Betty in 1946. Doesn’t Shannon favor her?
The WWII generation shares so many common values: duty, honor, country, personal responsibility and the marriage vow ” For better or for worse”–it was the last generation in which, broadly speaking, marriage was a commitment, and divorce was not an option. ~ Tom Brokaw
This impeccable woman, always elegant and proper, always dressed for the occasion, even if only to go to the grocery store… Betty is my mother in law. She was probably initially horrified at my lack of elegance and proper attire, much less my non-existent cooking skills in our early married days. My only saving grace was that she was friends with my mom; they were in the same Sunday School class at our church.
Driving her to the doctor recently, I pointed out the old Shell Research building (now called the Shell Bellaire Technology Center) on Bellaire Blvd, and mentioned that’s where my mom worked right after she graduated from college. Mom had earned a degree in Chemistry from The Rice Institute (as it was known then) in 1946, but was essentially hired as a secretary to the men chemists, because they just didn’t hire women chemists. But she did know how to spell all the chemical lingo, so she got the job.
The old Shell Research Building on Bellaire Blvd
(note: if she had graduated in the middle of the WWII years, she might have actually gotten a chemist job, given the scarcity of men who were off fighting in Europe or in the South Pacific)
Just making conversation, I offhandedly asked Betty where her first job was after she graduated from the University of Houston in 1945.
I’d heard the stories of her magical summer in NYC following her graduation; there she had studied at the Irvine Studio for the Theatre, while living in the Woodrow Hotel on W. 64th Street. In her spare time, she attended all the performing arts events that she could! It is SO interesting to look through all the playbills she collected.
Before she headed back to Houston, she experienced VJ Day there in NYC, which I imagine must have been quite the place to celebrate! What wonderful memories she has of that summer…
VJ Day, Times Square, 1945
But home to Houston she came, and she told me that she landed her first job at the Texas Company (forerunner to Texaco) in downtown Houston that fall. She said the hiring manager was impressed with her resumé, and hired her to be a receptionist and “general flunkie” until a better position became available. In due time, it did, and she worked in Personnel and afterwards in the Research Department (her favorite).
The old Texas Company Building, 720 San Jacinto St.
But then she said she learned that they’d hired another young woman to work there and paid her more, so she quit and began her teaching career, a career that suited her very well! She got to share her love of musical theater and drama with her students, as she taught these courses and English at the old San Jacinto High School and then in Tulsa after her young husband was transferred there in the early 1950’s.
Lately, she’s been needing some special attention, due to some falls and chemical imbalances. It’s been hard for her, as independent and resourceful as she has always been, and hard for us to see her need our help, but we are grateful that she is safely tucked into a place that can and does take good care of her.
I look at Betty, at my mom, at their friends, all of whom have come to be known as “The Greatest Generation”. They are all such interesting and amazing people who have so many stories to share. I am glad that I took the time to ask Betty about her early job history. Who knew?
Do you have you a Greatest Generation parent or grandparent? Don’t delay! Ask them to tell you their stories before they are lost forever… we need to remember and carry on their legacy of selfless patriotism, honor and duty. Theirs is truly a generation (almost) gone with the wind.
Note: pewperson will return in three weeks! Yikes, that’s the longest I’ve ever gone without a post. Hoping you’ll stay tuned and check back in on August 16…