My First Boss | Part 1 of 2

by Elouise

It’s late May 1960.  I’m 16 years old and about to meet the 3rd most formative man in my early life.  My father is #1.   The Shopkeeper is #2.  This man will become #3.

I’ve just graduated from high school and am looking for a job.  I’ve decided I need a steady, full-time job so I can work one full year and save money for college.  When it comes to secretarial skills, I’m prepared.  When it comes to men….Well, that’s why there’s Part 2.

I see an ad in the paper.
A federal office is looking for a clerk.  Before I can interview, I need to take the Civil Service exam.  People with high scores get listed at the top of the Civil Service Register for government related jobs.

According to the rules, all federal offices must interview according to test scores.  That means beginning with the highest person and proceeding down the list from there.  No skipping names.

I go downtown, fill in a lot of forms and take the test for clerical work.  Basic shorthand and typing skills.  About a week later I get my results.  I’m at the top of the Register!  I can hardly believe it.

Right away I get a call from the federal office that placed the ad.  I go in for an interview.  The Boss (not his real title) interviews me.  So do the two top women in the office.  I like the women right away.  Altogether, six women work in this office—one at the front desk, five in the adjoining workroom office.

I get the job!
There’s a small hitch.  I’m only 16 years old, not yet a legal adult in Georgia.  The Boss is kind and encouraging.  One of the women creates a document for my parents to sign.  It says they consent to having my paycheck come directly to me, made out in my name.  Or something like that.  It all feels a bit silly to me, but I’m told it’s important.  Besides, I want my money!

When Mother finds out how much money I’m going to make each week she can hardly believe it.  My father and mother recently stopped working with the mission organization.  Now my father needs a regular job so he can pay rent and taxes.  No more free housing.  We’re on our own.

Mother is afraid my father will be upset because I’m getting more money per week than he is.  I’m sad and a little distressed.  But I’m saving my money to go to college, which means they won’t have to help me out so much.

I report for my first day of work.
The women are friendly and easy to get along with.  The job is challenging but not impossible.  In high school I took a full year of Gregg shorthand, a full year of typing, and one course in bookkeeping.  Within a week I’ve become a valued member of the team.

This office, with one more large workroom office down the hall, takes care of people and organizations in financial trouble.  Some are totally bankrupt, often for reasons beyond their control.  The overwhelming majority, however, have jobs and pay off their debts over a period of months or even years.

Twice a month the Boss travels by car to  state counties and cities where other people are in financial trouble and need help.  He always takes one of the women from the office to keep track of everything, take notes, prepare and carry big leather cases of files, and ride in the car with him.  One trip is two or three days on the road.  The second is usually a full work week on the road.

I decide to change my plans.
By the middle of the summer I can see from my savings account that I might be able to enter college that fall instead of a year later.  When I talk to the Boss about this, he tells me I can come back the following summer and work during summer break, assuming the office gets funded enough to pay for me.

In the end, I return for two more summers.  Then, following college graduation, I work in the office full time for over one full year before I get married.

So where’s the fly in the ointment?  Why is the Boss, my new employer, #3 on my list of the top three most formative men in my life, third only to my father and the Shopkeeper?

That’s why there’s Part 2.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 December 2014