For 17-year-olds getting into the work world today, the chances of starting with a bottom-rung job and ending up on the top of that same company's heap by retirement age are so slim as to be laughable. Will the companies for which our young adults are entry-level jobbing even exist in 38 years? It's unlikely, and makes Al Smith's story even the more amazing. He has worked at Kroger since his very first job at 17; and at the Chillicothe, Ohio Kroger store since age 21, when he started out as produce clerk.
At 55, Al Smith went on the second job interview of his life.
He hopes it will be his last; it scared him "to death." He's retiring from his job as Chillicothe Kroger produce manager, where he had to work weekends, and taking that new job for Empire Foods -- yes, the interview worked out -- setting food in produce departments during the week. He'll be spending his free time in his new career with his two grandkids (Dalton and Langston) and playing golf.
His wife, on the other hand, is still in her one career. Jill and Al met in the produce department at the nearby Circleville Kroger, where Al was helping out. After nine years of dating, Al married the produce scale attendant (she weighed the produce for customers so they could take it to the register; grocery stores didn't have scales at checkout in those days) and soon they were both produce department managers.
Jill is set to retire next September; she's only worked for 32 years at Kroger, and is leaving it at one career. It will be hard, she says, to get through the summer with her husband lolly-gagging by the pool on the weekends with the grandkids. Make that a good hard; in a business climate of mega-mergers, the ever-accelerating pace of global conglomerization, job cuts so bad they should be called "massacres," and the worst recession of these grandparents' careers, it's nice to see a couple whose twin careers span four decades and, still, only a few produce departments in the same company in a little Ohio town.
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