Working for a living in old Madison Park

Working for a living in old Madison Park

Working for a living in old Madison Park

Searching for some jobs these days consists of fine-tuning a tailored resume, as well as networking using apps like Linkedin, ZipRecruiter, and Twitter. It’s also important to manage one’s online reputation, like through Social Mention, for any damage control that needs to be done.

Once a few carefully chosen poetic phrases have been applied to a resume, supercharging the applicant’s qualifications, it is time to let the mailing begin.

Then, it’s just the waiting game.

Here in Madison Park there were always jobs to be had in the ‘60s. Five grocery stores, and as many gas stations, offered work. There were many odd jobs here and there. All over Seattle, jobs were plentiful but not necessarily resume-worthy as they were predominately blue-collar.

I knew a Madison Parker who was one of the many to join the afterwork crowd downtown at Rossellini’s 410. The men usually wore suits and flashed their business cards to impress. This fellow had a card made up that said, “Sanitary Engineer.” He always looked sharp and seldom had a problem meeting the ladies.

He asked me what my occupation was, and I told him, “Iron Worker.” Of course, I hadn’t brought my spud wrench and welding hood, so it wasn’t discernible what I did. He asked if I could guess what he did, which I couldn’t. He said, “I leave around 11-12 midnight and jump into my Carriage of Garbage — I am a garbageman in apprenticeship for six weeks downtown! After that, I’ll be bona fide, with benefits and overtime!” We shared a laugh at his good fortune.

Sixty years ago, many sold new and used cars, and it was considered a pretty good profession, like real estate is nowadays. Others found jobs in banking offering chances for advancement.

A particular banking friend went to the same gym as me. One day he showed up in bib overall fashion, and I had to ask why. He had bagged banking and became a longshoreman and was much happier being outdoors.

There was always a chance of reduction in force in any workplace, so it was time to become a member of the Orange Book Club. Yes, the tell-all orange book, about the size of a pack of cigarettes, that says: “I am out of a job—I have no income!” This book announced your unemployment to the world, and it was affixed to your hip.

Of course, unemployment insurance was beneficial, but you had to work for it.

The unemployment office I visited was on Seventh and Dexter. Outside, there was always a crowd of smokers, and inside there were various lines of people applying for benefits. On the first day of the process, you are sent to the “New Applicants” group.

On this particular day, a large man with a walrus-type mustache stood in front of all of the applicants in a small room — where deodorant did not exist — and bellowed the proper way to fill out the application. He pointed to the blackboard without looking, he knew it so well.

After completion, he instructed us to then go to a long line to receive the infamous Orange Book. The person behind the desk signed the book and explained that this was Week 1, and at Week 3 a check would be forthcoming. But, when asked if you searched for work every day, if you refused any jobs, and/or you were available, and you answered any questions in the affirmative, there was a pause and a look.

“We’re sending you to Section Q.”

More interrogation!

Section Q was another small room for too many people — not enough aftershave and lots of lingering smoke. The interviewer spoke in such a low voice it almost created a sense of nap! Finally, my turn was up and it was all over, only to be repeated each week: Stand in the same line at your report time 1:30; behind you was the 1:45 appointment, etc.

Standing in my report line, I saw a guy who looked familiar but I couldn’t place him. Weeks later he walks into the Attic where I was bartending. I wanted to say, “Hey, you are 1:45 Monday, right?” but it wasn’t the time. He was with a very attractive lady and, as I served them, I still couldn’t say anything. He was putting a heavy lean on her though, and when we had a moment of levity together, I found my cue. “Hey, you’re 1:45 and I’m 1:30,” but, as the words came out of my mouth, he motions with his hands “No! No!” Don’t know if she ever got it or not, as we didn’t elaborate.

One evening he came into the Attic, and we laughed like hell. He explained he’d been selling her on his big future job, and I mentioned the look on his face when I squealed on him. He said there was no hope at the get-go.

I’d see him down at the beach, and we’d flash our Orange Books and laugh like a royal passage. It was a time when we all got by. The jobs we eventually found we didn’t retire from, but it didn’t matter — none of that was important.

Life was good enough!