Thursday, February 18, 2010
In the 1970's, when my husband and I were young and foolish, we picked up hitchhikers. Of course, I interviewed ("grilled") all of them as they rode in the car. One Sunday we picked up a guy named Kevin and we went sixty miles out of our way to take him to his college. During his grilling I learned that his parents lived in Wilmington. When I told Kevin that we lived close by in Washington Court House, he told us that his father worked in Washington Court House at Mead. I told Kevin that I'd been trying to get a job there for two years and that the Personnel Department was only open for applications on Tuesdays but that every Tuesday I would go there to "renew" my application and express my desire to work there. Kevin told me that he worked at Mead during the summers as they hired college students as summer help. Kevin asked why I wanted to work there and I told him because Mead offered tuition reimbursement and that the pay was better than what I was making as a supervisor at my current job. Before Kevin got out of the car, he told me to write down all my information and he would tell his father about me. I gave him my information, all the while thinking that the father of a hitchhiker would hardly be one to be able to help me. Two weeks later, I received a telephone call for an interview. After receiving a job offer, I attributed my getting the job to my persistence and abilities. I was assigned to second shift and about two weeks after I began working, I was in the cafeteria before the shift started. A handsome, slender, well-dressed man with graying hair at the temples and wearing wire-rimmed glasses, approached me and asked, "Are you Sue?" I answered that I was. He put out his hand to shake mine and he said, "So glad to meet you--I'm Bob Gestrich--thanks for giving Kevin the ride!" When work started I asked my co-worker what Bob Gestrich did and the guy said, "He's the Plant Manager."
I realized that I had gotten the job because the hitchhiker was the son of the Plant Manager! That taught me a lesson about "judging"! The following summer Kevin came to work as did his brother Eric and we had the greatest conversations while folding Alsco Anaconda containers. I finally asked Kevin why he had been hitchhiking and he said it was because his "old man" was too cheap to buy them cars and that he expected them to work for everything because he had "come up the hard way" and he expected them to do the same.
I should have gotten the job because of my dogged determination and work ethic and not because of an altruistic act, but I'm so glad I did. After setting production records, I went on to become the first female manufacturing supervisor in the history of Mead Container Corporation. I have always said that if I hadn't gotten that job with a large corporation like Mead I would not have been able to have the opportunities at International Harvester and Rockwell, so I have always been grateful for my chance meeting with Kevin Gestrich.