My Time at the National Gallery of Art….

07 Apr

On October 26, 2012 I posted about the jobs I have had over my career, I went all the way back, as far as my mind would allow me, following my career path until I retired in 2009. One paragraph of that post was devoted to the time I spent at the National Gallery of Art (NGA). I would like to share with you an extended view of that job. Here is what I wrote about my time at NGA. I would like to expand that paragraph into a shared experience.

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)

On Friday, March 10, 1978, I left the Navy with an Honorable Discharge, and became a civilian for the 1st time in almost 9 years. Prior to my discharge, Steph and I had numerous conversations about what I was going to do. One thing for sure, was go to college, and another and even more important was to get a job. Steph suggested that I should consider drawing unemployment while I settled into being a civilian, and during my job search. I agreed that this was a great idea, found the address for the Virginia Employment Commission, in Alexandria VA, and the hours of operation (9am to 4pm).

On Monday March 13, 1978 at 830am I arrived at the doorstep of the Virginia Employment Commission. Being my naïve self I assumed there would be a line (and I was correct), and I assumed it would be manageable (again I was correct) but I had no idea that many folks needed employment or drew unemployment. WOW was I surprised. I must have been number 150 when I got into line, and by the time the doors opened there must have been another 100 behind me. As I took my place in line, I quietly thanked myself, and my military service time, because after 9 years in the Navy, I knew how to stand in line and wait. In March 1978 the unemployment rate was 6.1 percent. Minimum wage was $2.65 per hour.

About noon, my name (number) was finally called. Besides having my drivers’ license as identification, the only paper work I had was my DD214. Clearly the lady on the other side of the barred cage like structure was already tired, clearly she hadn’t had lunch, and equally clear she wasn’t going to take any crap. The lady glared at me and asked…..

What do you want?” to which I stated, “I am interested in drawing unemployment. Still glaring at me she asked, “What makes you think you deserve unemployment!” Still looking directly into her eye’s I said, “My girlfriend told me.” The glare got sharper, and the lady said, “and she told you this why?” To which I responded, “because I was Honorable Discharged from the United States Navy last Friday.” Her glare softened and she asked, “Do you have your discharge?” I said, “No ma’am, but I do have my DD214.” Her glare disappeared and she smiled after she reviewed that single sheet of paper, then she said, “Yes sir you do qualify for Unemployment, but you need to fill out some paperwork.” I returned her smile and said, “thank you.” At which point the lady started gathering documents to be filled out. When she was done, she started to push this 1 inch tall stack of paper at me, I looked at her and asked, “Ma’am what would I need to fill out to get a job.” She returned my smile and pushed a 3 by 5 inch card in my direction. I said, “Thank you ma’am, I will take the card.” She again smiled, and said, “When you finish filling it in just walk it right back to me.” “Yes ma’am,” I replied.

I completed the card, and returned it to the lady, and again took my seat. Five minutes later I was called for placement interview. I went into the office, the guy behind the desk looked at the card, and my DD214, and said, “You realize you qualify for unemployment,” to which I said, “Yes sir, the lady behind the counter said I did, but I found filling out this card to be easier. Besides I would really rather work if I could.” This gentleman looked at my DD214 for an additional 5 minutes and said, “Because you qualify for Veterans Re-employment re-establishment, I have 2 possibilities for you, and I can get you interviews; for one today, and the other tomorrow.” I beamed, and said “GREAT.”

After spending 3 and ½ hours at the Virginia Employment Commission, I left the building with 2 job interviews. The 1st interview was at the National Gallery of Art (NGA), in downtown Washington DC. The second scheduled for Tuesday was with Interstate Van Lines, in Fairfax VA.

After lunch that Monday, I met with the Captain of the Guard for the NGA, we talked about my military experience, education, availability, and a ton of other minor questions. He then asked for my SF171 (Federal Job Application). I showed him my best ‘Huh’ look and he reached into his desk and gave me a blank form. With a little bit of guidance, I completed the form sitting at his desk. BTW I completed the form in pencil, and signed and dated the form, as directed, to which he said, “You have to sign in ink.” At that time I erased my signature and resigned in ink. The Captain went on to say that personal would call me the next day to establish my starting date. So after being in the Navy for 8 years, 10 months and 20 days, and taking a weekend off, I was soon to be working full-time again as a Security Guard for the National Gallery of Art. On Tuesday I was called by Personal and officially offered the job (a GS 1/step 1 position as a Security Guard), with a start date 10 day at a salary of $6,561 or $3.15 per hour.  This was by the way, a significant pay cut from my military salary, but there was a lot less required hours.

I also went to the Interstate Van Lines interview. They also were interested in hiring me at “assistant manager,” but before employment I would have to attend a week-long training course, which at the earliest would be scheduled for 6 weeks down the road, and there would be no paid employment until after that training. I declined the position, and decided to continue my career with the Federal Government. Thus, in 10 days I started the best job I ever had.

Part 2 will actually speak to the 2 years I worked for the NGA.

As always your thoughts, questions, and comments are truly appreciated. Take care, Bill


Posted by on April 7, 2013 in Ramblings


Tags: , , , , , ,

9 responses to “My Time at the National Gallery of Art….

  1. jmgoyder

    April 8, 2013 at 1:47 am

    What a wonderful story – more please!

    • FlaHam

      April 8, 2013 at 9:49 am

      Julie, You’re one of the last people I want to disappoint. The final part will be published either later today, or tomorrow. It is all in my head, the set up for the story just ran on and on and on and on, much like how most of my stories run on and on. Take care, Bill

  2. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

    April 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Love this one. Love how you described the lady’s attitude softening as you unfolded about your military career. I want to find and hug that lady. Love how you picked the card and your interview at the NGA. What a wonderfully delightful story, my friend. Have a great day, Bill.

    • FlaHam

      April 9, 2013 at 12:05 am

      Paulette, As always thank you for your sweet and kind words. It was the greatest job I ever had, and it came at a time when I needed a great job. Again, Thank you. Bill

  3. Wanda

    April 10, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    There’s a lot of patented “Bill Hamilton” in this story. I recognize roughly equal amounts of charm, wit, and plain old common sense–all of which remain a big part of your personality. Off to read the next installmens…

    • FlaHam

      April 11, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      Wanda, this is turning out be like writing about my daughter, for every word that pops into my mind, for every story I want to share, 5 more pop into my head. It has been difficult at best to limit what I write about, and how I express myself. — Take care, Bill

  4. Linda

    April 11, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Keep on writing Bill…I look forward to all your stories and insights. I would have loved a job like that…to be with all that art and able to learn so much..thank you so for sharing it all

    • FlaHam

      April 12, 2013 at 8:32 am

      Linda, Thank you for stopping by and taking a look. I have put some effort into my blog since I created it last June. I have spilled my guts LOL LOL. I am truly glad you have enjoyed what you have read so far. Take care, Bill


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