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I Was Canright's Secretary
by Carrie Johnson

Page 145

17. Three Dimes' Tithe and My Break With Mr. Canright

AS I HAVE said before, during the time I worked for Mr. Canright I received no pay. I was working out an undetermined and indefinite school bill at the business college. An Adventist couple gave me a room and my board, for which I did some baby-sitting. My sister sent me a little money occasionally to help buy shoes. As mentioned earlier, there were some days when Mr. Canright did not come in, and at times I could work a few hours at other places, for which I received modest pay.

One very warm Thursday afternoon in July, as I walked from my room back to the office after an almost foodless "lunch," I found the sidewalks extremely hot. Even with the holes in the soles of my shoes padded with the leather from an old glove, the bottoms of my feet felt as if they were blistering.

I was thinking as I walked along how and when I could get some new shoes. I was also thinking of how and when I could extricate myself from the work with Mr. Canright. I felt sure of one thing, I would never betray Mr. Cornell. Yet, how could I free myself from the circumstances in which I had become involved? I longed for a way out.

As I passed the Battle Creek Tabernacle I happened to notice the jingling of three dimes I had in my dress pocket, which I had set aside for tithe. This was tithe on three dollars I had earned working at the Battle Creek Sanitarium library. I had earned some money before, but the tithe had always been taken out before it came to my hands. So, in a sense,

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this was the first money I myself would pay as tithe, and for which I would receive a receipt. It was a big moment for me.

In spite of my need for shoes and other things, I deliberately walked up the steps of the Tabernacle, and entered the treasurer's office without rapping. In so doing I startled two men who were in the room. I was more or less acquainted with both of the men. One of them, Mr. Minier, was the church treasurer and had been a pallbearer at my mother's funeral a few months before. The other, Mr. Israel, was the Missionary Volunteer leader of the church, and because I was the organist for the MV Society I was acquainted with him. Mr. Israel was also the manager of the Good Health Publishing Company.

Making known my mission, I handed over the three dimes for tithe to the treasurer. As I did so I noticed the two men exchange quizzical looks. I couldn't understand the meaning of their looks and felt that perhaps they thought my entrance without knocking was improper. But this thought was quickly dispelled.

Mr. Minier gave me a receipt for the thirty cents, and I felt a sense of relief and pride. The men asked me to be seated, and I accepted the invitation. They said they thought I looked tired. What they didn't know was that I was not only tired but hungry, and that four long blocks of hot sidewalks to the office loomed ahead of me.

The men quietly inquired where I worked, what I was doing, where I stayed. Both of them were officers of the church, and they showed sympathy and understanding. I answered simply and briefly. My replies increased their interest. Before I realized it, I had told them all I knew. The circumstances and the heavy burdens that rested on my youthful shoulders dispelled for the moment any thoughts of loyalty either to Mr. Canright or to Mr. Cornell.

The men told me not to be in a hurry. They counseled between themselves, and then in my hearing Mr. Israel said to Mr. Minier, "This girl is in danger. Can't you do something about it?"

Mr. Minier replied, "I think something can be done, but when?

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They seemed to think that if something was to be done, it must be at once. Mr. Israel then concluded the interview, stressing that I should act at once to terminate my services to Mr. Canright. He ended by saying, "I'll get you a job if I have to pay you out of my own pocket."

As he consulted the clock, Mr. Israel estimated there was enough time for me to get to the office and return before Mr. Canright arrived for the afternoon dictating session. He then instructed me to go to the office at once and clear my desk of everything in it. I accepted the counsel and hurried down the long, hot cement sidewalks toward the office.

I quickly assembled the materials in my desk and carried them to the treasurer's office at the Tabernacle, where they were temporarily stored. That accomplished, I suddenly realized what I had done, and I wondered, What shall I do next? One thing was certain, I was resolved never again to appear at the business college and hoped I would never again meet either Mr. Cornell or Mr. Canright.

At the time I quit as Mr. Canright's secretary, I was teaching a class of small boys in the primary division of the Sabbath school. The superintendent of that division was Clinton Lee, now Elder Lee, a retired minister after many years of mission service in Korea. The next day, Friday, I attended teachers' meeting in the evening.

After the meeting Clinton Lee approached me, saying, "Miss Shasky, as far as I am concerned, you are giving very satisfactory service in teaching your class, but I have been approached by the father of one of the little boys who is unhappy with what his son isn't learning. He will visit your class in the morning, so be sure you have the lesson well prepared. He is critical, and we don't want to dismiss you even though he requests it."

I thought I had already memorized the lesson and couldn't improve, but the challenge prompted me to put forth an extra effort, and besides doing that, I studied some other methods that I might employ. I did want to make good. I would do it as well as I possibly could. Then, if I were dismissed, it wouldn't matter; I would have the satisfaction of having done my best.

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The next morning I saw the father coming in, hand in hand with his five-year-old son. The small chairs at the little table were not big enough for an adult, so the father stood. After class, while the father talked with Mr. Lee, I anxiously glanced at their countenances. I seemed to see dismissal written all over their faces and remembered thinking, Will I never make good at anything?

During the church service I kept thinking, Must I go back to wiping knives and forks in the helpers' kitchen at the Sanitarium where Mr. Canright was still taking his meals, and perhaps again be required to serve and pick up some of his empty trays? There were those in the kitchen who still didn't know who he was, but I surely knew him, and I knew he knew me. Because I had unceremoniously left his work, I just couldn't face going back. Yet I must find work. I seemed to have hit a blank wall.

After church Mr. Lee approached me and said that the boy's father wished to have an interview with me at his office the next morning. He told me that the father was the personnel director of the Battle Creek Food Company. His name was William Covert. I've never been the crying type, but tears would have brought some degree of relief to my pent-up feelings and depressed thoughts at that moment.

Sunday morning as I approached the personnel director's office both my thoughts and my feet felt like chunks of lead. To my astonishment I found him friendly. He had been informed that I needed employment, and he had already made arrangements for me to come to work at the Battle Creek Food Company the next morning. He explained that in the multigraph department there was an employee who had headed that department for many years and needed a change. She would be retained for two weeks in order to acquaint me with the work.

It was an awkward situation—trying to replace a faithful employee with many years of experience. It wasn't my choice, neither was it hers. After three days of spasmodic training, she refused to cooperate. There was nothing the personnel manager could do but let her go and call the balance of her two weeks a vacation with pay.

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Employees of the food company received pay every two weeks, but it was their policy to retain two weeks' salary. So I had to work four weeks before payday came around for me. Back in those days we were paid with coins in an envelope.

I was young and energetic and I hoped to make good on my first permanent job with pay, so I worked hard at it. It had been my habit to arrive at school at seven and to leave at seven, and I did the same at the factory. The only difference was that I now punched a time clock upon arrival and departure. However, I was soon advised that this office was not on an eleven-hour day. My rate was $9 a week, and there was no pay for overtime.

I shall never forget my first pay envelope. Carefully I had listed the items it had to cover. The most needed ones were at the top, and the list had been revised many times to squeeze them and the tithe all out of $18. Never to be forgotten was the blessing I had received after paying those three dimes of tithe at the Tabernacle. This time there would be $1.80, and in addition, ten cents a week for Sabbath school offerings. But when I opened the envelope, out fell eight silver dollars and one cent. I was short $9.99.

It took about as much courage as I could muster to go back and tell the cashier that there was a $9.99 shortage in my envelope. He asked to see the coins I had found in the envelope. When I showed them to him, he explained that there was no shortage. What had looked to me like a shiny new penny was a $10 gold piece!

Now everything was all right, and I knew I didn't owe any bills. In fact, my landlady, whose husband was a high-salaried machinist at $50 a week, borrowed $2 from me until his check would come in another week.

But before another payday and another $18 was due I faced another unusual circumstance. The pastor of the Tabernacle, A. J. Clark, was elected president of the Southern Illinois Conference, whence he returned to get his family. A farewell gathering was planned, and had been announced for Saturday night at the Tabernacle.

While I was on my way to this gathering a friend joined me.

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As we walked along together she asked, "Are you going with Elder Clark to Southern Illinois?"

"Why, no; what are you talking about?" I queried.

"Haven't you been asked?" she inquired. "It is either you or I."

"Well," I said, "if you have been told, it must be you. I know nothing about it." Then I gave her several reasons why I couldn't think of accepting such a position. She also gave reasons why she shouldn't go, but mentioned how very much she would like to go.

Soon two other girls joined us, and as they did so, exclaimed, "Isn't it nice to be a celebrity?"

Both of these girls said that I had been chosen to go to the Southern Illinois Conference as secretary to the president. Before we reached the Tabernacle my sister joined our group. She saw that I was perplexed, and quietly told me that there was something to what they were saying, but she was sure that my friend would be chosen.

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