When I was in high school, I never had a job. My parents discouraged it, and as long as they were willing to give me spending money, it was fine with me! Besides, it would have gotten in the way of the after-school things I was involved in (speech and drama).
Not having a job also made it possible for me to go to summer school to take all the subjects Mama and I thought I needed! I wanted to take the college prep courses because I had this kind of “yeah, me too” thought that if my friends were going to go to college, I probably would too. Mama, being muuuuuch more realistic than me, said, “You can take all the college prep courses you want, but you HAVE TO TAKE at least 2 years of shorthand and 2 years of typing!” So, in order to get all that in, I went to summer school.
It wasn’t much of a hardship to take summer school –my friends all did it too. It was more fun than regular school, because you only took two classes, each for 2 hours a day. And, unlike regular school, there were lots of field trips. Memorably, our summer biology class took a field trip to the University medical center and, among other things, got to see (lucky us) a room full of refrigerated boxes with dead bodies floating in formaldehyde inside! Teenager totally grossed out here!
One summer the whole 4-hour day was driver’s education (at that time, it was required). There was alot of book learning and written tests, of course, but we did drive almost every day, and learned to drive both automatic and standard transmissions. The classroom teacher was a normal middle-aged guy, but our driving instructor was a verrrry nice looking “older man” (about 21) who we would see arriving each morning in his CORVETTE — my girlfriends and I were in awe of him!!!” (And, in return, I’m sure we left him “breathless” sometimes when our inexperience made us “jack-rabbit” a standard shift car through a red light, with the other driver-trainees laughing in the back seat!)
So, when I decided NOT to go to college, it’s a good thing Mama had insisted on those secretarial classes! It’s hard to believe, but I don’t remember her saying “I told you so.” What a saint.
The big local insurance company actually sent people to the high schools to do interviews and testing (yeah, yeah, I know, that Mama-required shorthand and typing), so I knew at least a month before graduation that I was going to work there.
Let me just say here that the employer we all ASPIRED to work for was the big local truck manufacturer, because of the money. For comparison, my one friend who DID get one of the few job openings there, started out at $100 a WEEK (a wage that many married men were supporting a whole family on at that time — 1964) while I started at the insurance company at $260 a MONTH!
But, truly, the pay was about the only thing that wasn’t wonderful at the insurance company. They employed 3,000 people and 2,500 of them were women (who I saw as all potential friends). Of course, typical of the times, the men were the “Chiefs” and the women were the “Indians.” But it was a beautiful, spotlessly clean building to work in, and they had a fantastic lunch room where (this is absolutely the truth) we could eat a full meal, including dessert (not a problem yet for our teenage metabolisms) and our drink, for 25 CENTS — TOTAL!! So, this was not the employer that was going to make us RICH, but definitely a great place to work. AND, it was right downtown where we could, after our 25-cent lunch, walk to lots of stores to spend the REST of our meager pay on clothes and shoes! But, for the non-shoppers, the company also had a library, a glee club, a Toastmasters club and a large room full of tables and chairs where you could always join (or start) a fast game of cards at lunch time. What a great company in which to have your first work experience!
So, anyway, the end of school arrives, and I’m ready to become an adult! Mama had bought me five new dresses with high heels to match each. We LOVED for things to match back then. I was SET.
So, I graduate from high school on Friday night (point of interest — I’ve read that Dolly Parton graduated from high school on the same night, different school, different state, and got on a bus the next day to Nashville. The beginning of very different career paths for her and me!).
The next Monday morning, I teased and sprayed my hair into a perfect helmet, put on one of my matching outfits and nervously drove to the insurance company to begin my new “career.” I was going to be a floating secretary for the Summer, and would get my permanent assignment in the Fall. As a floating secretary, I would fill in for secretaries who went on vacation (That was some of the best education I ever received, filling in for all those more experience secretaries, but I think most of their bosses were pretty glad to see them back after having the “greener-than-grass” kid fill in).
Anyway, first day – I had been told to report to the Personnel Department that first morning. When I tottered in on my new high heels, the place was packed! I thought, “Oh, all these poor girls are here hoping to get a job — and I ALREADY have one! Aren’t I lucky!” I tottered perkily (not easy to do both at once) up to the reception desk and said, “I’m here to start work!” (secretly hoping, I suppose, that somehow the earth would alter it’s course on this momentus occasion!) (Step back — slightly inflated young ego about to burst here.) The receptionist said, “So are all these other people. Have a seat.” The first of many reality checks in the working world.
Thus began my first day of my first job. It was a lovely job, where I had many great experiences and made lots of great friends. And, in many ways, it was my BEST job — because it was my first.
Thank you, God, for all the great “firsts” in our lives that make for treasured memories.