Sunday, April 17, 2011

40 Years Ago - Today

I started my real life job that would carry me through 38 years for the same company.

I wasn’t looking for a job here, but I was getting ready to graduate from college, get an apartment and get married, so I figured it might be better than what I was doing now.

Now I had been working to earn money to spend on records and eat out, but no great financial windfalls. For that matter, money never seemed that important to me. Working as a caddy, pool boy, grass cutter, newspaper deliverer, sign painter, rock and roll guitar player, vending machine stocker, public library page and artist, and even Santa Claus was my resume when I saw the full page ad in the newspaper requesting anyone who was breathing to apply for a job there.

So at lunchtime, I walked the block away from my current job and filled out the paperwork in the personnel office. I was then shuffled through the picket line (the type setters who were on strike to protest the change from hot metal to cold type) and to the second floor to be introduced to the “Creative Services” manager.

After a brief view of my application, he noted I was about to graduate from the local art college, and then offered me a job. There was no discussion of salary, times, working conditions or benefits, so I said “Yes”.

He then asked if I could start right away, like today at 3 P.M.?

After giving my former boss a two-week notice, I started cleaning up for the new establishment job. I even wore a tie to the first day (see attached photo).

I sat in a metal cubicle with a wooden drawing board, a wooden drawer thingy and a telephone on a swivel rod. I had no idea what I was supposed to do or who I was to report to or who else worked in this office.
It was a part time job starting around noon until six and Saturday morning. The title was “Masking Artist” which meant I was to cut amberlite (and orange film peeled off of clear acetate) mask for photos so backgrounds could be dropped out. All my college classes had not trained me for this technique, so the Assistant Art Director had to show me step-by-step how the process was done.

I must have picked it up quickly because I became a “Jr. Artist”, then an “Artist” , then an “Assistant Art Director” and then an “Art Director”. The sales staff asked for fast ideas which I could produce so every year, right before the new year, the boss would call me into his office, look through a file and say I was doing a fine job and would get a % raise. It was much, but it was always enough to pay the bills and put food on the table for my wife and me.

Then the digital world came along and everything changed. I realized what these new desktop computers offered and struggled to learn on my own how they worked. This new television attached to a gray box could produce type in various sizes and styles; create graphics and logos, tone photos with the ease of a mouse click.

Absorbing the new technology I became a missionary of the change in the industry with multi-media presentations and classes.

After a consolation of departments by outside consultants, my “Technology Specials” turned into a daily grind of “Operations Manager”. Budgets, employee files and day-to-day work flows overtook the creativity.

Finally, I assumed the roll of “Database Administrator” being responsible for tracking the elements and processes of the network. That was until the stock dropped and lacking budgets required cuts.
I learned a lot of different techniques of printing and relish the opportunity to be part of an industry shift, but am sorry it is now a dying industry.

Surprisingly I still have dreams of solving problems with some of the characters I worked with over the years. Perhaps that is what I actually did, I was a “Problem Solver”.

And as time fades the memories, the lack of stress and long hours and endless paperwork and unproductive meetings are not missed. I made some good friends along the way, taught a few and learned from others, and had a pretty good run.

So I will put the identification card away for the past has gone and the next generation can solve the problems on there own.

1 comment:

ex employee too said...

Those were the days, my friend: the Monday night bus trip to see Joe Theisman get his leg broken, the open bar staff meetings, Scarlett, Haward the Horrible, and did I mention all the free drinks?...