We're two sisters who are craft book publishers and found ourselves in the midst of an avocado grove. We bought this house where we planned to conduct our publishing business and in the deal got 4 acres of avocado trees thrown in. Now we're not only publishers but ranchers as well! This blog is all about avocados and anything else that strikes my fancy.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sepia Saturday #176 My Brush with a Scientist

It was 1964 and I was browsing through the classified ads looking for a better job than the one I had. I spotted one that sounded interesting - a secretary for a geophysicist at Cal Tech (Californa Institute of Technology in Pasadena).

I went on the interview which was conducted by the scientist himself. He asked if I took shorthand. I said, "sure". Which of course I didn't, but I wanted the job really bad. Cal Tech is just such a beautiful campus and I thought it would be interesting to work there.

 So, what do you think? I got the job. Then I had to deal with the fact that I really didn't take shorthand. I had two weeks to figure out what to do. Not enough time to learn shorthand. That takes years and years.
Real Shorthand

 So I took a two day course in Speed Writing (a cousin to shorthand). There, I was ready for the job.

Speed Writing
At least I thought I was ready. The first day on the job the good Dr. dictated an 18-page letter just chock full of scientific jargon that I couldn't even spell in Speedwrite. I was sunk. I thought for sure I'd be fired after only one day on the job. But no, he decided to keep me on the payroll. He admitted that he didn't care whether I took shorthand or not, he just liked my mini skirts.

No, that's not the Dr. or me. But it will give you an idea of how we dressed in the 60s. Not near as short as the skirts now. But it turned out that the professor was a real letch. It was my first experience with sexual harassment on the job. Only in those days there was nothing you could do about it. Just grin and bear it, which I did for a whole year.

He once asked me to come to his house to work. What could I say? I was really scared, but I didn't want to lose my job. So I went to his house and met him in a guest house in the rear. He opened the door with an African mask on his face! Talk about panic. But since his wife was in the main house, he behaved like a gentleman.

Here he is, the mad scientist. He's the one on the left, groping the meteorite.

Check out other scientific stories on Sepia Saturday.


  1. Well, that i sure more exciting than the chemistry class tale I am about to tell from almost the same year.

  2. Nothing boring here about scientists! A fun blog and I am glad you survived the experience with your sense of humour.

  3. Hey....I'm really disappointed not to see you girls for real in your mini skirts. I am sure you will rectify that in the coming weeks !!

  4. I too am guilty of stretching the truth for my first job. I could type...after a fashion...and very slowly. I am indebted to liquid paper for keeping me in employment.

  5. You were clever to think of taking speed-writing even if it didn't work out for you. I know something of those scientific terms. We visited Daughter #1 who was studying chemistry in college. In preparation for a test, she made flash cards with a formula on one side and chemistry WORD on the other. I never knew words were allowed to have that many syllables.

  6. I remember learning a little short hand at school (but it was being phased out) but that writing looks like hieroglyphics to me!

  7. I wonder if he she was ever the subject of a harassment complaint? Or did he clean up his act in later years?

  8. Oh this, brings memories of the times of the 60's and our mini's, etc. Sure was different. I took an abbreviated course of a few weeks of "notehand" in high school to prepare for note taking in college, some few shorthand symbols and some spellings ala texting of today. Does anyone take shorthand now, doubt it. No wonder we marvel at the Sepia times that are getting closer to us all the time.

  9. Too funny, and I'm beginning to think my school days should have had a bit more Madness and tales to my classrooms, pretty much dulls-ville in Michigan!!!

  10. Looking at him, I suspect the African mask was an improvement, once you got over the surprise... And they say science guys live in a different world than us. Not so, still men beneath all of that science. Glad you preserved your virtue in this instance. Wouldn't have wanted to be part of the rumor mill at school...

  11. A fun post! Short hand and speed writing seem like skills that have been overtaken by modern technology. But good humor never.

  12. Oh my, shorthand. My mother knew how to do that so I assumed when I went to high school I'd learn it too. Nope. I got the speedwriting class. Can't remember any of it except I think "e" was always for "the."

  13. Payback time ;-)

    I bought a second-hand book about shorthand when I was at university, think it would improve my note-taking skills, but I saw very quickly that it would take far more effort to learn than I had time for, so I just adapted a few of the more common squiggles for my own purposes and wrote faster.