Senior Computer Tutor Don Edrington
Home     Profile

Dropped Out of Hollywood High at Age 15

Hollywood High Science Building

Being a high school dropout means you have to be somewhat resourceful in finding a decent job. Worse yet, I had dropped out of a Construction Surveying course I was taking at Fort Belvoir, Virginia after joining the army in 1949.

Well, I didn't exactly drop out—I simply failed the final exam—so that I could stay on at Fort Belvoir with a comfortable office job our Company First Sergeant had offered me when he heard that I knew how to type.

But when I got out of the army three+ later (complete with spending time in Korea), I found that the only marketable skill I had was the same one I went in with—being able to type. My buddy Carl, on the other hand, had signed up for a Signal Corps class, and has been in electronics ever since (and currently teaches computer applications at Bellevue College in Washington state).

Nonetheless, I answered an ad for a construction surveyor at the Metropolitan Water District in downtown Los Angeles. I assured them I knew how to do the job and had deliberately failed the army course only to accept the job offer at Fort Belvoir. MWD Logo

"How interesting," they replied, and offered me a job as an entry-level draftsman at minimum wages. Well, I hadn't been able to find a better offer, so I took it.

Quit Job Just Short of Getting a Paid Vacation

Eleven months later I was one month shy of earning a week's vacation at the MWD—but I had been taking lettering lessons from a self-employed sign painter who said I could learn to do the same thing. When I told Dick Relf I thought I was ready to strike out on my own, he advised me to wait another month and then try my newly-learned skills during my week's paid vacation.

But I couldn't wait—so I quit the MWD and started going door to door asking various businesses if they needed any signs painted. To cut down on living expenses, I moved out of the boarding house in Hollywood where I'd been staying and moved into the back of Dick's shop, which he let me do—but he still said I was jumping the gun.

Boy, was he right! So after two weeks of getting just enough jobs to keep myself alive, I returned to the boarding house and started looking for another job. They even offered me my old job back at the MWD when I stopped by one day to see a friend. I thanked them, but said I'd been offered a better job elsewhere. Right—in my dreams.

But things began to change when I answered an ad for a "Manager Trainee" job with Cornet Stores, a West Coast chain of what used to be called "5-10-25 Cent Stores" or "Dime-Stores."

They sent me to their store in Tulare, California to be its Assistant Manager while learning how to become a full-fledged manager. After two months of training, I was sent to manage their store in Bakersfield, California. The $85 a week salary was not too bad for an unencumbered single guy in 1953, and I rather enjoyed the job.

I particularly enjoyed having Lupita as an employee. When I told her I spoke a little Spanish, the coquettish Chicana smiled and started flirting with me in the language—but was discreet enough to not do it within earshot of the other sales girls.

Lupita was married and the flirting was just her idea of harmless fun. Lupita

Even if she'd been single, company rules precluded managers from dating sales clerks anyway. But her flirting became more intense after I told her about my trip to Cuba and how I loved doing the Latin dances. In fact, I was beginning to think the flirting should stop, for fear of its getting out of hand.

But then she asked me if I'd like to take her dancing. Dancing? "I'm not allowed to go out with employees," I told her, "and even if I was—what about your husband?"

"Oh, he doesn't care," she shrugged. "He's a stay-at-home who doesn't know how to dance and who doesn't like partying, anyway. I told him about you and he said going dancing with you would be just fine."

So I took her dancing at a cantina on the outskirts of town where, hopefully, I wouldn't be seen by anyone I knew. Well, the low-cut blouse and slit skirt she wore rather unnerved me, and her sexy way of dancing didn't do much to relax me, either. However, I made it through the evening and got Lupita home at about 1:00 in the morning.

But she wasn't in a hurry to get out of the car. In fact, she snuggled up next to me and said, "Let's just stay here for a while—okay?" and laid her head on my shoulder.