With no college background to my credit, and given the career landscape of today, I consider myself very fortunate to have gotten a job soon after high school graduation.
Add to this the articles I’ve read, and hearing first-hand plights from college grads themselves that even their degree doesn’t ensure a foot in the door, make me even more grateful.
My career choice began when I was just a kid playing in the middle of our kitchen floor and mom asked me: “What would you like to be when you grow up?” And, “out of the mouth of this babe” came: “a secretary,” and that never, ever varied.
My only “paycheck” experience thus far had been the years I worked in high school at the Golden Gate Theatre as an usherette before being promoted to box office cashier.
My actual career of 55 years began when I was 18 and my oldest son, Steve, was six weeks old. I was hired at Carrier Corporation in the City of Commerce, and assigned to the manager of the Parts Department. I was “so wet behind the ears” that I knew literally nothing about the integral workings of AC and HVAC, and had never officially taken dictation until then.
Needless to say, and embarrassingly so, the first letter dictated to me was wrought with errors. One word in particular that I misspelled (that is synonymous to the industry) was centrifugal (which I had never heard before). I spelled it centrifical.
I also had a problem with the word thermodynamics. I didn’t know how to write it in shorthand and had to embarrass myself further by asking more particulars. But, in time, I learned the AC/HVAC jargon, and became an asset to the company.
I drove Steve to Mom’s every morning for her to care for him while I worked. One day as she was doing laundry, toddler Steve reached up to the machine and grabbed a thumb tack that she had cleaned out of a pocket. He popped it into his mouth; mom called me at work in a panic, and now I’m in a panic to get home as fast as possible.
I took him to the emergency hospital; they took an X-ray, and the doctor and his staff were cool as cucumbers. After taking an X-ray, (which they showed me, and panic set in again seeing “that thing” inside my baby’s tummy), they instructed me very nonchalantly to: “Just take him home and feed him a lot of starches until it passes.”
That was easier said than done as Steve never enjoyed eating. It took my sister-in-law, Virgie, plus sisters Phyllis and Donna, to play airplane games with a spoon to get him to eat while I was at work.
I’m sure you can guess who got the pleasant job of going through his poop until it passed. It was a happy day when Mom called me at work…voila! The thumb tack had “passed.”
It was a fun company to work for; we celebrated all the birthdays with a cake and sing-a-long, passed out valentines on that special day, wore costumes on Halloween, and had a very festive Christmas celebration at a nice hotel or golf course club house.
I met a host of good people while at Carrier, and made a lifelong friend in Helen Alari.
Carrier was an excellent choice for starting my career, and I learned so much that enhanced my resume. I left after three years, and took a job with Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in South Gate. That move meant more money and, as Mom used to say, “More money makes the outlook more sunny.”
Sharon Benson Smith is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.