“Here ya go, ladies.” Plop! What a thick bundle of newspapers dropped on the table before us! “And, that’s just the last two Sunday’s. I didn’t want you to take your whole day looking at the ads, but there are more where they came from, if these two newspapers aren’t enough!” The morning after arriving at my aunt and uncle’s home in Spokane, we asked for the Classified Ads Aunt Mary had been saving for us. This is the place at the back of most newspapers where one might find postings of companies and folks looking for workers, as well as workers posting their skills in search of employment. Over the phone, she had guaranteed us that there were more than enough jobs from which to choose. We should have a productive time of employment this summer between our first and second years at university.
“Wow, Aunt Mary! Well, thanks, for saving ‘em for us. We’ll get started right away.” Joyce took one week’s ads and I took the other. I figure one just had to be a teenager, looking for his or her first summer job, to get so excited about scouring the Classified Ads. Both of us were thrilled and launched into the task, full speed ahead. We circled potential opportunities with red ink, taking special note of companies, phone numbers and the name of a contact person in a notebook when the job seemed most appealing. Page after page, hour after hour, we studied the Classifieds as a gambler labors over a racing form. We had no idea just how similar the results would be for us and the gambler!
Calling potential employers began early Monday morning, with Joyce and I alternating use of the phone. (There were no cell phones at all way back in 1968.) Most calls went something like this:
“Hello, Mrs. Secretary-to-the-employer, I’m calling in response to your ad in the paper. When might I come to fill out an application?” Picture eager, bubbling with joy, wide-awake 19-year-old hopeful on our end of the phone. Irresistible, right? Well, we thought so anyway.
“Uh-huh, have you ever done this kind of work before today?” Oh, ugly question to ask us; we’re just kids. We’ve not done much of any kind of work outside of homework before today. Hmmm, well, my father always said to sound positive and put your best foot forward. Accentuate your most positive points.
“Well, not the exact work but I am a very fast learner and I’m not afraid of hard work. When may I come to fill out an application form, Ma’am?” Still that cheery voice on my end of the call but trying to sound older now.
“What, exactly, is it that you’ve done for employment?” Oh boy, well, time for some quick thinking and creative truth here. I know that lying or exaggerating will always find me out but to say that I‘ve been a babysitter, lawn mower, snow shoveler and… oh, yes, food server at the Freshman Commons breakfast line last year… how to make that sound substantial?
“I’ve had years of experience in working with young people, probably seven or eight summers of groundskeeping, and, last year, I help pay for my university tuition by working early each morning in the Nutrition and Dietary Maintenance Division of the university. As I said, I don’t mind hard work and I can learn any job quickly.”
“Did you say ‘university tuition’? Then, you are a student, looking for a summer job?” Oh my, Mrs. Secretary did not sound happy to hear that and my cheery disposition took a real hit.
“Yes, Ma’am. I am a Second-Year student but your ad didn’t indicate that students weren’t eligible to apply.”
“I’m sorry but, if you will consider the position about which you are inquiring, I think you can understand that it is not a seasonal position. There is an expectation of permanent, full-time employment there.”
Hmmm, well after I said my sad goodbye’s to the fourth such conversation with a secretary, I decided it was time to re-think our possibilities for summer employment. Just because they had an ad in the newspaper didn’t mean that they were desperate enough to take just anyone willing to work for a couple of months or so. That crossed a lot of calls off the lists. Perhaps, we were doing what the Bible says we shouldn’t be doing, “Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought.” Back to the Classified Ads and this time look for something that didn’t look like it was permanent or would take a lot of orientation to be able to have a positive return on the investment of a new employee. Factory work? Maybe.
The problem was that the ads in the newspapers didn’t always reflect jobs currently available, as we had thought they would. We made calls, but were often told that they had no positions open at present; we should try later. Humph! We didn’t have later; we needed a job now, before the summer was gone.
The ads in the Monday and Tuesday papers were not as numerous. Most were the same we had already phoned or crossed off our list for any one of a number of reasons. We never thought it was going to be so hard to find a job, but, as Aunt Mary said, we had just started looking. Something would come up; just hang in there. Okay, we would but what to do until there were more ads in the paper? Employment Agencies? Great idea; let’s go find one! After all, it’s their job to find employment for people; they could probably put us to work by week’s end.
****Summer Jobs 1, Scene 2… Next Post