Saturday, September 12, 2015

Queens County Revisited: The 1970's (40)

During most of the time when I had the Jamaica basement apartment to myself, I obtained my rent money by working as a temporary clerk-typist in a travel season job with the Council on International Educational Exchange [CIEE] in Midtown Manhattan, which was then located in a building that was about 9 or 10 stories high, about a block from the United Nations Building in UN Plaza.

After I had decided it was time to escape from my Bulova parts department clerk-typist job in Woodside, Queens for some job in Manhattan, I looked through the New York Sunday Times' classified want ads section on the Sunday before a Monday that I had arranged to take off from work, noticed the Council on International Educational Exchange [CIEE]'s classified want ad for a "student travel agency" clerk-typist position, dressed up in a suit and tie early Monday morning, took the subway to Grand Central Station, and telephoned from inside a coin-operated phone booth the CIEE personnel manager's phone number at 9:05 A.M. to arrange for a job interview at 10:00 A.M. that same morning.

The personnel manager in charge of hiring the temporary travel season clerical and clerk-typist office workers at CIEE in the 1970's was an elderly white woman with white hair,  who appeared to be in her early 60's. Despite being culturally straight-looking and dressed up when she went to work, she seemed to be liberal and somewhat intellectual. When interviewing me for the CIEE temporary clerk-typist position, she sounded like someone who had been college-educated  in the 1930's at one of the elite women's colleges, like Radcliffe, Wellesley or Smith College.

Probably because I was the first applicant for the temporary travel season clerk-typist job to telephone in response to CIEE's New York Sunday Times classified want ad, still looked young enough in my 20's to match the looks of most of the Western European and U.S. white students who reserved seats on CIEE's summer charter flights each year and typed about 60 wpm with no mistakes on the 5-minute typing test she gave me, the CIEE personnel manager immediately sent me to be interviewed by the supervisor of the CIEE department in which I would be working.  He was a friendly, clean-shaven white guy in his late 20's, who still looked kind of hip, named Steve.

Steve then explained to me what work tasks the job involved and told me that I should call the personnel manager back the following day. It probably did not hurt my chances of being told--when I called back the following day--I was hired and could start working for CIEE on the following Monday, that I was white. But my impression was that both the CIEE personnel manager and Steve were liberal enough in their politics/racial attitudes to have been willing to hire an Afircan-American clerk-typist position applicant in the 1970's, if that person had been the first person to respond to CIEE's classified want ad for the position--even in the absence of adequate U.S. government or New York State enforcement of non-discrimination in employer hiring practices or affirmative action in hiring laws during the 1970's.