1954 — Cornet Stores
Joe was pretty good at thinking on his feet, too. A Cornet policy stated that supervisors, when on duty in a store, were not to leave the premesis for a coffee break. If they wanted coffee, they were expected to bring a thermos and take their breaks discreetly inside the store.
Well, Joe never had a thermos with him, and he always took at least two coffee and cigarette breaks before noon and another two in the afternoon.
One day he was about to leave the store for the coffee shop next door, when he saw Bob Cornet heading for our front entrance. Joe did an abrupt about-face and quickly began pretending he was straightening out an end-counter.
He then turned around with a surprised look when Bob Cornet said, "Good morning, Joe."
"Oh, good morning, Mr. Cornet. Good to see you. What can I help you with?"
Well, Bob Cornet stayed for about an hour or so and then quietly went out the way he came in.
Against the Rules
Joe waited at least 20 minutes, checking his watch periodically, and then said to me, "Let's go get some coffee. It should be safe now."
Well, breaking company rules didn't come as easily to me as it apparently did to Joe, but I dutifully followed him next door.
But imagine our surprise when he opened the cafe door and saw Bob Cornet sitting at the counter having some coffee.
Mr. Cornet looked up with a smile, but before he could say anything, Joe said, "Oh—there you are. I've been looking all over for you. Don has a question about his sign-painting."
Mr. Cornet looked at me with a pleasant smile and waited for my question. "Uh—I, uh—was just wondering if you thought the banner on the front window was big enough to attract attention."
"It looked fine to me," he replied. "I could read it from the other side of the parking lot as I pulled in."
So Joe and I thanked him and turned around to leave.
Boss Inviting Us to Break the Rules?
"Wait a minute," Mr. Cornet said. "Why don't you stay and have some coffee? They make great coffee here. Their blueberry muffins are good, too."
"Oh—no thank you, Mr. Cornet," Joe quickly replied. "Thanks for the offer, but we have way too much work to do. Come on, Don—let's get back to the job."
"Okay," said Mr. Cornet. "Maybe some other time."
By the way, Bob Cornet was the more laid-back of the two sons who had taken over their father's business. Joe Cornet Jr. was a much more by-the-book kind of guy.
In any case, they both treated me very well, and I really enjoyed my work (not to mention the freedom they gave me to do whatever I thought needed to be done).
Who Was This Beautiful Blonde?
One day I was sent to help open a new store in Palmdale. My job would be to decorate it with signs, while my fellow-employees would set up the store. My recently-met friend Barry had been chosen to be the manager.
Barry's first job was to hire some women to help stock the shelves. The best of these would later be offered the chance to stay on as full-time clerks. I smiled to myself, "If I know Barry, he's just going to hire the best-built ones. (He did.)
The prettiest was a buxom blonde who, much to my surprise, kept casting glances my way. I've always been a shy type, but finally got the courage to smile back. Her broad smile in return told me there was possibility here.
I kept trying to work up the nerve to go ask for her number—but never did. But, as the first day got closer to quitting time, I went into the men's room, rinsed my face, sipped some water, and walked resolutely back onto the sales floor.
But where was everyone?
"Hey, Barry!" I yelled. "Where are the girls?"
"They left," he replied. "Look at the time."
"Oh, no," I groaned. "I missed my chance."
Barry smiled. "The blonde?"
I just moaned and nodded.
"Not a problem," he said. "Come on home with me, and I'll introduce you. We're thinking of getting a divorce anyway."
Ture story. The reason none of us knew the blonde was Barry's wife was that company policy forbade managers from hiring relatives. So he signed on his wife under her maiden-name.
Naturally, I had no intention of going home with Barry to be introduced to her—but oddly enough, that's exactly what happened—totally by accident.
But that's another story.
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Since I have no personal photos from my youth, I've used pictures found on the Internet to help illustrate some of the stories told on these pages. In a couple of instances I've used photos of people who just happen to closely resemble someone I once knew. However, if it's found that I'm using any images in violation of someone's copyright, please let me know and appropriate action will be taken.