"The year was 1961 and the month was June. I was a freshly minted graduate of Grand Rapids Christian High School and setting out to conquer the world when I came upon an opening for office help in the Used Book Department of Baker Book House--little knowing I would be part of this company for my entire adult life! Now the year is 2010 and I am about to end my long and satisfying journey. I've seen many changes over the years. To name a few:
- Typewriters were manual.
- Long distance calls were unheard of.
- We had no time clock (hours were recorded on a yellow legal pad by the bookkeeper).
- Coffee breaks were taken at a small restaurant across the street.
- We were not open evenings.
- Orders were received via snail mail.
- Computers had not been invented.
When I first started working many of the company's original employess were still "on board" and the entire company was housed at 1019 Wealthy street. [There were about 20 people total working for the company at the time.]
Mr. Herman Baker (the company's founder) had the office in the front of the building facing Wealthy street. But his first love was used books and that kept him in the Used Book Department for a good share of each day. It was in the Used Book Department that I got to know Mr. Baker pretty well. He was a great mentor and I learned to love used books because of him. He was very kind and cared about each of his employees.
When I first started all of the used book paperwork (billing, purchase quotes, sales quotes and correspondence) was done on an old manual Royal typewriter. The keys had to be hit so hard that you never had nice nails. When we put together the used book catalogs I was allowed to use the one IBM electric typewriter in the building. Putting together catalogs meant getting it together from start to finish. I had a "rolling" table with the typewriter on it. I would "park" the table in whatever section was being catalogued--sermons was endless; philosophy was in a little closet way in the front of the building. We even had books out in a house beyond the parking lot. When I had to catalogue out there, the day was long and lonely, as I rarely saw a soul. To create a catalog, we started by typing a huge list: author, title, condition and price. When we had a long enough list, Gary Popma [general manager at the time] and I would work on a lighted board to line everything up in neat columns. (This gives a whole new meaning to "cut & paste.") When we had our columns all lined up neatly we sent the pages on to Cusing-Malloy where they printed and stapled and then returned to us to be shipped out to those on our mailing list. We would then wait patiently for the mailman to show up with our stacks of orders and checks. Most customers sent in a check for the book they wanted to purchase; but, this meant returning a lot of the checks because that "one of a kind" book was already sold to the first customer ordering it! [I asked Pat how long this process took. She said it took about a month from start to finish to do each catalog.]
Both Rich and Pete [Rich and Pete Baker were sons of Herman. Pete died in 1996 of Leukemia.] worked on Wealthy street at the time. Rich had one of the offices and Pete worked in the retail store. I knew Pete from High School as we were in the same class at Christian High. Pete eventually took over the retail division and Rich headed up the publishing division.
I believe it was 1966 or early 1967 that the publishing division moved from Wealthy street to its present location in Ada, Michigan. There were few of us left on Wealthy street, but the business grew tremendously. It was in 1967 that I temporarily "retired" to become a full-time mom. A couple of years later, I received a phone call asking if I'd be interested in billing at home--ideal for the stay-at-home mom. I did this for several years and then returned to work after the retail division had moved to the East Paris location and I've been a "fixture" here ever since.
When Rich moved from Ada to the East Paris location I got to know him much better and appreciate him much more. He is a real gentleman.
I have many wonderful memories and some strange ones as well. At one point, I worked in the warehouse and many customers would come past my desk looking for the restrooms. We had a yellow line painted on the floor that ended at the restroom so we always told them to "follow the yellow line." I had one customer asking for directions to a restaurant and I misunderstood him and said "Just follow the yellow line." He look at me incredulously and said "To the restaurant????"
I've worked with some wonderful people over the years and I've forged some lasting friendships that I will always treasure. It is with both excitement and a bit of sadness that I am leaving. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for the future and I'm excited about spending more time with our children and grandchildren. It has been a long, but satisfying stay."
Pat at her desk.
The original Baker store on Wealthy street.
On behalf of everyone here and the many friends you have at the publishing division (many of whom started here at the store) we wish you God's richest blessings as you enter a very busy life of retirement. The privilege has been all ours to both know you and work with you.