Happy Saturday everyone. On my last FauxAlity Wednesday post, I said I would share some stories about my mother (RIP) and her experiences working in a man’s world. Since I was born in the early 1960s pretty much every bit of mom’s working life was in a man’s world. I don’t think there was a day of it, she didn’t have to prove herself to Somebody, that she was capable of doing what she was doing. Sometimes even herself. Not in the profession she wound up in anyway. Probably with her previous jobs too. Until my sister started school, mom was a stay at home mom. My parents Never discussed money issues with us kids, even to their dying days, we never knew the full gravity of things that, according to them, didn’t concern us.
When mom first went back to work, after my sister started school, she was in retail. She eventually became a buyer/manager for the store she worked at. A job that according to the sniveling snot nosed know it all hiring manager type people, one needs a degree to do. Experience didn’t matter. In Mom’s time, it also required a kickstand though they couldn’t actually say that due to EEOC rules. She was always convinced of that. It may still be that way, I know who my audience is here and I won’t presume to actually know what it is like for any of you. I can only speak of my mother’s experiences and only those she shared. Now, Mom was no idiot. She was second in her HS graduating class and had a full tuition scholarship to the University of Michigan. Mind you this was before anything like Affirmative Action type stuff came along and grading curves were used just to push people through school. When I went to HS, all I had to do to pass, was show up and do minimal work. At least to the extent it’s at now. There were no helping points for life circumstances, race and gender quotas (don’t tell me they don’t exist) and things of that nature. Either you made the cut or you didn’t.
Anyway, after the store she worked for closed up shop in 1977, she went to work on the sales floor at an appliance chain store. The people she worked for previously, always had her back. I won’t ever take anything away from them because of that. Most of mom’s job contacts throughout her adult life weren’t as much as What she knew but Who she knew. She could always call these people and while there was never a guarantee of a job, there was always an opportunity for her to go after. I think that’s kind of a rare thing these days when you can call a former employer and they’ll step up for you that way. Most, in my experience, forget you ever existed once you walk out the door.
Dad (RIP and Happy Birthday) had begun, a few years earlier, doing home improvement (much to my then, chagrin) because he always hated having a boss. Around 1978 or so, mom decided she’d had enough of retail and decided it was time to do something else. She grew to absolutely HATE people and wasn’t going to take their abuse anymore, especially in the retail world (I have stories about that too) . She gave the flying salute to that world when she and dad decided that one of them needed to get a builder’s license. Both of them took the classes but only she took the test. If I remember correctly she passed it the first time. She had also been working with my father on weekends to help make ends meet.
A little side note here… After mom passed away, I went after My license to be a general contractor. I was in a class with men (all men in this particular class), some of whom had failed that test 5 or 6 times. That doesn’t mean however that they were poor at their work, just not good at taking tests. I’m kind of that same way sometimes. The exam for getting a license has very little to do with actual building knowledge. It’s more about the rules and Laws governing the industry. In case anyone is interested, what these rules and laws boil down to is the General Contractor is responsible for Everything that happens on a job site. From the initial contracts to the last piece of debris being taken away to making sure that all materials and labor are paid for.
Now, to give you some idea of where my parents came from- Mom’s mother thought that my mother becoming a builder was the most awful thing in the world. Couldn’t understand why my mom, a woman, would want to do such a thing. I mean, Jesus was going to touch down on Mt Olive, the seas were going to boil over, the earth was going to split in half and the world was going to end is the attitude my grandmother had about it. That never stopped her from calling mom when something needed to be done to her house though 😉 . My dads’ father, was typical about it. Didn’t have any respect for what mom had accomplished, never did, never would. I don’t think he respected my father either so I can’t swear that was strictly gender bias but he definitely looked at women as objects rather than people. That all came to a head one Thanksgiving when my father and his father were having a discussion about money owed (grandpa sometimes did work for mom and dad too) and grandpa said something about my mother being in this business. I don’t know exactly what was said and all parties are now gone so I’ll never know. That discussion ended with my father throwing his parents out of the house, about 30 minutes before dinner was served.
When they first started out, mom and dad, they were the ones doing all the work. Mom’s main thing was roofing and siding as most of the jobs were pretty large. She had her own truck, ladders, tools, the whole 9. They also did things like kitchen and bath remodels but she was always the one on the roof pounding the nails, on the ladders 3 stories up hanging the aluminum siding, regardless of the temperature. Dad would do siding too but he never would get on a roof unless it was absolutely necessary. Unless it was a large flat type roof anyway. They would also hire some of this stuff done but most of it was just the two of them (I was in HS at the time).
Now, 1979-1982 was probably one of the worse times in My history to start a business of Any kind. Especially in Michigan and every other industrialized state. The economy puked on everybody and as a result, my parents. People came up short on job payments or sometimes just simply said, stop work, can’t pay for it leaving them stuck with bills for materials.. It happened several times. Enough, that they were basically forced out of that business by the time I graduated High School. There was no hiding the fact, in MelTheHound’s home that things were very tight. The folks managed to keep a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and clothes on our backs. That was the only concern my sister and I ever had to worry about and there were no worries.Dad’s response to our asking about money issues was “Did you eat?”. That always ended that conversation.
My last semester of High School, during spring break, Dad and I drove out to California so he could work with his cockroach of a brother. I’ll hit you with that tale some Saturday. I came back to finish HS and then dad and I took that same drive to California after I graduated. Meanwhile, Mom tried to get back into retail but was typically turned away because according to these sniveling hiring managers, she didn’t know anything. She once again turned to her former employer for help with a contact which he did provide. It was then, she began her career of selling home improvement. Times began to improve in the economy and it was with this company that she sharpened her building business chops on.
I’m going to leave you hanging there. See you next week with another part of the tale friends.