The Catawba County Museum of History is asking the public to submit stories of their working life as part of an upcoming attraction, “The Way We Worked.” It’s all part of a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit opening Aug. 8 in Newton.
If I were to write a work story, it would involve my friend Sylvia Bajorek.
It all began in 1981, when I was hired at Central Telephone Company in Hickory. Sylvia was my counterpart in the Public Relations Department. When we met that March day, we couldn’t know that our lives would be remarkably intertwined for the next 37 years.
From Centel, we went on to share several more jobs through some amazing coincidences. After enduring layoffs from the telephone company, Sylvia eventually found herself working at Creative Impressions, an advertising agency of J. H. Heafner Company in Lincolnton.
By the end of 1984, I found myself between jobs, so Sylvia called up one day to ask if I’d be interested in a temporary post at Creative Impressions. Her second daughter was due in March. Soon after I said yes, I found out that I was expecting a baby in September. I filled in for Sylvia, and when she returned to work that June, I was ready to take my own maternity leave. Her daughter Sara and my son Lantz were born six months apart, which meant shared baby gear and babysitting on occasion.
A year and a half later, Sylvia recruited me to return to J. H. Heafner again, this time to coordinate the company’s sales conference in Charlotte. It was another temporary position, but perfect for me at the time.
From there, I took a job with Meredith/Burda printing company in Newton, but after a corporate merger and another layoff for me, Sylvia asked if I might be interested in an opening at the Catawba Valley Area Girl Scout Council. She had just finished a stint there and had taken a new job in the Development Office at Lenoir-Rhyne College.
By now, it was becoming a joke—me following Sylvia to new jobs. This time I not only filled her shoes, but literally wore her clothes. The uniform she had purchased to wear to Girl Scout functions fit me perfectly.
Within a few months, an opening came in the college’s PR department and again, my friend Sylvia tipped me off. And sure enough, it happened. I became PR director of L-R in December 1992.
By 2000, Sylvia was working as the chief development officer for Gaston College. She asked me to do some contract writing for them, which I did, making it my fourth or fifth job associated with Sylvia—depending on how you look at it.
The intertwining of our lives has involved some other things, too. Over the years our families have celebrated birthdays, Christmas Eve and other special times together. With other friends we’ve taken beach trips and mountain trips together. And in 2002, I joined Sylvia’s church.
In 2016, our granddaughter arrived on Sept. 18—Sylvia’s mother’s birthday. Three weeks later, Sylvia’s granddaughter was born.
It has been quite a journey, this blended friendship and work life. No one could have convinced me that day back in March 1981 that the coworker in the next office cubicle would share some of the most significant events of my life for the next 37 years. Our relationship has withstood the test of time through give and take, acceptance, patience and humor.
Good friends are a treasure. They’re family you choose for yourself.
Me, on the job as a public relations associate at Centel, ca. 1982