Childhood Memories Friday: Parisian

Parisian Vestavia Birmingham 1987

Childhood Memories Friday

Ah, first jobs. We never really forget them, do we? Although I had several minor jobs, my first “real” job after college was working as an assistant manager at Parisian Department Store, which I see closed its doors for the final time in 2013.

Parisian Internship

I got an internship with Parisian the summer between my junior and senior years of college at IU. This was in Birmingham, Alabama — quite a move for a girl from Indiana. I remember heading down there for the summer, hoping for the best. One of the buyers at Parisian owned a house that they were willing to rent to six of us girls who were interning there for the summer, so we moved in. It was my first time to live communally with a group of girls, and I can’t say I enjoyed it a whole lot.

1041 32nd Street, Birmingham

1041 32nd Street, Birmingham — I looked it up online and the house is still there, although that ’80s blue color has changed

Four of the girls were in sororities at IU and were the typical sorority girls. They were girly and into the latest fashions. They weren’t into anything too “deep,” and in short, although there was nothing really wrong with them, they just weren’t my crowd. The other girl was pretty nasty. She continually accused one or the other of us of eating food she had purchased. I remember her accusing one of us of “smelling up” a piece of her Tupperware by putting something in it, which she couldn’t get the smell out of. It worked out that I had to ride to and from work with this girl, since she had a car and I did not. She was always very negative during these commutes, and I remember her telling me to fasten my seatbelt (back then, we didn’t always wear seatbelts 100% of the time). I was momentarily touched, thinking that she was concerned about me. But then she added, “If I have a wreck and you get hurt, I don’t want to be held responsible.” Okay then.

One night she got off work a different time than I did, and she left without me. So, I began walking home — about 5 miles along a Birmingham highway, in the heat and humidity you might imagine during an Alabama summer, in my nice dress and heels. I’d gone a mile or so when a car pulled over. I was terrified, but thankfully it turned out to be Howard the DM (can’t even remember now what that stood for, but he was a 50-ish guy from our buying office who was nice and had pity on me, seeing me walking). He took me back home.

I ended up spending many evenings in the living room of our house, working on a counted cross stitch Precious Moments nativity scene while my housemates were off somewhere. Despite the sheet we hung over the front window (no curtains), I thought that house was beautiful overall. I was enthralled with the blue and peach color scheme in the bathroom, and used it in apartments of my own later. Ah, the 1980s …

After I graduated, Parisian offered me a full-time job. So, I moved to Birmingham in January, 1987, and into my own apartment.

Parisian — Vestavia Hill

First, I was assigned to the lingerie department at their Vestavia store (Vestavia is a Birmingham suburb). This is the photo you see at the top — that’s me in navy, and my department manager Sandra behind me. Sandra was sweet and helpful, a real southern belle. But I recall even during my three months at this store, feeling a bit disillusioned as my afternoon task was to “reorganize the panty table.” Was this really why I had earned a college degree? In the photo, I love our ’80s perms. And the lady at the back right looks like she stepped out of “The Golden Girls”!

Parisian — Five Points West

After three months, I was transferred to Parisian’s “Five Points West” store, in the juniors department. There, I worked with Shelia (yes, spelling is correct — she told me with rolled eyes that her mom had not known how to spell it). She was just a few years older than me, and became more like a friend than a boss. She wasn’t real happy with her job and was always looking for something else she might do.

The Five Points store was in a strip mall, and I remember on my breaks often walking out to the Krispy Kreme in the parking lot and treating myself to a doughnut. It felt so good to be on my own, with my own money to spend — even on little things. This store wasn’t in the greatest part of town, but in my youthful enthusiasm I never really worried for my safety (here’s a neat site with a photo of the shopping center. I even see the Krispy Kreme in the parking lot!)

Parisian — Eastwood

My final three months at Parisian were spent at the Eastwood store at Eastwood Mall, which I read was one of the South’s first and largest malls when it was built (it was demolished in 2006 — replaced with a WalMart). The Parisian store at Eastwood was actually in 2 locations in the mall.

Parisian East 1987 Birmingham

My 3 months at Eastwood were interesting to say the least. I worked in the girls’ department, and my boss was Delores. Unlike my prior bosses, Delores was not easy to get along with. I am a pretty “chill” person and can usually get along (at least outwardly) with pretty much anyone. But Delores for some reason did not like me. It seemed she was always on my case about something.

Parisian Eastwood Birmingham 1987

Some of my employees in our stockroom — vintage 1980s!

Delores spent increasing amounts of her day in the other part of the store, visiting with employees who she was friends with, and most of the daily running of the department fell to me. I thought this would result in at least a good review for me. But, when review time came, Delores showed me her report. She had scored me poorly in almost every category! I remember taking the report home and writing rebuttals to her comments one by one that night — and then I realized that it didn’t really matter anyway. She was my boss, and it was her word against mine. She had been there forever and was popular among the higher-ups. It was a horrible, “stuck” feeling. But it also confirmed what I’d felt many times during the past nine months — that perhaps retail wasn’t my true calling anyway.

After that review by Delores, I gave my 2-week notice at Parisian and said goodbye to retail’s punishing nights, weekends, and holidays schedule. I went to work at a local preschool and began work at UAB toward an elementary education degree. At Parisian, my salary had been $17,000. When I got a teaching job 2 years later, my pay was $19,000 — and that included no nights, weekends, holidays, or summers. You can probably see why I never saw a reason to complain about a teacher’s “low” pay!

How about you? What memories do you have of your first “real” job?

4 thoughts on “Childhood Memories Friday: Parisian

  1. Oddly enough, I also knew a girl from the south (Louisiana) who was named Shelia just like the person you mentioned! LOL.

    Great story about your first ‘real’ job.

    Since I joined the Navy after grad school, I’d have to say my first ‘real’ job was the part-time secretarial job I had while in grad school. Small office – only 4 of us – in Santa Barbara. My boss was awesome and funny and did impressions all the time. I started as a temp, and he recognized right away that I was worth keeping around (smarter than the usual temp? better looking? who knows! LOL) and hired me on as an employee. I worked there for about 9 months. Probably could’ve stayed there after I graduated.

    I used a little Apple computer that had Tetris on it! I would handle correspondence, make copies, file, run errands around town, answer the phone. Nice job, but felt very dead-end to me. Who knows what would’ve happened had I stayed? Maybe some rich dude would’ve swept me off my feet, and I’d be living in a mansion off the beach as one of those ‘Housewives’ characters. 😀

  2. While I knew that you had had a mall type job in retail in Birmingham, AL years ago, I learned even more when I read your blog today. So glad that you escaped from all of that before it really got you down! You truly are much better suited as a creative teacher!! My first job was a short one for just 6 weeks from mid-November until Christmas at a store in Huntington called Barnhart’s, much like the Hallmark stores of today. It was my job to keep the card racks filled with the most interesting cards from the back room that I could find for the empty spots. I think that I was 15 or 16 at the time, so all it did was give me some Christmas money to buy presents for others. After high school, I worked at Majestic Company in Huntington in the office area of manufacturing (they made furnaces, outdoor grills, fireplaces, etc.) That is where I met my good friend, Julie Hammel, whose wedding I was in a year or so later. My third job was at the local Coil Factory in Roanoke where I was a winder for a few months to earn enough money to pay my first semester’s tuition at Huntington College.

    You know the rest of the story! I finished up college in 3 years and became an elementary teacher for the next 34 years of my life. Yes, I managed to be a working mother before that was even a popular endeavor. Carl Alan was 1 and a few months old when I entered college and Julie Ann was born 2 1/2 DAYS after I graduated and finished summer school. She was a week to 10 days late, which really helped me out on getting all of the loose ends in place before her birth. My last job after teacher retirement was working as a piano teacher for 12 years out of my home. That job was the most fun of all, but I did also love being a school teacher, most especially when I had the opportunity to teach Gifted 4/5 for a couple of years.

  3. I began working at Holland Custard & Ice Cream office while still in High School. Both were in Holland, Indiana.. I became secretary to the personnel manager, Howard Hightower. Mr. Hightower was a BIG talker. He had a wife and a grown daughter. He told me his daughter smoked and it just killed him! Byron Caldemeyer ran Holland Dairy. He came in any hour of the day and had no work ethic (this is how I saw him). Mr. Hightower called me in once and asked why employees did not respect going back to work at the correct time after their daily breaks, etc. I told him it started at the top – when the man who ran the place had no respect for his job, it filtered down to us. Later he told me when our break time was up, he wanted ME to leave the visiting group & return to my job – setting an example for the rest. I did exactly what he told me. I also remember at Holland Dairy that the girls who came to work there would come nonsmokers and it took very little time until they were lighting up! It did not apply to everybody because I have never smoked in my life. I remember telling Aunt Lauretta that and years later she reminded me of my words. Part of my job was walking to the Holland Post Office each day. Aunt Lauretta worked there and so I saw her daily. The Dairy had insurance with John Hancock. Mr. Hightower was in charge of filing the insurance claims but he slowly taught me how to do it and eventually I did most all of the insurance work. I will always remember he taught me alot was TWO words – a lot! While I was doing my job, I worked with various girls and some guys who were working on figuring up the bills for the men who delivered dairy products to a large area! When I got ready to quit & move to Seymour, the employees took me to Ireland Indiana to a wonderful restaurant that specialized in fried chicken. They gave me a crystal type necklace that I wear to this day. That was in 1961 and today is 2016. Mr. Hightower wrote me a wonderful letter of recommendation that I still have.

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