Thursday, October 18, 2012

Week 39 of 2012 – First Job

Ron Cross was instrumental in getting me to go to Control Data and all the while I studied, he seemed to take a special interest in how I was doing.  He told me that he would help get me a job but he live in Salt Lake City and we lived in Michigan so I just did not know how that would work. 

Gary worked for his Dad and I needed to find employment in the suburbs of Detroit.  SO after I completed my technical training, I hit the streets looking for a job and the interview process began...  Unemployment in Michigan was high and we were in the midst of a recession largely due to a slump in the automotive industry which dominated the Michigan economy and still does today.  I checked newspapers and worked with the Control Data recruiters hoping to find something close to where we lived so I did not have a long daily commute. The end result was the same…No job in Michigan.  I had one man ask me, “ Janet, what makes you think I should hire you, when we have so many men who are unemployed?” I explained that I had training that these “other men” did not have but he laughed at me all the same!  I was feeling pretty down and wondering if all the money I spent on my training was spent for nothing.

One afternoon, I got a call from Ron. 

“ Jan, I got a job for you.”, he said all excited. 
“Wow”, I am thinking…”Where,”  I said.  I am thinking that maybe he pulled some strings with someone he knew in Michigan…I am thinking ,…wow, how nice of him….
“ Phoenix” he repied. 
“PHOENIX?  Ron, I live in Michigan remember?”  I told him…
”Now listen to me,” he said. “my boss really need employees in Phoenix and the government is coming down on the company because we don’t have many women employees so he is looking for a woman and you are a great fit!   It will get your foot in the door. You could go out there and Gary could come after you get settled. Gary could get a job down there.  There are lots of restaurants!”

 All the while my head is reeling with thoughts of a job all the way across the country!  After talking for 20 minutes or so, I did begin to get excited by the possibility of a job in Phoenix but how would I tell Gary all this.

 Ron says, “My boss will call you, his name is Willard, talk to him and see what you think.  Then you can talk to Gary about it… 

“Maybe we could do this…” I thought…

Before I even got a chance to get nervous, the phone rang.  The voice on the other end was scruffy and hoarse sounding, “Hi Jan, my name is Willard Zerbe, I am Ron Cross’s boss and I have heard a lot about you!”  My surprise couldn’t be hidden!  It would take a moment or two to recover but eventually I found my voice again. I listened to Willard’s southern drawl as he explained the job and what he needed.  He asked me about my grades and said “Ron had been keeping me up on what you have been doing…You have been doing real well in school according to Ron.” “ Drop your grades and a resume in the mail to me tomorrow, OK? “, he said, “I would like to hire you but I need you to see your grade and your resume first.  Do you think your husband will go for this? “  “I thinking we can do this if you think you can convince him. If you need help with that, we might need to get Ron on the phone to talk to him too. Don’t forget to send me that resume and you are as good as hired! ”   And with that, Willard hung up! I stood in the middle of my kitchen with my head spinning… Phoenix?  Did he really say I was hired?  Did he mean it?  The whole conversation could not have lasted more than 10 or 15 minutes. From no job, to you are hired, just like that!

Oh my, what am I going to tell Gary, how will he react?  What about my parents, his parents and all our friends.  Wow.  It was one of those moments in life when the world seems to spin a thousand miles an hour and it takes your breath away. 

 I was going to have to really think about how to present this to my husband as a win-win when he arrived home from work.  He would need to giving up his job with his family for an unknown job in Phoenix.  We would have a house to sell and a cross country move to a place that neither of us had ever been before.  I had my work cut out for me!  Lucky for me, he was off tonight.  Gary knew that I had been working hard at trying to find a job for several months now and all attempts had come up short. 

 So I decided just how I would tell him…  I would make a deal with him, “If you can just give me two years to get some experience, then if you want to return to Michigan, we can…Just let me get my foot in the door. Please?”   

Gary got home from work and before I could even get the words out of my mouth, the phone was ringing. It was Ron!

“Hey, Gietz, did she tell ya…She has a job, it’s in Phoenix, my boss is going to hire her. You can quit the restaurant and move out there.  There are lots of jobs for you.  It will be cool and as soon as I can transfer there, I will. I am going there too.  You are gonna love it! Good bye, Michigan, Hello Phoenix!” Ron rambled on hardly taking time to take a breath.

Gary said, “What are you talking about?...NO we have not talked…what are you talking about?”

Ron, “Oh, she did not tell you yet…well, call me back after you talk,” Click went the receiver!

Gary glared at me and said, “What the Hell is going on?  What is that all about?”

“Well, this is not exactly how I had planned to tell you but…” I told him how Ron had called me earlier to tell he about the job openings in Phoenix and that at first I re-acted the same as you.  I told him that a very few minutes later, his boss called. I told Gary exactly what Willard said, including the part about “you are as good as hired!”  Then I told him about my deal.  “If you can just let me do this, give me two years to get some experience and I promise if you want to come back to Michigan, we will. I need for someone to give me a break and take a chance on me and this guy in Phoenix says he wants to do that! “  There was a long, long period of silence….It was a big decision to make…just like that…

“How do you know that you really have a job?  He finally asked.
“Because Willard said so…” I replied…
“ You call him back and make sure..” He said.

The phone rang and scared both of us half to death and it of course was Ron!

“Are you packing yet? “, he said so sure that we would leave Michigan for Phoenix! And within a day or two, we made the decision. We would do it!  Within the month, I got on a plane and flew to Phoenix to start my job.  Gary and the kids stayed in Michigan, until the house sold or school got out whichever came first. 
I was a Field Service Technician for Storage Technology Corporation in Phoenix, Arizona.  And as promised by Ron, at first, I worked when equipment was broken. That lasted for about the first two years of my career.  In time we got so busy, with scheduled and unscheduled maintenance that we put in 50 and 60 hour weeks on average.  I worked for Greyhound,  Uhaul, GTE, State Farm, First Interstate Bank, ADT, The Arizona Bank, American Express, ATT, ASU and  many more fortune 500 companies. Many of them had large computer room, some half the size of a football fields. In those days, a CPU which provided the computing power for a whole computer room took up a lot of physical space.  Today the same computing power is found in a single laptop!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Week 38 of 2012 – College or Technical Training

“Once again, there is not quite enough money in the check book for all the bills”, I thought as I wrote the checks and got them ready to mail.  “Will there ever be a day when there will be enough?”, I remembered thinking…. It is 1980 and I was a young mother home with two sons, Shawn is eight and Kyle is four.  I would do everything I can to stretch our money to make it be enough for the month but some months it just did not work. 

Gary worked for his father and uncle in the family restaurant. I helped my dad out in his store when I could.   Often in family businesses, family members are treated differently than an employee who is not a family member. In family businesses it can go either way, the family member employee is favored or it is the quite the opposite.  Sometimes so much more is expected of the family member than an ordinary employee.  You don’t just go do your job and then go home….You have more riding on your job than most people realize. You find that your dad telling you “what to do” all the time can be too much for a 20 something year old who is trying to make his way in the world!  Sometimes the dad/ boss doesn’t know where to draw the line which makes the adult son and father relationship strained at best.  This was the case with Gary and his dad.  I could not expect him to work more he already worked 60 hours a week or more for his salary.  The writing was on the wall, it was time for me to get a job.

So Control Data Institute, here I come!  It was quite a crazy the way to decided what to do for a living but….Gary’s best friend, Ron Cross had gone to Control Data and gotten a pretty good computer job. He kept encouraging me to look into it every time I saw him.  “ You can do this, Jan!”,  he would tell me, “go check it out.”  It was in the early days of computers and there were quite a number of jobs available. He had gotten employment in the Detroit area but eventually transferred to Salt Lake City, Utah with a new company, called Storage Technology.  Ron kept telling me that I was smart enough to do his job and that it would be good for a mother like me.  “You work when the equipment is broke.” He told me. The rest of the time you are not working but you still get paid!  Well, that sounded pretty good to me so let the adventure begin! 

I signed up at Control Data.  I took out school loans and before I knew it I was in class learning all about computers.  I got up at 4 AM to get ready.  I drove 75 mile one way to Southfield, Michigan to begin class at 7:30 AM. Went to class from 7:30 to 1:00 PM and drove home to collect my kids from school and daycare and began my afternoon studying.  Most afternoons I hoped that Kyle would nap, some days he did, some days he didn’t.   I remember it seemed like I always had a book in my hands and was studying something. No leisure reading for me for a while, basic electricity, electronics, computer math, geometry, programing, all courses I would need to learn how to be a computer technician.  I was amazed to find out that Mr Swayzee did teach me something in his Geometry class that I hated so much.  It was the only class that I almost failed and thought that I would never use anything he taught me!  During my nine months at Control data not only did I use the geometry, I actually was able to tutor some other students. 

I remember sitting at a table with a half a dozen adults, studying and talking, when I had a mind blowing revelation!  I really can have an intelligent adult conversation. It seemed to me that it had been such a long time since I had talked to anyone other than my children.  I had been in the vacuum of “motherhood” and was soon going to break out of that mold. 

In under 6 months, I completed the training course that Control Data had planned for me.  But I still did not have my hours in so I took any additional classes that I could to fill in my time.   On January 9, 1981, I received my certificate and it was official,  I was a Computer Technician!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Week 36 of 2012 - Dances and Sleepovers

Dances and Sleepovers....that's an easy one for me!  I remember being thrilled at the prospect of a dance in Junior High....Romeo Junior High, which for us was 7th, 8th and 9th grades...1963-1966.  It was a Friday night affair and I don't even remember how often...but everyone went!  How'd we learn to dance?  I have no idea, but the girls fast danced together, holding hands, twirling and spinning.  It was kind of a box step with a hand push...sure wish there was a video/movie of us doing that.  Then the guys got involved when Bobby Vinton's "Blue Velvet" or "Roses are Red, My Love" record was played.  Yes, it was records....45's and I think the teachers were the DJs.  There were chairs along the walls of the gym, mostly filled with boys early in the evening, but by 10pm and the final song, all chairs were empty and the floor was filled.  Junior High also involved a Sadie Hawkins dance where the girls asked the guys, made a candy corsage and paid for the ticket.  I remember taking a "Hicks" boy....I can see his face, but can't remember his name.  Bianca and I made our corsages together...many times I would go to her house after school because we lived 5 miles out and Mom didn't have a car to use.  Dad would pick me up after he got out of work on Friday (9pm close for retail stores on Friday nights...always!)  I felt fortunate to get to go!

Romeo Senior High also had dances, especially the formal Homecoming and Christmas Dances and the Prom were special dance events.  Regular dances weren't as often or as well attended as they were in Junior High.  We also had the Romeo Youth Center and there were dances there in the summer. 

Adults liked to "Square Dance" with a caller or enjoy the Big Band Sound under the stars at Metropolitan Beach.  I remember seeing people dance under the Pavilion on the marble floor where I liked to roller skate and wondered why Mom and Dad didn't dance.  I don't think Dad every learned...and it might have been a No No in his strict upbringing at home.  I know Mom and Dad went to high school dances, but Mom always said "Dad didn't dance."  I have a hard time with that concept, as Dad was very musical and pretty coordinated at sports...but maybe it wasn't encouraged at home and he never felt it important.  It would be fun to ask him now!

Sleepovers weren't common for the Smith kids, as we just didn't have room with 6 kids in our tiny 3 bedroom Fritz Drive house...but we "camped out" alot.  Blankets were stretched over the clotheslines and held with clothespins.  Bricks or rock secured them on the ground and more blankets were pinned to the sides.  We never had a camping or canvas tent and at that time in our young lives, no sleeping bags either.  We slept on the ground, hid our snacks under our pillows and by morning, everything was wet with dew, no one slept very much and Mom would threaten to never let us do it again if we were crabby from lack of sleep.  Mom didn't have much patience for a varied routine at bedtime, whether it was us asking for friends to stay over, for us to go somewhere to stay or camping out in the neighborhood.  Somehow it always ended up being way more work or hassle for her.  I think she looked forward to each night and ALL KIDS in bed sleeping....finally.

As an older child, I remember staying at other friends houses.  Some, especially Bianca's, I loved her family and was totally comfortable there.  Others it was just plain difficult or unnerving to me.  There just wasn't a secure feeling at a couple of places and I told Mom I wouldn't go there again!  Once I went to Penny Falk's house after school and then rode the bus to Lapeer to cheer for a Junior High Basketball game.  When we came out to ride the bus back, it was snowing heavily.  I remember wondering if we were going to make it, which we did, but I soon found out that Mom and Dad couldn't drive the 5 miles to town to get me.  I ended up at Penny's house for several days before Dad arrived in the white van to get me.  Going back to 63021 Fritz Drive, I saw 6-8 ft drifts all along the north side of the house and our driveway was still totally snowed in.  We parked by the road and walked to the house.  Home sweet home, finally.

In my adult life and mothering role, we had Kevin Montgomery and Jason Kranz slept here regularly...they were just part of the family.  If it turned to chaos, and bedtime and lights out got later and later, they also endured my threats of "no more friends over....this is the last time!"  Sometimes, Elaine Kranz would walk over or call and ask if Jason was asleep here.  "He's not at he with you?"  I raised 3 wonderful sons and really felt like I also had #4 and #5 with those two!  Such memories...and who would have thought I'd end up with 5 boys here at times!

Week 35 of 2012...Music...has it influenced you?

Absolutely...can you imagine a life without music?  I still wish I had learned to play the piano.  I just never committed to the years of lessons and hours of practice.  I get excited when I see my granddaughter Morgan taking piano lessons and practicing some of the same songs that I saw in early lesson books.  Maybe Morgan can carry on the tradition.  I remember my Dad trying to get us involved...even to the point of making out a lesson and practice schedule.  Mine was early in the morning before school and before he left for work...not an opportune time for either of us.  I don't think those lessons lasted more than a couple of weeks.

After "flute" or tonette in fourth grade, I was inspired to play clarinet in the Romeo South Grade School band.  Bianca and I both decided clarinet was the one for us...mostly because the case wasn't too big to carry back and forth...and I think Bianca already had a clarinet from her older sister.  I just copied her.  I enjoyed it a lot and never considered quitting.  It was a great experience all the way through...especially with Mr. Middleton (Bill), who was very strict and disciplined in Junior High School.  We learned very quickly how much fun it was to work toward excellence and what it felt like to achieve a I rating at the district and state competitions.  Mr E C Ojala was the the high school band director.  He was very nice, but older and less structured.  While we had a great experience, he did not demand as much from his students and there was a lot of horsing around, which Mr Middleton would not tolerate.  Band included concert band and marching band for football games and summer parades.  We got to travel to Traverse City each summer for the Cherry Festival.  It was a three day trip and we had a great time.  There are stories there for another time!  We also went to Band Day at U of M each year, played at the Michigan State Fair on Labor Day weekend and would march in several out of town parades each summer.  The band was paid to participate and it helped the band budget considerably.

Music was always part of our church experience, with Mom and Dad often in the choir.  We occasionally had a choir for the children, but nothing on a regular basis.   In Harbor Beach we had a large children's choir comprised of children from the Presbyterian Church and United Methodist Churches.  Diana Tanton and I had a group of 25-30 boys and girls and we would practice after school for an hour once a week, or more if there was a performance scheduled.  The kids loved to sing and we used a cassette tape with words to learn it and and with only music for the show.  I still have a notebook with the printed songs, which include "Only 4ft 11" (but I know I'm going to heaven and it makes me feel 10ft tall!), "He's Still Workin on Me" (to make me what I ought to be), "Arky, Arky" (The Lord told Noah there's gonna be a floody, floody), "Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego"....and dozens more.  I can remember some of them, but unfortunately no tunes.  I wonder if I still have a cassette tape somewhere.  It'd be fun to share them with my grandchildren.  I enjoy singing in church today.  We haven't had a regular weekly choir for years.

 Last year I finally decided to go to Community Choir for the Easter Cantata rehearsals.  Mom and Dad always sang in Community every community they lived in.  Several times they mentioned it when they lived in Harbor Beach, wondering if I'd like to.  Now, I know what I missed by not participating with them when I had the chance.  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  Practice started right after the holiday and was held every Monday evening at the Lutheran Church.  Performances would be prior to Easter and would include singing at Forestville, Snover, Deckerville, Port Hope and Harbor Beach. It was a great experience that only lasted one year.  Warren Ramsey who directed the group forever, decided it was time to step down and no one picked up the reins.  I hope that maybe someone will in the future and I would sing once again!  I'm sure that Mom and Dad enjoyed me "finally" giving it a try!