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Three notable Oklahomans reflect on their first jobs and lessons it taught

Scott Brooks, head coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder; Timothy O’Toole, president and CEO of the Oklahoma State Fair; and Tony Award-winning singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth reflect on their first jobs, the lessons they learned and their practice of those lessons.
By LeighAnne Manwarren, Staff Published: September 1, 2014

A janitor working for his no-nonsense mother, a paperboy trying to manage his own payroll, and an aerobics instructor trying to sell gym memberships over the phone.

Before they became the head coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the president and CEO of the Oklahoma State Fair, and a Tony Award-winning singer/actress, they were working their first jobs and learning the lifelong lessons they continue to practice on this Labor Day.

Scott Brooks, the janitor

Growing up as the youngest of seven children in northern California, Scott Brooks was 15 years old when his mother told him it was time for him to get a job.

“I had just finished my sophomore (year) basketball season, and I remember on that same weekend my mom says, ‘Son, it’s time for you to get a job,’” Brooks said. “I said, ‘Can I get a couple of weeks?’ but she said, ‘No, as long as you live in my house, you play by my rules, and you’re getting a job. And you’re starting Monday.’”

Brooks’ mom was the plant manager for an automotive parts factory and she hired him as a janitor. Without a car, Brooks rode a bike about three and a half miles from school to work, leaving him with 12 minutes to get there.

About three or four weeks into the job, he came in late and his mom gave him a written warning. Brooks signed the warning and said he would do better.

About three or four weeks later, Brooks was late again.

“She gave me the second and final warning, and she said, ‘If you are late again, you will be terminated,’” Brooks said with a laugh. “So, I kind of shrug it off and I laugh it off and I think, ‘OK. It’s my mom. Is she really going to terminate me?’”

About a month later, Brooks was late by three to four minutes to work and his mom told him to clean the back area with the greasy drive shafts.

“It’s the worst job you can get. You have to do it once a month, and it takes about 30 minutes. There is no air conditioning and it’s a tin building,” Brooks said. “So she gives me this job to do, and I’m sweaty, I’m greasy, I’m hot. And after I’m done, she says, ‘Here’s your release. You are fired.’ ... So she fired me on the spot after she made me do 30 minutes’ work of the worst job you could possibly do in the plant.”

Though his mom fired him from his first job, Brooks was expected to find another one. He became a milkman during the summer months.

Reminiscing about his first job, Brooks said he learned at least three things: There are no excuses for not doing your job and you need to find the best ways to do your job right the first time; to be punctual and know that everyone’s time is just as important as your own time; and to get your priorities straight.

The Thunder coach said his mom passed away about a year and a half ago, “but all of her life lessons are still with me every day.”

Timothy O’Toole, the paperboy

Tim O’Toole was in between his sixth- and seventh-grade years when he decided to get a summer job to earn a little extra spending money. He became a paperboy for the The Daily Oklahoman in the summer and started delivering The Daily Oklahoman and The Oklahoma City Times in the fall.

“I thought it would be wonderful to have a bigger paper route and to make more money but it actually took up too much of my time and I wound up having to hire my brothers and sisters to help me,” he said. “I think one month, I had to borrow money from my dad to make my payroll. I didn’t have enough money to succeed so we had to cut that back.”

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So, I kind of shrug it off and I laugh it off and I think, ‘OK. It’s my mom. Is she really going to terminate me?’”

Scott Brooks,


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