Thursday, May 10, 2007
Reaching Out To The City Lights....Chapter Three
Monday morning couldn’t come quickly enough for me. As soon as I arrived at work and found a couple of moments of privacy in my office, I rang to make an appointment for an interview for the job I'd been told about at Saturday night's party. I'd checked out the advertisement in the weekend paper and it seemed just right for me, as Beth had said. An appointment was arranged for 1.15pm. It was difficult to keep my mind on dictation during the morning, but I managed to muddle my way through somehow, probably making up words as I went along. Legal terms become very repetitious after a while. I had already been working in the legal office in Gympie for five years, so I was familiar with most of the jargon, but we hadn’t handled many insurance cases and fewer divorces in my previous position. I was eager to shrug off the coldness and the harsh realities of the city legal world, having been accustomed to a more relaxed, very often fun-filled working life at Tozer and Jeffery, the company I had not long left behind. It had been sad for me leaving five years of friendships formed where the boss, his wife and their son treated us “girls’ as part of the family. Graham, my boss’s son was doing his Articles under his father’s guidance. He became a close friend (and still is to this day). Like me, he loved the beach and surfing, so he often gave my friends and me a lift to Noosa to “ride the wild surf”, his board strapped to the top of his car. Graham went on to take over his father’s business, which he successfully built into a much larger firm. He retired early. He and his wife now live at Rainbow Beach, a stone’s throw and a half from the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Working at Morris, Fletcher and Cross was a world away from the life I’d become accustomed to in the Gympie office. There was none of the warmth I had experienced during my first five years of my working life. I was now just a number, an unrecognized face amongst many. And to make matters worse, I was expected to join a union! That fact in itself motivated me into finding another job! I had never been a member of a union and I had no intention of becoming one.
Dressed for the occasion, I wore my “Miss Australia” pure wool Chanel suit on "interview day", wanting to impress the man who, I hoped, would become my new employer. Hair in place, high heels polished, I rushed out of my office on the stroke of one. Striding across Queen Street towards Heindorf House, my heart pounded in my chest, my stomach turned cartwheels. Reaching the top of the stairs to the first floor, I paused for a few minutes to catch my breath and still my thundering heart. Shoulders back, stomach in, head held high, just as my mother had taught me, I walked into the office a good ten minutes before the appointed time. I exuded an air of confidence that was lacking inside of me, which soon became obvious. I tried not to fidget as I waited in the reception area. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long. Within minutes, Beth ushered me into a rear office.
I stood frozen to the spot, completely out of my comfort zone. It had been over five years since I’d applied for a job. There had been no interview required by Morris, Fletcher and Cross. A telephone call was made on my behalf. All I had to do was just turn up on the day I had specified. Now, I was face to face with a total stranger, without a clue as to what I was letting myself in for. My mind was both blank and in a turmoil at the same time. Was I doing the right thing? I was on my own with no one to advise me. Would I listen to advice if it was forthcoming? Probably not! Smile…put a smile on your face and try to look somewhat normal!
Reaching across the desk, I shook the hand of the stranger standing behind it, commending myself in the meantime for actually being able to manage that much.
“Please…sit down, Lee,” a well-modulated voice instructed me. The man in front of me smiled kindly. “I’m John Trimmer.” He was in his early forties, suited and well-groomed.
I somehow managed to find a chair and sat down carefully, back straight, knees together.
“Hello, Mr. Trimmer,” I whispered. Where had my voice gone?
Gently coaxing information from me, he said, “You speak so quietly, Lee. Speak up, I can hardly hear you.” I think he forever rued the day he said that to me!
The interview came to an end; Mr. Trimmer rose from his chair and walked with me to the front door, promising that he would contact me “soon”. And “soon” became soon, because mid-afternoon I received a telephone call from him advising me I had the job"When can you start?" He asked.
My new position was to be secretary to Mr. Trimmer, who was the Queensland Manager for a national hosiery company, Kolotex Hosiery. The office in Heindorf House included a small storeroom in which stocks were held to service the inner-city department stores, such as David Jones, Myer, Barry & Roberts, as well as Waltons, Edwards & Lamb and McWhirters in Fortitude Valley, together with the smaller salons and boutiques. Gresham, Down and Johnson, wholesalers, were agents for Kolotex. They, in turn, serviced all the country and regional towns throughout Queensland. The head office and factory of Kolotex was in Leichhardt, a Sydney suburb. All other hosiery manufacturers were based in Melbourne, Victoria. In those early days, the Queensland office was only a small cog in a much bigger wheel. That was to change within a couple of years.
Receiving the good news, I promptly handed in my notice to Tony Atkinson, the lawyer to whom I was secretary. As I had only been employed with the firm for five weeks, I advised him I would be finishing up on the coming Friday. I was to commence my new job the following Monday. Suddenly, everything was moving rapidly. I was happy, excited and eager to take the next step in my course of my life, a step that would continue growing bigger and longer for the next fourteen years.
News of my change in direction wasn’t accepted well by my family back in Gympie. My brother, again acting like “big brother” threatened to come down to Brisbane and take me back home, saying, “You leave home and you think you can just chop and change jobs!” He continued on with a diatribe I took little notice of, telling him to mind his own business that I knew what I was doing. He didn’t agree, but I remained firm in my resolve. My mother warned me of the dangers of “fly-by-nighters”. “A one-man-operation” was doomed for failure, taking me down with it, she repeated. I did my utmost to calm the waters, insisting I knew what I was doing and all she was prophesizing would not come into being, for her to trust me and my judgement. In the meantime, Nana said little other than, “I hope you know what you’re doing, love.”
“I do, Nana…everything is just fine,” I assured her. Nana exuded a certain calmness, empathy and wisdom. She had gone to bat for me when I wanted to leave high school to go out to work and earn my own money, when my mother argued against such a move, because she wanted me to continue my schooling, attend college and become a school teacher. Unless I won a scholarship it was a snowball's chance in Hell of my family or me being able to afford my progressing through to college. I wanted to earn money to help within our household, and of course, for my own independence. Nana was the one who talked my mother around to my way of thinking at that time. And I was certain she was doing similar regarding my latest decision. I left the appeasing of my mother and my brother to her. There was little more I could do from afar, other than prepare myself for my new job, one I knew I was going to enjoy. The hosiery company wasn’t going to “disappear overnight”, nor was I!
I didn’t know then but I was about to go on the ride of my life filled with wonderful adventures and opportunities, a ride that was to last for the next fourteen years, and one that would have a large influence on my life. A new world of big business, fashion parades, top models, television and radio and much more was beckoning.