Monday, August 30, 2010

Career Girl

It was because of my desire to go to Bible school that Mom & Dad started talking about moving to Overland Park in the summer of 1966. When a job came open in the Kansas City office, Dad transferred from central Missouri & we moved to Kansas, moving away from our little home town of Hallsville to start our lives in the big city.

Dad was never one to let us sit idle around the house. He had a strong work ethic & thought we should have one too. We hadn't even moved into our house, still staying in a hotel until the closing was finalized, and Dad had me out job hunting. I was seventeen, getting ready to enter my Senior year in high school,
& he thought I needed a part time job, at the least!

J C Penney had a Regional Credit Office in Mission, Kansas and they loved to hire the girls from the Bible School as they usually turned out to be good workers. I put my application in & was soon hired.

I had no idea what it was but was hired on to work in the "Collections Department".

I soon found out.

Mom & Dad never had a credit card, until much later in life when Dad needed one for travels & they always paid it off monthly. So, I was quite surprised to find out that you could just throw that little card down & take home a sack of Penney's goodies, only to have to pay it back in dribs & drabs. I later learned those dribs & drabs could cost you dearly!

For a while, I was in charge of "bad checks, frauds, forgeries, stolen credit cards & bankruptcy's".

What a fun way to spend your day!

It was back in the days before the "truth in lending" law & we were allowed to call someone numerous times, which later was considered harassment & our rules had to be changed. I learned to "skip trace", call neighbors to leave messages, & I think we even could call places of employment to try to talk to the customer. Phones were often slammed in our ears throughout the day. I had several people tell me..."you can't get blood out of a turnip"...which really made my day!

I worked for Penneys from the summer of 1966 until some time in 1969.

Several of the dorm girls worked their also & would ask for a ride to work.

At one time I had a Pontiac "tank" & hauled 4 to 5 girls a day for 75cents a trip, which became my "mad money", to spend as I wanted.

For some reason that I no longer remember, I quit Penneys to find work somewhere else. Somehow I ended up at Montgomery Wards, also in their Collections Department & was an actual "bill collector".

We sat in rows, desk after desk, making phone calls all day long, or searched through stacks of city directories, or reference books, trying to locate people.

When I started for Penneys in 1966, my beginning wage was $1.27 1/2 per hour. In December, 1972, when I left Montgomery Wards, I was making $4.00 per hour, which was very good money for that time.

Both of those credit offices are gone now.

I'm sure in this computer age the collections are done a whole different way, without so many employees making call after call all day long. I remember the mammoth computer of that time took up a larger room. It spit out ream after ream of print outs of billings. Today those are probably all stored somewhere on a hard drive. For several years, my mother-in-law worked for Penneys as a keypunch of a room full of ladies who typed in all of the data from each store receipt, which would then be punched onto a card, and those cards were sorted & read by the computer. That computer had a full time repair man on duty & it was notorious for breaking down & stalling all billing operations. Talk about frustrating!

Both Penneys & Wards were good employers. It wasn't what I had planned on doing as a career, but as a young girl & then a new bride, I had to work.

When you got a phone call back then, it was from someone right here in the good old USA, & unless our accents were heavily Southern, you could understand us plainly. Plain enough that our ears sometimes echoed from receivers being slammed down! And when you returned a call, you got to talk to us....not a recording!

I have no regrets that my "collection" career ended when we moved to Indiana.

At least I no longer had to hear about bloody turnips!

Note: After thinking about this, I also remember that Mom worked in the retail store for Penney's in Columbia, Missouri, before she was married. She was very proud to tell about the time that Mr. J.C. Penney himself came to their store and she got to shake his hand!


The Farmer's Daughter said...

What an interesting story, Sheila! I love to read about the backgrounds of the bloggers as well as the day to day happenings. Neat that your mother got to meet Mr. J C Penney himself!

Have a great Tuesday!

Sherry said...

That is a job I would HATE! I love to read your stories. I wish my life was as interesting as yours then I could have an interesting blog too!