We all know people who have done hard labor as undergrads and grad students. I once had a T.A. for a course that I later wound up teaching myself who worked nights repairing the subway rails in Toronto. I could never believe that such a brilliant man during the day took such pains to pay for the privilege of hanging out with undergrads and reading books and stuff.
But he did, and that's kind of awesome in its way. I remember him saying that the job would wind up paying him far more than being a professor ever would - unless he lucked out and became a Julia Kristeva or someone like that (though I don't think that one just becomes such a person - she has labored too!)
Anyhow, one of my favorite jobs was mowing lawns and I paid a whole lot of rent and tuition doing it both as an undergrad and a grad student. I only stopped when I moved from Toronto to Manhattan. I didn't find a whole lot of lawns to mow.
I worked exclusively in East York, a part of Toronto that was populated by retirees, many of whom were vets or the wives of vets. I met a lot of interesting people and entire days went by where I never spent a dime on food because I was either fed on the spot or forced to fill my backpack with produce from the gardens I tended in addition to mowing the lawns.
If you've ever been to Toronto, summer gets super hot (and wet), and my favorite memories from this time are sitting with an old man who had done some kind of work on warships. He wore brown socks up to his knees, a hat and suspenders and slaked my thirst with Sprite because he thought I loved it (I didn't). He was slowly going blind, a great pain for an avid reader. But he got a huge machine under which he could lay his books to have them magnified so that each word appeared larger than a globe of the world as they passed by his failing eyes.
I really miss him. He gave me boxes of his books when he and his wife sold the house and went into a cramped retirement home to save money so they could give more to their daughter. He really regretted that he couldn't fly any more to visit her and probably would have paid anything to recover one or two years of youth in order to do so.
I guess he's probably gone by now, the best contributor to my tuition I ever had for the time he spent chatting with me, encouraging me, filling my backpack with produce I helped tend and overwhelming me with books that he may or may not have scanned beneath his magnifying machine.