More than eight decades in the work force

Marketplace Staff Sep 3, 2010

More than eight decades in the work force

Marketplace Staff Sep 3, 2010


Tess Vigeland: And finally this Labor Day weekend — most of us hope to, eventually, take a permanent break from our labors. It’s called retirement. But retirement is certainly not for our next guest. Sally Gordon is the assistant sergeant-at-arms at the Nebraska State Capital building. She’s been in that job for the last quarter century-plus. And she started it when she was 75 years old. A couple of weeks ago, she was named America’s “Outstanding Oldest Worker,” at 101 years old by Experience Works, a nonprofit that helps older workers find jobs.

She joins us on the line from her home in Nebraska. Welcome!

Sally Gordon: I’m glad to participate.

Vigeland: It is our honor to have you with us. So, I have to ask you: What possibly motivates you to continue working after more than eight decades in the work force? I personally can’t imagine.

Gordon: Well, I would say I’m a desperate housewife allergic to housework.

Vigeland and Gordon laugh

Gordon: So, you know, I’ve worked ever since I was 16. And I like to work, I like to get dressed, I like people and I’m fascinated by people. They say, “Why don’t you write a book?” I said, “Everyone has a story to tell, because you know, each life is unique.”

Vigeland: Well, let’s take you back a little bit. What was your first job?

Gordon: Well, when I graduated from high school I went to Chicago and worked for a while. Worked at a place called Process and Grading Co. And we had clients from all over the world, like Charlie Chaplin.

Vigeland: Well, let me ask you, you’ve really had a front seat to the women’s movement, the revolution of women in the work force, and you’ve been in it for a good chunk of that time. Talk to us about what that was like to watch that happen.

Gordon: Well, I’ll tell you what, when I was expecting my first baby, of course, women who were expecting they didn’t want them in public eye. So they brought my desk and typewriter home, and I worked up until the day she was born. You know, I think women don’t get credit for what they do. So many times, men, for some reason, get the better jobs and the better pay. And I don’t think it’s fair, because we are achievers, we contribute to the general good.

Vigeland: Absolutely. So you are 101 years young, Sally, do you ever plan to retire or are you just going to keep workin’ and workin’?

Gordon: No, as long as I can do my job. You know, when I get to the point where I don’t think I can do my job, then I… Life goes by at a racing pace, that’s why it’s called the human race.

Vigeland: Well, I would suggest that perhaps you have a sideline with writing bumper sticker quotes, so that could be a second job for ya, how’s that sound?

Gordon: There you go!

Vigeland: Well, Sally Gordon…

Gordon: Yes dear.

Vigeland: It has been an absolute pleasure talking with you. Sally is 101 years old and she is currently the assistant sergeant-at-arms at the Nebraska state capitol. And she’s just been honored as “America’s Outstanding Oldest Worker” by Experience Works. Thank you so much and keep going strong there!

Gordon: It’s been a pleasure. A lot of people don’t listen to me and you did!

Vigeland: We’ll be listening to you for as long as we possibly can. Thanks so much.

Gordon: Thanks Tess.

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