The next morning, I put the kids in the car, threw in their favorite toys, and drove to the facility. I had no choice. It was either bring them with me or leave them alone in the motel. I parked under a tree, gave them their favorite toys, and told them to stay put. My daughter had a baby bottle with cool water in it and my son had his sippy cup. They both had their ‘seat-belts’ on.
It was the 60s. ‘Seat belts’ for children didn’t approximate the safety seats we have now. There were no child safety seats. Child seat belts were nothing more than a strap that went around the back seat of the car, and a second belt-like strap, that circled the child’s waist.
You didn’t get arrested for leaving your kids or your pets in the car. You didn’t get dragged off to family counseling services. No one threatened to take your kids away.
The hospital was impressive for 1960 standards. It was a new building sleek and modern. I took a deep breath. In for a dollar, in for a dime. I took a deep breath and pulled open the glass front door.
Seven women waited in the ultra-modern lobby. Some continued to add information to their unfinished applications; others clutched the papers and stared at the door marked Business Office. There was no conversation. The subtle blue and reddish-brown decorating scheme seemed to reflect the color of Nevada’s sky and the Sierra Mountains. It suggested serenity and peace. Totally different from the bright white and institutional green of the hospitals back east.
At the reception desk, a young woman spoke quietly into the phone. A nameplate on the counter said, Darlene Bradford. She immediately covered the mouthpiece, looked at me and smiled. “Are you here to apply for the job?” Her hair was perfect. A very 60s teased Jackie Kennedy look. Pearl earrings. Minimal makeup. Light blue long-sleeved blouse.
She handed me a folder and gestured toward an empty chair. “Fill these out, please.”
Fortunately, there was a chair next to a window overlooking the parking lot. I filled out the application and glanced outside every few seconds to make sure the kids were okay.
I brought my completed forms back to the young woman. She smiled again, put my folder on top of the pile, disappeared behind a door marked Business Office.
I ran out to the parking lot to check on the kids.
The car was shadowed under a clump of trees. A light breeze blew through the open windows. They were sound asleep.
After about thirty minutes, a handsome forty-something man walked from the business office. His was. He wore a perfectly tailored gray pinstriped suit, bright white shirt, and a gray tie with narrow red stripes. “I’ll talk to the nurse from Rutgers. The rest of you can leave.”
I stood and heard the collective sighs of disappointment from the surrounding women. “I’m the nurse from Rutgers.”
He extended his hand. “Anthony Corvalis,” he said by way of introduction. His had was
warm, his handshake confident. “Come into my office, please.” He held the door open for me. Darlene Bradford stood beside him.
“I – uh – have my kids in the car.” I pointed toward the parking lot. “We just got into town last night. I didn’t know where to find a baby sitter.”
“No problem,” he said. “Bring them in.” He gave me a broad smile and gave Darlene a wink.
“I’m sure Darlene would be glad to watch them.”
Darlene looked at Mr. Corvalis as if she would be happy to watch my children, jump off the Empire State Building, or whatever he requested. She was ready to oblige.
“How old are they?” Darlene asked as we walked out to the car.
“Eighteen months and two and a half. They were sleeping when I went out to check on them a little while ago.”
“Well, let’s get them inside before it gets any warmer.” Darlene paused, wrinkled her forehead, then brightened. She pushed armchairs together seat to seat and made two makeshift beds.
We carried them in.
Thumbs went back in their mouths. They went back to sleep. I made another trip out to the car to get my son’s sippy cup and teddy bear and my daughter’s bottle and sock-monkey.
“Can we leave the door open?” I asked as Mr. Corvalis escorted me into his office. I pointed to the lobby. “I’d like to listen. If they wake up, they might get frightened.”
“Yes, of course.” He held a chair for me. “I never expected to have a nurse from Rutgers to apply. You’re exactly the kind of person we had in mind to be in charge of this facility.”
In charge of the facility? That was more than a supervisor’s job. That was a position for the Directress of Nursing.
We talked for about a half-hour.
He finally stood. “As far as I’m concerned, you have the job if you want it. Then he told me what my salary would be and outlined my responsibilities.”
I nodded. I was stunned. It was twice the salary I made in New Jersey.
Mr. Corvalis, Darlene, the kids, and I went on a tour of the empty facility. I carried my daughter. My son toddled along holding tight to Darlene’s hand. Thank goodness for well-behaved children.
“Well, what do you think? Are you willing to take on this challenge? We’re hoping to make this a model facility.”
“Yes. But, I don’t have a Nevada nursing license.”
“That’s not a problem. We have some time. You can start the licensure process today. With your credentials, there shouldn’t be a problem.”
I was astounded. I was overwhelmed.
I had a job. “Thank you. When should I start?”
He picked up his pack of cigarettes. “I can’t make the final hiring decision. One of the upper-level management people will have to come to interview you. Can you come back in two days to meet with him?”
Two days. I thought of my meager funds. I guess Mr. Corvalis noted my hesitation.
“Darlene will start the process to get you a temporary license. And, we’ll be glad to pick up the cost of your hotel while you’re going through the interview process.”
Back at the motel, I counted what my meager funds. A little less than $100. Writing home for money was the last thing I wanted to do. I got a post office box and sent a telegram to Helene McNeill and asked her to send my paycheck to Nevada.
I interviewed, re-interviewed, and re-interviewed over the next two weeks.
I met with upper management people.
Everyone liked me, but the final sentence of every interview was the same. “You’re just the kind of person we want for the job, but there’s one more person that has to give their approval.”
Darleen and my kids were getting to be great friends. My funds were getting very meager. Even though the kids loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I was getting sick of them. The salami and cheese ran out sometime during the first week.
I was beginning to feel like a ping-pong ball. Interview-return-interview-return. My Italian patience was wearing thin. Very thin. So thin the fabric started to tear.
On the last Thursday of May, I got the same story. One more interview. Twelve interviews? For one job? I’d had enough.
No more interviews.
On the way back to the motel, I stopped at the post office. My final paycheck was there.
It was the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend. The weatherman said we were going to have a beautiful weekend. Temperatures were above normal.
I couldn’t afford to wait through another two weeks of interviews. I squared my shoulders, ready to accept defeat.
I’ve come this far – I’m going to see San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Pacific Ocean before I go back home.