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A 1967 Guide to Being a Secretary

As many know, we are doing our very best to preserve and share the history of both the Springfield Woolen Mills and NASCO – both of the companies that have called their businesses home at the site that Southern States Construction is now reclaiming and renovating.

The NASCO Company resided in these buildings from 1964 to 1998. This was a wildly successful company employing hundreds of salesmen all over the country that sold products to schools to assist with raising funds for athletic teams, chorale programs, marching bands, and everything in between. NASCO manufactured all products which ran the gamut from wastebaskets, sugared candles, stadium cushions, to all-purpose cleaners and athletic wear. NASCO produced a company newsletter called “The Nasconian” which featured salesmen celebrations, company photos, employee birthdays and vacations, and occasional inside commentary from workers.

The following is what was printed in the 1967 Nasconian, which is a time-capsule of secretarial duties. It is nostalgic, gives hard “9-5” movie vibes, and is a delightful read. Enjoy, and thank you to authors “Myrt & Marge”, wherever you are today…

The following is reprinted word for word:

(EDITOR’s NOTE: We asked two of our “old secretaries to write us a feature baring the life of a Nasco secretary for all to see. What we got follows and is most amusing and entertaining, although our authors swear each and every word is true.)

By Myrt and Marge:

Have you ever been a Nasco Secretary? If you haven’t, you’ve missed the time of your life!

There is a test given to each applying secretary seeking employment. This test consists of spelling, typing and mathematics, along with an aptitude evaluation. The test is simple - the pay scale is acceptable – the atmosphere is pleasant. YOU’RE IN. You’re grateful, you’re excited about being a part of a “sure-to-grow-company” and you can hardly wait to get your teeth into it. The first thing you count your blessings for is that you have your own teeth, for dentures might not make the grade.

Enthusiasm is at such a high pitch you first begin to wonder if you will be able to keep up the pace. Doubts start to occur, but you continue to tell yourself that if you “push on” harder and faster, the reward will come. AND IT DOES, the great reward – piles and piles with even more tighter deadlines. But, by this time you have that pleasant self-reward, knowing that you got out the last “mailing” on time in spite of the “unreal” deadline, and you are filled with self assurance that if you did it once, you can do it again.

Some of the secretaries can tell about the first day of Nasco when there was one adding machine, one secretary chair, one manual typewriter, one stool for three girls and only one fly swatter. The flies came in through the open windows, which served as the air-conditioning system.

They tell of the many months of using “borrowed” or “try-out” typewriters and acquiring more speed than ever before because they were aware that the typewriter salesman would be back to make his last pitch for a sale and inevitably pick up the borrowed typewriter before the stacks of letters were finished. The only thing that slowed down the early secretaries was trying so desperately to hear on the Dictaphone, for the salesman dictating was either in the shower or riding with the top of his car down, making it most difficult to hear the Dictaphone tape. Then another blessing appeared – they thanked heaven for good ears.

Equipped with good teeth and good ears, they were more than ever confident that they had it made. Suddenly a customer arrived for a load of merchandise. There was no one around to make the load. Guess who? One secretary who stayed to man the only phone in the entire plant still has a hearty belly laugh today telling about the other secretary who had to go to the shipping dock, remove the back seat from the car, fill the gaping hole with stools, find twine and rope to tie the back seat on top of the car. The secretary who did all the work dragged back in, went into a mild collapse and counted off another blessing – a strong back.

But alas, her rest was short-lived for in came a telephone message from one of the “wheels” that said secretary should go out and pick up a birthday present from the jewelry store and get it delivered – on time of course, because it completely slipped his mind. Said tired secretary was more than willing, thinking in her sick little mind that she would get away for a little break. It was really a break-in. All stores were closed on Wednesday afternoon. After many telephone attempts, she went to the home of a friendly jeweler, coaxed him into opening up, made the selection and hung her head in shame when she requested personal engraving. Count two more blessings – friends and ingenuity.

Our “old” secretaries arose the next morning with anticipation, anxious to greet the new day. When they reached the office, they realized what that day was – the day of the first sales meeting. What was that day like for them?

“Rush to make reservations, get someone to the airport to pick up incoming salesmen, run to the downtown stores and get something extremely attractive to hang on the walls of the newly paneled office, clean the restrooms, don’t step on the men laying the carpet, clean the restrooms, get all the literature together that is still on the press at the printing office, clean the restrooms, get together and deliver dishes and silver for the dinner party, clean the restrooms, run to the grocery for fast pick up and delivery of goodies for the happy hour, clean the restrooms, take suit to cleaners, pick up cards at Chamber of Commerce and PLEASE! CLEAN THE RESTROOMS! And do try and look charming when the salesmen arrive.”

Ah, yes we were growing. Look at all the bodies that arrived. And thank goodness for one more blessing – they did look charming. As calm once again reigned and tired feet were removed from shoes and the secretaries wiggled their toes, they said small thanks for good but weary feet.

Ah yes, Nasco has grown. The only thing that has happened to the two secretaries is that they have grown older. But they are charming – this we want made perfectly clear. They enjoy fooling themselves that like fine whiskey, they will continue to become better with age. Bodies are added and added, new quarters are moved into, new equipment rolls in and just as we knew it would, Nasco has continued to outgrow the growing pains. It’s a great company, and we’re a part of it. Spirits may have been low, but they always rose again, the piles of work are still here. And guess what – one-half of the writing team of this article just came back from the printing office to see the other secretary walking up the hall with two rolls of toilet tissue in hand, on the way to those ever-loving restrooms.

Yes, you who are reading this have missed it all – but as some anonymous writer so aptly put it – “A good secretary looks like a woman, acts like a lady, thinks like a man and works like a dog.”

Another wise author once said, “Pat a dog on the head and his nose becomes wet and he wags his tail.”

We’ll sign off with wagging tails and wet noses, but we missed the pat on the head. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all.

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