Sitting Around at Fireman's Fund

I Was There . . .

by Helena Worthen, 2021

View E from Fairmont Apr 1967 wnp25.6519.jpg

View east along Sacramento Street into heart of Financial District, April 1967.


In the winter of 1966 I worked for Fireman’s Fund Insurance up on Sacramento Street. I was never clear what my job was supposed to be. I was also angry that the girl across the aisle from me was being trained to “work with computers.” The computers were as big as closets and stood in a row in a refrigerated room down the hall. While she was learning about this cutting-edge stuff, I was just sitting around. However, I was sympathetic with her because she was sick a lot. She was gaining weight and experiencing knock-down depressions that would last for days. It turned out that she was taking Enovid, the early birth control pill. You could get an abortion in San Francisco if you could get a psychiatrist to sign off that you were suicidal, so women were coaching each other about how to act and look suicidal, but it was obviously better to prevent pregnancy in the first place; we were still seven years out from Roe versus Wade. There was one psychiatrist known to many of us who specialized in these sign-offs, for a fee.

The computer-girl and I were friends with the cool guy in the photocopy room. He asked if we’d seen these “hippies.” He explained the difference: “They are like the Beats, but they’re not non-violent.”

I was fired from that job when I told my boss, who wore blue contact lenses, that I was bored and demanded to be paid more to make up for that. He asked, “Who do you think you are?” I had an exit interview with the HR woman who said I was the kind of person that Fireman’s Fund wanted to retain, but it was too late.