The Job Corps

Jim with the 1952 Cadillac he describes in his letter.

Jim with the 1952 Cadillac he describes in his letter.

Buddhism teaches that the natural human condition is suffering. The Buddha lived a life of privilege but suffered. He learned techniques to accept and overcome the suffering. Jim wasn’t much for religion, certainly not for some Eastern mumbo-jumbo religion, but he understood suffering and how to overcome it.

I was only fourteen and barely knew Jim in 1965. Even then I could understand that Jim was going through a tough time. Something had happened at Cal’s, my favorite Office Supply store, causing him to leave. Jim never told me exactly what went on; how much do you tell a fourteen-year-old anyway? That summer was difficult. We went camping and driving in the Cadillac (I was learning to drive!), but Jim was always talking about work, that there were opportunities and possibilities. He did it in a way implying that there was something better out there.

Perhaps he was engaging in the behavior I’ve learned … prepare the way for serendipity. He did talk about the Job Corps being a temporary program, so maybe he was thinking ahead, even as the program faltered around him.

Not an easy summer.

Jim writes:

In March of 1965 I parted company with Cal’s Office Supply, Jamestown. After contending with a dual manager system I desperately needed a change. Financially I didn’t have much to go on but I did have a small monthly income with monthly guard drills. I registered at the local employment office and there was an opening for a part time Job Corps interviewer for perhaps six months.

The Job Corps was a program to educate and train disadvantaged youths between the ages of 16 and 22 yrs in training centers set up around the US. This job would pay $2.30 an hour and 8.5¢ per mile .. four days of the week I would travel to different towns in the nine counties setting up an office usually in the courthouse interviewing applicants. Luckily I had the 1952 Cadillac which provided dependable transportation.

At the time no one knew just how long the program would last. Many youths earned their high school diplomas plus a job skill during the months of training. Since the program was fairly new I was kept busy but as the summer wore on the applicants dwindled to a few a week and it was at that time personnel changes were taking place in the office.

The manager of the office, Dick Codding, recommended that I take the examination for the position of Interviewer 1 and upon passing this it could lead to steady employment in one of the other state offices.

Things were looking up … as the Job Corps work fell off I was busy working as an interviewer for walk in job applicants. I was still on temporary status but working full eight hour days. I enjoyed the work but really didn’t like being saddled to a desk all day. In May took the Interviewer II exam and luckily passed that!

I was placed on what was called “the Register” … all state job openings were screened by a committee called the Merit System Council. If there was an opening this committee would decide your fate depending on grade and experience. There was no guarantee of full time employment and as fall approached I was in a constant state of anxiety. During this time I had applied for a position as a Technician with the Air Nat’l Guard.

In October I was offered a six months temporary position in Gr. Forks as a seasonal claims processor. I declined since it was still temporary … that move probably sealed my fate. The Director from Bismarck called. I was to be placed in the Fargo office as an Interviewer 1. Great! Then I was told a new register was being made up and I should take both exams over … what if I got a lower score … what a mental turmoil! I took the tests and miraculously passed them with very good scores … again I was offered another position as seasonal claims interviewer but at a lower grade. Apparently my test scores didn’t count that much … no deal, I turned that offer down.

On the 22nd of October I was told that my services were terminated! As I look back on that summer I wonder why I didn’t just go and have myself a well deserved nervous breakdown!! Oh well, back to the drawing board and a new attack plan!
Jim Letter 049