Old Timer Rests in Job Register
By Norris Chambers
The year was 1936, about the middle of the big depression. A young man trying to find a job faced an almost impossible task. When a job became available there was usually someone with a family member, relative or friend doing the hiring. Unless an applicant fit in one of these categories he didn’t get the job. This was my position when I graduated from trade school with a reasonable knowledge of typing, shorthand, accounting and office practices. I faithfully responded to ads seeking such help but apparently my services were not needed or the employer found someone that he liked better.
There was an ad in the newspaper announcing a civil service examination seeking qualified typists for government work. I was there when the doors opened on the exam date. When everyone was seated one of the two men in charge told us that we would take the general test first and that all who passed that test would move to the typing classroom where the other test would be conducted. The other man handed several sheets of paper to each contestant and told us that we would have thirty minutes to complete the test. He said that it was self-explanatory and reminded us not to forget to put our names on the first page.
Most of the exam questions were “true or false” or “check the correct answer” and covered general grammar and composition with occasional spelling choices. I had taken many tests similar to this one. I finished it in a few minutes and waited for the typing test.
The typing room was like others that I had seen. A large typewriter keyboard picture was on the front wall of the room. The typewriters did not have the keys marked. Students were to look at the big keyboard on the wall and with hands in the proper position find the letters required to type the test copy. Again we were instructed to write our name and address on the first page and begin typing the furnished copy when the bell rang and stop when it rang again. We would write all the words we could in fifteen minutes. A minimum acceptable speed would be sixty words a minute and three words would be deducted from the total for each mistake. I finished the test, confident that I had easily typed the required sixty words per minute.
Each contestant was given a short interview. The man who interviewed me seemed like a nice person and the first thing he told me was that I had typed 93 words a minute on the test and that I was qualified for a civil service job. He said that the register of qualified applicants supplied Texas and some adjoining states with the names and addresses of qualified personnel and that my name would be placed on the register. I asked him how long it would be before I could expect a job. He said he didn’t know but I would be contacted by the agency needing a typist.
I was happy with the test results and was confident that I would soon have a government job. The days and weeks passed and I didn’t hear from anyone wanting a typist. More weeks and months slipped by and a year had passed with no offer of employment. I had been working at various temporary jobs and helping on the farm. Clifton had managed to find a job pumping an oil lease and he hired me when he had a job that required extra help. I had opened a radio repair shop in the country and in spite of the scarcity of radios I managed to make some money that way.
One day the mail man left a long important looking envelope. It was from a government agency and asked if I wished to remain on the register for a typist position. I answered and told them I did.
About once a year for several years I got a letter. There was no offer of a job until 1941.
This envelope contained an offer for a job with the U.S. Air Force in San Antonio. The title was “Typist” and it paid $1260.00 a year. All that was necessary was to answer yes or no. I answered “yes” and was directed to a doctor in Brownwood for a physical. I apparently passed O.K. and was soon told to report for duty on a Monday morning. This was Saturday and I had not received the notice because a rain had made the mail route impassable for the carrier.
Ella and I made our way to San Antonio on Sunday and I reported for work Monday. There were about 4000 workers in the shop and I was in the personnel department. After a few months of office duties I transferred to an aircraft electronics job in the shop for a much higher salary. I spent the remainder of my working career in aircraft electronics.
When I worked in the office I found out why qualified applicants had not been called. Many of the office workers were discharged and rehired every 90 days because they couldn’t pass the typing test. Temporary workers could only be hired for 90 days but could be rehired. To These employees must have had friends or relatives doing the hiring.
Now I understand Nephew Clifton hiring Uncle Norris for part time labor!