Find the latest episode of "This Is Uncomfortable" here. Listen

More than eight decades in the work force

Marketplace Staff Sep 3, 2010
HTML EMBED:
COPY

More than eight decades in the work force

Marketplace Staff Sep 3, 2010
HTML EMBED:
COPY

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

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.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.