Corporate Life in the 1970's (PART ONE)

“Corporate Life in the 1970's (PART ONE)”

I started with Aetna in 1979.  The first thing I remember is getting that employment offer letter.  When I opened it - I couldn't believe my eyes.  The starting salary would be $13,300 / year.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  Anything above $10,000 was amazing.  But $13,300 - we immediately bought a house we were so rich!    

Corporate life was regimented to say the least.  Everything was based on your level / position in the company.  There was a "pecking order" and everything about your role in the company was communicated in very obvious ways. Let me explain...

Job classifications  were a part of each person's identity.  I was in the "computer programming" department.  When I started, I was a Trainee (Level 25).  After I year I became a Programmer Analyst (Level 26).  Level 28 was a Senior Programmer Analyst.  Level 30 was a Supervisor.  Level 32 was for Administrators.  Level 34 was Senior Administrators.  Everyone above that was an officer of the company - and I don't even know where the numbers went after that...  

That probably sounds like today's job titles.  But let's talk about what was affected back then compared to today.

Desk Size and Location.  That's right.  The size of your desk and it's relative location showed the rest of the company your importance.  Trainees had the smallest desks in the department, and they were the first ones you have to walk by from the hallway.  Behind them were the bigger desks of the Senior Programmers.  They essentially were the same desk - but with 4 inch "wings" that stuck out on the sides.  Behind them were the Supervisors who sat at larger desks which included a side chair.  Administrators sat behind them - you guessed it - larger desk size WITH WINGS and a side chair.  Senior Administrators sat the furthest away from the hallway, closest to the windows, big desk, wings and of course - two side chairs.   Officers had enclosed corner offices.  

Phones.  Programmer Trainees and Programmers didn't get phones.  Only Senior programmers and above had that distinction.  OH, and only the Senior Administrators were allowed to have phones with outside lines.  When I was new to the department, my wife and I were busy buying our first house (with the $13,300 - Ca-Ching!).  And whenever my realtor or attorney called - they had to call my boss's, boss's, boss's boss - that's right the one near the window.  The phone would ring on his desk, and he would hold up the phone, high above his head and yell "WISTROM!!!!!".  At that point - I had to jump up, sheepishly go to his desk, use his phone while turned away from him (for privacy), be as fast as possible with one or two word answers, hang the phone back up and say "Sorry - but that was about our new house."  He would just stare at me as I returned to my small desk.

Parking.  We had a parking garage near our building.  Of course you had to get there at the crack of dawn to be able to park in it.  It filled up early - and overflow parking was about a quarter mile away - under the highway.  Lovely.  Oh - the officers had their own parking levels in the garage.  Don't worry, they never had to make that trek.  And the Vice Presidents and President parked in a cute little courtyard in the front of the building, only steps away from the grand entrance.  On rainy days, the security guards would run out with umbrellas to walk each of these near GODS to the front door without a drop of water falling on their perfect suits.

Food.  Lowly employees had a couple of cafeterias to go to on a daily basis.  Officers had their own dining room with white linen service.  If I'm remembering correctly, I went to that dining room twice in my 18 years with the company for very special meetings with the top brass.

Start and Stop Times.  I believe there were a couple of starting times for employees to arrive, but....  Once that latest arrival time was hit - 8:00am - the doors were only open for another 10 minutes.  At 8:10 the doors closed, and security guards were at every entrance.  If you were a lower level employee arriving after 8:10, you'd be stopped at the door and the security guard would call your senior administrator who would have to PERSONALLY come to the door and sign you into work.  You would then have a walk of shame back to the department with a chat along the way about why you were late, the fact that it was going into your personnel file, and your promise that it would NEVER happen again.  Leaving early???  Not without signing out at that same guard location.  All employees leaving the building before the end of day were reported back to their department.  

I'm calling this PART ONE because we haven't even scratched the surface of what corporate life was like back in the 70's.  We've just set the stage.

You remember what it was like back then?  Drop me a line with your memories of "corporate life in the old days".  My therapist said that may help me remember more of the traumas in a gentle way.