Monday, June 13, 2011

The Beginning

I moved out of home in the summer of 1972, and moved in with a friend in Oakland. I moved in with a friend, Bill Ryan, in the Hollywood Hills for a few months, until he decided to move up the San Francisco with me. I went back up and stayed in Oakland again while Bill made his plans to move.

I wasn't working at this time, having only worked full-time for a matter of months at a building supply store. This was my only full-time job other than Amtrak. Living at home, though, I had saved up some money, enough to last for several months. It was clear, though, that I would need a job soon.

My true desire was to be a photographer. I had been involved in photography for many years, since Junior High. In High School I was the head photographer for the yearbook, and even taught a photography class under the auspices of one of the science teachers. In college I was head photographer for the newspaper. I took a photography class in college, too - on the first session, though, the instructor divided the class into two parts. One was for beginners, the other for advance. The instructor then had ME teach the advanced section!

The greatest of my dreams was to work as a photographer for Life magazine - more on that later!

So, until I could find suitable employment as a photographer, I decided to get a job to tide me over. In October of 1972, my friend John C. Plytnick told me that Amtrak was hiring a time keeper. I have to admit that I had NO IDEA what a timekeeper was, nor for that matter did I really know what Amtrak was, but I went ahead and applied.

I went to the strangest interview imagineable. These two older men, one shorter and very red-faced, the other tall and grey, walked around me while I sat on a chair. The shorter man was staggering, and the tall one seemed to be following him to catch him if he fell. Very weird.

The only thing I remember being said was when the shorter man said "You'll have to get a haircut you know!" I agreed that was fine - even though my hair was in a crewcut already! In fact, once I was hired I didn't cut my hair again, other than trimming, until 1980. But that, too, is another story!

Amtrak did not hire me as Timekeeper, though. So I put in an application at Santa Fe, where I had several friends working. I had sort of planned to hire on as a Special Agent at ATSF, had indeed been promised a position by the head of the ATSF western police division, but that fell through when the standards for Special Agents were upgraded to require previous police experience. Though I could easily have been hired as a police officer in Richmond, I was more concerned with the people who would be riding with me in the car than those on the street, so I stopped pursing that career (I had been taking Police Science classes in college).

I moved into my first apartment on November 1972. This was on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, with my partner at the time, Bill Ryan. It was a small place, but it had a true million dollar view. The rent was low enough, but I knew I had to get a job right away.

So I was scheduled to take a typing test on Monday, December 14, 1972, at the ATSF offices in Richmond CA. I could type at least 60 words per minute, so I knew I would ace the required 30 wpm. I had been assured that if I passed the test I would get a job as a clerk for the Santa Fe. Cool, I loved trains, and knew people there already.

On Sunday morning, December 13, I got a phone call in what was for me very early morning (probably around 9AM). A male voice asked if I was still looking for a job. I said yes, so he told me to be at the Sheraton Palace Hotel at 9AM the next morning. I said okay, then quickly asked "Wait, who is this?"

"Amtrak," said the voice curtly, and hung up.

Hmm, Santa Fe or Amtrak? Bill and I talked it over for a bit, and I decided it would be fun to work for Amtrak, because they had passenger trains. After all, it wouldn't be for very long, right?