEGO — Jack Clune has had the last laugh, that's for sure. He's on the boats out in San Diego Bay all day, and earning $4 an hour to boot.

"And it was such a close call," he says. "Half of us from USD (University of San Diego) High School decided to go to Sea World, the other half decided to come here to work as deck hands on the ferries and tourist boats, because one of our fathers worked for the company.

"The Sea World guys thought they'd be riding Shamu every second day, getting to know the dolphins, dancing with "City Lights" . . . Know where they are? They're in a warehouse where you never see the light of day! They could be in Chicago for all they can tell. Whereas we, we're out here sailing in the sun. Nice people. Tips on the restaurant boats. Boy, did we get a good laugh. As a summer job, who could ask for anything more?" Clune said.

A casual look at youths at summer jobs--those who found their own as well as those who found positions through public and private employment programs--shows they have infiltrated the workplace at just about every echelon.

In fact, you could be forgiven for believing the whole of San Diego is run by students this summer. In restaurants, parks, hospitals, even the mayor's office, you come across these faces that are too bright to be lifers in the job, too eager to please to have been dealing with the maddening habits of humanity for anything more than a month or two.

For a tourist-loaded, building-boom border town like San Diego, the summer swell reaches beyond the beach and the barometer. Places such as the zoo, the Wild Animal Park, ice cream factories and Seaport Village all have to expand for the crowds--the summer segment of the staggering 30 million people who visit San Diego each year--and they depend on good, cheap, young labor.

It's almost impossible to ascertain how many summer jobs there are out there. But 1986 figures show that nearly 45,000 11th and 12th graders in San Diego County worked this summer, and that doesn't count other young people who have left school and those at junior colleges.

San Diego has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country--right now it's just over 4%--although, as always, it's an entirely different story for teen-agers. In California, youth unemployment ran at 17.6% in July.

Star and Crescent Boat Co. officials say that people love to have students playing sailors. Even professional crew members seem to like them around, despite having to teach them everything from wrapping hawsers around bollards to issuing pails to queasy customers. "It's just a lot of fun having them on board," said Coronado ferry skipper Will Wilson. "It's nice to have fresh faces."

One of Clune's early bits of fun was at his own expense. Not long after he began--he knew nothing about boats at that point--he was sent to the paddle wheel of the Monterey to belay a hawser. He slipped and went overboard, providing that afternoon's tourists something to write about on their post cards.

But apart from that, it has been the greatest summer for him and his school buddies. They're going to try to reserve the same jobs for their college years.

Across the waters in posh Coronado Cays, underneath a 100-gallon gas water heater, 16-year-old Bill Carey is unscrewing a broken pilot feeder tube.

"OK, Bill? See it?" asks his boss, Glenn Shirer. Shirer was in the Navy for 22 years. When he says "just so," things are just so.

"This is a high-recovery burner; 400,000 BTUs, so we can't get it wrong. It's probably three-eighths or seven-sixteenths. OK? See if you can get that assembly out of there. And that's just the start. Today I'm going to show you how to build a new one of these, on the spot."

Shirer had been fixing the plumbing in the home of young Carey's parents one day at the beginning of summer. As he worked, Shirer asked Carey what his plans were for the summer. Carey said he had been thinking vaguely of getting a job cooking somewhere, as he had done back in native Ocean City, N.J., at Vito's Pizzeria on the Boardwalk.

"How about working for me?" Shirer asked. "I could teach you a lot, if you're prepared for real hard work."

Next morning Carey was at it, learning how to bend tubes, clear drains, install Roman tubs, fit friction rings, analyze garbage disposal breakdowns and pacify maids frightened from flooded floors.

"I had wanted to be a pilot, but I might do this instead. There's so much to learn, and it can be a good business," Carey says.

And the worst job?

"The toughest?" He looks like it's a silly question. "Clogged-up toilets."

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