Vintage Business #13: More On Secretaries

Look at this joker in the picture above.  She wants so bad to tell him to f**k off, but she can't - because it's still the seventies.  The Office as Men's Club was still in full effect, harkening back to the days of Mad Men.

Most high level positions today don't even have a secretary... of any gender.  It's not exactly cost effective and with modern day technology, there's just not a lot of reason to have Jane "take a memo". I have to believe that our forefather's offices had more than their share of secretaries - not because they were so damn efficient, but because...... well, that was things were done at the Gentlemen's Club..

Ashtray on the desk and his blonde dish attending to his every need..... and he was probably only at a bottom rung lower management position.  Back then even the assistant shift manager at the local bank had a secretary (or two).

Can you even imagine a day when there were no copy machines or computers?  In other words, if you wanted a documented copied you had to either (A) use that messy carbon paper which looked like shit or (2) have someone completely re-type it.  Nowadays we select-copy-paste and don't think twice about the hours that once went into that simple task.

Secretarial work was more or less a way to pay the bills before you got hitched.  Hence, the plethora of younger women.

Waiting rooms were once inundated by the sound of typewriters; not the places of quiet sterility we have today.

From an old yearbook.  What a time capsule this is.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that a lot of these businessmen let the power go to their heads and took advantage of their secretaries.

Men that were wimps at home (or repressed bachelors) could assert their inner douch-bag at work. I'm sure this sort of thing still goes on today, but take a trip back to 1962, 1974, 1981 and I'm sure it was epidemic.

I don't see any men in this class.  Oh that's right, they're all drinking bourbon and chain smoking elsewhere.  Somehow I doubt the words "sexual harassment" ever came up in class.

There's gloves on the desk, so it's cold outside.... yet miniskirts are still the required uniform for 'office assistants'.

What profession populates more male fantasies than the secretary? Even the cheerleader and french maid don't come close.

Of course, anyone's whose watched Mad Men and seen Christina Hendricks in action knows that oftentimes the real person in charge was the secretary.  And let's face it, this is not fiction - it is often the secretary who runs the ship.  She manages the finances and knows the inner workings better than anyone.  The wheels come off if she's off for a day.

Training includes "Dodging Groping Hands", "Laughing Convincingly at Terrible Jokes" and "Ignoring Inappropriate Comments".

As Al Bundy once said: "It used to be so great to be a man. Women were there to please us. They'd look after the kids and we go out and have a good time. That's the natural order of things."

Those were the days.


  1. To complete your sociological analysis you should point to the movie 9 to 5 as an indication of the turning point in secretarial relations.

  2. AnonymousJune 26, 2013

    Actually, I notice four men (not counting the teacher) in the typing class photo. But I get your point. When I was in school there were never any males in the typing classes. I love the geometric shaped windows in the photo and the view of a building that appears to be Walter Gropius type architecture.

    Though I miss many items from the 60s and 70s that are now obsolete, the typewriter is not among them. I'm surprised they even lasted as long as they did in common usage. Aside from being annoyingly loud and clattering, if you made a mistake you had to start all over again. Oh, you could attempt to fix it with erasing or White Out, but it always looked terrible and it was difficult to realign the paper to continue typing. Good riddance.

  3. Ah I remember the days of secretaries fondly and I agree with your comment that they often ran the place. In fact I bet one could trace the decline of American manufacturing prowess to the loss of secretaries. The reason? Many women in secretarial positions were WAY overqualified - especially at the excecutive level. Meanwhile senior management was filed (then as now) mostly by narcisstic dumbasses that got to their lofty positions purely on political shenangians. With the secretaries removed, the last stronghold of common sense in many companies no longer existed, and the incompetence of senior management went unchecked.

    1. Good God. One of the best comments I've read in a while. I've added your wonderful catalog blog to my "blogs of distinction".

      filled by "narcisstic dumbasses that got to their lofty positions purely on political shenangians"..... so, so terribly true.

    2. "narcisstic dumbasses that got to their lofty positions purely on political shenangians" Mr. Newton-John should know, that's how he got his position. He's an expert at shenanigans.

  4. Ah yes. The good ole days when you never saw a lady wearing slacks at work and ready to make her boss look good. And if she was looker with no secretarial skills then she became a receptionist and learned how to work the phone like a champ. And if she was a looker with no phone skills then she was more than likely ready to become the boss's future ex-wife.

  5. AnonymousJune 26, 2013

    I remember back when the Internet was in its infancy as a consumer phenomenon and Pete Wilson was running for re-election as governor of California, one of his handlers got the bright idea to have Pete host an online chat to show how tech savvy he was. Unfortunately, Pete was not only not tech savvy, he had also never learned to type and could not even find his way around the keyboard hunting and pecking. I can still remember the look of panic, dismay and total bewilderment as he desperately tried to find the keys he needed to form words while a local news camera rolled. Finally, an aide stepped in, and Pete managed to complete the session by dictating his responses in realtime.

  6. Thanks, I am ruly honored. As far as the "narcissistic dumbasses" comment goes, I call 'em like I see 'em and unfortunately, I've seen a lot of 'em in my days.

    1. AnonymousJuly 05, 2013

      I work with one. He got his job solely on his personal relationship with the company's founder. He and my boss (a woman) are mortal enemies. My boss has the one thing he doesn't - real expertise about the job. He's a joke.

  7. whoops, make that "truly" honored.

  8. Getting a whiff of pancakes from the couple dressed in white coats.....

  9. AnonymousJune 27, 2013

    In he second to last pic, is that Linda Thorson?

  10. Gentlemen. Gentlemen.
    A secretary is not a toy,
    No, my boy, not a toy
    To fondle and dandle and playfully handle
    In search of some puerile joy.
    No, a secretary is not,
    Definitely not, a toy.

    A secretary is not a toy.
    And when you put her to use . . .
    Observe when you put her to use . . .
    That you don't find the name "Lionel"
    On her caboose.

  11. Generally nostalgic and interesting post. Except the first picture, the one that you used to set it off, is not a secretary. She'd be a computer operator, probably working on shift, on that IBM 370/135.

  12. "Secretarial work was more or less a way to pay the bills before you got hitched."

    Depends on whom you hitched with. I knew several girls back in the day who married guys close to their age who were just starting out, and they needed two incomes to survive.