Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

December 2012

My first job with a corporation was with a big one: National Dairy Products. Kraft Foods and Sealtest were the two big brands but not the only ones. Others included Breakstone Yogurt and Metropolitan Ice Cream. There was even a fleet of tuna boats in Australia, plus grain barges on the Great Lakes, a vegetable oil operation in Tennessee, and probably some more I forgot.

I joined the internal audit staff, a 100 percent–travel position. It was October and I was given an audit bag, an Air Travel card, the weekend off, a ticket from Boston to Kansas City, an expense advance of $100, and a checking account. 

A friend gave me a ride to the airport and I barely made the flight. While landing in Kansas City, we made a scary skim over a berm at the end of the runway that separated the airfield from the feed lots and slaughterhouses where steers go to make us dinners.

I was 22 years old, a recent college grad and, in many ways, dumber than a stump.

I had two bucks in cash and was clueless as to the hotel location where a reservation had been made for me. A nice real business man who had been my seat mate offered me a ride, which I gratefully accepted.

The next day I met the team: an auditor in charge, two seniors, and me, the lowly junior — he who counts petty cash, gets coffee, and keeps his mouth shut.

For compensation, I received a weekly salary of $100 and daily per diem of $6.50 — six for food and half a buck for a newspaper and shoeshine reimbursed monthly to the penny, based on a detailed expense report. I was instructed to put laundry through the hotel to be paid with my Air Travel card and make sure all the other expenses could equal the per diem times the number of days in the period but with no single day exactly $6.50. 

Piece of cake. I soon learned that I could have my paycheck deposited into a savings account and I could live on my lavish expense account, given that I was otherwise homeless.

Every auditor — I think the entire staff numbered around 70 — could elect any domicile they wanted. You were allowed to travel home one weekend a month or between engagements. Some of the auditors had real homes but most were homeless like me, The cool guys chose Las Vegas as their domicile; I picked my mother’s efficiency apartment in Boston.

All audit work ceased around the 20th of December to not further depress branch managers at audit locations. So, at the conclusion of a Sealtest plant audit in Kansas City and then the Kraft plant, also in Kansas City, I was home for the holidays with a flight out of Boston on New Year’s Day, 1963, to Charlotte, N.C.

I was very proud of myself, I had money in the bank and clean shirts and my mother was very happy that I had settled down. It was my fourth job already in the year and a half out of college. I’ve had four more jobs since then. This last one started about 29 years ago.