In last week’s letter Jim had gone through the hard times of an unlikable job. It dragged him through the summer and finally, thankfully, ended in the fall. Then the North Dakota Credit Union League hired him. That turned out to be the best job of his life, and a significant influence on me.
Again, Jim traveled throughout the state, even making trips around the country to Credit Union National Association events. He made good friends, worked for hard-working, energetic people, and helped regular people who needed a financial lift. Compared to his life as a clerk in a Sears catalog store, becoming a full-time consultant was a stretch for him. Surrounded by good people, learning an entire new industry must have been a fascinating challenge.
I was in my prime high school learning years while Jim was at the League. He gave me the opportunity to work there and learn skills that have stuck with me since then … almost fifty years ago.
Fifty years. Really? Fifty?
Over five weeks elapsed from the time I left the Employment Service until I landed another job. Luckily my recent experience there helped me secure a position with the North Dakota Credit Union League as a consultant or Field Representative. The League was the official organization of the 100 or so credit unions in North Dakota.
It was organized for the purpose of preserving and promoting the credit union idea. Its purpose was to provide services that a credit union could not afford by itself such as bookkeeping help, legal counsel, management guidance, training and legislative representation just to name a few. I would be required to become knowledgeable in those areas in a very short time!
For purposes of clarification and at the risk of being redundant a credit union is a cooperative designed to provide its members with efficient, inexpensive savings and loan services. It is member owned and each member invests shares which are then loaned to other members. These 112 C/U’s were scattered from Crosby in the extreme nw to Fairmount in the SE and from Pembina in the NE to Borman in the SW! I had a lot to learn in a short period of time but what a challenge and opportunity for me.
Along with the position came a 1965 Rambler Ambassador sedan, $350 a month, all expenses on the road plus a retirement and medical plan.
Orders came from the Air Guard to serve two weeks active duty at Fargo so I didn’t start at the job until Nov. 29th 1965. Following that I spent two weeks in the office with the Managing director of the League, John Hillerson, who had held this position for twenty years.
My first foray into the field was as the guest speaker at the MDU Credit Union Annual Meeting held in Bismarck. I had never spoken before a large group or any group for that matter, and I was petrified with fear! I wrote a very short speech which I deemed a disaster and I am sure others that night thought so too!
A bar had been set up in the hall and everyone seemed loose and in a festive mood. Fortunately, and to this day I am ever so thankful, I kept the talk very brief for the business meeting was passed off as an intrusive formality and soon everyone was drinking and dancing. I never forgot that baptismal by fire … it was a most inauspicious start toward a new career! In the future all speeches were written with this in mind … “KISS” … which translated means … “Keep it short, stupid!”
Part of the job was to make a formal call on each C/U in the state at least once a year plus if a cry for help came in I was to depart immediately to the scene. It proved to be a hands on learning experience, one which I feared and enjoyed at the same time. During that crucial training period the managers and staff were most tolerant and helpful. It made the job easier. It was a demanding task as most of the meetings were at night … we were dealing with volunteers and usually evenings were the only free time for them.
Many Saturdays I found myself attending meetings and training sessions. I never knew the meaning of travel until I started the job!
In the office, which was an old converted church on fourth Ave. SE were Hillerson, MD, Don Hofland, Technical Asst or Auditor, Eunice Baumgartner, Sec. Clark Wold and Joe DeBode, both Jmstn College students who cranked out on an ancient, fearsome looking and sounding machine called a “multilith.” Guy will fondly remember this as he worked for us after high school classes. I was to spend eight years with the NDCUL and there will be more about this in the next narrative.