By Diana Breit Wolfe
Hmm…what was I doing when I was 28 years old? That’s what came to mind as I wrote to one of my one of my great-nieces on her 28th birthday. I have plenty of time to send cards and write stories in them — just as you do, Dear Reader — since we are all staying sheltered at home. I decided to tell her a little bit about my life as it was in 1971. After all, I thought, these kids should know a little something about their Aunt Diana’s life and how it was totally different than their own.
This train of thought was somewhat prompted by the excellent article in last month’s issue of the active age about the superintendent of Wichita Catholic Schools, which mentioned Bishop Carroll High School. I had Bishop Carroll on my mind — the actual man, not the school. Ironically, the school was named for him even though he believed it was inappropriate to name a building after someone who was still alive. He originally named the school Notre Dame, but that was changed in 1964.
In 1971, I was a busy wife and mother of a 2-year old. One day, I got a call from Peg, who used to work for Bishop Carroll, saying he was between secretaries and could I fill in until he found another one? Sounded interesting, and I had a dear mother-in-law to babysit our daughter. So three mornings a week for three months, I went to the Cathedral rectory, which served as the priests’ home and offices. The rectory was next door to Cathedral School at Central and Topeka, which I had attended for my 12 years of grade and high school. So I was familiar and comfortable with the rectory and excited to work for the bishop.
Bishop Carroll was 74 years old. He had been bishop of Wichita since 1947 and was now retired. He came downstairs, usually in his bathrobe with his coffee, to answer piles of correspondence from people all over the world. I dutifully took the dictation from him in shorthand and then moved on to the IBM typewriter, preparing letters and leaving them on his desk for signatures. Once a week, from his personal checkbook, he paid me $5 an hour, which was big bucks since minimum wage at the time was $1.60, and the last secretarial job I had paid me about $3 an hour. It was an interesting and pleasant job.
So where were you in 1971? What job were you doing and how much were you paid? It’s fun to reminisce and tell our young family members about it. While you’re at it, tell ’em how much you enjoy reading the active age newspaper and what a good person you are for making a donation to defray the $20,000 a month it costs to print and mail it to you and 58,000 other households! In the meantime, keep reading and keep reminiscing.
Diana Wolfe is a member of the active age’s board of directors. She can be reached at email@example.com.