By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jul 02, 2007 at 12:15 PM

It seems appropriate that's Julie Lawrence and Molly Snyder Edler -- both lifelong Milwaukeeans -- punched their first clocks at the Big Gig. Here are their stories.

Julie's Summerfest gig:

If there is anything solidifying my status as a true Milwaukeean it might have to be the fact that Summerfest goes down in the books as my first official employer.

I'd just survived my freshman year at Wauwatosa East High School with the daughter of Suzy Strothmann, the president of Suzy's Cream Cheesecakes & Distinctive Desserts. Being a Wauwatosa-based company and family, Suzy's offered several eager Tosa East students the illustrious opportunity to don pink and sling decadent desserts during the 11 days of Summerfest.

I'd never had a job outside of babysitting before and at $4.75 an hour (plus free fest admission), what 14-year-old in her right mind would pass this up? I don't remember any specific training involved, but I supposed they figured anyone who'd passed freshman algebra should be able to operate the cash register.

That is assuming, of course, that the cash register was functioning. Midway through my first day, the weather at a brutal 90-plus degrees, our cash register clunked out, leaving a tent full of terrified teenagers forced to manage the long and demanding lines of hot, hungry patrons and -gasp - calculate sales tax by hand.

The horror.

I don't recall what the rest of my team did - and at the time, I don't think I cared -- but knowing my personal math skills were less than reliable, I'm pretty sure I recalled what I'd charged the last customer for a slice and proceeded fearlessly with that number (despite there being about 10 varieties of cakes with slightly variant prices), doubling and tripling it when appropriate. Surprisingly or not, no one noticed or claimed to be overcharged. Maybe that's the calming effect cheesecake has people...

That was the last year I attended Summerfest as an employee, but each year as I return as a patron I carry with me a fully realized appreciation for every person who helps make the Big Gig work in Milwaukee, even when thing around them break down.

Molly's Summerfest gig:

It was the summer of 1985, and I wanted to make money doing anything other than babysitting. So, when I read in the newspaper that Koepsell's Popcorn Wagons was hiring people to pop and sell corn from their little red wagons, I eagerly applied.

I remember being nervous before my interview with company owner Dennis Koepsell. While riding my bike to the interview, I thought about all the reasons why I would make an excellent wagon worker. Unfortunately, I could really only think of two: I had been a responsible papergirl for two years, and I really liked munching popcorn.

Despite my lack of experience, I got the job for $3.35 an hour. A few weeks later, I found myself wearing the company-issued red apron and cap, and squished in one of the small wagons with a manager who was probably only 20 but seemed a lot older at the time. She taught me how to operate the big electric popper, use the cash register and quizzed me on the prices of their other munchies. She also said she'd come around every couple of hours so I could pee and smoke if I needed to.

Working in the wagon was pretty easy -- the problems came a week or so later, when my face broke out in popcorn-sized zits from the oil, and I got a wicked yeast infection from being trapped inside a small, steam-filled space. (Of course I don't know for sure that I contracted the infection from the job, and I do not hold Koepsell's responsible for any discomfort I experienced "down there.")

I'm not sure how much money I actually made during my five or six Summerfest shifts, but it couldn't have been much when it was all said and done. I spent tons of money on the Summerfest grounds buying food and the occasional wine cooler when I could encourage some flirty man to get one for me. Plus, I developed an intense licorice whip addiction and stuffed the register with a dollar or two every couple of hours.

Overall, working at Koepsell's was a great experience because it allowed me to experience a "real job," and I received a Summerfest pass that made me feel cool. But best of all, it helped me get my next job as a "vendette" at Prospect Mall Cinemas which pretty much defined my teen years.

I must admit, however, I really can't stand popcorn anymore.