When I returned home from my 2-year tour of duty in the U.S. Army in 1971, I had to literally start my life all over again. All I possessed was the cloths on my back, but fortunately my parents let me take up residence at their home on Janey Way. I knew I had to get some money fast, so I did what all the returning soldiers did back then: I applied for unemployment compensation.
That was easy. I took the bus down town to the unemployment office and stood in line with the other unemployed people. After a while, my name was called and I went to a desk to meet with a claims representative. He helped me fill out my application, and then told me, “You should receive your first check in about two weeks.”
Sure enough, on Friday, two weeks later, my check arrived. It didn’t seem like very much money. I knew I could not live independently on that paltry amount. However, my mom gave me a good suggestion. She said, “go down and apply for a job with the state, Marty. They always need new employees.”
So early next morning, I went down to the State Personnel Board and put in my application for an entry level position: Clerk I. Soon, I received a notice to come and take a test for that position. The test proved easy and I passed with flying colors. By December, I interviewed for a job with the Department of Justice.
The interview went well. The guy heading up the interview panel was Robert Scott. He told me right off that he knew and liked my parents. I got the job.
I began my career with the state of California on Dec. 26, 1971. Little did I know that it would become my life’s work. My goal had been to become a teacher, but circumstances beyond my control ultimately prevented me from obtaining that goal.
Things went well at the DOJ though. I got promoted to Clerk II a year later. I remember receiving the news from a supervisor named Marlene who ran my unit, the Record Analysis and Coding Unit (RAC). She did not like me much for whatever reason, but she was happy to advise me I placed number one on the list.
I soon left RAC and took a swing-shift job in the Folders Unit. That group filed criminal dispositions in a massive warehouse that held almost 5 million criminal records, encased in folders, stacked on shelves just like you find in the library.
We received a stack of about 700 criminal disposition forms every shift and had to file them by the end of the night. I finished early most nights, and then sat around pretending to look busy until the shift ended.
Working swing shift enabled me to return to Sacramento State College and resume my academic pursuits. A few years later, in June of 1975, I graduated from Sac State with a baccalaureate degree in Social Science, and the rest is history. I took a state job as a Research Analyst at the Department of Rehabilitation, where learned how to use a computer. Ultimately that led me to a career in Information Technology. I retired in 2002 as the Chief of the Bureau of Administration at the Stephen P. Teale State Data Center.
My mom’s suggestion to apply for work with the state in 1971 had led me to a career I had never even imagined back then. What did Forrest Gump say? “Life is like a box of candy, you never know what you are going to get.” Now, my return home from the Army in 1971 is just another surprising Janey Way memory.