Many times I wished I could have experienced a wide variety of jobs during my active working years, I thought it would be exciting to learn a new skill every couple of years to expand my experiences of working in different genres of employment. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that perhaps I had more “careers” than I first realized. So I decided to chronicle the jobs I performed from my very first job to the last job I had before I retired. I listed them and as best as I can remember, these are the jobs I have done or held since I was 15 years old:
Restaurant Work (1970 Blytheville, AR) – At age 15 years, I helped my Mom in our restaurant. My pay was that she gave me spending money to go out on weekends, which at that time was mostly going to the skating rink. My job responsibilities included busing tables, waiting on tables and taking the cases of empty bottles outside. To be honest though, I only bused tables and waited on tables for a very short time. It was definitely not my strong point (of course, most 15 years probably don’t have strong points).
Paint Scraping (1970 Blytheville, AR) – My Uncle Ed Rhodes gave me my first real paying job. I scraped paint for him when he was painting houses. I remember that the minimum wage was only $1.60 and he was giving me $2 per hour. I only worked with my Uncle Ed a couple of times, but again it gave me a little bit of spending money to buy records and go to the skating rink.
TV Technician Assistant (1971 Blytheville, AR) – I worked briefly for WT Norton. Mr. Norton had a TV service that he ran out of the back of his (and his wife Ann’s) other business, the “A&W Record Shop” on Main Street. Mostly I just followed him to appointments and fetched his tools…I think he paid me at the end of each day.
Gas Station Attendant (1971 Blytheville, AR) – My Mom was dating Gene Tuberville and he owned the Phillips 66 service station just off interstate 55 (where the Comfort Inn is now). My duties included pumping gas, checking oil and running credit cards (with the old metal slide machine that imprinted the receipt). I did that for awhile and it helped pay for gas in my car, and some spending money for going out. I don’t remember how much Gene paid me, but it must have been enough for me not to complain about it.
Grocery Store Cashier/Stock Boy (1971 Blytheville, AR) – My first REAL job (one which I paid taxes) was the Food Giant. My managers were David Danahower and Gary Wren. I was making $1.60/per hour and on my first day someone (might have been Tony Whittle or Terry Jackson) asked me to get a “sack stretcher” in the backroom. I looked and looked…until Mr. Danahower came looking for me and asked what I was doing. I told him I was searching for a “sack stretcher”. He told me it was a prank (he wasn’t much of a smiling sort of guy), and he told me to go back to work. My job responsibilities started out just breaking down boxes behind the store, then I graduated up to a sacker for which I was pretty good at it, and finally I was promoted to a stock boy…you know, those guys with STAMPERS in a holster on their side.
By the way, this was the only job where I was FIRED. I was fired because the assistant manager wanted me to stay late and after hours on a Saturday night to do price changes. I told the manager I had a date after my normal work hours. He said he didn’t care. I then told him I was leaving at my scheduled time and again, he stated he wanted me to stay. For the last time, I told him I was LEAVING when my shift was over, and he said, “If you walk out that door, you’re FIRED!” Well, I left at my regular time and considered myself fired. The next day, After school I was at home watching TV since I thought I was fired and had no job. The phone rings and I answer it. It was Mr. Danahower, the manager and he asked why I wasn’t at work today. I told Mr. Danahower that I had been fired the night before by the assistant manager because I would not stay late to do price checks. Mr. Danahower said, “WALLACE, I do all the hiring and firing around here. I need you at work now.” I told, Mr. Danahower, “OK, I’m on my way.” I actually worked at the Food Giant two different times. I quit once I joined the Navy in January 1973 (delayed entry program), and then worked a brief time shortly thereafter.
US Navy Hospital Corpsman (1973 Great Lakes, IL/Beaufort, SC) – I went to Hospital Corpsman school here in Great Lakes, and then followed on to my first real duty station in Beaufort, SC (where I actually performed several different jobs in addition to being a hospital corpsman). I started out working on the Surgery
floor and took care of patients both pre-operatively and post-operatively. It included wound dressing, dispensing medications, giving shots, passing NG tubes, surgery prep and other duties associated with nursing care that was performed by hospital corpsman. I did this for about 6 months, until I was transferred to the labor/delivery and nursery department.
US Navy Labor/Delivery Room Assistant (1974 – Beaufort, SC) After working on the surgery floor for a period of time, I was then transferred to the nursery/labor/delivery department. My job responsibilities included vital signs of the both the mother and baby (when born), feeding the babies, taking care of the baby upon birth by giving the vitamin K shot in the thigh, aspiration of mucus from mouth and nose. In the delivery room I was there to assist the doctor with anything he might need during the delivery (which I assisted in over 150 births). As the birth of my own daughter was approaching, the department transferred me to a non-medical job. Since the Navy hospital in Beaufort, SC was not a Navy Base per se, corpsman typically would do the first part of their duty in medical department and then transfer to an ancillary department to assist in the running the hospital. Most of the hospital administrative and non-medical personnel were staffed by Navy corpsmen.
US Navy Offset Printer (1974 – Beaufort, SC) – After my stint in labor/delivery I was sent to the hospital printing office. I was briefly trained on how to operate an offset printer and then I was responsible for all of the printing needs of the hospital. Examples of things I printed were Plan of the Day (a daily reminder of the days activities at the hospital), menus, policies and procedures, and forms (lots of forms). I was also responsible for care and maintenance of the AB DICK Offset Printer including disassembly and maintaining ink and paper supplies. I loved working in the print shop.
US Navy Post Office (1975 – Beaufort, SC) – Funny story here. I got so good in the printing department, that the normal day long job was taking me only a few hours each day to complete. The rest of the time, this 19 year old (me) would just go to other departments and hang around. The chief found out I was “skylarking” around and made me work one half day in the print shop and the other in the hospital post office. Besides sorting mail, I had to make sure that addresses were correct and forwarding of mail was done properly. There were a lot of rules to follow regarding how the mail was handled. This was another job that I enjoyed doing. (Don’t tell the chief (RIP), but I did both jobs fast enough to still screw around.
Telephone Switchboard Operator (1975) – For the last few months of my time in Beaufort, I was assigned to the Information Desk and Switchboard Operator duties. At this station, I handled all mail, bulletins, incoming military orders and phone duties for the hospital. I operated the switchboard (the old style with all the cables to plug and unplug). We were also responsible for performing the daily act of performing “COLORS”. Colors was the raising and lowering of the US Flag to the National Anthem.
US Navy Laboratory Technician Training (1975 1976 – Oakland, CA) – In the summer of 1975, I requested advanced training and attended Laboratory School in Oakland. It was here I was trained to be a lab tech, a career that I maintained for the next 41 years. Once trained I was sent to my final duty station in Charleston, SC and worked in the laboratory at the Charleston Naval Regional Medical Center until the end of my enlistment.
Clinical Laboratory Technician (1976/1977 – Charleston, SC) – My last duty station was here. I worked in every department of the laboratory except the microbiology department. I mostly worked in the blood bank, a very busy blood bank, but also some chemistry and hematology work too. We drew blood donors for our blood bank and I also performed the donor testing using radioactive chemicals and testing for hepatitis and other diseases that would disqualify donors or result in destroying blood we collected. At times, we were required to perform additional duties (see next section).
Autopsy Assistant (1975/1976 – Charleston, SC) – As new laboratory technicians at the hospital, we were required to assist the pathologist when he performed autopsies. Many of the techs complained about having to perform this duty and would try and find ways to get out of this extra work Some would even say they had nightmares about doing this job, and this alone would exempt them from working in the morgue. However, I was never one to say I couldn’t do something, so for the duration of my time at this hospital I assisted in the autopsies…probably in excess of 100 autopsies in total. The neat thing about assisting the pathologist was that our Navy pathologist was the ONLY forensic pathologist in the county at the time (1976) and so any homicides and/or violent deaths that occurred were brought to our hospital for the autopsy, and our Navy pathologist would perform the forensic autopsy, and I would assist him. I was able to assist the pathologist on execution style murders, overdoses, hangings, drownings, car wrecks, etc. My duties as an assistant was to assist in opening up the body cavity, using a bone saw to remove the rib cage, and removing the brain and pituitary gland. Not many people in this world can say they held a human brain in their hands… and very unsettling thing to do, but it was just another responsibility of my job. The most vivid memory I have while assisting was when a guy went to the OR to have his lung removed. In recovery, the nurse turned him on the wrong side and his heart flopped over into the empty cavity. He died very quickly, they brought him to the morgue and the autopsy was performed within 30 minutes after his death…very eerie because he was still warm. And while this was not my favorite job, I learned a great deal of anatomy of the human body.
Clinical Laboratory Technologist (1977 -1991 Various Locations) – After leaving the Navy, I moved back home and had a job waiting for me at Chickasawba Hospital in Blytheville, AR. It was in 1977 that I received my license as a Medical Technologist. I worked in the laboratory there from 1977 to 1979. I then
moved back to Charleston, SC to work at the VA hospital and worked the evening shift there for the next 2 years. I decided to come back home (again) and moved back to Blytheville in 1981 and worked at the hospital there until 1991. My next work location
was Searcy, AR and I worked in a reference laboratory and performed many new types of procedures and attended several special training schools for both procedures and equipment. I worked in this reference lab until 1995 and that’s when I decided I would try managing a laboratory. I managed the Newport Hospital Laboratory until 1999 when I finally took a job in Searcy again as the Clinical Laboratory Coordinator. As the CLC, I wrote policies and procedures, scheduled employees and ordered all of the equipment and supplies for our laboratory. I did this until I retired in 2014.
Professional Photographer (2002/2009/Present) – To get to the photography part I have to start at the beginning. I bought my first computer in 1991 and had zero knowledge on how to use it. I crashed it a few times and this teenager would come fix it for me…I finally learned to fix it myself. I then became interested in PC’s and scanning family pictures. Some of the pictures I scanned were in pretty rough shape, so I fixed them. I basically taught myself to restore old photos (my skill level, not professionally). So the next step up was photography. I bought my first digital camera in 1995 and started taking pictures all the time and even took a couple of workshops to learn more about photography. Sometime (not sure exactly) in 2000 I went to a football game with this very weak digital camera and took some pictures from the stands. I was hooked. Next I bought a professional Canon DSLR camera with lenses (I think I paid over $7500) and I started shooting our local high school football team and selling the photos online. Then I added another school, and then another school. I added a couple of more shooters, and then a couple of more shooters until I had about 7-8 people shooting games for me. It was then I started a company called SearcySports Photography. I was then able to shoot local colleges, and even several Razorback games. But the most memorable was the NFL game I shot in Dallas when they played Philadelphia. Being on a NFL field was dream come true.
However, I did all kinds of photography. I have shot the NBA, track, basketball, soccer, weddings, wildlife, portraits, senior pictures, landscapes, concerts (including headliners) rodeos, pageants, dog field trials…well, just about anything you can think of…I’ve shot it at least once. Those were the days…I no longer do any of these shoots, although I still take lots of pictures and keep adding to my more than 1.5 million photo gallery.
Retirement (2014 – Present) – Now, no more working and I only have hobbies like BBQing, photography, bonsai, playing Fantasy Football, limited travel (not as much travel now that my granddaughters are grown ) and of course the art of entertaining myself. I’m just living the dream.