My First Post UT Job—The Sheaffer Pen Co. - 1950


THE WAY I REMEMBER IT

There I was! Finally completed my college work, and got married on the same day. I don’t know how UT did it, but they scheduled my last exam on the last day of exams. That was January 28, 1950. That was also my wedding day.

I survived it all, and fortunately, I also had a job. One of the courses during my last semester was Public Relations. The Professor told us that one of the biggest PR jobs we had was to sell ourselves—unless we had a family business waiting for us. I didn’t—so I followed his suggestion to go to the student employment office to practice interviewing so that by the end of the semester I would know all the right answers.

I went right over, and signed up for the three that would be there that week: Foleys, Montgomery Ward, and the Sheaffer Pen Company. Although I was still five months from graduating, all three offered me a job. I suppose that I was rather relaxed since, to me, these were just “practice interviews.” During the Sheaffer interview I recall that while I was filling out a form for them, the interviewer glanced over at me, and we both noticed that I was writing with a Parker pen—their prime competition. I held it up sort of sheepishly and said, “Well, it writes.”

The Sheaffer thing sounded lucrative, so I went to Fort Madison , Iowa for further interviews—on a long train ride. I signed on, and was to report the first week in February. Timing worked out good, so our honeymoon trip was to Fort Madison by car. We had spent the first two nights at the St. Anthony is San Antonio . During the three weeks of training at the Sheaffer Headquarters we were to learn where we would be assigned. I had requested Texas , and they assured me that they felt it would be somewhere in the Southwest.

I was assigned a territory around Youngstown , Ohio . Helen came back home while I trained two weeks in St. Paul, and two weeks in Pittsburgh. And this was in the cold snowy winter! My first impressions of this job weren’t all that good. Then I got to Youngstown where I felt sure things would look up. Problem was, you couldn’t even see up. Youngstown was the home of many open-hearth steel mills that belched tons of black soot into the air, day and night.

On the first sunny day that we were there, Helen hung some laundry out on the line. Shouldn’t have done that. We had black sheets-and shirts. You hung clothes in the basement. The line was for beating the rug.

Before long I asked about that assignment in Texas . The response was, “You’re making good money, we’ll talk about it later.” We decided that that wasn’t soon enough, and headed back to Texas . Fortunately my income from commissions had been good, so we had a few dollars in the bank. Helen’s folks took us in, and I began shopping for another job. The first ten months of my career, and my marriage, proved very “interesting.” Come to think of it, it’s a lot more “interesting” 55 years later than it was at the time.

Vic Mathias - July 20, 2005

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