Meridian Made Memories:
When Betty Hatchett enrolled at Indian Meridian Area Vocational-Technical School in 1979, she wasn’t sure what her future would hold.
Earlier that year she had a painful foot surgery that left her unable to return to her employment, since it required her to be on her feet all day.
It didn’t take long for her to realize that she needed to make a change to be able to help support her family. “It was a real eye opener to realize that I could no longer do the job that I was trained to do, a job that I loved to do. At the time I didn’t know what would happen to me,” she recalled thinking back to what she now sees as a critical turning point in her life.
The Power of Choice
Unsure of what avenues were available to her, the newly displaced worker sought guidance from the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, a state agency dedicated to expanding the opportunities for Oklahomans with disabilities. After assessing her strengths and natural curiosities with the agency’s Vocational Rehabilitation department, Hatchett decided to enroll in the Secretarial Training program at Indian Meridian Area Vocational-Technical School.
“I loved to read and I had a highly developed vocabulary. I just knew that program would be a perfect fit,” she said with certainty.
Hatchett recounted how she quickly excelled in the career training program and said she often finished her assignments in advance since she had a typewriter at home, unlike most of her fellow students.
“Every night I would just come home and type and type,” she said. “A few weeks after Christmas break I walked into the classroom and gave Ms. McCune, my teacher, the entire semester’s assignments.”
Hatchett remembered the sense of pride she had for accomplishing this virtually unheard of task. As a reward for her hard work and persistence, she was asked to assist McCune as a class aid for the afternoon session. While her new role was voluntary, it allowed her to continue practicing her skills and take on additional assignments. There were a few things that she never felt like she mastered though.
“My shorthand was never going to be able to get me a job. I could write it but I never could read it later. As you can imagine, the second part is just as important as the first part,” she laughingly said.
Meridian Made Memories
When she graduated in 1980 Hatchett had gained clerical experience with a mimeograph machine, an IBM Selectric typewriter with a ball attachment, an electronic typewriter and a 10-key adding machine. She put nearly all of her skills to work at her first job as a secretary at the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
“I thought it would be a perfect job,” she said. “I would get to wear nice clothes and I didn’t really think I would have to work that hard.”
Hatchett said it didn’t take her long to realize that while she got to dress the part of a secretary in the 1980s, she was also able to put all of her skills to use as part of her duties included working as a typing clerk for an office that included 23 veterinarians.
“When I started that job I knew one way to do something – Ms. McCune’s way. By the end of my first day I found out there was at least 23 ways,” she said.
Hatchett took the challenge to learn each vet’s preference as a way to make herself more marketable in her career field. For nearly 30 years the skills that Hatchett acquired in McCune’s classroom kept her employed in a career that continued to challenge her and fuel her passion for learning. Hatchett eventually found her niche as a medical transcriptionist. From familiarizing herself with medical terminology and prescription medications, she thrived on the challenge to learn something new.
“There’s not a lot of people these days that spend their whole lives in one career field,” she said. “I did because I loved what I was doing. I don’t think my career turned out too bad for someone who grew up in Enid during the late 1930s, had little formal education and some real health problems to overcome.”
Sitting from the nursing home room she shares with her husband of nearly a half of a century, Hatchett admitted that while her career took a lot of twists and turns, she always found herself in a position for improvement and professional growth.
“At school I learned pretty early on that if you try hard and love what you are doing then you’ll never be out of work,” she said. “That was something that Ms. McCune taught me. I never forgot that lesson. It carried me quite well over the years.”