Norm: My career-building dad #AtoZChallenge

N is for Norm: My career-building dad. Fourteenth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

From 1963-65, while I was engaged in early teen activities in Endwell, N.Y., my forty-something dad Norm was busy career building at General Electric in nearby Westover, N.Y.

Dad’s job was a short trip from our house, on the way to Johnson City — and he bought a little Fiat 500 for his commute to the plant so my mom could have the big car to shop, shuttle us kids around, drive to grad school in Ithaca and eventually to her own job at a parochial school.

Dad’s General Electric career

In general, my family members did their own thing by day — then we met up around the family dinner table at night to report on our activities.

That’s where we got used to hearing about Dad’s job at GE — along with his primary task, Quality Control (known as “QC” at our house) — as he focused on climbing the corporate ladder.

“Mad Men” electronics version (c. 1964). My dad Norm is at the back of the table, the last man on the left in glasses and a dark suit. He’s pictured here at a General Electric training session with colleagues in their requisite suits, white shirts and pencil ties. Scan by Molly Charboneau

But except for our dinnertime chats and our family’s annual restaurant trip to celebrate Dad’s raise, his work life seemed remote from my day-to-day early teen concerns.

Dad’s family life

Yet Dad was concerned with his children’s lives — and I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of news reports on his role in the Endwell Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).

The clip at left is from 1963 when I was 13. About halfway down, it lists my parents as “advisors” to the Hooper School PTA — and the last line says Dad served as Scout Liaison.

My younger brothers were Boy Scout age then — and I was still in Girl Scouts in 1963.

An earlier clip from 1961 says Dad was program chair for a panel on “Your Child’s Future: Must Everyone Go to College?”  — a question Dad would answer with a resounding “yes,” as he and Mom wanted that for all of us kids.

Dad on the weekend

On weekends, Dad focused on household tasks and family time.

And on June 10, 1961, about four years after we moved to Endwell, N.Y., Dad paid $850 for our lot on Page Lake — where we spent most Saturdays in the summer during my early teens.

I’ve written about feeling trapped there as my teens progressed because I missed my friends and busy life back home.

My family at Page Lake, New Milford, PA in the early 1960s. That’s me on the dock and my mom and brothers on the rock. Photo by Norm Charboneau

Yet I now feel fortunate to have had that “away” time at camp in my early teens, where I learned to appreciate nature and solitude — which I’m sure is what Dad had in mind when he purchased the land all those years ago.

Up next, O is for Orange juice can curlers and On-the-roof suntans. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

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10 thoughts on “Norm: My career-building dad #AtoZChallenge”

  1. I so enjoyed that photo inside the GE Westover Plant because I’ve lived in that area since the mid 1980’s. ( So I will ask you not to ever read the mid September 2011 posts on my blog. Of course, by then, the building was occupied by a different company). I miss that building in some ways but had never seen a photo of the interior – until now.

  2. Your dad Norm and my dad Norm had very different working lives. Even though I knew how dangerous dad’s job was in the railway shunting yards I would often ask if I could go to work with him sometime. Because we travelled past his work on the tram, or even walking, I knew his workplace environment at least from a distance. The workplace risks, accidents, poor pay and conditions were something that were part of my life.
    That corporate photo doesn’t look that far distant to me. I remember going to conferences and meetings among the “suits” where we women were “odd man out”. You learned to tough it out.
    I was amazed by the minimal cost of the lake block. I wonder what they cost today. I’m sure it was a great family investment.
    Your dad did a good job being a good parent on school committed and the like. In my family it was Mum who did that because dad’s shift work hours didn’t lend themselves to it.

  3. Yes, that corporate photo is a relic of another time — perhaps why I never took to the show “Mad Men,” since I lived through that era when women were marginalized on the job and off. I’m glad we mostly saw Dad during his off hours, when he was simply trying his best to be a good father.

  4. It’s funny how our parents jobs can feel so separate from our actual day to day lives when we’re growing up. I wonder if that is still the case with the lines between work and home blurring. Weekends In Maine

  5. In today’s (business) world we like to complain about the gender gap, and looking at this picture, taken in the mid-1960s is interesting in a way that back then it was totally normal that a group of executives consisted of any number of white men, end of story. So in a way we have come a long way in terms of gender and diversity.

    So nice to hear that your Dad, even though working hard to climb the corporate ladder, made it a priority to be engaged in school and scouts as well.

    Love the “pay increase celebration” 🙂

    1. Yes, we have come a long way — and women like my mom and those in my generation helped make that happen. Fortunately, Dad generally left his work at the door and engaged fully in family life in his off time.

  6. Corporate culture was certainly different and almost unrecognizable from today. It must just be the perspective from the lake photo, but seeing your brother leaning over the edge of the rock made me nervous as though it were the highest of cliffs.

    1. Ha ha…that rock does look like a precipice the way my dad took the photo. In reality, if my brother fell in he could have stood up and walked to shore 🙂

    1. Thanks, Anne. I wonder about the lake now — I’ll bet it’s much more developed. As for the corporate photo, it is definitely from the post WWII era.

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