We resume the story of Charlie Courtois' reentry into the American job market after living in Europe from 1959-65. Having been recruited by an American company, Magna Tape, a division of large conglomerate now defunct, and broken into many pieces, he is faced with starting all over from scratch, after being unjustly fired.
The urgency of the financial pressure from across the pond and no paycheck created a double pressure... besides adapting to living with my mother-in-law as an uninvited intruder. That's how I felt anyway! My mom always used to say, “that relatives are like fish after several days, they stink!” So, having created my own internal “Hades” I was disposed to make something happen ASAP.
Meanwhile I had to earn some money, now! The only thing I could think of was to go down and register at Manpower, the day labor giant, and do whatever they gave me to do. That's what I did. My assignment was unloading box cars of frozen pineapples in wooden crates where the stems stuck out of the box. I describe this because by the second hour of handling the crates, my hands were sore and cold. I had never done any physical labor since my teens and the lack of practice immediately took it toll. Could I last eight hours of this? That kept flying around in my head. I made it through the first day, and it was over none too soon. I was exhausted, my hands cut-up and sore, and it was all I could do to turn-up the next morning at the Manpower office, sore hands and all.
Turn-up I did, and that day we had frozen orange and grapefruit juice concentrate in 55 gal. drums to unload by hand-truck. By the time I had wrestled with 30-40 of those drums, I had more visions of giving up. This was the hardest cash I had ever earned in my life and by the time the day was over, I was sure I had to do something else but hard labor.
I was in luck. When I got back to the office with my time card, the lady in charge seemed to sense that something was wrong. She, said, “You look awful!” I was startled, and before I could say anything she told me about a new assignment which came in that I was more qualified to handle. And, right she was. The assignment was to manage the sale of several thousand rolls of carpet which had been damaged in a fire in the Alexander Smith's manufacturing plant in Texas. The company had contracted with Whitefront Discount stores to sell their damaged carpet in the parking lots of these stores.
This was a great opportunity for me to get well financially. A commission and a salary were joyously welcomed. Whitefront had over a dozen stores and I had to run an ad to hire several people for each store to man the parking lots and sell the carpets. The people also had to be instructed in basic carpet knowledge, etc, etc. I became a quick study in carpet sales, found some installers, and sold all of the carpet in around four weeks. Alas! I had enough money to get an old clunker, some new clothes, and enough to compensate my in-laws for food and what-not.
However, the job hunt was far from over, and testing, applications, rejection, was slowly taking its toll on me. I redid my resumé thrice, each time reducing what I had done in the past. I became a salesman, period.
Immediately, hiring authorities stopped asking so many questions and I realized that that was the only way I was going to get a job. Begin at the bottom, and start all over again.
By this time I had three jobs in the hopper. Johnson & Johnson, Litton Industries, and Max Factor had all intervied me at least twice, and tested me. I was still in the running at those companies. By the end of the second week of waiting, I was beside myself with anxiety from the anticipation. Patience was not one of my attributes. Finally, at my wits end, on a Saturday P.M. when I least expected it, Max Factor called and said, “You are hired, and you start on Monday. Be at our office in Hollywood at 8:00 A.M. to start your two week training program.” I felt like the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders. Before I knew it, the training was over and I was off to San Francisco to my first territory.
The goodbyes to my in-laws went smoothly, and my old Pontiac and I made it to San Francisco without incident. My new boss, Dick Schock, a six foot four giant, met me at the St. Francis Hotel in downtown San Francisco on Monday morning to start my first day on my new job. In the meantime I had found an apartment out on what's called the “Avenues,” close to downtown, and was read to go.
I had already heard from Dick's boss, Herm Schnitz, that he was sure the two of us would get along well. After a two hour meeting at the hotel that day, I wasn't so sure, but I will continue the story there next week. My foray into the world of selling cosmetics begins with the drugstores of San Francisco, all 220 of them.