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Getty Images (Reagan)/Thinkstock (Life saver)/Erin McCarthy
Getty Images (Reagan)/Thinkstock (Life saver)/Erin McCarthy

The Summer Jobs of 14 Future U.S. Presidents

Getty Images (Reagan)/Thinkstock (Life saver)/Erin McCarthy
Getty Images (Reagan)/Thinkstock (Life saver)/Erin McCarthy

Before landing our nation's top job, some presidents held less-than-glamorous gigs.

1. Barack Obama: Ice Cream Scooper and Sandwich Maker

In the mid 1970s, a teenage Obama served ice cream at a Honolulu Baskin-Robbins. It was his first job, and it made him lose his taste for the summer treat. Other years, Obama sold souvenirs in a gift shop and prepared sandwiches at a deli. Now that’s service we can believe in.

2. George W. Bush: Oilrig Roughneck and Ping Pong Peddler Extraordinaire

George Bush Presidential Library

The summer of 1965, Bush labored as a roughneck on an offshore oilrig near Louisiana. He said, “It was hard, hot work. I unloaded enough of those heavy mud sacks to know that was not what I wanted to do with my life.” His favorite summer job, though, was working as a sporting goods salesman at Sears. He was the leading salesman of ping-pong balls.

3. Bill Clinton: Grocery Worker and Comic Book Salesman

Clinton landed his first job when he was 13, working in an Arkansas grocery store.  There, he convinced the owner to let him sell comic books, and he happily grossed about $100. Another summer, Clinton worked as a camp counselor. He also spent a handful of sunny days attending band camp in the Ozark Mountains, honing his saxophone chops. 

4. Ronald Reagan: Circus Roustabout and Lifeguard

In 1925, Reagan held a brief stint as a circus roustabout with the Ringling Brothers, earning $0.25 an hour. The next year, the high school sophomore started working as a lifeguard at Lowell Park in Dixon, IL. He worked 12-hour days all week. By the time his lifeguarding career ended, he had saved 77 lives. While attending Eureka College, Reagan cooked hamburgers in the cafeteria and washed tables in the women’s dorm. (He liked the second job better.)

5. Gerald Ford: Park Ranger

During summer 1936, Ford was waiting to be admitted to Yale law school. To fill the time, he worked as a seasonal park ranger at Yellowstone National Park. One of his assignments was to work as an armed guard on a bear-feeding truck. He later called it “One of the greatest summers of my life.”

6. Richard Nixon: Chicken Plucker and Barker

Getty Images

The summers of 1928 and 1929, little Richard visited his mother and older brother in Prescott, AZ. There, Nixon briefly worked for a local butcher, plucking and dressing chickens. Nixon’s favorite job, though, was working as a barker for a “Wheel of Fortune” gaming booth at the Slippery Gulch carnival. (He also worked as a pool boy at a country club and helped out at his father’s grocery store.)

7. Lyndon B. Johnson: Shoe Shiner and Goat Herder

Flickr

To make extra dough during summer vacation, a 9-year-old LBJ shined shoes. (He buffed footwear during high school, too.) One summer, Johnson landed a gig as a goat herder and even worked in his uncle’s cotton fields. After graduating high school, he hitchhiked the Californian coast, making money as a busboy and waiter. 

8. Herbert Hoover: Laundry Entrepreneur and Miner

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While studying at Stanford, Hoover started his own laundry service for students and worked as a clerk in the registration office. When he graduated, the geology major worked ten-hour shifts in a gold mine near Nevada City, California.

9. James Garfield:  Canal Boat Driver and Janitor

When he was 15, Garfield ventured to Cleveland, hoping to land a job as a sailor. It didn’t pan out. So he settled for a job as a canal boat driver, transporting copper ore between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. He never quite got his sea legs—he fell overboard 14 times and quit after 16 weeks. Later, while attending school in Ohio, he supported himself by working as a carpenter and janitor.

10. Ulysses S. Grant: Horse Trainer

Flickr

When Grant wasn’t laboring around his father’s farm, he was riding and training horses. He was so good at taming the animals that farmers from afar would bring him their most unruly horses. By age 10, he was driving passenger carriages between Georgetown, OH and Cincinnati—a long 45-mile trek.

11. Andrew Johnson: Tailor’s Apprentice

Starting around age 14, Johnson and his brother worked as tailor’s apprentices. But within three years, they had had enough. The duo ran away to the mother, and Johnson started his own tailoring business in Greeneville, TN. It was a good decision. He met his future wife there, and she eventually educated him.

12. Abraham Lincoln: Rail Splitter and Flatboat Pilot

Getty Images

Lincoln split logs and built fences, earning him the nickname “Rail Splitter.” His father rented little Lincoln’s services to neighboring fathers, and Abe’s income helped keep the family going. Later, at 19, Lincoln became a flatboat pilot and steered it down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Boating was in his blood—he also worked as a ferry operator and even patented a device that helped boats float over shoals. He is the only president to hold a patent.

13. Millard Fillmore: Cloth Maker’s Apprentice

History.com

Born to a poor family, Fillmore had little schooling. So at 14, his father arranged an apprenticeship with a cloth maker. Rather than spending his income on candy, the uneducated Fillmore bought a dictionary. He’d bring it to the shop, and when his boss wasn’t looking, he’d flip it open and read.

14. Andrew Jackson: Saddler’s Apprentice and Schoolteacher

Wikimedia Commons

Wanting to fight in the Revolutionary War, Jackson joined the militia at 13. The war, however, eventually orphaned him. So, a veteran by 14, Jackson moved to a relative’s house and worked as a saddler’s apprentice. He only kept the job for six months, and at age 16 became a schoolteacher in his Carolina home of Waxhaws.

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(c) Field Museum, CSZ5974c, photographer Carl Akeley, used with permission.
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Animals
The Time Carl Akeley Killed a Leopard With His Bare Hands
(c) Field Museum, CSZ5974c, photographer Carl Akeley, used with permission.
(c) Field Museum, CSZ5974c, photographer Carl Akeley, used with permission.

Carl Akeley had plenty of close encounters with animals in his long career as a naturalist and taxidermist. There was the time a bull elephant had charged him on Mount Kenya, nearly crushing him; the time he was unarmed and charged by three rhinos who missed him, he said later, only because the animals had such poor vision; and the time the tumbling body of a silverback gorilla he'd just shot almost knocked him off a cliff. This dangerous tradition began on his very first trip to Africa, where, on an otherwise routine hunting trip, the naturalist became the prey.

It was 1896. Following stints at Ward’s Natural Science Establishment and the Milwaukee Public Museum, Akeley, 32, had just been appointed chief taxidermist for Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, and he was tasked with gathering new specimens to bolster the 3-year-old museum's fledgling collections. After more than four months of travel and numerous delays, the expedition had reached the plains of Ogaden, a region of Ethiopia, where Akeley hunted for specimens for days without success.

Then, one morning, Akeley managed to shoot a hyena shortly after he left camp. Unfortunately, “one look at his dead carcass was enough to satisfy me that he was not as desirable as I had thought, for his skin was badly diseased,” he later wrote in his autobiography, In Brightest Africa. He shot a warthog, a fine specimen, but what he really wanted was an ostrich—so he left the carcass behind, climbed a termite hill to look for the birds, then took off after a pair he saw in the tall grass.

But the ostriches eluded him at every turn, so he returned to camp and grabbed the necessary tools to cut off the head of his warthog. However, when he and a “pony boy” got to the spot where he’d left the carcass, all that remained was a bloodstain. “A crash in the bushes at one side led me in a hurry in that direction and a little later I saw my pig's head in the mouth of a hyena travelling up the slope of a ridge out of range,” Akeley wrote. “That meant that my warthog specimen was lost, and, having got no ostriches, I felt it was a pretty poor day.”

As the sun began to set, Akeley and the boy turned back to camp. “As we came near to the place where I had shot the diseased hyena in the morning, it occurred to me that perhaps there might be another hyena about the carcass, and feeling a bit ‘sore’ at the tribe for stealing my warthog, I thought I might pay off the score by getting a good specimen of a hyena for the collections,” he wrote. But that carcass was gone, too, with a drag trail in the sand leading into the bush.

Akeley heard a sound, and, irritated, “did a very foolish thing,” firing into the bush without seeing what he was shooting at. He knew, almost immediately, that he'd made a mistake: The answering snarl told him that what he’d fired at was not a hyena at all, but a leopard.

The taxidermist began thinking of all the things he knew about the big cats. A leopard, he wrote,

“... has all the qualities that gave rise to the ‘nine lives’ legend: To kill him you have got to kill him clear to the tip of his tail. Added to that, a leopard, unlike a lion, is vindictive. A wounded leopard will fight to a finish practically every time, no matter how many chances it has to escape. Once aroused, its determination is fixed on fight, and if a leopard ever gets hold, it claws and bites until its victim is in shreds. All this was in my mind, and I began looking about for the best way out of it, for I had no desire to try conclusions with a possibly wounded leopard when it was so late in the day that I could not see the sights of my rifle.”

Akeley beat a hasty retreat. He’d return the next morning, he figured, when he could see better; if he’d wounded the leopard, he could find it again then. But the leopard had other ideas. It pursued him, and Akeley fired again, even though he couldn’t see enough to aim. “I could see where the bullets struck as the sand spurted up beyond the leopard. The first two shots went above her, but the third scored. The leopard stopped and I thought she was killed.”

The leopard had not been killed. Instead, she charged—and Akeley’s magazine was empty. He reloaded the rifle, but as he spun to face the leopard, she leapt on him, knocking it out of his hands. The 80-pound cat landed on him. “Her intention was to sink her teeth into my throat and with this grip and her forepaws hang to me while with her hind claws she dug out my stomach, for this pleasant practice is the way of leopards,” Akeley wrote. “However, happily for me, she missed her aim.” The wounded cat had landed to one side; instead of Akeley’s throat in her mouth, she had his upper right arm, which had the fortuitous effect of keeping her hind legs off his stomach.

It was good luck, but the fight of Akeley’s life had just begun.

Using his left hand, he attempted to loosen the leopard’s hold. “I couldn't do it except little by little,” he wrote. “When I got grip enough on her throat to loosen her hold just a little she would catch my arm again an inch or two lower down. In this way I drew the full length of the arm through her mouth inch by inch.”

He felt no pain, he wrote, “only of the sound of the crushing of tense muscles and the choking, snarling grunts of the beast.” When his arm was nearly free, Akeley fell on the leopard. His right hand was still in her mouth, but his left hand was still on her throat. His knees were on her chest and his elbows in her armpits, “spreading her front legs apart so that the frantic clawing did nothing more than tear my shirt.”

It was a scramble. The leopard tried to twist around and gain the advantage, but couldn’t get purchase on the sand. “For the first time,” Akeley wrote, “I began to think and hope I had a chance to win this curious fight.”

He called for the boy, hoping he’d bring a knife, but received no response. So he held on to the animal and “continued to shove the hand down her throat so hard she could not close her mouth and with the other I gripped her throat in a stranglehold.” He bore down with his full weight on her chest, and felt a rib crack. He did it again—another crack. “I felt her relax, a sort of letting go, although she was still struggling. At the same time I felt myself weakening similarly, and then it became a question as to which would give up first.”

Slowly, her struggle ceased. Akeley had won. He lay there for a long time, keeping the leopard in his death grip. “After what seemed an interminable passage of time I let go and tried to stand, calling to the pony boy that it was finished.” The leopard, he later told Popular Science Monthly, had then shown signs of life; Akeley used the boy’s knife to make sure it was really, truly dead.

Akeley’s arm was shredded, and he was weak—so weak that he couldn’t carry the leopard back to camp. “And then a thought struck me that made me waste no time,” he told Popular Science. “That leopard has been eating the horrible diseased hyena I had killed. Any leopard bite is liable to give one blood poison, but this particular leopard’s mouth must have been exceptionally foul.”

He and the boy must have been quite the sight when they finally made it back to camp. His companions had heard the shots, and figured Akeley had either faced off with a lion or the natives; whatever the scenario, they figured Akeley would prevail or be defeated before they could get to him, so they kept on eating dinner. But when Akeley appeared, with “my clothes ... all ripped, my arm ... chewed into an unpleasant sight, [with] blood and dirt all over me,” he wrote in In Brightest Africa, “my appearance was quite sufficient to arrest attention.”

He demanded all the antiseptics the camp had to offer. After he'd been washed with cold water, “the antiseptic was pumped into every one of the innumerable tooth wounds until my arm was so full of the liquid that an injection in one drove it out of another,” he wrote. “During the process I nearly regretted that the leopard had not won.”

When that was done, Akeley was taken to his tent, and the dead leopard was brought in and laid out next to his cot. Her right hind leg was wounded—which, he surmised, had come from his first shot into the brush, and was what had thrown off her pounce—and she had a flesh wound in the back of her neck where his last shot had hit her, “from the shock of which she had instantly recovered.”

Not long after his close encounter with the leopard, the African expedition was cut short when its leader contracted malaria, and Akeley returned to Chicago. The whole experience, he wrote to a friend later, transported him back to a particular moment at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, which he’d visited after creating taxidermy mounts for the event. “As I struggled to wrest my arm from the mouth of the leopard I recalled vividly a bronze at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, depicting the struggle between a man and bear, the man’s arm in the mouth of the bear,” he wrote. “I had stood in front of this bronze one afternoon with a doctor friend and we discussed the probable sensations of a man in this predicament, wondering whether or not the man would be sensible to the pain of the chewing and the rending of his flesh by the bear. I was thinking as the leopard tore at me that now I knew exactly what the sensations were, but that unfortunately I would not live to tell my doctor friend.”

In the moment, though, there had been no pain, “just the joy of a good fight,” Akeley wrote, “and I did live to tell my [doctor] friend all about it.”

Additional source: Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals

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Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons // Nigel Parry, USA Network
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crime
Meghan Markle Is Related to H.H. Holmes, America’s First Serial Killer, According to New Documentary
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons // Nigel Parry, USA Network
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons // Nigel Parry, USA Network

Between staging paparazzi photos and writing open letters to Prince Harry advising him to call off his wedding, Meghan Markle’s family has been keeping the media pretty busy lately. But it turns out that her bloodline's talent for grabbing headlines dates back much further than the announcement that Markle and Prince Harry were getting hitched—and for much more sinister reasons. According to Meet the Markles, a new television documentary produced for England’s Channel Four, the former Suits star has a distant relation to H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer.

The claim comes from Holmes’s great-great-grandson, American lawyer Jeff Mudgett, who recently discovered that he and Markle are eighth cousins. If that connection is correct, then it would mean that Markle, too, is related to Holmes.

While finding out that you’re related—however distantly—to a man believed to have murdered 27 people isn’t something you’d probably want to share with Queen Elizabeth II when asking her to pass the Yorkshire pudding over Christmas dinner, what makes the story even more interesting is that Mudgett believes that his great-great-grandpa was also Jack the Ripper!

Mudgett came to this conclusion based on Holmes’s personal diaries, which he inherited. In 2017, American Ripper—an eight-part History Channel series—investigated Mudgett’s belief that Holmes and Jack were indeed one in the same.

When asked about his connection to Markle, and their shared connection to Holmes—and, possibly, Jack the Ripper—Mudgett replied:

“We did a study with the FBI and CIA and Scotland Yard regarding handwriting analysis. It turns out [H. H. Holmes] was Jack the Ripper. This means Meghan is related to Jack the Ripper. I don’t think the Queen knows. I am not proud he is my ancestor. Meghan won’t be either.”

Shortly thereafter he clarified his comments via his personal Facebook page:

In the 130 years since Jack the Ripper terrorized London’s Whitechapel neighborhood, hundreds of names have been put forth as possible suspects, but authorities have never been able to definitively conclude who committed the infamous murders. So if Alice's Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll could have done it, why not the distant relative of the royal family's newest member?

[h/t: ID CrimeFeed]

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