Miss Emmalyn is a regal woman I had the honor of knowing at my previous retail gig. She was working for the company before most of the younger employees were born. Although her preference would have been a schedule that allowed her to attend church on Sunday, she has never been given that accommodation. However, I could always tell when Miss Emmalyn had been able to attend church before work. She wore a skirt instead of her characteristic slacks revealing calves that would have been the envy of Tina Turner and Betty Grable. Her work station was at the nexus of storerooms in the hall right off the Shoe Department. When Miss Emmalyn worked I enjoyed her company in the hall where we had many philosophical discussions. On Sundays, Miss Emmalyn played Gospel music on her radio which provided our dance music.
Her job was (and continues to be) folding shirts that have been opened and unfolded by customers. This is a much harder job than people realize (I know this from experience) and she excelled at it. When she refolded and repackaged shirts to return to the sales floor, it was difficult to tell the difference between her shirts and the ones packaged at the factory. During a corporate visit, management was told that because of the store’s size and volume, the store was eligible to receive an automatic shirt folder. A big six foot tall machine appeared shortly after with a compression pump attached to it. We couldn’t figure out the purpose of the machine until Miss Emmalyn’s next day at work. With disdain in her voice, she told us the mystery machine was to fold shirts. We were concerned because we feared it was going to eliminate Miss Emmalyn’s job. A manager tried to show us how it worked but it was so complicated the manager was unsuccessful at finishing one shirt. The machine required an operator and there were many steps to complete its job. Miss Emmalyn was the only person who knew how to operate it and she refused. Her objection was that it took too long and the end product was too sloppy. I’ve got to give Miss Emmalyn credit because she stuck to her guns despite a tremendous amount of pressure being put on her including the loss of her job. Because she was held in such high esteem by other employees the manager was reluctant to fire her. Finally, to end the standoff, a person arrived from somewhere that was said to be a pro at operating the machine. Miss Emmalyn proposed a challenge to the machine’s operator. They would each fold shirts for one hour. Miss Emmalyn would fold shirts the way she had always done by hand and the other woman would use this alleged time saving device. At the end of an hour, the machine had folded an impressive 22 shirts. Unfortunately five or six were going to require additional time to make them more presentable. Miss Emmalyn had 27 shirts in her pile and they were all perfect. The machine continued to stand unused in the hall for about three additional months until it finally disappeared. Miss Emmalyn has continued to do her job since that competition three years ago. She continues to touch every employee in a positive way and provides an example to all of us on how to live a good life. It has been a real honor to call her my friend.