I’ve never shared the whole story of how I came to be a credit union evangelist. I know this past year I’ve been pretty outspoken about the movement and some of the struggles with values, purpose and philosophy. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to share a bit about where that comes from.

You see, I was the middle child of five kids in a Catholic family in Northeast Portland in the ‘70s. Yes, the last great recession. My family had some financial struggles and had to pull me out of private school my Freshman year.

I tried public high school for the rest of that year. After seeing a kid get stabbed right in front of me in the lunch room (this was also the period of desegregation) I decided I had to find a way to go back to private school. I needed a job, and fast. A girl in my homeroom heard I was looking, said she was going to give her notice at ‘Enry Beazelys’ Fish-n-Chips that night and she was sure her uniform would fit me.

We went to her locker and she pulled out the most hideous thing I’d ever seen. Burnt orange wench costume complete with ruffled hat. Wow! But it did fit.

I took the dress home, thought about it, and the next day walked into ‘Enry Beazely’s Fish-n-Chips, asked to speak to Mr. Beazely.

Mr. Beazely was a lovely older gentleman, with a firm handshake and a wonderful smile. I said, “Hello, Mr. Beazely, I’m Patty’s replacement.” He chuckled and hired me on the spot.

For the next three and 1/2 years I took a public bus to Beaverton, Oregon to attend St. Mary of the Valley (90 minutes each way). I did my homework on the bus – always. I was working 20 hours a week at ‘Beazely’s to pay my tuition.

On nights I had to work I had just enough time to get home, change from plaid pleated skirt and white blouse to the burnt orange wench costume.

Mr. Beazely taught me about leadership, culture, values and most importantly that if we are serving others, we are doing something that matters. Mr. Beazely also taught me that brand oozed from every pore of the organization. We served ginger beer, malt vinegar, and wrapped our “To Go” orders in newsprint. It was “authentic.” Right down to the serving wenches!

He had these service mantras.

My favorite: “The front counter is like the tide, you never turn your back on it.”

Mr. Beazely would “secret shop” us. Not by sending in a stranger with a script, but rather HE would come usually with his wife and some friends to dine.

If everything was not as it should be, he didn’t write us up, put it in our permanent file, or worse yet, call us out in front of others. Nope, he would simply roll up his sleeves, put on an apron, wash his hands and cook his own meal – elegantly righting the wrongs.

BUT, if everything was as it should be – at the end of the meal he would shake the hand of every employee and thank them for a wonderful dining experience.

On Thanksgiving he invited all of the crew to the restaurant for breakfast that HE would cook. He told us that on that day, he gave thanks for us. Wow.

He made me feel like what I did mattered. And when I gave my notice, I cried. He gave me a big hug and said “I will always have a place at ‘Beazely’s.”

Upon graduation, I decided I could not take the wench-wear anymore. I wanted a “real” job. And so…..I went to an employment agency.

PART TWO: Mean Jean and my first day as a teller.