"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pioneer Days

This summer is flying by and I feel like I haven't had hardly any time to enjoy the lazy days of summer. Here it is already late July. Before long it's going to be time for back-to-school preparations. Happily, my favorite week of every summer is happening right now! It's  Pioneer Days time here in O-town so this next few days will be full of activities. 

Photo courtesy of Only in Ogden, image by Bryan J. Smith
Pioneer Days is Utah's statehood celebration. July 24 is our state holiday which commemorates the day in 1847 when Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley from Emigration Canyon. This link gives a little more detailed history about the day if you're interested. In a nutshell, 24th of July celebrations are huge, and one of the best in the state is Ogden's Pioneer Days. Our rodeo has been named the Best Rodeo in the Wilderness Circuit numerous times. It's also been nominated five times as the best rodeo in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, making it one of the top 20 rodeos in the country from a group of 700. I'm not much of a rodeo fan, but I love the Ogden Pioneer Days rodeo! Just the setting alone is reason enough to go. Look at the rodeo grounds with the mountains in the background. I never get tired of that view. 

With Aimee at the 2010 rodeo 
My earliest memory of the rodeo was when I was probably around five or six years old. My aunt and uncle were visiting and took me with them. I remember being so excited about going even though I had no idea what a rodeo was. I couldn't even pronounce the word, saying radio instead of rodeo. I remember them correcting me repeatedly on the ride there and wondering why it mattered. I was going to the radio with two of my favorite people! 

The 24th of July celebrations don't just happen the week of the 24th. All of July is full of activities centered around the holiday. At the downtown Farmer's Market last Saturday, gun shots rang out as I strolled through the booths. There wasn't mass hysteria or panic though. It was just a reenactment of an old West shootout complete with cowboys on horses. Another favorite of mine are the ponies, which decorate the streets of Ogden during July. Each one is sponsored by a business and painted with unique artwork. 

Weber County Sheriff Mounted Posse members
During the last few days leading up to the 24th, it seems like the entire city is dressed in western wear. People put on their boots, hats and chaps, including for work, as most businesses let their employees dress western during that week. It also isn't uncommon to see several rodeo queens around town dressed in their bright outfits complete with rhinestones and sashes, no matter the time of day. The annual Miss Rodeo Utah competition is held in Ogden the week before the 24th with contestants competing in horsemanship, public speaking, appearance and other categories. There's even a fashion show with all of the contestants modeling the latest in western apparel. The winner is crowned at the rodeo on the night of the 24th. 

So far there's already been the Horse and Hitch Parade, the Special Kids Rodeo, and the Downtown Hoedown kick-off party. The day of the 24th will start with an early morning pancake breakfast in the park followed by a parade. Closer to home, I'm looking forward to our annual neighborhood block party that's held every 24th of July. The night usually finishes  with fireworks, but there won't be any this year because of a fireworks ban in our area due to the very dry conditions. 

Even though I'm normally not much into horses or rodeo and I don't even own a pair of cowboy boots, I still love Pioneer Days. I think it's the sense of community pride that surrounds the celebrations that I like the most. For that one week we're all proud to show off our hometown and its many treasures. It's almost impossible not to get caught up in the spirit. During Ogden Pioneer Days week here in the wild west city of Ogden everyone is a cowboy or cowgirl, including me! 
Flashback Photo! Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night
at Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo -2009

Monday, July 8, 2013

26 Years of Service

Yesterday was the 26th anniversary of my hire date at the credit union where I still work. 26 years. That’s a long time for anything. There aren’t many things that have been part of my life for 26 years. None of my marriages lasted that long--not even close. The only thing that comes close to that kind of longevity in my life, excluding my family and a few friends I’ve known since elementary school days, is my relationship with my hairdresser. We’ve been going strong for 22 years now with no end in sight!

When I reported for my first day of work back in July of 1987 I never imagined that I’d still be there all these years later. I was just happy to finally be working so my dad would stop pestering me to find a job. I was 17 and not having a job was becoming a source of contention between us. I was in no hurry to find a job. I knew what it meant. Then I’d have to buy a car, pay for my own gas and insurance, basically grow up and become more independent. Not that I was against independence, but I had a boyfriend that drove me anywhere I wanted to go and paid for pretty much all my entertainment. I didn’t want to work just so I could have a car. I was also very stubborn and picky about where I’d work. No working in a fast-food restaurant for me! I refused to consider any of the typical spots for teenage employment. Every time my dad brought up finding a job I had the same answer. “I’m going to work at the credit union. I can be a student trainee there when I’m a high school senior.” That was my plan and I was sticking to it.

I knew several other people who had started there as student trainees. It was the perfect high school job. I’d get work release from school four hours a day and get school credit for the time I was at work. I wouldn’t have to wear an awful polyester uniform or any kind of silly hat like so many of my peers who worked in restaurants. My hours would be easy. No super late nights. No missing out on social opportunities because of working nights, evenings or weekends.

Luckily, I did well in business related classes at school. My typing and 10-key speeds were fast. I’d worked in the high school book store so I had cashiering experience. I was horrible at math but understood accounting. It also helped that the human resources manager at the credit union was a friend of my dad’s. My business/office procedures teacher recommended me as a student trainee candidate, which the credit union’s student trainee program required. I submitted an application and waited, and waited, still stubbornly refusing to look elsewhere. I was confident they’d eventually call.

Finally, they called and I went in to take some screening tests and I think some kind of preliminary interview. Then I waited some more. In June I went to Colorado to visit my mom for several weeks. Wouldn’t you know it, that’s when they finally called and offered me a job as a teller at one of their branches. I was crushed. I wouldn’t be home until after the 4th of July and they needed me to start sooner. Luckily, they had another trainee position opening up that I could start right after the holiday. As it turns out, one of my friends who had also been trying to be hired as a trainee ended up taking the teller job.

My first day of work. 
On July 7th I reported for my first day of work never imagining that 26 years later I’d still be there. Not only have I stayed with the same company all these years, I’ve worked in the exact same location! My entire career has been spent at the corporate office campus, which during the time I’ve been there has grown from two buildings to four plus one satellite building a few miles away. I’m now one of those “old-timers” who talks about the good old days when we were smaller and I knew the names of almost everyone who worked on campus. My three-digit employee number earns me bragging rights. Computers have become smaller and much more sophisticated. My trusty 10-key adding machine, which I took with me every time I moved from one department to another, is no longer. I finally gave it up about 10 years ago. I no longer have the phone extensions for half the campus employees memorized. There are just too many people and departments now.  

Some people can’t imagine staying with the same company for so long. It’s becoming more and more rare these days. I certainly never started out intending to stay so long. I’ll never be rich from working there, but I will be comfortable and stable. By the time I was 22 I was fully vested in a pension plan. I’ve always worked banker hours, Monday-Fridays, pretty close to a 9-5 schedule. From almost the very beginning I’ve had vacation and sick leave, which after 26 years accrues in almost obscene amounts. My commute has never been longer than 20 minutes. For the last 16 years or so I’ve lived only six miles from work. I’ve had great flexibility through the years and was able to work part-time while I went to college and then again for the first few years after I had my daughter.

The years between ages 17 and 43 have flown by. I started working for the credit union when I was practically still a child. I’ve literally grown up during my years there. So much of my life has been shared with people I work with, many of whom I consider friends more than co-workers. I’ve experienced high school graduation, college, marriages, infertility struggles, pregnancy, new motherhood, divorces, single life, dating woes, family struggles and deep grief with my friends there and shared many of the same things with them in their lives. Starting young and staying until retirement is fairly common, so I’ve known many of my co-workers for over 20 years. Many of us started as trainees during the same time, fresh-faced high school kids just starting on the road to adulthood. It’s funny to watch them age. Every time I see one of them and realize much they’ve changed, I’m reminded of how much I’ve aged and changed over the years.

When I look into the future, I can’t imagine even five more years in the same place. Part of me is restless and ready to move on. Okay, I’m not ready to move on, I just really, really want to retire! But then I think how fast the last 26 years have gone and realize the next 19 years will go just as quickly. That’s how long I have until I can retire with full benefits. I'll be age 60 1/2 and will have 45 years of service. I like to think I won’t stick around that long, but chances are I will.