Monday, February 20, 2012

50 Years Ago Today: John Glenn, First American to Orbit the Earth

Fifty years ago today, on February 20, 1962,  I was in Orick, California picking up dry cleaning on a dry cleaning route. Three days per week,  I went from Eureka to Orick, picked up the dry cleaning from homes and businesses and returned it the next trip.

I drove up to a restaurant in my blue Volkswagen bus where I usually picked up some cleaning. There were all kinds of cars and pickups around the place, and some men inside yelling.

"What's going on," I thought, then remembered. John Glenn was scheduled to circle the earth  on this day, but it was too crowded for me to go in. I didn't know his name then. I paused and sat in the car for a few minutes, then left and continued on the route.

The United States was behind in the space race. A Russian had already circled the earth.
Dorothy, me, Theresa & Robby around 1962

I watched as these things happened, but was too busy trying to make enough to live on to get too involved. I had dropped out of College a few months before. It took me all winter driving around picking up dry cleaning to realize that it was a dead end job.

There was a recession going on in Humboldt County, but in the spring of 1962 I began  training to be a banker at Bank of America. When I decided that I needed a better job, I started stopping every Tuesday and Thursday at the bank in Arcata. I went in to see the manager. The first time he said there were no jobs, "There's a recession now. Come back later."

Grandma Shoemaker, Tommy, Robby, Theresa and Grandpa Shoemaker
I went back at least once every week. I realize now that the manager meant in five or six months, but I kept going in and seeing him. After a few weeks he said, "We do have a training program," so I worked for awhile for $300 per month at the first level of training which was a bank teller.

It wasn't long before I realized that banking wasn't for me. A guy came in and cashed his check. He had worked a double shift and was very tired. At the end of the day I was balancing my cash and discovered I was $500 short. After about two hours of checking and rechecking I discovered it was that guy who had worked a double shift. He lived in Blue Lake. I had given him $500 too much in change. His check was for something like $3000. which was a lot of money in those days, probably $30,000  in today's money. I called him, and he came right in and brought me back the $500.

 "Whew, that was really close," I thought. There was probably no way the bank could have gotten their money back, and in those days the teller had to make up everything over 50 cents.

I decided to look for another job.

We lived at Freshwater in our second purchased home. Dorothy was 19 and I would be 21 in a few days. We had three children.

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