We have another wonderful story from Kathy Gamble, whose mother worked at Rudin’s. This story is about employee loyalty. What makes an employee stay in a position even if he or she can earn more somewhere else? What motivates an employee to change jobs, or as Kathy describes one employee’s departure as “out the door on a new adventure.”
A quick note: To differentiate the three Mr. Rudins, employees referred to John Rudin as Mr. Rudin and the two brothers were Mr. Jack and Mr. Walter.
Time: Mid to Late 60s
Mary Lou was a sales clerk on the second floor of Rudin’s Department Store. She was a divorced single mom, which wasn’t as common then as it is today. She loved life and it was evident in her enthusiasm for almost everything. The other clerk in the department was named Doris Brown. I still remember Mary Lou singing the old Herman’s Hermits tune “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and dancing around when there were no customers in her department. Mr. Jack was in charge of the second floor, and in my teenaged mind, I figured he tolerated more silliness than Mr. Rudin or Mr. Walter, but that might not have been the case.
Mary Lou liked her job, but she couldn’t afford to be sentimental about it. In the late 1960s a couple of discount stores opened on Coshocton Avenue on the east side of town. The hourly wage there was more than at Rudin’s, so when Mary Lou was offered a sales position there, she was out the door on a new adventure. Discount stores and Mary Lou were meant for each other. After a short time, she was managing the women’s clothing department and having style shows.
One afternoon, Mary Lou stopped by Rudin’s. Mr. Walter was meandering around the main floor, keeping his eyes on everything. Mr. Blank, the usual floor walker, must have been on a break. Mary Lou approached my mother and began telling her the advantages of Big N employment. Mother had no intention of leaving Rudin’s. She was satisfied with her wages and appreciated the year-end bonus she received. But Mary Lou was excited and determined to have Mother join her at the new store. Anyone within a few feet of her could hear what she had to say.
In his wandering, Mr. Walter passed by Mother’s counter just as Mary Lou said, “You don’t have to work for these cheapy wages, come on out to Big N and get a good job.” Mr. Walter gave a serious glance at Mary Lou, then to Mother. He had a slight grin on his face. Mother was embarrassed. She didn’t understand how Mary Lou could say something like that in front of Mr. Walter. In spite of this, she felt the grin was an indication from her employer that he understood the situation.
Follow-up: Kathy’s story encouraged me to investigate employee loyalty and reasons for changing employment. Mount Vernon was rapidly changing in the 60s from a downtown centered community to an expanding economy. With that change came more opportunity…and choices.
Here’s an interesting article on the 60s as a decade of change for women.