Despite the relatively comfortable life his parents provided, Charlie Drew knew from an early age that hard work and pinching pennies would be essential to creating an even better life for himself and his future children. During the summer of 1920, he worekd at a glass factory in New Jersey, staying even after his classmates had left and the heat had burned his hair off.
The young Charles Drew didn't know what direction his life might take yet-- he had not yet picked a career. But he knew he needed to save money for college, and whatever lied ahead.
Charlie Drew and his brother Joe both worked as lifeguards at Francis Swimming Pool near Foggy Bottom. Even once his parents had moved, in those days of segregation, it was likely the nearest swimming pool that would allow black swimmers. Records show that he continued to work there as late as 1932, when he was in medical school, serving that summer as the pool’s manager.
Drew had long been a strong swimmer. At 8, he won all the medals in the “small boys class” at a local swim meet.