Summer Jobs: Thomas Chase, Provost and Vice-President, Academic

By Dale Johnson Posted: August 17, 2015 6:00 a.m.

Dr. Chase learned from his summer jobs how fascinating people can be.
Dr. Chase learned from his summer jobs how fascinating people can be. Photo courtesy of U of R Photography.

This is part of a series in which some leaders at the University of Regina talk about their summer jobs.  

What was your best summer job and why?

The high school summer job that was the most fun was driving a mobile locksmith van called the "Keymobile" for a locksmithing shop located on South Railway where the SaskTel head office and the Cornwall Centre now stand. I cut keys, opened locks, installed door hardware, and helped drivers who had locked themselves out of their cars.

The Keymobile was an elderly International Harvester cube van long past its prime, prone to breaking down at inopportune moments. I will never forget having the gearshift come off in my hand as I went to shift back into first gear at a red light. The van was heavily laden with key blanks and various pieces of equipment. Trying to get it moving again, in third gear, caused a racket that could be heard for blocks. I will never forget the sound of all those thousands of blank keys jingling on their hooks as the Keymobile finally lurched forward.

On another occasion, I had to take the van to Lumsden for a service call. The trip out with the sliding side doors open on a summer day was pure delight, especially the long coast down the hill into the valley. The return trip to Regina was another matter, as the under-powered and overweight Keymobile turned out to have too little oomph to climb the hill out of Lumsden. The driver of the tow truck found the situation hilarious, though I didn't see it that way at the time.

Despite its general orneriness and unreliability, the Keymobile took me to many places around the city and to surrounding towns. People liked to see inside the van and watch keys being cut. The work was fun, varied, and challenging. It taught me the pleasure of working with my hands – though it was weeks after school started in the fall before all traces of the graphite we used on locks were finally eradicated from my skin.

What was your most unusual summer job and why?

That would have been in my second and third years of university, when I worked at the University Bookstore located where the School of Journalism is now. I was employed to remove price stickers from textbooks that hadn't sold and were being returned to the publisher. Depending on the material of their covers, the price stickers would either come off the books easily, or would need to be removed with solvent and a small scraping tool. This was the mid-’70s, so we weren't as conscious of health and safety as we now are. The preferred solvent was lighter fluid – and some of the staff smoked while doing this work. I'm still amazed by the fact that, somehow, we had no fires or explosions.

What lessons from you summer jobs have stayed with you?

I would mention three lessons. The first is that doing a job well provides a pleasure that cannot be had otherwise. The second is that people – whether locked out of their car and late for work, or spraying lighter fluid while a lit cigarette dangles from their lips – are endlessly fascinating. The third is that there is nothing like driving down a highway with the warmly fragrant Saskatchewan summer air rushing through open windows and doors.