Jottings: Remembering when
There will be many "remember whens" as we eventually recall how life used to be pre-pandemic. Innovative ways of coping with COVID have evolved and some of these lifestyle changes will be here to stay.
One may be that of telecommuting for those whose work can be done from home. It seems there are benefits for both companies and employees as people are more productive and healthier without the stress and time involved in commuting. So some may be remembering bygone days of going to an office every day.
Thinking of this sparked a personal "remember when" as I recalled my experience in the workplace and later from my home office.
In the 1940-50s when I entered the working world, careers of young women came to a halt when becoming pregnant. Employed for six years as secretary to the principal of a large combined high and junior high school, I witnessed immediate dismissals of teachers in early pregnancy and assumed the same would apply to me. Possibly because I was seen either at my desk or behind a counter in the office, the principal kept urging me to stay "one more month" until I finally called it quits one week before giving birth.
For the next decade I, like most women of that era, was a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. Life was busy caring for two children and a husband (who always worked close enough to come home for lunch everyday), kept up a three-story house, did my turns as room mother, Brownie Troop leader, belonged to various do-good and social groups, entertained, hosted a steady stream of houseguests … the list goes on.
Then, in the mid 1960s, friends were returning to full- or part-time jobs. This, along with both of the kids in school, prompted me to put my name on the "Available for Temporary Work" list at the business college I'd attended. After working a week at one of my early temps, I was offered a full-time job. The nice office, pleasant people and good pay was tempting, but I wasn't ready to make the sacrifices involved in leaving my home and family every day.
I was soon called about a two-week job I would need to do at home for a new company not yet having an office but wanting someone to take dictation (possibly evenings) and type letters. They would supply a typewriter and all materials. The next evening I opened the door to a man holding a large IBM Selectric typewriter whom I recognized as a former student from my days at the high school. He was also a new neighbor living just two blocks away.
He and his father had returned from a trade show exhibiting a truck lifting/loading device they had invented and had a hundred plus inquiries needing to be answered. I had arranged space in our dining room for a temporary office and the next two hours were spent in reviving my shorthand from its state of dormancy and now being challenged with unfamiliar trucking terms. At the end of this proposed two-week job, I was asked if I could continue as inquiries were still coming in, along with orders, and I agreed. And thus began a two-week job that lasted 16 years.
We advanced from our evening trysts of dictation to my using a dictaphone and setting up an office in a third-floor room. With a phone extension and intercom I could be aware of happenings on floors one and two as I spent segments of my days transcribing countless dictaphone belts and becoming a pro in trucking jargon.
More inventions were forthcoming (their biggest being the device that reaches out from garbage trucks to grab and empty containers). The company grew into a large manufacturing facility and I would periodically be asked to join the office staff. I always declined … and was always kept on the payroll. Finally, well into our empty-nest years, I retired — and a year later opened an antique shop in the rec room of our basement (but that's another story).
Working from home may not be for everyone but, even before computers, it worked well for me. Perhaps I just want to believe I was ahead of my time.
Jo Ann Parsons is a member of the Jottings Group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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