Diary of an Executive Secretary: Jim Jones

What does the administrator of College Houses do with their time? This diary, written by Jim Jones in 1975, attempts to tackle this slippery question.

Jim was the first full-time manager of College Houses. In 1975, College Houses consisted only of the Ark (now called Pearl Street), 21st Street, and Opsis, and the office was located in the Ark (where the Darkroom Co-op is now), rather than its present location on the first floor of Opsis.

The only other staff member was Bob Russel. When you consider that many of the same tasks are now handled by a staff of eight, you begin to understand why Jim was pulled in so many directions at that time.

If you enjoy this trip down memory lane, be sure to join the new College Houses alumni community, The Co-op Commons. It’s the best way to reconnect with former co-op housemates and to share your own slice of co-op history.

Diary of an Executive Secretary: Jim Jones

In the summer of 1975, the Board of Directors of College Houses asked me to keep track of my time so they could figure out what I do all day long. This compilation of my activity for two days in August is the result of that exercise!

Wednesday, 13 August, 1975

  • 10:00 Arrived. Finished typing a letter to Pure Milk correcting their bill to us. Talked to Mike McHone about current problems. Wrote out reminders to Board members about the weekly coordinating meeting at 5:00 p.m.
  • 10:30 Mailed letter to Pure Milk. Posted notices on Board members’ doors at 21st Street. Measured 21st ST. windows so I can get estimates on various types of heat insulations.
  • 11:00-1:00 Totaled disbursement pages from checkbooks (preparatory work for entering information in the books). Talked with Mike Allman about printing account cards.
  • 1:00 Ate lunch. Talked with Paul Taperauskis about milk buying.
  • 1:30 Totaled disbursements again. Talked to Bill Scarborough and Rusty about ads for the Texan. Mike McHone, [about] a prospective new member. Jackie Buyers, and seemingly a hundred other people all came in and wanted to see me at the same time.
  • 2:00 I fled to the 21st St. office to get some papers for Jackie. On the way, I talked to a membership committee person about deposit transfers.
  • 2:15 Came back to the Ark office and tried again to talk to everyone at once.
  • 3:15 Again tried to total the disbursements. They were off, so I gave up and asked Jackie to find the mistake so I could do some other things. Talked about maintenance with Bob and service contracts with Jackie. A person from the apartments came in with money for an electric bill and I wrote a receipt. Her toilet is stopped up and dishwasher doesn’t work; I told her to talk to Bob. I’ll sure be glad when Stock [the apartment manager] gets back. Got a… call from a woman who wants to cancel her fall contract and explained policy to her.
  • 3:30 Stumbled out the door and went to the U. Coop to buy supplies.
  • 4:20 Got back from the Drag. Met Bill Scarborough on the way to town and talked more about ordering magazines for the houses (an education project).
  • 4:30 Jackie couldn’t find the problem on [the] disbursement journal, so I figured it out. Becky Chew couldn’t reconcile the Ark bank statement, so I gave her a hand.
  • 5:00 Where is everyone? We’re supposed to have a Board coordinating meeting and no one’s here.
  • 6:00 We had the meeting finally, and discussed weighty matters such as our financial crisis and fall orientation. About 6:00 I went home. It was a bad day, as days go.

Thursday, 14 August, 1975

  • 10:00 Stopped at American Bank on my way to work. Opened up a savings account for one of our HUD reserves and picked up some change of signature cards so we can put Bob Russell on the central checking account.
  • 10:50 Arrived at work. The Superior Dairy people were back looking for Taperauskis, so I talked about milk again. Mike Allman told me about a person who’d been living at 21st St. for two months without him knowing, and we searched the back records for possible unrecorded payments of room and board or deposit. Terry came in and we talked about where to buy paint to spruce up the worst of the Ark rooms. Got a notice that the Ark Purchasing Account had insufficient funds, so I called Mutual Savings for a transfer of funds. Got to get those Purchasing Accounts reconciled earlier!
  • 11:30 Called Red Herring (insurance agent) regarding health insurance and annuity policies. He’ll stop by next Wednesday. Paid a bill.
  • 11:45 Tried to go to lunch. Several people caught me on the way out.
  • 12:00 Ate lunch at 21st St. (Interesting digression: 10 people sat silently eating and reading newspapers in the 21st St. dining room. A big difference from the Ark. I wonder why?)
  • 12:30 A new applicant caught me on the way back and gave me a message for the Ark membership committee (he’d given them the wrong phone number).
  • 12:35 Talked with Bob and Deutchman about a bad leak in the Ark plumbing. Called ICC about a bill they sent us. Confusion reigns at the ICC (we should talk?).
  • 12:50 Drew up member account cards.
  • 2:00 Took the pasted-up card down to Express Press for printing.
  • 2:25 Stopped into 21st St. to leave Jeannie Elder a note about the bookkeeping. Ran into Patrick, who told me that Mid-Tex had fixed the wrong ice machine. The one they fixed wasn’t broken, naturally.
  • 2:45 Got back to the office and consulted my “To be done at once” list. It said:
  1. Call Glass co. (about film for 21st St. windows).
  2. Talk to Finance Committees about Associate Member contracts.
  3. Article for newsletter on finances.
  4. Compute amount of money to be put in new Programs checking account.
  5. Call Bill Barvin (if I can find him).
  6. Revise statement forms.
  7. Get Terry to write up minutes from Membership meeting.
  8. Do Mutual Savings disbursement journal for July.
  9. Find General Journal entries for Jackie to post (I lost the paper).
  10. Make sure Jeannie finishes spread sheets.
  11. Call London Fabrics for 21st St. drape and blind estimates.
  • 2:50 The beer man came with the keg for Friday. No one else around, so I showed him where to put it and paid him.
  • 3:00 Called a bunch of glass tinting companies. Everyone is out and will call back. Terry came in and I got him to write up the minutes. ICC called and talked about joint advertising for the fall, but I don’t think we’ll do it this time.
  • 3:45 Worked on revising Robert Bayless’s suggested statements. Even made fair progress.
  • 4:45 Tried to call Bill Barvin. He’s working! Talked to his mother and he’ll call back (we hope).
  • 5:00 Time for Ark staff meeting; Terry is dragging me away…
  • 6:00 Went home. It was a better day than Wednesday – not exactly hassle-free, but bearable.

So that’s what happened for 2 days worth of time: a little of this, a little of that, and a whole lot of miscellaneous. What does an Executive Secretary do with his time? A difficult question to answer – I hope this will help.

Jim Jones

Jim Jones has worked with group housing cooperatives for over 40 years, serving as manager for the ICC in Ann Arbor, College Houses and ICC in Austin, the MSU-SHC in East Lansing, and nationally with NASCO/NASCO Properties/NASCO Development Services. Jim is the author of Many Hands: A History of the Austin Cooperative Community and his new book Hasten Slowly, and You Will Soon Arrive.