When I arrived in Austin in the early 1980s, a few months out of college with my B. A. in English, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I planned to apply to graduate school, but my ideas about work / career were fuzzy at best. Fresh from four and a half years in Angola, Indiana, I was ready to immerse myself in Austin’s opportunities.
I leased my first apartment across the parking lot from the Rio Motel, directly opposite the landing strips of Robert Mueller Airport. In my first weeks, I looked for work, sorted out downtown’s one-way streets, and searched for community. BookWoman and WomenSpace at the University Y soon became two of my favorite places. I walked almost everywhere.
Almost right away, I landed a job at Milto’s Pizza Pub. I was relieved to be working full-time, but my pay was within ten cents of minimum wage and did not quite meet my expenses. Still, I was happy to be in Austin: I had met Janet Capone, Michelle D. Williams, and other poets at BookWoman and WomenSpace, and we sometimes read together.
By August, I’d taken a part-time job to supplement my restaurant wages and had been accepted in the graduate program in English at the University of Texas. I enrolled in a single course. By mid-February, I decided that one course was almost more than I could handle while working 55 – 60 hours a week. I was ready to do something different.
Early one evening in March, I took the South First bus to the Austin Women’s Center, where a staff member spoke about local opportunities with a federally-funded Women in Non-Traditional Jobs program. The City of Austin was offering temporary work to women to give them the experience that would allow them to compete for permanent, full-time jobs in technical crafts. There were ten openings for Power Plant Operator Trainee, and the job paid $2 more an hour than my restaurant job.
I left that evening with the job description and the City job application in hand. If I were hired, at worst I’d have four months at a better wage.
Little did I know this was the beginning of an industrial career that would last more than fifteen years.
© Copyright 2014 Cindy Huyser