Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Jobs: Part Two

Moving Van (late 70’s). Helped Bill Jackson move antiques in a truck. Hard labor + heavy lifting = not fun. Luckily it wasn’t a long term job.
Chickfila Omni International (CNN Center) 1981. After moving into the BSU for fall quarter 1980, with the Center closed over Christmas I didn’t get my grades until after New Year’s. I had flunked out. The same day someone posted a notice on the Baptist Center bulletin board: the new Omni Chickfila was hiring. I went up for an interview and was hired. Went back to the BSU and shaved off my beard, and was working that afternoon – the very first day the store had been open. Late in the day my best friend Don Lott walked in, and I knew he wasn’t there to eat. Like me, he had flunked out of school, and was looking for a job. Don was hired and the dynamic duo was reunited. We wrote up Chickfila songs. One changed “I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N” to:
I am a C.
I am a C-H.
I am a C-H-I-C-K-F-I-L-A.
and I have C-H-I-C-K-N my M-O-U-T-H
and I will R-E-G-U-R-G-I-T-A-T-E—I-T (which matches up perfectly with the original
song’s L-I-V-E—E-T-E-R-N-A-L-L-Y).
Another changed She Na Na’s “Duke of Earl” to “Chick chick chick, chick fil a chick chick…” We taught the songs to coworkers and serenaded customers while we were breading the chicken in the back. Back then the chicken was cooked in pressurized “Henny Penny”s located right behind the cash registers. After cooking the sandwiches were made and kept in warming drawers. This was before waffle fries, so regular frozen French fries were cooked. We also had “Chick-N-Que” – shredded chicken in BBQ sauce scooped onto a bun.
I worked the day shift on weekends. I would walk straight down Techwood past Grant Field and the retirement high rises, through the projects and parking lots into the Omni office building, now known as CNN Center. I’d get to work making breakfast, which in those days included frozen sausage biscuits heated on a portable griddle and the bun warmer. I was given a donut maker – a metal contraption that spit out dough in round circles with a hole – and cooked up the doughnuts every morning in the Henny Penny peanut oil.
I would gobble down a sausage and biscuit and/or doughnuts for breakfast. I’d get a lunch break, taking a load of food up to the unique upstairs dining area. We’d try to vary what we ate, covering the entire menu: Chick-N-que, chicken salad, chicken and cole slaw. We’d vary the drinks as well, mixing the glass bottles of Tropicana orange juice with Sprite or Fanta Orange. I always remember questioning owner operator Jim Mixon’s beverage choice: low calorie Tab. He said one day I’d be drinking it. He was right. I’d get off work at five. Every day I’d grab two sandwiches on my out the door, and eat them for supper on my walk home. So for five days a week I had zero costs for food and transportation. My room in the BSU was covered as well.
After a couple of months we had a banquet celebrating the successful store opening. That’s where I first met Truett Cathy. I would later cross paths with him down on his farm with the SPdL youth, and later at the Chickfila Bowl fanfest, where he handed young Will a card for a free sandwich.
The Omni CFA was located near the doors leading outside to the arena – the closest doors to the MARTA station. McDonalds was across the hall, so we got lots of foot traffic. That summer we set the record for highest sales in a week when the Bill Gothard Seminar was held in the Omni. Another busy day was when the Flames welcomed Olympic gold medal goalie Jim Craig. Once I saw Ted Turner taking a back route through the building. Former Falcon receiver John Gilliam ran a shoe store upstairs. When the Omni Arena was torn down and replaced, Phillips Arena was built connected to CNN Center. My Chickfila was moved to its current smaller location.    
I worked a 40 hour shift for the first three months, then enrolled at Dekalb Community College to rebuild my poor grades. I made use of free parking at the Omni, as well as using the new MARTA train to ride out to Decatur for class. Seemed longer, but I only worked at Chickfila for six months. Should’ve made it a career.
Buford Highway 7-11 cashier (graveyard shift) 1983. Somewhere along the line I took a job working the graveyard shift at a 7-11 on Buford Highway, north of Druid Hills Road. Not the safest part of town. I only lasted two or three weeks. Thank God it didn’t work out.
Loading Dock with Buddy (1983). A friend at SPdL – his name was Buddy – got me a job with him on the loading dock off Monroe Drive. I worked a week before going on a trip. I didn’t realize the job was permanent, so I didn’t report back to work when I returned. I found this out when I stopped by to pick up my check. Was probably for the best.
SPdL Early Childhood School Assistant Teacher (1984-1985). Best job I ever had: working with preschoolers every day. I was loved by the kids and loved by the teachers. Good times.
Stephens Landscaping (1984). Helped Mark Stephens with his yardwork. Digging, planting bushes and trees. Not fun. One night after work we stopped for pizza. We both had leftovers. I was so tired I just left the pizza in my car overnight and are it for breakfast the next morning on the way to Mark’s. He had done the same thing.
Sealco, Doraville GA (1985-1987). Pam & Pat Poythress’ parents Earl and Nancy helped my job search. SPdL member Jim Suggs gave me a job at his gasket company, where three of his sons worked. My training began in the shipping department, where the open doors on the loading docks provided views of the outdoors. Late one day plant manager Jim Suggs Junior asked us to UPS a package. It didn’t get picked up due to the late hour. The next morning Jim Junior walked over to check on the shipment, holding a mug of coffee. Shipping supervisor Wayne told Jim he didn’t think it shipped. Then Jim walked over and asked me if it had shipped. When I said no Jim turned toward the large open doorway and heaved his mug far out into the parking lot, where it shattered on the pavement. That day I learned two things: (1) make sure the shipment gets out, and (2) Jim Junior had a case of coffee mugs in his office.
Jim’s brother Rob was my inside sales supervisor. We had a blast making jokes and bantering about. Rob was in the middle of his successful run drawing the Brother Biddle cartoon for “The Wittenberg Door” magazine. Author of the famous Bingo Bob skit at Camp SPdL, Rob sparked my creative juices, helping me create various projects for camp, choir tour, and the youth group. Younger brother Steve was also hired on as a salesman. Little Joe made occasional appearances.
I handled the large Westinghouse and Georgia Power contracts, which unknowingly prepared me for my career at Ryerson. Once on my way to Jefferson I made a Friday night delivery to the DuPont plant in Lugoff South Carolina. To this day we still pass that plant on our way home.
The business was sold to a company in Ohio. I took a flight to Dayton to review what we did. 1987 was an eventful year: in March I bought my grandfather’s house, and in April I got engaged. Then in May the company announced it was closing its doors in June. Not the best timing. But in July I interviewed with Tull, started work in August, and got married in September.

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