Lela has had many wonderful adventures in her life. This is my story...
Divorce is Still an Ugly Thing
I was fortunate in that the man that was divorcing me, had worked hard all of his life (he was much older than me). He had an adequate income to help me get started. We had two houses, one in the rural sticks of Navarro County, and one in the small town of Corsicana, Texas.
I moved to town and rented out most of the house, keeping a small bedroom and kitchen for myself. This paid the utility bills and the mortgage payment, but nothing left over. I also ended up with one of my ex's cars, a 1957 Packard sedan. The first thing on my list was to find money for college.
The college in Corsicana was only a "junior", or two year college, but it would have to do. My counselor told me to go apply for a college loan. I was so scared to go ask a stranger for money! But I told myself, "this is my world now, get on with it!"
My next decision was what course curriculum to get into. The College had three career choices I was interested in. The first was police related, the second was flight school (career to be - Commercial Pilot), and the third was Medical Laboratory Technician.
The police class was booked up. The flight school was too expensive. That left the third choice of Medical Lab Technician. My counselor guaranteed that this field was booming, it paid well, and I could work anywhere in the country with just a two-year degree. I only wished that we had Google in those days. But Med-Tech it was and has been for most of my life2.
Have You Ever Seen the Inside of a Cotton Mill? I have.
Jobs I Worked to Pay My Way Through College
The first job I had was in the college cafeteria. I believe it paid about $1.18 per hour, and I had to work the lunch run only. Wow! Almost five whole dollars a day! I found another job in the evenings as a short-order cook in a local cafeteria nearby. That paid a bit better, and I would get tips as well.
Then a breakthrough job was sort of handed to me. A job that paid six bucks an hour and I only had to work after school hours, or second shift, and a full forty hours a week. Now, you will not believe what this job was!
Corsicana, in those days, (the 70s), was a cotton based economy. Even as a child, visiting there with my mother and her family. My little brother and I learned to pick cotton. It was an experience I tried hard to forget.
WestPoint Peppernell™, today known as WestPoint Home™, opened a cotton milling operation in a nearby town. They were looking for workers, with a starting salary of $6.25 and benefits!
I started out as a "battery changer". This meant I had to walk up and down the rows of weaving machines and load and unload the cross threading "batteries". By the end of my two years, I had been promoted to actual "weaver", then "smash hand", which paid the most of any job there. The smash hands are the ones that repair the cloth being woven when the batteries "smash" into the weaving "headles" and create a giant rip in the weave! I do not recommend this as a career choice!
The Steps Along the Way Into My Profession
I had to make some big decisions after graduating with an Associate Degree (2 year degree) in Medical Laboratory Technology. I took and passed the state exam for lab techs as was required, but I had been so busy working and supporting myself in college that I was unable to fulfill the required six months of unpaid internship. I had to find a paying job that would count toward this requirement.
There was nowhere in Corsicana that would pay me to put in my six months. Why should they when the college provided interns free of charge?
My biggest and hardest decision of my life was leaving Corsicana behind along with visits to my son. I knew I was terrible at the mommy job, but I did try. The best I could do was to go and live with my mother in Houston, and see my son when I could get away from work, or when his dad brought him to Houston to visit his grandmother. His dad no longer talked to me at this point.
This did work out, more or less. I finished my internship, then worked at various hospitals in the Houston area until I had saved enough money to go to a real college in Huntsville.
- WestPoint Home - and WestPoint Pepperell - cotton fabric weaving and production.
- Medical Laboratory Scientist - Occupational outlook as of 2021
© 2022 Lela