My Career (or the jobs I have had)…

26 Oct

I have written about the places I lived, I have written about dancing, I have talked about decisions, now I would like to take a few minutes of your time and write about all the various jobs I have had since I got my work permit when I was 14 years old.  These are real jobs where I paid taxes, where I had to show up a specified times, and work defined hours.  Of course I will share anecdotes that relates to a specific job.  I was continuously employed between the ages of 14 and 59 with the exception of a 2 week period in March 1978 when I got out of the Navy, and before starting work at the National Gallery of Art.

In a Discussion Group I belong to, one of the participators asked us what, was the weirdest Job we ever had.  Some of these folks had some pretty weird jobs, but for the most part everyone had the standard garden variety type jobs.  The discussion got me thinking about the jobs I have held, in afterthought none of the jobs I have held was particularly weird.  Some of the jobs were not very interesting, some interesting, aspects of others very rewarding.  Hopefully my granddaughter will find something of interest in this post.

In the past when I worked from lists to create a post I tried to add specific dates.  I am not even going to try to add dates to these, though I will talk about the jobs I have had during my working career in the order I held them (to the best of my  memory).  The one thing that surprised me when I created the list of jobs was just how few (16) there were.  Considering I am 63 and have been steadily employed since I was 14 I had imagined there would have been 20 or even more.

Before the hardware store I had all the little kid jobs, cutting grass, washing cars, carrying out trash, and weeding to name a few.  I was always paid whatever was handed to, and I didn’t have Social Security Card, or a work permit.  Having a SS card and work permit were pretty dang important back then.

Hardware store in Buechel in Louisville Kentucky, This was the 1st real job I ever had.  I had to dress appropriately for working in a hardware store, and I had to know something about hardware, which I didn’t.  I lasted about 2 weeks at this store. I couldn’t put together a bike, I didn’t know hexagon vs. square.  I didn’t know feed from fertilizer.  I could say Hi and smile at the customers as they entered.  I might have been the original Walmart Greeter. The Boss/Owner gave me every opportunity (over those two weeks) to be successful.  But I didn’t belong in the hardware store industry.  My salary was about 60 cents an hour.

Thomas’s Automatic Car Wash – Hikes Point in Louisville.  One of my neighbors in Buechel knew I was looking for work after my failed attempt in sales, and offered me an opportunity at manual labor.  He was the head mechanic at Thomas’s.  There were 2 locations in the greater Louisville area, and he worked out of the location in Hikes Point (which was closest to my home).  The Thomas brothers hired me immediately, for 75 cents an hour.  During the summer months (June-July-August) I had the potential to work 68 hours a week.  But the reality is I managed to only get in about 30 or so a week and of that 30 hours 18 came on Sat and Sun.  I worked as a backseat window washer,  cleaning all the car windows behind the driver.  In time I actually drove the cars out of the car wash, I also worked the vacuum, and as a dryer.  You were wet from head to toe, the entire day.  On a good Saturday in the winter you could expect to wash 400 to 500 cars in a 10 hour period.  There are a couple other stories here which I might share at a later time.

McDonald’s Hikes Point in Louisville.  It’s a McDonald’s what more needs to be said.  The coolest thing about working here, was that I on working on the day that the “Over 1 Million Sold” sign when up.  There’s probably a million McDonald’s stores worldwide now LOL LOL.  I started at McD’s making 95 cents an hour, and when I left was making 1.25 an hour.  I did everything from peeling and cooking potatoes, to working the front counter.  There are a few stories that come to mind about this job, but I will saved those for later.

Burger Chef in Louisville.  From burger joint to burger joint, at the time I thought the selection of food offered by Burger Chef was actually better than McD’s.  I don’t remember that much about this job.  I do remember that the Manager had a major drinking problem, so much so, that flavored Vodka was hidden in ice bends at the store.    

Coca-Cola Plant in Louisville.  This was a job I held right after I graduated from High School.  A friend had got picked up there, and suggested that I apply which I did, and was hired.  It was understood when I was hired that this was a summer time job only.  It was a good job, but I didn’t like the hours, working from 3pm to 1130pm, 5 days a week.  It left little time for a girl friend or a lot of other evening activities that generally took place during the summer.  The pay was good for 1968.

Spur Gas Station in Louisville.  My time working at a gas station was during the days when all gas stations were full service.  That meant you pumped the gas, you checked the oil, you washed the windshield, and cleaned the tail lights.  I was only worked there for a few months, and left shortly after I was robbed.  During an extremely busy time one Saturday while I was working 4 different cars at the same time, someone went in the office, and took the money from the cash register.

GE Plant in Louisville.  Back when I was a kid, getting a job at and for GE was the lifetime ambition of a lot of people.  The GE plant in Louisville was a MAJOR union shop when I was hired.  I started off on the plum shift, in a job that required no major mental output.  It was a great paying job.  My salary was 2.31 per hour, another 25 percent because I worked 3rd shift, and piece work. I was making over 3 dollars per hour.  I was making more money than my dad.  I was not required to join the union during my 1st 2 months and was pretty much left alone. But once that 2 month period was up, the pressure was on, and I wasn’t quite quick enough joining. A strike was called for the plant and I was stupid enough to cross the picket line.  I only did it one night, and it was the single biggest career mistake I ever made.  Folks on the picket line messed up my car while I worked my shift. I sat at home unpaid and afraid to go to work.  Once the strike was over I was encouraged to come back to work which I did, but the union folks made my life very difficult so I moved on.

Parkland Supply in Louisville.  Parkland Supply was the name of the Firestone Auto Supply warehouse I worked.  This was a great job; I drove around Louisville, and southern Indiana all day long making auto supply deliveries.  As long as I made all my required stops in the time allocated I was okay.  Each day started with me going downtown to the various Auto Supply Parts stores and picking the parts or supplies we didn’t have in our own warehouse.  Getting the stuff back soon enough to be checked in and distributed to the correct driver.  There are other stories here, but I will leave them for another time.  I held this job until I joined the Navy.

US Navy.   The beginning of my career with the US Government.   I have addressed my time in the Navy more than once in other blogs and won’t rehash it here and now.  I have plenty of Navy stories, many I don’t  mind sharing with my granddaughter, many she has no need to know about.  I will say that the Navy changed my life for the better.  And I served with great Pride.

The part-time jobs I had while in service — No Name gas station — Telemarketer (odor be gone and light bulbs).  During my time in the navy I had to work a couple of part time jobs.  I didn’t do either of these jobs very well or with any pride at all, it was just money.  For a time I did some gas station attendant work for a no name gas station.  The guy hired a bunch of sailor to work various shifts and didn’t pay squat, but it was extra money at a time when I needed extra money.  Another job I held while in the navy was that of a telemarketer, to this day I will not buy anything from anyone that cold calls me and tries to sell me something.  For months I would sit at a phone and read from a script trying to sell either light bulbs or odor be gone.  I script had me claim that I was a disabled vet, and that this was the only job I could get, and that my very livelihood depended on me sell these damn bulbs or odor be gone.  I was supposed to sound as woe be gone as I could.  To this day I am ashamed I took that job, and even more ashamed that I actually sold this stuff.

National Gallery of Art (NGA).  This was the 1st job I got after I was honorable discharged from the Navy.  It was the single greatest job I have ever had.  It didn’t pay as much as my Navy salary, the uniform sucked, and I hated the hat, but I loved this job.  I learned more about Art, and my appreciation for Art grew 1,000 fold during the 18 months I had this job.  What I remember most about working at the Gallery was when I would make patrols at night, how the eyes of some of the painting followed you thru the gallery.  That was extremely creepy.  I also remember taking the secret service around the East Building so they could set up security for when the 1st lady (Rose Carter) had a luncheon there on the East Building Grounds.  There is a whole post just talking about being a security guard at the National Gallery of Art.  I look forward to sharing that story)

Springfield Concrete (part time while working at the National Gallery of Art).  While working a full shift plus at the National Gallery of Art I had two other part-time jobs.  One was attending college classes at NVCC (under the GI Bill) and the other working the yard and making deliveries for Springfield Concrete.  My wife was the “book keeper” and secretary for the company.  They were always short-handed, and because my wife and I were dirt poor I took whatever work I could find.  Everything about this job was manual labor.  From loading and unloading trucks, using a forklift to move material around the yard, to making deliveries was purely about lifting and carrying.  I did zero, zip, nada about making anything from concrete, but I sure delivered and moved a lot of concrete stuff.  I could count on working 20 to 25 hours a week there.  It was easy work, and it helped pay the bills.  I mentioned earlier that I was also going to college during this period.  I need to explain why I called this a job.  The GI Bill paid military folks money to go to school.  They paid X amount each month depending on your class load.  Because I was going ¾ time at night, I got $232 a month during the school quarter.  This amount paid for tuition and books. The remaining part of the money, when to the ex-military man, as a form of subsistence.  That money coupled with my wages from full and part-time work, and my wife’s salary kept us afloat.  But if the person using the GI bill didn’t make and maintain good grades, the government demanded they get their money back.  I had to work hard to maintain good grades, but in time I came to love going to school so making good grades became easier for me.

Department of Agriculture (AG).  After about 20 months I left the National Gallery of Art for a job at the Department of Agriculture.  My father-in-law made me aware that the position was open, and also made sure I applied.  I was hired, and this was a big jump from my at NGA to Ag.  I also moved from being a security guard back into telecommunications.  I was hired by Agricultural Market News (AMS) as a teletype operator. My 9 years of service began to pay big dividends.  Moving to this environment was easy for me.  I was working with equipment I knew, I understood the format and I understood the nature of priorities as they refer to message traffic.  It was an easy job, and I excelled once I learned the ropes.  Because of my prior experience, I was allowed and encouraged to broaden my skills.  One of the cool things I did was research the records of this communications unit for USDA and calculated when they would transmit their 1 millionth message.   After my research was verified USDA made a big to do about this milestone.  It was a fun project, and along the way I found files of AMS activity going back to the 1860’s, when crop and cattle information was sent via pony express.   There were a ton of other interesting things in these files, and made for good reading.

General Services Administration (GSA).  Where the job at NGA was my favorite job throughout my career, my work at GSA was by far the most rewarding.  I was involved in many extremely interesting contract and projects during my career at GSA.  I took part in creating GSA’s 1st non-mandatory communications contract for equipment and services.  I was there (and had an active role) when GSA supported the 2000 Census, bringing the communications requirements in under budget and on time.  I was one of the project managers at GSA, when the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created after 9/11. GSA put in the telecommunications at 456 airports for TSA in less than 9 months, Accomplishing a Presidential Mandate.  GSA is where I spent the bulk of my career, and deserves much more than these few words.  It was a great job. Yes it had its good and bad days but any job does.  My last few years at GSA, I worked to serve the customer, what a great way to end a career.

Apptis.  I bumped into a friend of mine at a telecommunications conference.  He had been retired from GSA for 5 or 6 years at this point.  He was working for Apptis, after a considerable conversation (covering family, golf, kids in college, and a host of other personal things) he asked if I was ready to retire from GSA.  Laughing at him I said sure, “Make me an offer I can’t refuse.”  Eventually he did! LOL.  I retired from GSA after almost 39 years of service.  I started working for Apptis immediately and was just getting my feet on solid ground, and then I became ill (5 months after being hired).  For the next 8 months I was either in the hospital or recovering from my hospital stay.  When I did come back to work I could only work part-time.  I was miserable and I am sure management at Apptis was as well. Apptis being a government contractor, got caught up at budget time. Monies were reduced and folks had to be let go, I fortunately was one of the 1st.  I left Apptis with a smile on my face, and slipped right into full-time retired which I have done ever since.

So there you have it, my entire career wrapped up in 2800 words.  I am sorry about the length of this post.  As always your comments are encouraged and welcomed.  — Bill


Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Humor, Observations, Ramblings


Tags: , , , ,

4 responses to “My Career (or the jobs I have had)…

  1. drinkcoffee (Paula)

    October 27, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    what an exciting list of jobs you have had. your life sounds like you have had a great adventure and a lot of love and fun.

    • FlaHam

      October 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      Paula, I don’t know how exciting they were but they kept me off the street. LOL LOL And I do have some great stories, if I dig into the wayback machine. Take care and again thanks for reading my stuff. — Bill

  2. Wanda

    November 3, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    You’ve certainly done a lot of different jobs, and I’m sure you spread good will at each one of them. Except for my Navy years, my work life has involved clerical and administrative work. I like to think I’m the best right-hand person a boss could ever have because I try to anticipate what is needed before he or she even has time to think of it. The only weird job I ever had was a brief stint–probably less than a week–at a small company somewhere in northern Virginia that made custom cassette tapes. I don’t remember the why and how of it all but I seem to recall that we were supposed to attach one end of tape to a cassette, run the tape a certain length, cut it, and then attach the other end, close the case, and repeat. It was as tedious a job as I ever did, and I was glad when it was mutually decided that I wasn’t suited to that sort of manual labor.

    • FlaHam

      November 3, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      Wanda, when I compiled the list, I really had to work hard to get to 16 jobs during my working career. I didn’t think it was that many. When I asked the folks in the support group how many jobs they had over their career’s I got very few responses, and most of those were career housewifes. So in retrospect maybe 16 is a lot of jobs. LOL LOL Take care, Bill


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