Remembering JC Penney

In high school, I grew tired of flipping burgers and got a job at the JC Penney at Ridgmar Mall in Fort Worth. I started out in the catalog section and worked mainly in the back room assembling merchandise returns for shipment out of the store. It was a great job and we got paid weekly which is not very common. On Fridays, we would go to one window and pick up our check and sidestep about 10 feet to another window where they would cash your check. After getting that money, I always filled up my car with gas so I wouldn’t spend all of my check and not be able to buy gas.

We had fun at times running around throwing hangars at each other. We found that if you throw a plastic hangar just right it’s trajectory would actually curve at the end. Even if you had a great hiding place those hangars would sometimes nail you with that final curve. We would run up and down the conveyor belt from the second floor warehouse space throwing hangars at each other.

In that back room, there were wooden catwalks near the ceiling with one way glass every 50 feet or so. Every once in awhile, you could hear sudden footsteps�then they would stop�then they would start again. The stores detectives would be tracking after a shoplifting suspect. Upon the sound of an alarm, we were supposed to go and stand by the closest exit to help apprehend someone who might be running out of the store with unpaid merchandise. I always wanted to body slam a shoplifter�but, never got the chance.

Sometimes I would work package pickup to help out. One time Mickey Rivers bought a ping pong table and I got to load it onto his rented box truck. He signed the back of a package pickup log for me as an autograph. At one time, he was the fastest baseball player in the major leagues. He was playing for the Texas Rangers at that point.

One of our coworkers was fired for larceny. He was one of the package pickup guys and he took a bunch of boxes out to the dumpster. One of those boxes had a television in it. After he got off work, he went around to grab the box and was nabbed by a store detective. Others would get in trouble for falsifying their time sheet. We actually signed in to work each day. Some people would be creative with the time worked.

After Christmas, I was laid off. But, I explained to the human resources folks that I needed the job for my grade at school. I was in Distributive Education and having employment was a condition for being in the program. I only went to school half a day in order to participate in this program. They brought me back and put me in the section selling candy and greeting cards. I worked at JC Penney’s until shortly before I went to Marine Corps boot camp.

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