Chapter 13  (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)

1954 Cornet Stores

Why Did She Keep Staring into the Bird Cage?
(Previous Page)

Two More Foils for Joe Peterson

The following day Joe had two other trainees assigned to him, and we all introduced ourselves as we got into Joe's company car. This time our destination was the Temple City store, which was managed by a husband and wife team.

"Keep your eye on the wife," Joe admonished us. "She's really weird."

"Whadda you mean 'weird'?" asked one of the newbies.

"She's got a thing about birds," replied Joe.

"Birds? What does she do with them?"

"She stares at them," Joe replied.

"You mean she's a 'bird-watcher'?"

"I guess you could say that. We have a large walk-in bird cage in the store, and she spends most of her day just staring into the cage."

"How does she get any work done if she spends all day looking at the birds?"

Should Be Fired?

"Ah—well, that's a good question. Personally, I think she should be fired."

The two newbies just looked at each other, as they wondered what it was going to be like to witness this phenonomen. I had already begun to smell a gag being set up by Joe, and said nothing.

When we arrived, Joe introduced us to the managers and then told me to go do my arteest stuff. Then he started showing the other two around the store.

Naturally, the trainees and I kept stealing looks at the lady-manager to see if she ever went near the bird cage. Well, after about 15 minutes, she did just as Joe said she would. She went up to the cage, stopped, leaned forward and began staring into it.

Then Joe went around to each of, gave us an elbow in the ribs, and said, "See what I mean? She'll be doing that for hours."

Well, she continued looking into the cage for about 15 minutes, but eventually shook her head and went back to her other duties. Joe then came around to each of us and said, "She only stopped because I'm here—and she's worried about me reporting her to the bosses."

Well, the two newbies discussed this at some length on the way back to Pasadena, but I didn't say a word. I still smelled a 'Joe-Peterson-practical-joke' in the works somewhere.

Finally Got the True Story

Well, it was a few days later when another Cornet employee explained what this was all about.

"What Joe does," he said, "is go tell her that he's spotted a sick bird in the cage, and that she'd better go take a look. When she asks 'which bird' Joe just shrugs and says he can't describe it—but she'll know if she just looks into the cage. He's pulled this on other managers, as well."

The Cornet employee then went on to explain that Joe really didn't like the female half of the Temple City husband and wife team, and was always looking for another way to bug her.

(Continued in Next Column)

Quick Thinker

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).

(Continued in Next Column)

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.

(Next Page)

Don Edrington's Home Page     Shy Guy from Hollywood High     Brief Bio   All Stories

Ch.1 Alameda—Los Angeles 1939-40   Ch.2 Echo Park 1943   Ch.3 Virgil Jr Hi 1944   Ch.4 Le Conte Jr Hi 1945-46   Ch.5 Gower Gulch 1946
Ch.6 Hollywood Hi 1946-47   Ch.7 Drop Out 1948   Ch 8 Norma Jean Salina 1948   Ch 9 Fort Ord 1949   Ch.10 Fort Belvoir 1950
Ch.11 Korea 1951   Ch.12 Back to Civilian Life1952   Ch.13 Cornet Stores 1953   Ch.14 Puerto Rico 1955   Ch 15 Signs by George 1956
Ch 16 Mexico 1958   Ch.17 Fullerton 1960   Ch.18 Fallbrook 1973   Ch.19 Costa Mesa 2000

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