Back in the day, there were jobs to do just about everything. You could be paid to reset the pins at a bowling alley or knock on people’s windows to wake them up. But inventions, technology, efficiency and knowledge have contributed to the demise of such jobs that used to be commonplace in the economy, such as:
Bowling alley pinsetters were small children, employed by bowling alleys to set up the pins after each bowler. These noisy, laborious jobs typically paid very little.
2. Ice Cutter
Before the invention of the refrigerator, the best way to keep things cool was to harvest ice in the winter, and store it for use through the warmer months of the summer. This job fell to ice-cutters. They had the dangerous assignment of carving frozen ponds and lakes into giant blocks of ice and lifting them from the frigid waters, risking death by hypothermia if they fell in.
When Europe was suffering from massive rat infestations, this job was a booming career option. Rats were often carriers of disease, and they risked getting sick from bites, but their job was an important public service.
4. Lamp Lighter
Before electric lamps were introduced to most cities, street lamps were fueled by gas, and lamplighters would walk the streets at dusk to set flame to these street lights.
Without refrigeration, milk will spoil within a day. That’s why the milk man was an ever present occupation, making daily deliveries, right up until the advent of the fridge.
6. Log Drivers
Back before highways and railways, the absolute best way to transport lumber from the forest to the mill was to float it down the river, guided by log drivers.
Soon after airplanes were invented, armies around the world adapted methods for detecting the sound of engines approaching on the horizon. Before we had radar detection, we relied on sensitive ears and amplified sound waves. Upon hearing an enemy aircraft approaching, these listeners would sound the alarm.
9. Switchboard Operator
The routing of today’s millions of simultaneous phone calls all happens digitally. Not that long ago, these calls were all handled manually, by countless switchboard operators, literally connecting wire to wire.
In the early days of modern medicine, doctors at universities and hospitals has to essentially resort to graver-robbing, hiring resurrectionists to body-snatch cadavers for experimentation and study.
These folks were commonly called knocker-uppers . They would walk a set route, rapping on the windows of their clients with long sticks, throwing pebbles, and shouting at the top of their lungs, to make sure they woke up on time for their jobs.
11. Lector Who Entertained Factory Workers
Ever listen to a podcast or audiobook while doing repetitive work? Factory workers used to hire live lectors to read works of literature to them while they worked, sometimes pooling their money together to pay for them. Occasionally these lectors read labor-organizing materials, leading to an increase in unions and collective bargaining.