I also operated the switchboard which was in the reception area in an L off the
boardroom. We had approximately a dozen lines and sometimes they were all in use. When that happened and someone wanted to make a call, I waited for someone else to hang up, then leaned over the counter and shouted, “Mr. _______, I have an open line now.” And I'd plug him in.
I was very young when I started and afraid to go into the building, take the elevator up, unlock the office door, and go in by myself, especially after mass-murderer, Richard Speck was all over
the news. My husband and I carpooled so he came in with me every morning and checked all the
closets. When I was promoted to bookkeeper and started later, I was a happy camper.
Looking back, some of the things I experienced seem hard to believe. One morning one of the
brokers came up and asked, “If I would like to go up to the roof and help him erect something.” I
turned beet-red and he added, “Like a flagpole.” A couple of years later, he shot himself in the head at a local gun range. One of the men killed his wife; he said his gun went off when he was cleaning it. One man drank, and when he was on a binge and drinking too much he’d get arrested and held overnight. When that happened, he’d call in orders from the pokey to whomever was in the office and available to take them. I coped with everything except the lunch issue: the secretaries had an hour for lunch but we in bookkeeping were only give 30 minutes. I pitched a fit over that.
All in all, my career at Merrill was a mixed blessing, and I was sure glad to retire. Many, many
of the people I worked with over the years left the firm and went to other brokerage houses in town. I
stuck it out so my 401k would continue to grow, but with a little imagination, you can figure out what
I did during the 30 minutes of my last day.
PS: One day in the mid-1970s, when I was the manager of the bookkeeping department, one of my employees left the office at noon and never returned. She'd met several college guys who were sailing San Francisco that afternoon and she decided to go with them. She later called me from a ship-to-shore radio and asked if I'd hold her job open until she returned.