In today’s case, I awoke from a time-shifting dream about the early 1970s. It was a very vivid, yet hum-drum vision about walking my beat as a security guard. I could even smell the popcorn machine at the movie theater complex in the mall. This morning’s dream was so lucid, everything felt completely real.
In the early to mid 1970s, I was employed by California Plant Protection, Incorporated in San Jose. The longest running assignment was my patrol at the Oakridge Mall, in the southern part of San Jose.
I was issued a light blue, button-down oxford shirt with sewn on embroidered patches with the CPP logo on them, black polyester trousers, a police-style hat, a black, clip-on necktie and a badge to wear on the shirt. None of the guards were allowed to carry firearms at the mall, so no guns were issued.
Once per hour, I was required to carry the company’s watchman’s clock on a patrol around the interior and exterior of the mall premises. There were clock keys attached to chains kept in small lidded boxes bolted onto walls at various locations around the property. They were inserted into the watchman’s clock and turned to trigger a time stamp onto the paper tape wound up inside the clock. This was a way to determine if the guards made their rounds and if those rounds varied according to regulations. We were to vary our routines so that any potential troublemakers would supposedly not be able to predict our whereabouts easily.
The job was actually quite boring. I mainly had to keep an eye on adolescents who frequented the mall after school. After mall closing time, I had to be alert for signs of burglary.
There was a serious design flaw regarding the gates for each store. Above the gates were ledges and a large open space. All a burglar needed to do was to climb the gate, then crawl over the ledge and drop into the store.
There had only been one burglary during any of my shifts. Someone climbed the pet store’s gate and made off with a large cockatoo. The culprit escaped through the store’s back door, triggering the alarm. I was outside on my rounds when I heard the bells, but the getaway car drove off without its lights turned on, so I couldn’t read the license plate. I could only give a rough description of the vehicle to the San Jose PD.
A highlight of many evenings was when I was required to accompany the movie theaters’ manager to the bank. After the tickets for the last films were sold, we climbed into his Oldsmobile Cutlass and drove across the parking lot to the bank branch building that faced Blossom Hill Road so he could place the evening’s cash into the night depository. This was also the most hazardous part of the evening because we were vulnerable to armed robbery at this time. Luckily, we were never faced with that situation.
The worst problem with being a security guard was the constant standing and walking. Because of the low pay, I could only afford to buy cheap dress shoes. The pain was very distracting and made the job miserable. I reluctantly requested a new assignment because of this.
Eventually, I was sent to one of the San Jose Sperry Rand manufacturing plants. The rounds were more frequent but less dangerous. There was more concern for internal security and safety. At the end of each night, I sat at a small desk near the main entrance and checked the ID badges of employees arriving and leaving during the early morning shift change. This was my favorite assignment, because I met so many interesting people there.
Security guard work provided me with a humble paycheck and valuable discipline in paying attention. Yes, I might consider doing it again…with better shoes.