Guest Blog: Ed Cook, Small World After All – Musings about old work memories

I am positive that most of you have at least one Facebook account. Many of you probably have a Linkedin account.  I am also positive that as you have looked through your friends/colleagues list or looking for new friends/colleagues you have stopped, and figuratively scratched your head and said aloud or to yourself, “How in the world do those two people that I know, know each other. It is amazing how “small” the world is.  In my case, I have numerous of these “how does this person know that person connections. Most of them I just cannot figure, but it is fun to try.  Every now and then I talk to one of the people and the reason is very clear, other times not.

What brings this up is a chance encounter I had today while giving blood at a local Red Cross blood drive. ( I’m a regular.  Every 12 weeks the phone rings and a nice person on the other end says, “Mr. Cook, we are running a blood drive in (or near) your town. Can we schedule you for a time to donate?”  I have been giving blood since college, only passed out once, on a REALLY hot day, and they like me, I’m B negative.)  So this nurse is doing paperwork at a table on the other side of the room, and I am doing the questions they ask.  My nurse went away and she came over to finish the so I could go donate.  She looked distantly familiar, you know what I mean. I finish the questions and I asked her name, “Theresa”, was the answer.  “Did you ever work in banking”, I asked. “Yes” she said. “Home Savings Bank?” I asked.  “Yes” was her response again.  “I’m Ed Cook”! “I’m Theresa XXXX”!  Ok we were good pals back then but I have not seen her for 30 years.  What are the odds?  How small is the world?? We have both changed…30 years worth, so we certainly don’t look the same…and at a Blood Drive…in my home town…which is 50+ miles away from her original home town and some 30 miles away from where she lives now with husband and kids.

So for the next half hour or so, while I was giving blood, we talked about old friends, from 30+ years ago.  It was incredible how many people we were still in touch with from that bank.  It was truly a great group and I used to say, it was a great coming together of great people.  It was a very young group.  I started there when I was a Co-op student and was only 19.  Nearly everybody was in their 20’s nearly all were single. If you were over 30 you were really out of place.  Because it was such a young group we did the things young professionals do.  We went out after work…a lot.  We were such regulars at one place that the DJ knew us by name.  We had a great softball team and won the Boston Bank softball championship a couple of times.  Good memories.

There were some odd memories too.  There was the time the Bank’s security guard left his loaded gun in a bar.  No he was not out with us.  A different security guard had to make a citizens arrest and subdue a guy when he started beating up one of my fellow collectors when the customer was told his house was going into foreclosure.  It took an hour for Boston Police to get there, and their HQ was less than 500 yards away.  There was the time the Air Conditioning broke for the whole summer of 1978.  The windows did not open, and they brought in these huge fans, but they made such wind that they blew stuff off desks.  In the days when bankers were expected to wear a suit and women were expected to wear dresses or pant suits, we were able to wear “Nice” Shorts, and the women could wear sundresses.  We had a few folks faint, and there was probably a run on deodorant at the drug store down the street.  Then there was the time when the YMCA Pool a few floors above us sprung a leak.  We were in the 1st floor (ground level and the basement so we had a problem.  How much water is in a pool?  15,000 gallons?  20,000?  Well we had about 4” deep in the basement before they discovered the leak and could plug it and before they got pumps in to get the water out.  It smelled pretty bad in there for a month or two.  That was in the winter of 1978, about 5 months before the AC broke.

A number of couples got together dating there, (3 for me) and there were even a couple of marriages.  One divorce too.  I left in 1982. The bank was sold a couple of years later to an Oil Company…yes, an oil company.  The bank which had previously been hemorrhaging money was very profitable while the oil company ran it, but they ran it a little differently and invested in things the FDIC did not like.  When the FDIC threatened them, the oil company basically said “screw you, we have a profitable legal bank here, if you don’t like the way we run it, you run it.” The bank was “given” back to the FDIC and was out of business in about a year.  That was 1986 or 1987.  Oh well.  The Government couldn’t run private enterprise back then either.

On another note a business related item, Friendly Ice Cream, my first employer, filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy today. That saddens me because it was my first real job, and because of all the memories from there.  Several of the stores they are closing as part of the filing I worked at when they were short of help.  A report about it in the Boston Globe said “it is a restaurant concept whose time has passed.” Hate to say it but probably true.

Incredible irony that I almost finish a piece about my 2nd job company last night and my first job company is in the headlines today.

What do you remember from your first couple of jobs??