To start, what brought you to the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber in the first place?
I was working for the publishing company that was printing the 1979 Chamber Business Directory. My job was to call the members and verify the information for the members’ directory listing. When that 4 month project ended, the Chamber did not have a secretary in the Member Services Dept. And, since I knew the membership really well, I was asked to fill the position at the Chamber. At this time, we were located at 752 Broadway (across the street was an “x” rated movie theatre). We stayed in this location for about 1 ½ years then moved to 735 St. Helens Ave. Don Barber was the President and CEO at the time.
Your first day was December 17, 1979, what do you remember from that day?
I was very nervous as I had never worked in an office before! I learned how to answer the phone that had multiple lines, and also learning new things every day about how an office operates. Back then we did not have computers that would print out mailing labels for our newsletters that we mailed every month. We had this addressograph machine that you fed the hand typed (by typewriter) address cards that you would have to ink and then let dry. These then would be filed Alpha Order by Zip Code into a tray. When it was mailing day, all those cards were stacked into the machine and the address would appear on the newsletter after running them through.
Dues billing was done by hand. The invoice had 3 carbonless copies that were hand type and we also used a peg board billing system.
I was also taking over the “volunteer” position of a gentleman who was retiring. The volunteers were called to come and help with the mailings. Some of the stories that these folks talked about were amazing! The last time the Chamber had volunteers work on the newsletters was in 2015. That year, the calendar was being sent electronically and we did away with the actual newsletter being mailed. That ended my long lasting friendship with my “Retired Senior Volunteers.” Every so often, they do come back for a special mailing, which I’m glad that they are able to do.
And now, we are celebrating your 40th anniversary working for the Chamber. What thoughts and emotions come to mind when you think about that?
I can’t even imagine that it’s been 40 years!. The months and years just flowed together. I’ve made so many friendships over the years and still keep in touch with them. The Chamber is now in its 3rd location, and I have been through 3 remodels where we are now at 950 Pacific.
I’ve been through several membership department managers in the 80’ and 90’s and have seen many staff changes over the years. Tom Pierson is the 3rd President and CEO.
I feel that the Chamber is “like my family”, always has been and always will be!
Tacoma is a growing city and a lot has changed within the 40 years - tell us about some of those changes you’ve seen that stand out to you.
Back then in the late 70’s and early 80’s, it was scary to work in downtown. Drug deals were done openly, prostitutes were on street corners and gangs and shootings were happening.
Pacific Avenue was nothing but closed-up warehouses and empty buildings.
The Luzon Building, 15th & Pacific held “Circus Circus” and the famous Bimbo’s Italian Restaurant was just a few buildings away and had “THE BEST” spaghetti sauce!
At 11th & Pacific Ave. (the KeyBank Bldg.), People’s Department store was for shopping!
At 11th & Commerce, there was Woolworth’s (a national chain). They had a great, inexpensive lunch menu where you could eat at the counter or in a booth, and shop too!
Sears was on 13th & Commerce, and then moved to the Tacoma Mall.
The UWT, the retail shops from 17th to 20th on Pacific Ave, LeMay’s Car Museum, the Tacoma Light Link Rail, Tacoma Dome Parking Station, Starbucks, The Tacoma Dome, The Hotel Murano (the old Sheraton Hotel), The Museum of Glass, The Washington State History Museum, The Tacoma Art Museum, Courtyard Marriott Hotel, Emerald Queen Casino, The Downtown Tacoma Partnership (formerly the Business Improvement Area), First Night Tacoma-Pierce County, the 509 Freeway, SpaceWorks, Downtown: On The Go, The Convention Center, the condos on Dock Street etc. etc. etc. were not even thought of 40 years ago in 1979.
Clinkerdagger Restaurant and Top of The Ocean (an actual ship on the beach) were the places to go on Ruston Way for a great dinner overlooking the waterfront. The Old Spaghetti Factory on Jefferson Avenue was always crowded for lunch and or dinner! The Greyhound Bus Station was on Pacific Ave. next to Sauro’s Dry Cleaners nears 15th St. That space is now a parking lot. Old City Hall was spectacular with some shopping and restaurants in it, along with the Elks Temple and the Spanish Steps. We also had the “Aroma of Tacoma” smell from the St. Regis Paper Co. The Asarco Smelter near Point Defiance was demolished in 1981 and some of the chamber staff and myself went with a chamber member on his sailboat to watch the demolition. It was awesome and very cold that early Sunday morning.
By 1981 the Chamber moved to 735 St. Helens Ave. which also housed the Daffodil Festival, The Economic Development Board and the Visitors Information Center. That is the year we probably did get computers! The Chamber in the early 80’s had a float in the Daffodil Parade for several years. I was able to ride in 2 parades. The first one was a wooden 6-pack (with 6 people in the 6-pack) on top of horses and the other was for the Portland Rose Festival float.
You are the first person that everyone sees when they enter the Chamber’s office - what is your favorite part of your job?
I love being the “Gate Keeper!!!!!”
And Events: I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in ALL of our Signature Events every year since the events were created! Horizon’s Economic Forecast; Annual Meeting; Business Expo, Chamber Golf Classic, Spotlight on Business Awards, South County New Educator’s Breakfast, WorkWell Awards, Chamber Orientation and Public Officials Holiday Reception
I was also included in helping with the smaller recurring monthly events. You get to meet a lot of new people over the time.
I enjoyed working on the Membership Drives that we held at 950 Pacific Ave over the many years, and the 10 years on the Total Resource Campaigns raising money for new memberships and sponsorships.
I have always been in the same position in the Membership & Marketing Departments doing what I started doing 40 years ago and also being the “Customer Experience Specialist” (receptionist).
And finally, what is your most memorable moment at the Chamber?
My most memorable event would by the newly remodel open house last week, where many Board members and the Ambassador Club members and staff announced my 40th year Anniversary, with special guest appearances of my Sister Patty, my Daughter Samantha and my Grand Daughter River Lynne!
A gift basket of my favorite things was given to me and a poster was unveiled. I’ll remember this day forever!
A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL MY CHAMBER FRIENDS OVER THE LAST 40 YEARS!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.