Bite Size Memoir Number 6: First Jobs

Lisa has set us up with the theme ‘First Jobs’ for this week’s bite size memoir.  I’m looking forward to reading everybody’s experiences, should be very interesting.

Here’s mine, in 150 words (no more, no less!):

First Jobs

Fresh out of school in the summer of 1976, I started my first job at Eastern Electricity in Ipswich.

Along with five other girls, I sat at a large desk, watched over by a supervisor. We had to ask permission to go to the loo. It was worse than school.

When ordered down to the computer room, I escaped, briefly, from the tedium. I loved staring at the huge, robot-like machines with the whirring mad-eye spools.

Returning with heavy wads of green computer paper, I spent hours reading every line for numbered codes while Nurse Ratched watched my every move.

I vowed to get out and ‘better’ myself; college course and four years later I was working as a trainee paralegal for a law firm in Los Angeles.

Still, there was one good thing I remember: The office overlooked Ipswich football ground and at lunchtime, we watched the players practising.

Me outside our home in Suffolk, summer of 1976. with a bouquet of flowers given me by my mum after receiving my O Level results.  This was before I knew what I was in for with my first job.  It made me wonder why I bothered working so hard. Forget A Levels, I wanted to earn money.  Ironic that I ended up taking a full-time college course anyway! (c) Sherri Matthews

Me outside our home in Suffolk, summer of 1976 with a bouquet of flowers given me by my mum after receiving my O Level results. This was before I knew what I was in for with my first job. It made me wonder why I bothered working so hard. Forget A Levels, I wanted to earn money. Ironic that I ended up taking a full-time college course anyway!
(c) Sherri Matthews

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
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86 Responses to Bite Size Memoir Number 6: First Jobs

  1. Lisa Reiter says:

    Oh yes! None of today’s youngsters would know about those mainframe rooms! Rows of 6 foot hight machines with lights and spools and ticker-tapes spewing from some. Did you do ‘data processing’ when you had to feed printouts or punch cards on those spools that caught the row of holes in the paper? Amazing to think my phone has more computing power than those large rooms full of machines!
    A great memory – thank you! Keep ’em coming – I don’t mind last minute 😊

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Haha! Oh yes, I used to love going down to the computer room with those huge machines and the ‘lab’ workers all looking very official with their clipboards and white lab coats! The computer paper I had to collect always had those holes down the sides and I remember having to feed it onto to those spools, oh yes!! It is a definite age giveaway isn’t it sharing memories like this, of a long-gone way of life. Technology has moved on so fast. I remember watching Tomorrow’s World with Raymond Baxter (?) talking about a phone that you could carry with you! Who would have thought it? (Actually, I preferred Top of the Pops, but I’m trying to sound scientific here, lol 😉 )
      Thanks again Lisa, I’m really enjoying these mini-memoir challenges, really gets the old memory moving…in surprising ways. Plus…nothing like a good old-fashioned kick of adrenaline rush to kick-start the process, right? 😉 😀

      Like

      • Lisa Reiter says:

        I LOVED Tomorrow’s World! It was family viewing in our house – all crowded round the telly to see amazing things! A shame in some ways I can’t use things like that as prompts – it wouldn’t mean the same to our stateside friends or those down under!
        Rik Mayal’s death really hit me this week and prompted loads of memories so I’m trying to think of something generic that works around that – He was SO my generation of new humour. I’m not even sure how funny he was but so different from George and Mildred or Terry and June!!
        Thanks for playing. I’m glad you’re enjoying it so much, even if it’s a bit of an adrenalin rush to get there in time! Lx

        Like

      • Sherri says:

        Yes, Tomorrow’s World was very British! I know what you mean about Rik Mayal. Who can forget him in The Young Ones? George & Mildred definitely not…although they did make me laugh, Terry & June not quite so much but can you imagine shows like that these days? Love playing…looking forward to seeing what you come up with tomorrow…no pressure or anything 😉

        Like

      • We got the young Ones down Under and his death was felt here also. In Australia you are considered to have an either predominantly British sense of humour or an American one. Mine is British due to my ancestory, married to a Brit and just the way I am. I have to admit that somethings that Roger finds funny I just don’t get particularly when it comes to the soccer report in the Guardian.

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      • Sherri says:

        I found this in the States Irene. I was suprised at how many Americans I met told me they loved British humour, citing shows like Benny Hill, Black Adder and Monty Python! I in turn loved shows like Seinfeld. Loved the humour like that but not so keen on slapstick. I have to say I wouldn’t get the laughs about the soccer report in the Guardian either, not being a football (sorry, soccer!) fan… maybe I shouldn’t say that with the World Cup just started… 😉

        Like

  2. That was great, Sherri. I think our first jobs always burn their imprint in our brains. At least for a brief while you had a lovely “view” 🙂

    Like

  3. TanGental says:

    1976? You must died of heat exhaustion. What I remember from the office is the telex – having to amend in red ink and going potty trying to find the office red biro. I love the Nurse Ratched image too.

    Like

  4. Island Traveler says:

    Summers we can’t forget and change our course in life. Fate has its way of leading us to tomorrows that made us better , stronger people today. Inspiring post my friend. Take care…

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thanks IT! Yes, this lousy job certainly propelled me to do better things with my life, so no experience is ever wasted!! Hoping you are having a fantastic summer my friend 😀 😎

      Like

  5. Oh, I remember that green computer paper and the massive computers, Sherri. What a lovely picture of you…the young Dianne Sawyer. 🙂 xoxo

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      I remember having to scour down those green lines on the computer paper with a ruler while looking for specific codes. It took hours and when I finally got through one set I had to start on another! It was never-ending and sooooo boring!
      Haha! Thanks Jill…the younger, thinner me/Diane Sawyer, lol 😉 Oh to be 16 again… or maybe not… 😉 xoxo

      Like

  6. Imelda says:

    Oh wow! You need permission to do your own personal business. That summer must have been a great learning experience. MY first job happened already when I was in law school. I worked as a researcher for a professor. It was a good source of extra income.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, I couldn’t believe it Imelda. As I said, worse than school, lol 😉 It certainly was a learning experience and propelled me into a much better job and career! Sounds like your first job was much more profitable than mine, and very interesting too 🙂

      Like

  7. Pingback: First Jobs | Lisa Reiter - Sharing the Story

  8. Ha ha. Those computers. Cute picture with the flowers. Love the hair.
    This is an interesting snapshot of your work beginnings
    I worked during the time before computers where we had punch cards. Talk about archaic. Oh my.
    http://www.suomentietokonemuseo.fi/vanhat/eng/laite_eng.htm

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Oh Tess, fascinating link to those punch cards and I remember microfilm! I learnt to type on a manual typewriter and was thrilled when I went to electric with self-correcting ribbon, lol!! A very different work force back then!
      Can’t believe that’s really me…but it wasn’t that long ago haha!! Oh…the hair! Very 70’s…used to spend hours on it…*sigh*. Those were the days 😉

      Like

  9. Letizia says:

    What a charming photo! Permission to go to the loo…. that is mad. Just when you thought you had entered the world of adults, haha. But your view of the football players must have been lovely!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Haha! Thanks Letizia and yes, I couldn’t believe it! I felt like I was back in the classroom, only worse! It was awful and I couldn’t wait to get out!! But as you say, the ‘view’ wasn’t too bad at all… 😉

      Like

  10. jennypellett says:

    1976 – that really really hot summer – I remember that too. I started work in Central London – it was so exciting after a year at college which I hated! Money was the draw, I’d had enough of being institutionalised. Work was wonderful. Even the commuting was wonderful. I stayed there for 15 years!

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    • Sherri says:

      Yes Jenny, the ‘long, hot summer of 1976’. It was a hot one wasn’t it? Oh how wonderful to work in Central London. You must have really loved it to stay 15 years, what a great career! Sounds very romantic to me…the perfect first job 🙂

      Like

  11. Heyjude says:

    I totally remember 1976 – I was in England for that hot summer with my toddler and expecting my second baby. Quite a year for several memorable reasons! Lovely memoir Sherri. My first job was as a junior clerk in the Halifax – lasted 9 months! Like you I wanted to leave school and earn money…

    I think I need to start writing these too – not for blogging, but to pass on to the grandchildren!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      So you really do remember it well, and not just for the heat 😉 Haha, you lasted as long as I did in this job! I went to work at the Post Office and used my money saved from my training course to buy my first rust-heap of a mini but I loved it. Freedom!!!
      You should Jude, you have some wonderful stories! Lisa’s philosophy is that everyone should write down their memoirs, even if in snippets. It is amazing the things that come to mind from a single prompt. I would love to read more about your life….

      Like

      • Heyjude says:

        Wouldn’t really work on my travel blog though! But I have started a memoir for my grandchildren and these prompts may help me a lot as I have struggled with what to write about. Forgot to mention – how wonderful of your mother to buy you a bouquet for passing your O levels. So grown up! Mine paid for me to go to Butlins in Skegness with my best friend. First holiday alone (I had gone on a school trip aged 15, but that was still supervised) and boy did we have fun!

        Like

      • Sherri says:

        Yes, a great idea to write for your grandchildren Jude. Ahh, yes, that was my first ever boquet of flowers, so I was thrilled and did indeed feel very grown up! We went on a see-Europe-in-2 weeks driving package holiday after that! First one I took abroad other than school trips to France. It was one of those cut price Cosmos holidays, haha!!! Hey, you’ve given me a great idea, maybe I should blog about it?!!
        What a great idea for your mum to give you a holiday with your best friend! I bet you had a fantastic time, one you’ve never forgotten! Wonderful memories eh Jude? 😀 xx

        Like

  12. bulldog says:

    Wooooh Sherri you would have had trouble keeping me away from you after school… you must have been the good looker of the class… Love the story, whom of us can forget that first job.. I had started work in 1968 and I do agree I was treated worse there than at school…

    Like

  13. Patsy Parker says:

    I worked as a medical insurance forms typist in a chiropractor’s office while I was still in high school in the Spring of 1979. That was my first job.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      So interesting this Patsy! I worked as a back-office therapist at a chiropractor’s office some years later when I was living in California. Was there for 18 months and left when I had my second son. I also did the insurance forms and payroll at a dental office! So we have that in common 🙂

      Like

  14. Amy says:

    Enjoy reading the wonderful story, Sherri! Beautiful, precious photo. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

    Like

  15. longandluxe says:

    I just so love this picture of you and your delightful writing!! What a time it must have been with a supervisor and green computer paper. . . was that the kind with green and white lines and the holed-punched perforated edges???

    Lovely writing; always, always a pleasure to read your work, Sherri.

    Sending peaceful, joyous vibes your way ~

    Allison xxx

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh…well I thank you so much Allison 🙂 Oh to be young again, haha 😉 Yes, that was the very same computer paper, holes down the side and everything! After staring at those green and white lines all day long I think I almost lost it!!
      I’m so glad you enjoyed this little snippet…of course I could have written so much more but I love this 150 word challenge set by Lisa as it is a really great writing exercise!
      Feeling those joyous vibes…same back to you my friend! Happy Thursday 😀 xo

      Like

  16. Kev says:

    Love that pic.

    Like

  17. I think that’s the true learning curve of our early jobs, Sherri. In addition to giving us experience so we can apply for other jobs we want more, those first jobs also help us know what jobs we don’t want to do. It’s a valuable lesson.
    I love the picture of you holding the flowers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • prior says:

      I agree – so well said – helps us see what we do not want to do… hmmm

      Like

    • Sherri says:

      Absolutely Marylin, and thank you! I agree, a very valuable lesson indeed. I realised that later on but at the time all I knew was that I had made a bad mistake! Still, entering the workforce was so very different back then. It didn’t even occur to us that we couldn’t get a job. There was always something and we had opportunity to get something better if we worked hard. Very different for today’s young people. We didn’t know what we had back then. I could have had a free university education but I didn’t see the point since I didn’t want to be a teacher or a doctor. Crazy isn’t it?

      Like

      • It is crazy, Sherri. We know 3 couples whose adult children have just finished college–and 2 of them finished graduate school–and they’re facing huge college loans but don’t have jobs. Not just in their area of expertise–they don’t have jobs, period. And they’ve all come to the conclusion that it’s better to live at home and NOT work right now, because they can get health insurance for almost nothing if they don’t take part-time jobs.
        Something’s wrong with how this is going, and the message the next generation is getting, don’t you think?

        Like

        • jennypellett says:

          So it’s as bad in the States as it is in the UK. Something has to change but it’s going to be difficult to alter the mindset of a work shy generation. If you really want to earn money, there is always a way – you just have to get down off your pedestal and start grafting!

          Like

      • Sherri says:

        I agree Jenny, reading your reply, Marylin, it is definitely the same here as in the States with this kind of problem but the health insurance issue over there seems to have caused even more problems and sending out the very wrong message indeed. That’s changed since I lived there but then I knew a lot of people who worked and didn’t have any medical insurance because they couldn’t afford it. We had it through my ex-husband’s job because he worked for the State. I wonder what jobs these educated students are going to do? We keep reading that unemployment is going down here but I wonder how many graduates are willing to start at the bottom, just like we did? Jenny, the mindset is very different today. It is very wrong Marylin and very worrying indeed.

        Like

  18. prior says:

    love the throwback photo – and cool snippet about your first job – 🙂

    Like

  19. Sounds like they really did treat you as though you were still at school! I’m sad to say that I got fired from my first job on my first day! It was a Saturday job in a clothes shop when I was still pretty young but I was too shy to approach any of the customers! My first proper job was a temporary job making Christmas gift packs for the Body Shop – we didn’t have to ask to go to the toilet, but we did get searched each evening to make sure we hadn’t stolen anything!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Oh no! That must have been so hard, being shy and having to approach customers like that! That’s horrible being searched..no trust then?!! I wonder, did they not trust us at all back then? Do they do that now? I couldn’t stand the way we were treated, being made to feel like we were worse than naughty school children. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough 😀

      Like

  20. Steven says:

    How unfortunate it was for you to be working that close to Portaloo Road 😉 Oh, how the inner nerd in me would have loved to have been working around those scary computers, the size of a small car. Though, perhaps not in those conditions. Doesn’t sound much fun.

    That’ a lovely photo of you too!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Yes…how awful, lol 😉 You would have loved it though, sans job, it was like something out of Dr Who, haha 🙂
      Awww…thanks JG. A long time ago that…well, not THAT long ago… 🙂

      Like

  21. Charli Mills says:

    Nothing like that first job that gets you ready for college!

    Like

  22. Rachel M says:

    OMG, Sherri. I can’t believe you had to ask permission to go to the toilet. How backwards is that??? I’m not surprised you didn’t stay there long.

    Like

  23. Lovely photo Sherri and great picture of a time never to be seen again. Even having lived through it, it is hard to believe those huge rooms with the mainframes in them and the huge fear of dust that surrounded them existed. Great bite-size memoir. cheers Irene XD

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh…thanks Irene! Certainly was a very different time, different era, different everything. I suppose that’s where ‘computer virus’ came from, actual fears of dust getting into the mainframes and bringing all kinds of problems. I remember the men walking around in white lab coats looking like doctors, haha! 😀

      Like

  24. Mabel Kwong says:

    Ah, first jobs. That was sort of a mean boss you had way back then – you had to ask to go to the loo. I suppose you had to ask to go to lunch too, or at least inform him. My first job, I actually don’t remember it. Depends what you classify job as – something that pays? First full time job? While I was still at uni, I got paid for freelance-writing an article for a magazine. I had an odd job at uni involving data entry. Boss allowed me to take my time to do it 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      What a great job Mabel, freelance writing for a magazine? I would have loved your job! It’s good that you had odd jobs during uni. My eldest son did the same. At one point, when he was attending college in the States, he had two jobs, one at a gas station and the other selling tickets at a performing arts theatre! Data entry, I’ve done some of that. Tedious at times but could be worse! It’s good your boss gave you plenty of time!
      This was my first full time job, before that, I did the usual, some babysitting and working on Saturday mornings in a newsagents. My jobs got better after this first one but yes, we had to ask permission for everything and it was horrible…as I said, worse than school 😉 Still, valuable lessons learnt and never went back to that again 🙂

      Like

  25. Ste J says:

    These days you could probably get a job spying on the Ipswich players for a rival team lol…I love a bit of nostalgia and also a good success story. that’s the important bit!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Haha! That would be some job wouldn’t it? How things have changed…and yes…always nice to take a trip down memory lane and have a good ending, thanks Ste J 🙂

      Like

  26. So nice to have found your wonderful blog! Let’s see – 76 I’d just graduated high school and worked at an large insurance company before going off to college…I quickly learned that I didn’t want to work in insurance! Though I think my work situation was at least a bit more pleasant than yours! #meanbosses be well. ~Karen~

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you very much for coming by and taking the time to read and leave your lovely comment! 1976 was a big year for us both then and also we had similar experiences with finding out pretty quickly what we didn’t want to do in life, haha! Lovely to meet you Karen, hope to see you again 🙂

      Like

  27. I’m glad it was you talking about your first job and not me! I would have written a dissertation-length angry rant about how much I hated it. But then, I don’t think anyone’s first job is the most pleasant memory 😉

    I absolutely ADORE that photo of you!! So pretty ^^

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Oh dear…and I thought mine was bad! Perhaps we are meant to have rotten first jobs so that we learn what we definitely DON’T want to do in life! This seems to be true for most everyone here! Just as well thought it was a 150 word memoir, or I could have gone on much longer too…glad we were spared that, haha 😉

      Ahh…thank you Jenny Jen Jen, that’s so sweet…and not that long ago really…haha 😀

      Like

  28. First jobs stick to our memories. I especially enjoyed your line about watching the football players! We always find ways to make a job appear more pleasant when it’s not our dream job. One of my first one as a student was as a cashier in a supermarket. I was very bad with numbers (still am) and it was in the early 80s before codes on the items, so I made mistakes. The good part of the day was when the store closed and that the baker gave me all the unsold pastries, which I shared with my friends. I made many friends that year! Thank you, Sherri, for another slice of your life from before.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Haha…thanks Evelyne! Had to mention something good about the job, right? 😉
      Interesting what you say about numbers. I was never much good with them either at school yet, after this first job, I seemed to end up in a lot of jobs (before and after the one in LA) which involved number crunching – postal officer, insurance billing and payroll as an example – and I didn’t mind that too much. I remember having a weekend job working in a newsagent and having to use the till (as you say, before bar codes!) but I kept pressing the wrong numbers!! That must have been quite stressful at the supermarket, although I love your free pastries story…I can well imagine you were very popular with your friends! Thank you for sharing this glimpse into your working life too, I so enjoy these conversations 🙂

      Like

  29. thirdhandart says:

    Your first job sounds horrible Sherri! I got my first real job at 16 years-old… in a restaurant kitchen. I peeled a lot of shrimp (for shrimp cocktails), washed a lot of dishes, and made a lot of honey-butter (for biscuits) that summer. The job didn’t pay much, but the people that I worked with were wonderful. No Nurse Ratched at my first job, but I’ve worked with a few Nurse Ratcheds since then. They make life miserable for everyone.
    Lovely photo… and, you still look good girl!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh…well, thank you very much Theresa, that’s lovely of you to say although some days I do wonder… haha 😉
      It wasn’t the best job, that’s for sure! I was 16 in this photo and when I started this job. Your first job sounds like a lot of hard work but lovely that you have good memories because of the nice people you worked with . Sorry about your future Nurse Ratched experiences though…there’s always one isn’t there, and yes, they really do know how to create misery for everyone.

      Btw, I love shrimp cocktails and biscuits with honey-butter, very American and now I’m really missing them…we call them prawn cocktails here but they are with the small prawns, not the big shrimps you have there, generally speaking…mmmmm!!! I hope you weren’t put off them for life…and now I’m hungry… 😀

      Like

  30. Denise says:

    Boredom and boring tasks in a job are the worst. I come across these tasks sometimes and they send me to sleep. Luckily they are a small part of the job.

    My friend Mary said one of her best jobs ever was a summer job cleaning ships because the other cleaners were such a laugh. Working environment makes such a difference!

    What a lovely picture of you in front of your house.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Nothing worse than being bored is there? I can’t stand it and it made the day sooo long (as well as Nurse Ratched!!). Interesting, because after this job I went to work for the Post Office (this was before I started my college course) and I had such a laugh there. I was by far the youngest but I will never forget my time there as I loved every minute of it. So I totally agree with your friend Mary (and you) that the working environment is so vital. I’m glad that you don’t have too many boring tasks in your day…and thank you Denise, I remember that day so clearly, standing outside our house, posing, haha! My first ever bouquet of flowers 😀

      Like

  31. Seyi sandra says:

    Oh poor Sherri, no matter how bad the job was, you aren’t there any more, are you? It’s part of your life and experience! I love the your picture though! You look so cool. My first job was as a reporter for a local newspaper, it was one of my best jobs so far! And I’m still writing till date, so it’s cool. I had to leave to start a family. Love your post my friend! Have a great week ahead!
    Much love. 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh yes, I got out of there as soon as I could and learnt just what kind of job I didn’t want! Nothing is ever wasted and it was fun to write about it for this exercise! Your first job sounds amazing, how wonderful to be a reporter! You have certainly had a glittering writing career my friend, and going strong. You inspire me Seyi!
      Glad you like the pic (never thought I looked ‘cool’!!) and enjoyed the post, thank you you my friend and sending love and blessings to you too for a great week 🙂

      Like

  32. Great post and picture, Sherri. It’s so funny that you had to ask permission to use the bathroom 🙂

    Like

  33. What a wonderful story, Sherri! It sounds like you made the best of your situation and it motivated you to do more in order to change your situation! Way to go! You are still a beautiful woman, today. 🙂

    My first job was working at Dunkin Donuts in 1979. Not a bad place for a first job, we ate all the donuts that didn’t sell that day. LOL. To this day though, I can’t eat a DD donut. Just the smell gets to me.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Aww….well I thank you very much Maria, you are too kind…and you’ve made my day 🙂

      Oh I remember Dunkin Donuts. I first visited the States (California) in 1979 and I remember it still. We didn’t have anything like that in the UK back then! Glad you enjoyed it but I can well imagine. I knew someone whose first job was at KFC and they said just the same thing…makes you wonder what they put in that stuff 😉

      Like

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