MyFirst Jobs after High School In Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis grain Exchange building
Minneapolis grain Exchange building

1950s

In 1955 some students planned on college but I think most of us were heading out to the work world, to find our first jobs after high school. Most of us didn’t have the financial means to go to school and it was not pushed the way it is now. Also, I was not a particularly good student having only average grades. I probably could have done better but I don’t think I was motivated to do so.


Right after high school graduation in 1955 my first job was as the lowliest clerk in the Minnesota State Agricultural Department’s Civil Service at the Grain Exchange in the Minneapolis downtown.

The Grain Exchange


Grain was an important commodity in Minneapolis, which was in the middle of farm country. The city was nicknamed the Mill City; because of how much business was done in grain. Cereal companies like General Mills still has its corporate headquarters in Minneapolis suburb. When I grew up they had an office building a near where I lived in the Northeast area of Minneapolis. My older brother worked there at one time. I would have been in grade school then

The Minneapolis Grain Exchange (MGEX) was formed in 1881 as a regional cash marketplace for the promotion of fair trade and prevention of trade abuses. In wheat, oats and corn.

At the time there were no computers. We put up trade notices on clipboards in which traders came in to examine. Truthfully I didn’t know the nut and bolts of it. I filed cards, posted notices. I don’t suppose it is much different from the stock market.

There were some interesting people that came in. There was a one arm trader  who rolled his own cigarettes. Imagine that.

This was probably the hub of the grain industry. I didn’t realize it’s importance and my salary certainly didn’t reflect it as an important job.

A friend of a coworker worked for a salesman in the clothing business and told me that one of the salesmen in his building was looking for a reliable assistant. The sales office was on the sixth floor of the Merchandise building in downtown Minneapolis.

The Garment business


The job entailed traveling with a salesman selling a line of dresses mostly to department stores. Supposedly I was a driver for the salesman but it seemed my major duties were to load the dresses into his car, then unload them, carry them into whatever display space was available and then later repack and reload the car. When we get back to the office to I’d move the dresses from the car to the office. The dresses were in special garment bags that held several dresses each. I recall we had about five such garment bags in the car hung in the back. One time when I was moving the dresses to the office I came out and found a tow truck ready to tow away the car. The office was on a main downtown street and there was a bus stop there. I think we talked them into leaving the car but had to pay a parking fine.

As I recall we traveled mostly in Northern Minnesota, the Dakotas and part of Nebraska. Some trips were two or three days, occasionally for a week or two. Most of these towns were pretty small back then and some I imagine still are.  Between trips I was usually left in the office to answer phone calls and had some time on my hands. Although I didn’t plan to go to college I did enroll in a history correspondence course  offered by the University of Minnesota. I figured I could study during my downtime.

Naval Reserves


I was also a member of the U.S. Naval Air Reserve at that time. The government policy on military service at that time was called “Universal Military Service” which meant that all males were required to serve a certain number of years, in my case eight. This service could be any combination of active duty; active reserves or in some circumstances the inactive reserves. Because of the need to be away from home for my job and unable to attend meetings and training on a regular basis I was put in an inactive status. Much the same as George W. Bush did with his service while working on his father’s presidential campaign. With changes in circumstances I had sort of an off and on again relationship with the Navy.

Traveling Small Towns


 

At this time I had not traveled a lot and everything seemed interesting to me. Small towns have always interested me. I know other people want to bypass them and it probably does save time, but I like to see them. If I have time I like to look around them. There were differences then. Most towns were more self-sufficient whereas many have become bedroom communities where the old business have faded out and people commute to a nearby population center to shop and work.

We stayed mostly at hotels that were generally in the main part of town and a person could walk to places to get a cup of coffee, go to a movie or just look around. There were motels back then but they were not the chain motels that we have now. My employer would drop me off at the cheaper hotel, if there were more than one. This was OK by me. He was paying the bill and I didn’t really care, it was all novelty to me.

Interesting incidents


I never became race and ethnic conscious until the government forced it on us. People’s ethnic background was not much in my consciousness unless it was some unmistakable characteristic. In one hotel when I was bringing a garment bag into the display area a young woman elevator operator asked me if my employer was Jewish. I was stumped. I really didn’t know although he was. I later found that the industry is pretty much Jewish. He was a graduate of a Catholic College, which I also found is fairly common. That is Jewish people often go to Catholic colleges. By the way, back then the Catholic schools were not coed. Anyhow that was maybe one of my first steps to becoming racially aware.

An amusing incident occurred at one hotel when I went down to the lobby to watch television. They didn’t have TV in every room back then. There used to be a high school organization named Future Homemakers of America, (FHA) which is now known as Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA). They were apparently having some sort of convention there because there were a lot of high school girls with jackets with FHA stitched on them.

An old gentleman struck up a conversation with me and asked what I did and I told him I was traveling to sell dresses. He said, I ought to set up a display here and sell to all these young women running around here. Then he stopped and thought a minute and said,” The Federal Housing Administration sure seems to have a lot of young girls working for them.”

Other duties

 

In later years working for the government my job descriptions always contained the phrase “other duties as assigned.” As a fellow worker remarked it meant whatever the H… came up.

That was the case here except less formal. I ran errands. One day I went to my boss’s house to shovel snow off the walk for his wife, who was a very nice lady.

Although I had no plans of going to college I had to drive by the University campus on some of these errands. I saw so many energetic students going about I kind of wondered what I was missing.

School

 

 

I parted company with the dress sales.  I think the boss really wanted someone more outgoing to maybe take over some sales on their own.

Winter quarter at the University was just starting and since I was sort of at loose ends and I did have some friends from high school going I went over and registered. The registration for new students then also consisted of taking a number of test and a physical exam. I remember I signed up for Anthropology, Freshman English. Surprisingly I liked college. It was not like high school and I developed a hunger for knowledge.   Even college was different back then. The next several years were spent trying to balance work and school until I eventually got a degree.

© 2011 Don A. Hoglund

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Comments 47 comments

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

My home state was Iowa,and I once had a job in Minneapolis at the old S&M wholesale warehouse. I don't know if it's even there anymore.

(I thought Iowa was cold until that winter in Minneapolis! Brr!)

Yes, the midwest was race and ethnic neutral in those days. We never thought to question such things. Several of my classmates were part Indian and we paid little attention, other than being a little jealous of their uniqueness! After all, those were the heydays of America's fascination with the Old west.

Great Hub!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for the complimentary comment.I was born in Des Moines although we moved to Minneapolis when I was six. I can't place S&M


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota

interesting work history.

I too enjoy the different atmospheres of small towns. They all have a unique fell to them.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I just looked it up...the old S&M warehouse is now an art gallery!

Is nothing sacred?

http://www.citypages.com/content/printVersion/1006...


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Tamarajo

Thank you fro reading.It is only a beginning of my work life but I thought that some folks might be interested in what the 1950's were like.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

WillStarr

I think I know where it would be. It is probably the area near central and Broadway.My brother still lives on Tyler near 18th. The University has community has been spreading to NE Minneapolis.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I think you're probably right, but it has been nearly fifty years ago!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I get there a couple of times a year because of family but I hardly recognize it anymore.


creativeone59 profile image

creativeone59 5 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

Thank you dahoglund, for a great employment story, I'm sure we have all had our days. Thank you for sharing. Godspeed. creativeone59


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for reading. I was mostly trying to show what and earlier time was like.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Another great hub from you. Thanks for writing this. I thought you have success pass your life and found great job, like you said above. First job was always nice to remember. Happy New Year, and wishing you all the best in 2011. Cheers...

Love and peace!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for reading this and commenting. Our first jobs were sort of our introduction to the adult world.


2patricias profile image

2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

This is an interesting Hub. Tricia and I have often talked of writing a hub about our first jobs, but haven't gotten around to it. I don't think I knew what I was doing in my first couple of jobs. I hope that Tricia did, as she worked in a pathology lab!

The world of work really has changed in some regards (like computers!) but other aspects - such as getting on with other people - stay the same.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting. I was somewhat trying to show how different things were when we grew up. I remember when my daughter took a course in History of the 1960's.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

That was a most interesting journey DA and it brought back some memories to me. No doubt the Vietnam War of the mid-60's did more to increase the interest in college than any single factor in our history. Your work with grain was your introduction into what they now call "futures trading"...everyone is betting the downstream price will be higher than what they are buying it for today. The small town travels is interesting as well...I am still drawn to them and the characters who populate them. I see you eventually found your way...I like to think you got to know yourself better so that when you did enter college, your attitude was better and more focused than others. Good Story! WB


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

By the mid sixties I had graduated from college and fulfilled my military obligation. I am not sure what happened to the draft system but I don't think it was an improvement. As they told me when I retired and I expressed concern about some upcoming problem I was told "it's not your problem anymore."

Thanks for commenting.


Dusty Snoke profile image

Dusty Snoke 5 years ago from Chattanooga, TN

interesting hub. my degree is in history so I love hearing first hand accounts. Even ones not too far from my own, I am a 1970's child. Thanks for sharing.


Deerwhisperer profile image

Deerwhisperer 5 years ago from Bradenton, Florida

My first job was picking grapes in a tiny town called Dateland Arizona. I didn't graduate high school, but now at the ripe old age of fifty...I'm earning my Bachelor's Degree at University of Phoenix, which goes to show that you should never give up on learning.


eovery profile image

eovery 5 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

Interesting.

Keep on hubbing!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Dusty Snoke

There is quite a bit of difference between the two decades. The fifties was before the many social changes in the country. When JFK was killed in 1963 much changed in the country. Politics is more polarized for one thing.Urban renewal and the Great society changed the landscape in a lot of ways.

Thanks for reading and commenting.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Deerwhisperer

As one of my professors said when you get your Bachelors degree you learn just how much you don't know. Never stop looking for new learning opportunities. Thanks for contributing.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

eovery

Thanks for reading and commenting.


randslam profile image

randslam 5 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

Origin stories are always a good thing. I spent 12 years in Duluth, Minnesota as a travelling carpenter of sorts in the 90s in a 200 mile radius from the twin ports. The towns are fascinating snapshots of history, and this description of your time in the 50s was interesting--tho' I would love to know the names of the towns visited with even more details--but I'm a curious sort in that area, dahoglund.

I like your easy flow and look forward to reading more.


AskAshlie3433 profile image

AskAshlie3433 5 years ago from WEST VIRGINIA

As usual, one more great hub. You are truly blessed at writing. Happy New Year and best of luck in 2011!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Randslam

It's the reason I hesitated to write this is that my memory is not that good. Towns that come to mind are Pierre, Fargo, Duluth, St. Cloud.Thanks for commenting.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Ask Ashley3437

Thank you for the kind words. You have a good year too.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

It wasn't Future Housewives of America! It was Future Homemakers of America! I should know! I was a member! :D I think it was easier for young people to have real adventures and do interesting things back in those days. Now, everyone is pretty much a slave of corporate America. It's a shame.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

You are probably right although I didn't think the term homemaker had been used that far back.Thanks for the additional information.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

Well, maybe not! Maybe it was changed to Homemaker later...


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I'm not sure it really matters now, thanks for the commet.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

After a bit more research I found that justmesuzanne was correct about the term homemaker and I have changed it in the text.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

Thanks for writing this story about your first jobs. I just knew that it would be interesting and that other folks would also find it so.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I still wish I could remember more details.Anyhow, thanks for the suggestion and comments.


randslam profile image

randslam 5 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

A "housekeeper" is a woman that marries a man than divorces him and keeps the house. If she's a good housekeeper, she does this three or for times.

A homemaker is usually a carpenter who builds homes.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting.


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

dahoglund, what an interesting look into the past. I love the little fascinating unexpected comments such as the one about the3 one armed man who rolled his own cigarettes.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I suppose if I were coming of age now I'd be working in a fast food place.


Becky Puetz profile image

Becky Puetz 5 years ago from Oklahoma

I enjoyed reading your story. Great Hub.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for reading it and commenting.


AskAshlie3433 profile image

AskAshlie3433 5 years ago from WEST VIRGINIA

It really is a great hub. I like reading it, can't help it.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I appreciate that. I had hoped to give a feeling of how it was starting out back in that time.


myawn profile image

myawn 4 years ago from Florida

Very nicely written about the jobs you've had I love reading about people's life experiences.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

myawn, Thank you for a nice comment.Glad you enjoyed it.


Gawth profile image

Gawth 21 months ago from Millboro, Virginia

Nice Hub. If I could give my granddaughter anything I wanted, I'd give her a two week vacation in the fifties. It might seem boring at first but she would be safe and I think she would never forget it.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 21 months ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

A window through time and a very interesting look at life in 1950s America. It's good to see that many of the people who commented, were able to relate to your experience. Thank you for sharing this well written article. Voted up and awesome.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 21 months ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Gawth. the fifties also had James Dean "Rebel Without a Cause." There was an obsession with Juvenile delinquency. I guess Fonzy on "Happy Days" was the anti-dote.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 21 months ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

tobusiness, the pace of life was somewhat slower. College did seem to have professors who wanted to teach us the tools to think, analyse and draw conclusions. I have grandchildren in college now. I hope they are learning the same things. Thanks for commenting.

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