Before he was President: James Carter

James Earl Carter, Jr., 1977-1981 peanut farmer, sailor, nuclear submarine commander
Jimmy worked so hard for his money as a child that getting a rare bonus was memorable. At the age of 9, he bought 5 huge bales of cotton for 5 cents a pound. He stored the cotton and sold it a few years later when the price had more than tripled. He recalled one year that the circus had just left a neighboring small town and he, along with other children, examined every square inch of grass in the area the circus had been performed on. His painstaking work paid off. He found 2 nickels and a quarter!

Living in primitive conditions was the norm until a stroke of luck brought electricity to the Carter home in 1938 during America’s Rural Electrification Program. Not only was the Carter family fortunate enough to have one light bulb in their home, but their $10.00 electricity bill was one of the highest in the area after they were fortunate enough to install a electricity guzzling refrigerator and stove!

An interesting note about this was that because of the Carter’s “enormous” use of electricity, Jimmy’s father was elected to represent the area at the Sumter Electric Membership Corporation. This position introduced Jimmy’s father, and the family, to politics, thus giving Jimmy an early education on politics. Source

Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1981-1989 Actor, Radio Announcer
One of Reagan's first jobs was that of lifeguard at Lowell Park where he would arrive every morning at dawn, fetched 100 pound blocks of ice, stock the snack bar and, for the next 10 hours, watch swimmers negotiate the currents of the Rock River. During his six summers as lifeguard, he pulled 77 people from the water. He always went up and cut a notch in the log after he pulled someone out of the water. At the end of his service as a lifeguard there were 77 notches in the log. American Experience: Ronald Reagan

Reagan was a sports broadcaster at the University of Iowa, where he was paid $10 per game. He became a radio announcer before working as an announcer for the Chicago Cubs. He received his contract with Warner Brothers in 1937. Source

Reagan was struggling with his acting career when General Electric signed him to host a weekly television series, "GE Theater," at an annual salary of $125,000. Every Sunday evening, Ronald Reagan visited Americans in their living rooms. American Experience: Ronald Reagan

George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989-1993 WW2 pilot
After serving as a pilot during World War 2 George Herbert Walker Bush went to Yale on the G.I. Bill. Perhaps thanks in part to the military paying for his college education, Bush still had the $3,000.00 he had saved up during his military service. After being turned down by Proctor and Gamble Bush got a entry level clerking job at a oil drilling company based in Texas and was paid $375.00 per month.

Bush, his wife Barbara, and young son moved into a home where they shared a bathroom with the other tenants. Then 1950 George and Barbara bought their first home for $7,500.00 in an area nicknamed Easter Egg Row. The name came from the fact that all the houses looked so much alike that the owners would paint them bright colors in order to tell them apart.

More stories: Duncan Hines   George Washington   Thomas Jefferson   Benjamin Franklin   James Garfield   Harry Truman   Henry Ford

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