In To The Looking Glass – 1965 – 1980

In 1965 I was a high school senior in a very small-town rural school. The building was built about 80 years before and the creaking stairs and just about everything else showed the wear. The basement used to be the gymnasium but that had sometimes since moved next to the International Harvester repair shop downtown. We were the biggest graduating class in the schools’ history, all sixty-nine of us.

My vocational guidance counselor was the FFA teacher, so to him everyone should be a farmer. I didn’t see it that way, so I ignored his advice. Due to my Aspie traits, I had high school years different from most of my classmates. Except for two occasions, and they were both prearranged, I never dated during those years. To me girls were definitely from Venus or some other totally foreign world. I just couldn’t figure them out, nor could I act like anything but an idiot around them. Honestly, I can’t say even after 50+ years that I have ever figured them out. I did pretty well scholastically in high school, at least well enough to be accepted into Purdue University that fall.

No one in my family had ever gone to college, so to be accepted into Purdue was quite amazing to me. I didn’t know where the money was going to come from, but I was determined to get it anyway possible. The costs seemed enormous to me. Tuition was $165/semester and room and board in the cheapest dorm on campus was $2,000 per year. I started out working in the kitchen at the dorm for 90 cents/hour. I worked about 40 hours/week there through those five years, and with my summer jobs I made the payments. By my fifth and final year I was the head waiter managing all the student kitchen staff for a whopping $2.40/hour.

I graduated in 1970 and the first thing I did was to buy a brand new Mustang Fastback for a whopping $2300. That was more money than I had ever spent on one thing. On June 8, 1970, two days after graduation I started as a staff engineer for the only telecommunications company in the country at that time. That monopoly was broken up in 1983, but I managed to continue there until my retirement in 2000. More on that story next time.

Things in the world were changing quickly during this fifteen year stretch mostly for the not-so-good. The Martin Luther King assassination happened in early 1968 followed soon thereafter by major riots in most big cities. Then Robert Kennedy who was the most likely Democrat candidate for president was also killed that same summer. With all that and the continuing demonstrations about the Vietnam War, things were becoming unhinged. I can still hear the chants “Yeh, Yeh LBJ, how many kids have you killed today” I was sympathetic to the Vietnam protest movement but simply didn’t have any time to participate during my college years as I was running on around 4 hrs sleep a day! I just couldn’t understand why 50,000+ of my generation had to die in a tiny country’s Civil war. The peak of those demonstrations happened when untrained or unprepared National Guardsmen gunned down students at Kent State University while they were peacefully protesting.

One of the highlights of this time period was the Space Program that resulted in Neil Armstrong, a fellow Purdue graduate, putting the first human footprints on the moon. I was working midnight till noon 7 days per week that summer in a gas station but my boss brought in a small b/w TV so I could watch through that night. Only Apollo 13 held my attention to such a degree. It is amazing to think that the Mac I am typing on right now has more power than they had for that landing!

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In 1973 the oil embargo started and lasted about six months. See the graphic here for a little more info. Since I live about 5 miles from work and really didn’t go much of anywhere else it didn’t affect me much, but there were long lines for those who gassed up more frequently. Given that the average car got about 10 mpg back then we used a lot of gas.

Now (FINALLY) on to the one thing that caused a serious paradigm shift during this period. A Master In Business Administration degree, otherwise known as a MBA, became the “go to” degree for business leaders in the 1980s. One of the things that basically changed about American business as a result of that program was that employees were no longer considered assets, but instead they were to be considered liabilities. Until that time most businesses were guided by the “Three-Legged-Stool” which proclaimed that customers, employees, and stockholder were equally important to the success of a business. The MBA pronounced that a company’s employees and customers were to be considered only if they added to the profits distributed to the stockholders. That lack of respect for employees started a downward spiral of employee loyalty to a company to where it basically doesn’t exist today.

In my opinion, burning the Three-legged-stool, is one of the primary reasons we have lost the middle-class and have so much inequality today.

2 comments

  1. I couldn’t wait until next week to tell you that for me it sounds amazing to be able to work in the same place until retirement!
    In 21 years of work I had 5 jobs and it seems a lot to me (one for 10 years and the current one for 8 years). Although, I know people that had maybe double in the same or even less time. And they think you become irrelevant if you stay to long in a company.
    I think/hope that if you stay all your working life in one place it must be because you like what you do and how they treat you. And you do your job well, of course. Maybe next week you will tell us, from your experience, if I might be wrong 🙂
    I hate going to interviews, possible because there is no more Three-legged-stool. It is the first time I’ve heard about this (I live in Europe) but I understand what you mean.
    I enjoyed reading your post!

    Like

    • Thanks for the thoughts Lavinia. Sorry for the delayed response. All my Spring/Summer yard work has demanded most of my time this week.

      I have a post coming out on Monday that celebrates my 50th anniversary of becoming a full-time worker. It discusses several of the questions you have. Yeah, things are quite different now but in some ways better in that they force you to survey your occupation more frequently.

      Like

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