John D. Jefferies knows how hard it is to find a jobAs a...


July 12, 1992|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

John D. Jefferies knows how hard it is to find a job

As a politician, union activist and chair of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, state Del. John D. Jefferies has non-stop work to do.

The Democrat remembers, however, when he had none.

Some 30 years ago, he spent nine long months knocking on doors, filling out job applications and being rejected. The stress helped break up his first marriage and tested his faith in himself.

So when the new head of the local Black Caucus says he's making minority jobs a priority during his one-year term, you understand where he's coming from.

"I know how tough it is to get a job. But if we're going to get people off the street, we have to get them work," he says.

He found meaning in even his first job -- selling the Afro-American newspaper at age 7 -- which taught him pride and independence. He now applies this ethic to his work as the directing business representative for District Lodge 12 of the International Association of Machinists.

"My philosophy is one foot at a time, but always forward," says the 64-year-old grandfather, who lives in West Baltimore.

And when the stress of answering to the Machinists, the 39th District and African-Americans in the state becomes too much, he has his own way of letting off steam.

"I go out on the parking lot," he says, "and holler."

To someone whose favorite pastime was sailing, the news in '' 1942 was exciting: The war was forcing the Navy to accept women.

R. Polly Flanigan Shannahan signed up the next day and within weeks became Maryland's first WAVE (Women Accepted Voluntary Emergency Service) officer of the Navy.

She and other WAVES will relive their experiences when the Chesapeake Unit sponsors a 50th anniversary celebration Saturday at 9 a.m. aboard the USF Constellation.

Being in the Navy "changes you. It gives you inner strength and a way of organizing your life. You don't have time to be afraid," says Ms. Shannahan, 76, who lives near Oxford.

In fact, just moments after reporting to the Howard Street armory, she received her first assignment: to recruit would-be WAVES on a radio show.

"When you're in the Navy and you're told to do something, you don't say no. You just try your best to do it," says the mother of six.

During her two years of service, she became a sought-after guest at various events and signed up hundreds of women at everything from flag-raising ceremonies to club dinners nearly every day of the week.

"People wanted to see a WAVE. It was a novelty," she says.

Despite recent charges of sexual harassment in the Navy, Ms. Shannahan says she was always treated with respect by her male colleagues.

Her only regret was that she and her other WAVES were kept on shore duty.

L She says, "I really wanted to deal directly with the ships."

Have someone to suggest? Write Mary Corey, Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, or call (410) 332-6156.

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