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181015 October 15, 2018


My First Four Jobs 
Barbara Wilkerson Donnelly
LHS ‘64

(Another reprint from an earlier issue.)

    During my high school years, I held four jobs that I really enjoyed. The first was wrapping gifts at Dunnavant’s Department Store. I believe I was 14 years old because I remember going to the Superintendent of Education’s office to obtain a permit to work after school. I was hired for the Christmas season and was paid $1.00 per hour, if memory serves. I would have worked for nothing, I was so excited to finally have a job! It was great fun just to be in downtown Huntsville during the Christmas rush with all the windows decked out, bells ringing, Christmas music playing everywhere, and everyone bustling about in search of the “perfect” gift. There were two older ladies who were the regular employees, and they taught me to wrap a package in under 90 seconds, which was essential because we often had customers lined up from the back of the store to the front door! I still love to wrap presents and have only good memories of my first job.

    My second job was working for radiologists as a medical stenographer. The group was called Camp, Bryson, and Young. There was also a fourth radiologist, Dr. Vaughn. Dr. Bryson was Gene Bryson’s (Class of ’64) father, and he was an absolutely wonderful employer. He reminded me very much of Gene, personality-wise. I had heard that the doctors needed someone to answer the phone during the summer, so I applied for the job. I was interviewed by Doctor Camp, who was a very stern and imposing figure. He asked if I could spell well, and I replied that I could. After determining that I could also type, he handed me a booklet which contained 5,000 medical terms and said, “Learn to spell these words, and come back in a month. We’ll hire you as a medical stenographer.” This was a bit overpowering since I had no idea what a medical stenographer did. However, being of sound LHS stock with a strong dose of “Jane Riddle Parks typewriting skills” under my belt, I quickly figured out that I’d probably be typing medical reports!

    When I returned to the office, booklet in hand and eager to begin, Dr. Camp took me to a small room which was only large enough to contain a desk, a chair, an electric typewriter, and a Dictaphone. Uh-oh! I had never typed on an electric typewriter at this point and had most certainly never seen a Dictaphone. He handed me a “belt” containing dictated medical reports and told me to “transcribe” them. He said if I did a good job after a two-day trial, I’d have the job at $1.50 per hour. If I didn’t do a good job, then we’d part ways, to put it kindly. I had no idea how to insert the belt into the machine, nor how to work the foot pedal which allowed you to forward or reverse the belt. As I sat there, almost in tears, trying to get the darn machine to play, one of the x-ray techs took pity on me and showed me the ropes. At the end of two days, I was kept on, with pay, I might add.

    There was another x-ray tech named Martha, who loved to play practical jokes on me. One day she asked if I’d like a milkshake and showed me their “milkshake machine.” That was my first experience with barium, which was used for upper and lower gastrointestinal x-rays. It was a very chalky, disgusting-tasting substance, even with the supposed disguise of strawberry flavoring, and it didn’t take much of it for me to figure out that I’d been had. Martha was really cool and drove a little car called a “Sunbeam,” which had a convertible top. She took me for a ride one day during our lunch break and introduced me to Meatball Hoagies at Pasquale’s on Governor’s Drive (or maybe it was still Fifth Avenue). They also served the world’s best blueberry pie. I learned a lot while working at this job, including how to process x-rays in a darkroom. Occasionally I helped to set up cancer patients for radiation treatments. 

    One of my fondest memories was the day I had to call Dr. Bryson on the phone because I’d already spent 10 minutes searching my handy little book for a word that he had dictated. I read the sentence aloud, but he couldn’t remember the word I was trying hard to pronounce to him. He finally told me to just put my earphone up to the receiver and hit the foot pedal, which I did. He started laughing, and it was at least three minutes before he calmed down enough to say, “Honey, that’s just me burping, and the machine picked it up!” What a sweet man he was.

    This was a very rewarding job in many ways. I’m not sure what the minimum wage was at that time, but I believe some of the D.O. (or D.E.?) students made 50 cents per hour. My $1.50 per hour was a small fortune to me. I left the job only because there was just too much work for me to handle after school resumed. Even though the doctors would send some of the belts to the hospital steno pool, I still ended up working pretty late some evenings. Four doctors saw a good number of patients during the course of an eight-hour day, and each patient meant a dictated report. During the summer, this was demanding, but possible. I just couldn’t handle it all on a part-time basis, however. No matter how much they assured me that they didn’t mind taking the excess to the steno pool, I felt as if I was not doing the job as well as I did during the summer months, and it bothered me every evening when I left for home. Type A personalities are like that, you know, and I was cursed or blessed, depending upon your outlook, with that letter of the alphabet.

    The next job I had was similar in nature. I went to work for Dr. Charles Selah, who was a surgeon. He needed temporary help because he was opening a new office. This job had the potential of becoming more than temporary. Unfortunately, the typewriter was an IBM Executive with keys of varying sizes and a ridiculously-divided space bar. Since I had learned to space using the thumb of the hand with which I’d just finished a word, my spacing was all over the place! Even though years later I finally mastered this beast, it provided many moments of stress during those early days. My job, besides typing reports, was to sterilize the surgical instruments in the Autoclave, to keep the exam rooms prepared, and to ready the patients for exams. I sometimes assisted with exams and minor procedures, which consisted of handing Dr. Selah whatever he needed.

    After a few months, when the new office was running smoothly, I was told that they no longer needed me. I think that was a polite way of saying, “The IBM Executive monster-machine has won!” I learned a lot during my limited run with Dr. Selah and left on good terms. I saw him a few times as a patient while Ed and I were students at Auburn and were home visiting. He would never let me pay him as long as we attended AU. In fact, I had a difficult time convincing him to bill my insurance company in later years when we were no longer struggling college students! He was not only an excellent surgeon, but also a kind and generous gentleman. I’ll always remember his twinkling blue eyes, and that I never saw him upset at any time while I worked for him.

    My last position was as a cashier at the newly-opened Scottie’s Discount Store downtown. It was located diagonally across from Belk Hudson’s, where my mother worked. One day during her lunch break she had gone into the store, and the manager told her that he was in desperate need of help. I interviewed and was told to report Saturday morning at 8:00 AM. When I arrived, I thought it was very strange to find a note addressed to me taped to the front door, which was propped slightly open with a brick. The manager, whose name I won’t use here, said that he couldn’t handle the pressure any longer, so he had just quit and left! He had placed the cash inside the register and had included the name and phone number of the district manager, Mr. Iggleton, who was located in another state, possibly Virginia or Georgia.  I know that it was a drive of several hours. I called him immediately, and he asked if I would be comfortable running things until he could get there, or whether I’d prefer to just close it up. Mind you, he knew this was my first day, and he was willing to give me a chance to hold it together, which earned my strongest allegiance from that moment on. I decided to give it a try. Mr. Iggleton was so nice and told me to just use my judgment if I couldn’t find a price. He also told me that I should feel free to lock up any time I needed a break. My mother came over during her lunch break and ran the register long enough for me to eat a quick sandwich, which she’d brought from the Ritz Café, a couple of doors away. 

    Mr. Iggleton arrived late in the afternoon, and I really enjoyed working with him. We had the store to ourselves for several weeks while he interviewed applicants for the manager’s position; therefore, I got to know him very well. I worked after school and all day Saturday. Needless to say, almost anything I did was fine with Mr. Iggleton, because of the circumstances under which we had met. This was good, because one day a lady came running in the front door like a bat out of hell and virtually shouted at me, “Do you have pretty feet?” I said, “Do I have what?” She replied, “Do you have pretty feet?” My reply probably sounded like I was trying to be a smart a--, because I had never heard of the product “Pretty Feet,” which had just come on the market. I just replied, “Well, I think all feet are sort of ugly.” She asked for the manager because I’d been impertinent, but he straightened her out, of course! I guess she just had an “ugly feet” emergency.

    I met many interesting people while I worked at Scottie’s. “Mr. Tums” had a propensity for eating Tums, as you might guess, and came in once a week to stock up. There was a young man who stole one package of Schick razor blades every Saturday! Betty, the other cashier, saw what looked like razor blades sticking out of his back pocket one day, but she wasn’t certain enough to stop him as he left the store. From that point on, we would try to keep an eye on him when he came in. The store was usually packed with customers on Saturdays, and his pattern was to start down the aisle on the far side of the room from the razor blades at a leisurely pace, eventually stopping at the display of blades which hung on the wall on the opposite side of the store. Then he would exit quickly. We would count the blades while he was strolling down the first aisle, and then we’d count after he had left. We were always one short. He was the source of great consternation, especially for the manager, because this young man was supposedly mentally challenged. The truth of the matter was that he presented a mental challenge to us each week, and it was one which we never won! I left Scottie’s only because I had graduated from LHS and was preparing to enter UAH.

    I learned a lot from each of my jobs: how to quickly wrap a mean present; how to work under pressure; not to panic when faced with something new; that Pasquale’s made the best Meatball Hoagies in the USA; that people are often smarter than you give them credit for being; and that the person who invented the Executive Typewriter had a definite sadistic streak! Most importantly, I learned that I could do just about anything I decided to do, and that if I didn’t know how to do something, I could learn. These jobs were the foundation for my work ethic which stood me well during my later college days. There were other jobs, I’ll admit, at which I did not put forth the same effort as in my first four, and, not surprisingly, I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much. But one day I grew up, and my roots held out. It finally all came together in the understanding that if it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing to the best of your ability. I took away a lot more from each of those first four jobs than the salary I was paid. I believe – no, I hope – that each of those employers felt that I did my job well, and that I earned my pay. 

My Jobs
Chip Smoak
LHS '66

    My first job was not an official job per se.  My maternal grandmother, at the tender age of 56 took up upholstery.  She got so good that some people bought new furniture and took it to her to redo before they took it home.  She had furniture come from all over the world.  Sears, Roebuck & Co. offered to move her to Dallas and set her up in a shop.  They did not require her to do their work exclusively, only give it priority.  She declined and said she would stay home.  My job was to tear pieces of upholstered furniture down to the frame in preparation for her or her assistant, a black lady who was to some degree part of the family.  My "pay" was the change I found between the cushions, not a lot but enough for a kid still in elementary school.  The experience stood me in good stead later when I got a job at a department store as a furniture touch-up man.  

    My first paying job was at a branch library in Shreveport, Louisiana for the magnificent sum of $.25 an hour.  I always suspected that the librarian was paying me out of her own pocket.  She was a lady that took a strong interest in the youth who frequented that branch of the library.  I straightened books on the bookshelves, fed bread crumbs to the birds, and performed whatever other menial chores she assigned to me.

    My next job was operating kiddie rides at the Jaycees Beach outside of Guntersville.  After that I had a paper route in Huntsville.  Then I went to work for Pizitz Department Store on the loading dock unloading merchandise from 18 wheeler company trucks to deliver to the various departments and delivering merchandise to customers.  

    Each job provided knowledge and training that helped develop me for the future and adulthood.

Billy Byrom’s Memorial Service
Sarajane Setigerwald Tarter
LHS '65

    I’m so glad I was able to attend Billy’s Memorial Service on September 28th, 2018. I think it would have made Billy happy and proud.

    Several people spoke, including his daughter, Tara, who captured Billy’s true nature by telling stories that showed his sense of humor, his big heart, and his love of life, friends and family. There were a lot of his Lee buddies at the service and I was glad I was sitting next to one of them; my good friend, Lamar Taylor.

    Another speaker told stories about Billy growing up and he said that Billy learned to be generous through his mom's actions. Luckily, I was a beneficiary of that generosity. Our Junior year Billy, Judy and I shared Billy’s locker (the ones Judy and I were assigned weren’t as convenient as Billy’s). At some point we realized that Billy’s mom made him the most delicious roast beef sandwiches. Pretty soon there appeared 3 sandwiches on the days he got roast beef.

    Throughout our lives Billy and I remained friends and I knew he would be there for me if I ever needed help. The last communication I received from Billy was after his surgery and he said, “Surgery a success. Now the healing.  Love you!”

    What wonderful memories of John William ‘Boppin Billy’ Byrom! 

        Memphis, TN - We had such a good reaction to Collins' article last week, Barbara asked if i would reprint her story about her first jobs in Huntsville, so I did. If any of you want to add to this line of thought, feel free to send me an email.

The Next Lee Lunch Bunch
Date Set

Thursday, October, 25, 2018
11:00 A.M.
Galen’s Restaurant
Andrew Jackson Way   Huntsville, AL

    Hello fellow LHS classmates from the classes of ’64, ’65, ’66.

    Remember to save the date for our next Lee Lunch Bunch gathering. I have had many positive comments to come my way about us meeting at Galen’s, so until someone comes up with a better place for us, I guess we will meet there for now. It does not cost for us to meet there, the food is good, and they are so very nice to us. Jaime, the owner’s daughter, already had us on the calendar from when we were there in April. She remembered that we meet twice a year on the last Thursday of April and October, so she went ahead and put us down for this October. How great is that? 

    I know that September and October are both great months to travel, so if you are out on the road, please make Huntsville one of your stops long enough to join your fellow classmates for lunch on the last Thursday of October at Galen’s. Hope to see you there.

    Please, please let me know if you plan to come. I need to let them know by the day before how many we expect to come for lunch.

    Thanks and see you soon,
    Patsy Hughes Oldroyd ‘65              Or message me or Judy
H (256) 232-7583                         Fedrowisch Kincaid on 
C (256) 431-3396                          Facebook


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Restaurant Name

Dennis Tribble

    The restaurant Collin's cannot remember (in last week's story) sounds like a place I worked washing dishes it was named the " DWARF" Restaurant.




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