Labor Day 2015

This is Labor Day, 2015. It’s September 7, 2015.

I’ve spent this day thinking about all the jobs I’ve had over the years. I began working (for someone else) when I was 13. There was a man who lived across the street and he refinished furniture. He paid me to help with sanding, etc. for 3 or 4 hours after school every day.

The man who owned the small grocery store on the corner found out I was working and he offered me a job running his cash register after school. That was an easier job and I took it. I don’t know if those two ever made up because the furniture refinisher (Mr. Daniels) was furious that he lost my help.

I also spent the night with an old lady – she was in her late 80’s or early 90’s some Friday nights. Her own grandchildren didn’t want to stay with her even though she paid them. My mother was their fathers’ legal secretary and she called one day to see if I’d want to stay. It was a whole new world for me being in that lady’s house. She had raised several children and the house was huge and full of bedrooms. Her furnishings were beautiful. Her husband and her sons were lawyers. I remember one night she sent me into the ktichen to get her some water. I had to go through the formal dining room. Suddenly I heard a loud, scary buzzer. I froze and yelled to her, “What’s THAT?” She chuckled and said it was the burglar alarm. Take my foot off it and it would stop buzzing. Those buzzers were under the floor in various places in that room. I also learned from her how to hang small bells around doorknobs so you would know if anyone was entering your home. She had no TV and there wasn’t much to do except read or talk. She was an interesting woman and I wondered why her grandchildren didn’t want to stay. One night when I showed up, one of the younger girls was there. She was planning to spend the night and complaining about it. Her parents showed up right after I did to take her home. She threw a fit! If I was staying, SHE wanted to stay. That night the old lady had two “guests” as the parents gave in and left her. I did mention if she was staying, I would go on home and the granddaughter started up again with her demands. So I stayed. That job consisted of me being ready to call 911 if anything happened. It never did.

The summer I was 16 a friend told me about jobs at the Shirt Factory. I went with her and applied and we both got hired. I worked all summer standing up as a seam inspector. I was glad when the summer ended. The kids I went to school with came back complaining about the end of summer. I did get some new school clothes that year from my earnings.

January of that school year, my sister, who worked as a secretary for a Justice of the Peace (now called Magistrate) had a baby and quit her job. Mr. Stowe asked me if I’d like to work for him and I went to the school principal and explained that the only class I had after lunch was Bible II (considered a “history” course), and I didn’t need it to graduate. I asked if I could leave school at lunch to work for Mr. Stowe. Surprisingly, he said yes. So I dropped the Bible II class and worked until that spring when Mr. Stowe let me go because, he said, he needed full-time help and my part-time availability wasn’t working for him. I remember crying so hard that afternoon as I left. I had learned how to type up warrants and I’d seen marriages performed. The job had been interesting and I hated losing it. I was recommended to a local accountant by my business education teacher and he interviewed me but ended up hiring someone older with more experience. When I graduated at age 17, I went back to the shirt factory to inspect seams.

Before a year was over, my mother became very ill and I quit the job to try to help with her. Once she was better, I heard about the Telephone Company hiring Telephone Operators and I went to their office to apply. I was hired and went through six weeks of training with another girl I graduated from high school with.

I worked there for two years and then heard about a new company in town called “Hamilton Beach, Division of Scovill”. They were hiring office workers and I went there and applied. I was hired and worked there a couple years before I decided to apply to college. I was accepted to college with enough financial aid to quit my job. I was put on the work study program.

The Work Study Program, which placed me in a job on campus, was part of my financial aid package and I didn’t have to pay the money back. I worked 15 hours a week and had 14 hours (or more) of classes each week. I was placed at the ECU News Bureau and loved working there. They offered me a permanent job when I graduated and I have often regretted not taking it. However, I wanted to be a teacher, so I was sending out applications for teaching jobs. When I got a call from Pitt County Board of Education, I thought I had one. However, that job proved to be an office job in the Central Office. I had applied for an office job and the ad didn’t say who it was with. I was so very disappointed when I found out what I was being offered. However, I took the job and continued to send out teaching applications. a few days after I started work as Katheryn Lewis’s and Dr. John McKnight’s secretary, I was called in to the Superintendent’s office. He told me Mrs. Lewis was extremely pleased with my job performance and if I’d stay with her a year, he’d give me a teaching contract the next school year. I said yes and that’s what I did.

I was very disappointed in May when I found out the teaching job he had for me was that of a migrant teacher. I wanted a classroom. Instead I got a job working with children of migrant workers at two different schools. That first year, I worked hard to find other migrant children at the school I spent the most time at. By the end of the school year, enough children had been identified that I was placed just at that school. I’d heard you had to ask for several years to get transferred from the migrant teacher position to a classroom position, so I applied for a Kindergarten Teacher position that became available at my school. I was surprised in August to find out I had gotten it.

I worked for a year with Kindergarten students (Chicod Elementary School) and thoroughly enjoyed it.

That May I married a man who lived in Raleigh and when the school year ended, I resigned and moved to Raleigh. There I went back to doing office work because there was an overage of teachers and I was not able to find a teaching job. I worked with Olsten Temporary Company and was placed in various positions. After the birth of my first son, I became a stay at home mom.

When my son was 8 months old, I began keeping two babies while their mothers worked. It was a very hard, demanding job and I complained to my husband often. I had enjoyed taking care of my own son and thought it would be 3 times the fun. It was not. It was 3 times the work. I loved the babies I kept, but it was exhausting. Finally after being tired of my complaining, my husband said if I hated it that much to QUIT! Well, I did. He was surprised, but I was much happier. I ended up having a second child a few months later. I continued being a stay at home mom, but was bored because everyone else in the neighborhood went off to work every day and so I began writing. I wrote at nap time and sent off various poems and stories. The first two poems I sent off were accepted for publication in different magazines. One was titled “Laments of an Old Cat” and it eventually was published in two different magazines. The other poem, “To My Friend” was also published. I’d often respond to Dennis Rogers column in the News and Observer and he’d usually use my letters to him in his Letters and Leftover Columns that he printed on Fridays. I wrote a column for my son’s elementary school as well. It was titled “Tadpole Tidbits”. The school mascot was a frog.

I’m trying to remember other jobs because at some point the marriage ended and I began to need to work again. I had let my teaching certification lapse as I thought the marriage would last forever. I was wrong. So I found myself doing other jobs. I worked at Belks for six months while I took two graduate courses to get re-certified in Teaching. I worked for over a year through Olsten Temp Service at NC State Retirement Office in Raleigh. The people there were some of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with. They reminded me of the friends I had at ECU’s News Bureau. Then I found a better paying job at IBM. I worked there over a year when I found a job teaching with Durham Public Schools. I worked in Durham for 7 years. I was a Reading Recovery Teacher for three years. I had a First grade classroom for three years and I had a first/second grade classroom for one year. When the principal changed, I really disliked the new principal and I ended up resigning. I went to Graduate School at UNCW and got a Masters Degree in Language and Literacy. I was a Reading Specialist.

I turned down a job in South Carolina (another regret) to help design the Reading Program for their Middle Schools. Instead I took a job as a Fifth Grade teacher. It was the worst job I ever had. I did that job for three years. I had three sons in college and needed to work. At the end of the third year, although I had tenure, I quit. The working conditions were unbearable. I moved again and then began working as a Track Out Academy Teacher.  I worked with children in grades K-2 to help raise their reading levels at a year round school. After that I worked as an Intervention Teacher for a couple more years at the same school.

Recently – last spring – my doctor said I was too sick to continue working and I took a medical leave. I’m still on that, but am trying to do some writing. I have so many things I started, but never finished writing over the years. I hope to have some of those manuscripts published. Sometimes I hope to go back to teaching, at least part-time, but the doctor isn’t very encouraging when I mention it.

So . . . Labor Day, 2015. I am not actively working. I am still considered “employed” and on medical leave. Everyone else will return to work tomorrow. I will be here.

Corbett Picture


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