My mother married for the first time in Carolina. Her husband was a classmate at Carolina State University studying to be an aeronautical engineer. As was not uncommonly the case, after they got married she quit her job and supported him through school.

Their marriage was a difficult one from the get-go because of her husband’s alcohol problems. When Mom proposed that they move to California, she talked of “new beginnings.” In fact, she wanted to get further away from her family because that would make leaving him a lot easier from a social standpoint.

They divorced. Mom regretted a lot about that marriage, but one of her biggest regrets was how he got out of it with a masters degree in engineering while she was still a lowly secretary. She had no real career ambitions and hated working, so it irked her all the more that she had to spend so much time clock-punching. Worse, because he was too much of a drunk to hold on to a job, couldn’t even get alimony out of the arrangement.

She met my father while they both worked for McClellan Forrester, a defense contractor. She said early on that if there was one thing that she would never do again, it was pay to send another husband through school. Dad was perfectly fine with that because he didn’t have any aspirations of going to graduate school.

Then California A&M University came calling. They were starting a new military economics major that was available only to folks with engineering degrees. Because he had experience in the defense industry, they would cut him slack and he could do something else (I don’t remember what) in lieu of a thesis. Dad was tired of working on fighter planes and was looking to get into administration and this was his golden opportunity.

He talked to McClellan-Forrester about their tuition reimbursement program. As luck would have it, they’d just discontinued it. Not only had they just discontinued it, they were asking employees to back-pay previous reimbursements that they’ve gotten. There was no legal way for McClellan-Forrester to do this, but all they had to do was lay out the threat of laying terminating their employment.

McClellan-Forrester was in a position of great power at the time. They were a defense contractor and their employees were exempt from the draft. Any employee that happened to lose their jobs that happened to be the right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) age was likely not going to be unemployed in the United States for very long. The few coworkers that Dad knew that had tuition reimbursements were scrambling to find the money to give back to their employer in order to stay on their good side.

With hat in hand, Dad came home and explained the situation to Mom. he refused to ask her to support him through school, but it was pretty obvious what he was getting at. She agreed and because he was getting a degree in a military-related field, Dad remained exempt from the draft.

After Dad got his degree he got a job with the Department of Defense almost immediately. The DoD knew just as well as MF that they were in a position of power, so they only agreed to pay him as much as they would if he hadn’t gotten the extra degree. It was still worth going back to school, though, because at this point things were desperate enough that you needed a masters degree to get a bachelors degree job.

Mom was able to milk Dad’s guilt for years. As soon as he got his job with the government, she was able to quit work and be a full-time housewife in a house with no kids. The way she saw it, they both got a pretty sweet gig.

Category: Ghostland, Office, School

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One Response to When One Income Was Enough in LA

  1. logtar says:

    It makes me happy to hear that your Mom was content with staying home. That is one of the most important jobs that no a days people take for granted.

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