Saturday, September 29, 2012
The Job Hunter
It’s hard to know now how my mother felt about having to go back to work, but my oldest brother is pretty sure she was unhappy. Perhaps she just wished to stay home and raise children. Mother eventually spent twenty plus years working in the Cardiac Clinic at Grady Hospital as a nutritionist, and Daddy the same amount of time working for Douglas County Schools in their central office as Curriculum Instructor for Elementary Schools.
When Western Auto gave Daddy the news that he would be transferred with his job once again, Mother and Daddy searched for a solution. At one point Daddy worked for Fulton Cotton Mills, and my brother Hunter has memories of going to Daddy's job with him and "chute" surfing.
My parents wished to plant roots for their young family, much like the memories that both had of growing up in a solid community, and making the decision for Daddy to not move on with Western Auto forced them to seek other means of income.
In the early 1960s, mother and daddy bought into and opened an employment agency in downtown Atlanta called the Job Hunter. Since my oldest brother’s name was Hunter, in my young mind, I thought they had simply named their business for him. Margaret, my sister, remembers that it was the name of the business that made the move to buy into it serendipitous. Well, except not.
Since they would be working full time in the business together, it was somewhere around this time that my great Aunt Josie, a widow, came to live with us, and mother and daddy began their great adventure as small business owners.
Setting up their agency in Atlanta’s second oldest skyscraper, which was built in 1898, we all have fond memories of visiting and playing inside the Grant Building. Known for its Chicago style of architecture and the carved and very ornate arches that hovered over its two entrances, the building seem impressive, important, and grand to me, and when I got to “go to work” with one of my parents, the visit brought excitement and anticipation of fun.
Eh. I was easily amused. In fact, we all were. :-)
On the bus route from southwest Atlanta where we lived, we paid a dime to ride the bus downtown and exited in an area of Atlanta near Five Points. I wish I could remember the name of the bus we took-- but I'm pretty sure it was 27 University Avenue/Five Points -- and its travel took the riders down a main thoroughfare that ran parallel to the newly built four lane and eventually took a right into the downtown area. The bus passed small businesses, gas stations, churches, bungalows, and eventually made its way by a small industrial area and in to the intersection of the few "skyscrapers" that Atlanta had.
The Grant Building loomed tall on Broad Street, and mother and daddy rented an office space on the third floor. At one time or other, each of us spent some quality [also known as lengthy] time there where the expectation was for us to “amuse“ ourselves without committing felonies. This “quality” time mostly was on a Saturday when one of them had gone in to "the office" to catch up on paperwork, and they simply divvied up the parenting. Other times it might have been as a type of “time out” for each of us from the other. As close in age as we were, we never seemed to get along well for any extended period.
The Grant Building’s huge arched doorways laid out a warm welcome to its cavernous lobby that rose higher than one level. A wide marbled lobby lay directly inside the doors but narrowed in the center to designate and allow for the waiting area that fronted the four or maybe six elevators; I can‘t remember how many.
My shoes made a loud echoing sound on that floor as I clomped in to await the elevator. I have faint memories of removing them and taking advantage of the high polish and slick surface those floors provided for pretend ice skating and for some less than “organized“ slipping and sliding. I imagined we ran with all our might and then let nature, and high polish, take over.
The elevators, a throw back to a different era, still had the chained gates and allowed a view of the hoisting mechanism and other such pulleys that carried a rider to the upper floors. Thrilled to be the first to push the "up" button, that lit up with a touch, and awaiting the arrival of the elevator, its clanging and thumping and groaning, with more buttons to push once inside, seemed a singular experience and one to be savored. On the ground floor above the elevator doors were indicator lights that highlighted the floor on which the elevator was stopped. I loved watching the little squares lights that marked "10 or 9 or 8" change as the elevator moved through the floors.
I spent hours riding up and down, and if my sibling were available, chasing him in some sort of unwritten but mad game of hide and seek or the best game -- elevator racing -- which simply means getting on separate elevators and pushing the top floor button and seeing who arrived first. Yes. I made myself stupidly giddy with that anxiousness and excitement as I stood there with my mind chanting "Come on, come on," waiting for its arrival.
I pretty sure my brothers cheated at this "elevator riding" game.
The Grant Building also had a wide stairwell that proved to be a playground as well as a place to hide -- well, when hiding was needed. In the hallways and available to tempt me were the glassed-in fire extinguishers, resplendent in their red with folded hose behind them, with the warning, “In case of fire, break glass.”
The thought of that glass breaking made my palms itch.
The third floor made up many offices with the titles of the business blazoned in black lettering on the opaque glass and wooden door that fronted the individual waiting areas. The Job Hunter, Suite 308, featured a small front room with a few hard chairs, a table with well-used magazines with missing pages that I flipped through numerous times,a couple of floor lamps, and two doors for the two offices that my parents used for meeting clients. Above the doors to the offices were transom windows that let in light, and when the windows were opened in warm weather, the bustling noise from Broad Street filtered in to the rooms.
In the winter, old radiators hissed and rattled, but on Saturdays when it was cold, the place emitted a bone chilling cold that allowed me to see my breath.
I liked to sit in the chair behind one of the desks and play “office.” Stamp pads, paper clips, rubber bands, binders, small flip top notebooks, carbon paper, and rubber thumb protectors were just a few of the items to handle and examine. Pretending to answer the phone, opening and closing the desk and file cabinets drawers, scribbling on paper, shooting wads of paper at the trash can, and pounding the keys on this ancient adding machine or type writer gave me oodles of early office experience and whiled away time; perhaps this early training led to my later office supply addiction.
Mother and Daddy never made a satisfactory income with their small business and closed the Job Hunter after two or three years. Its short tenure, regardless, left my siblings and me with some great memories.
My brother Kenneth remembers taking the assessment tests intended to gauge a client’s skill level and “acing” them. He swore I was good at them too. If it had math, I doubt it, but I could put some words in alphabetical order.
Margaret and Hunter tell how one client couldn’t pay for the job counseling, but instead worked out a deal and bartered his fee by offering mother and daddy a huge kitchen table and chairs in payment. They took it, and in order to get it home, Hunter and Margaret rode in the trunk of our Oldsmobile holding the chairs as Daddy drove it from the Grant Building to our house in southwest Atlanta. “Daddy took surface streets” Hunter remembers, and the trunk lid bounced up and down smacking the chairs and their hands. My sister adds, "I have no idea how we got that table home."
BTW: In this day and age, Daddy would have been arrested for cruelty to children.
We ate at that table for twenty-two years, and when our parents sold my childhood home in 1978, that table disappeared. None of us knows what happened to it.
The other solid memory we all share comes from the “leftovers” from the failed business: business cards, boxes of letterhead stationery with The Job Hunter, 44 Broad Street, Suite 308, Atlanta, 03, Georgia in red and blue across the top and the matching envelopes, as well as many full boxes of fat, white pencils with the Job Hunter displayed prominently on their sides.
When we cleaned out mother and daddy’s house after their deaths in 1995 and thirty-five years later, we found a few of those pencils in drawers and pencil holders as if frozen in time. In essence, I guess they were--