First Job… by JoAnn

A woman sitting at a desk with a box of plants.

My sister Jeanie is four years older than me. In the 1970s, she was in high school and a straight-A student. She took the popular business course classes that included; typing, shorthand, accounting, etc. She excelled in each and every subject. The school had a program where they would find jobs for the students who were top of their class. Jeanie, of course, was one of them and was offered an excellent office job at a rather prestigious company in our city when she was sixteen. She went to work after school and on weekends. She quickly excelled at her first job and was very respected by her peers. My big sis was a brilliant girl.

I had a lot of admiration for my big sister. I wanted to follow in many of her footsteps. We had always been close growing up, regardless of the four-year age difference. Most things we did in our spare time, we did together. When Jeanie turned sixteen and got her driver’s license, we had a lot of great times together. We spent many hours at the mall, eating out, going to the movies and the beach, and even taking longer trips to places like Busch Gardens or Kings Dominion. I’m proud to say my sister was always someone that could be trusted and was very mature in her responsibility as a big sister. Not to mention Jeanie was an excellent driver. She never put me in harm’s way. My parents trusted her explicitly and allowed me to tag along wherever Jeanie went.

In 1975, I was thirteen years old. Jeanie came home one day and asked me if I wanted a job working with her. It seemed the office needed some extra help, and they had asked if she knew of anyone. She mentioned me, and of course, they thought I was too young. But after my big sis sang my praises, they decided to give me a try. She spoke highly of my ability to learn quickly and my good grades.

The job they had for me was pretty simple—mostly just busy work filing. Back then, computers were not used in all offices, and most paperwork was done by hand through every step necessary. I needed to be a good reader and have good math skills. Being able to make the most of my time was also a plus. I fit right in and was happy to have my own paycheck.

I worked part-time for the next five years at the company. I learned invaluable information through my experiences. Because I was called in whenever extra work was needed, I was placed in many different areas of the company and learned a variety of office jobs. I was a file clerk, receptionist, gopher, and mail room clerk, and I often assisted with the grueling yearly inventory for all the employees. That required that I travel to other cities with my sister. I worked in the credit department for some time. My sister Jeanie had become so good at her data entry job that she remained working on the keypunch machine that was the precursor to the computers used today. When the company decided to bring in its first computers, Jeanie and I were part of the few chosen to begin learning how to enter data. I still remember that “computer room .”The so-called computers were as big as refrigerators and very daunting. The room had to be kept at a low temperature for them not to overheat and crash. I remember freezing as I typed as fast as possible to get as much data entered as they expected. I was not a fan of this particular job and was happy when my turn was over.

By the time I was a senior in high school, I had been making enough money to pay for all my clothes, school supplies, and any extras along the way. I always had money to eat out, shop, or see a movie with my sister or friends. My dad had taught me from my very first paycheck to save as well. He insisted I save at least half of every paycheck. He even took me to the bank to open an account and taught me how to keep up with it. By the time I graduated high school, I had saved enough money to buy my first car.

I have always known that it is not the norm to have a first job like my sister and me. We were truly blessed for the opportunities we were given. I have always felt proud of how young I began working and how well I did the jobs handed to me. I genuinely feel I worked as hard and reliable as any adult could have. Jeanie as well, most definitely. She has made me proud over the years, and I still look up to her and admire her. I love all of the memories I have of our days working together and would love to go back in time for one more go at it. I love you Big Sis.