Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Our Omaha Oasis

Hi Bill

I have been thinking about when Pat and I lived in Omaha.

I had completed my master’s degree in Library Science at Pitt during the spring of 1977 and I began searching for employment. I realized that I wasn’t likely to get a job in Pittsburgh or even in Pennsylvania. Therefore I expanded to a national job search.

In June, I was invited for an interview at The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO). They bought me a plane ticket and paid for my hotel. When I stepped off the plane I realized that I wasn’t in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia anymore. No, I was on the plains and I felt like a tenderfoot in the wild west. However, I was optimistic. The interview included lots of individual and group meetings over a few days. I was impressed with the library and I liked the people, including the Head of Reference (Maureen P.) who would be my supervisor. I also liked the librarians and staff members that I met. Evidently they liked me too because they offered me a reference librarian position shortly after I got back to Pittsburgh. I accepted the job and was excited to begin a professional position with a decent salary and benefits.

Pat and I flew to Omaha to find an apartment and as we flew over the city we were struck by how small it appeared compared to other cities where we had lived. Amazingly, the Head of Reference (Maureen P.) invited us to stay at her house while we were there. That was a very interesting visit. She warned us to ignore any strange noises during the night because her husband (Jerry) stayed up all night and had interesting hobbies. We discovered that he was quite a character when he demonstrated his prowess with a dart blowgun and a styrofoam head and other eccentric behaviors. Unfortunately, Maureen informed me that she had resigned from her position at UNO and was leaving town before I would begin work in July. (BTW: She later became an extremely well-respected leader in the library profession.) Anyway, Maureen and other UNO librarians were very kind and helped us find a wonderful duplex in the desirable Dundee neighborhood of Omaha, which we quickly learned to love.

4611 Wakeley St. Omaha, Late-1970s

We moved to Omaha in early July and I began working immediately. I was grateful to realize that Pitt had well prepared me to begin my career as an academic librarian. However, I also realized that I had a lot to learn. Luckily my terrific new colleagues at UNO were happy to help me and teach me how to be a good academic librarian. They were all amazing colleagues and good friends to both Pat and me. 

My Colleagues at the Reference Desk in the UNO Library, Late-1970s

  •  Pat F. was a very entertaining woman who talked rapidly and constantly, but you did not want to be in a car that she was driving – that was frightening. She was also an excellent business/economics librarian. She eventually moved to the University of Iowa and sadly succumbed to an early death from cancer. 
  • Laurene Z. taught me much about being a good reference librarian. She was also our lead instruction librarian and she helped me become comfortable in the classroom and how to develop and present effective instructional sessions. She was also a good friend. 
  • Patrick B. was also an excellent reference librarian and he became our very good friend. He eventually left UNO some years after we had moved on. He went to La Crosse, WI where he worked at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. He has since retired and still lives in La Crosse. We have visited him there and keep in touch via occasional emails. 
  • Tom T. was the new Head of Reference and he was a knowledgeable, thoughtful and fair supervisor. I felt fortunate to be working under him. Pat and I became friends with him and his wife. I was happy to see him at a few conferences after I left UNO. 
  • There were so many wonderful people that I worked with at UNO, including Mel B. (and wife Vickie), John H. (and wife Dorothy), Bruce M., Jane O., Janet K. and many more. The entire staff of that library (and many faculty and staff beyond the library) formed a large family of support and we were happy to be included in that family, which had many get-togethers, pot lucks, etc.

Patrick B., Rayna, Zeb in La Crosse WI, Mid-1980s

Patrick B., Zeb, Rayna, Pat in La Crosse WI,  Mid-1980s

We quickly embraced life in Omaha and especially our neighborhood (Dundee) and the little duplex we shared with Mr. and Mrs. Orland J. (a wonderful retired couple). I was able to ride my bicycle to work and back during most of the late spring, summer and early fall. Dundee had a business area with a grocery store, drug store and some other shops and restaurants. We were also close to a Target and other stores. The Omaha Old Market area was a unique and fun place to shop and eat. There was a large mall that was not far and other smaller malls even closer. Activities and cultural opportunities were also prevalent, including art museums, symphony, a very nice zoo and lots more to keep us happy. We attended UNO sporting events and I took in some of the annual College World Series games. We also came to like visiting Lincoln NE, where the state capitol and the University of Nebraska resided. In addition, Pat got a job at the Omaha Public Library and liked it very much, including the guy who wore underwear boxers on his head and danced in the library lobby, and other interesting characters. 

My Mom (Marie) and Aunt Pauline traveled by train to visit us in 1978. We took them all over Omaha, including the zoo and shopping areas and restaurants. We took them to a very popular Omaha Italian restaurant (I can’t recall the name) which was decked with gaudy statues and Christmas-tree colored light strings on the exterior and interior. It was also famous for its great food. We had a very nice meal, but Mom and Aunt Pauline were most impressed by the gaudy décor. They just thought it was so “swank.” We had a wonderful evening at that restaurant. Mom was even drinking coffee during that meal, although she was not a coffee drinker. We also took them to Boys Town, Lincoln, the State Capitol grounds, etc. during that visit. 

Aunt Pauline, Marie,Clark, Pat in Lincoln NE 1978

In July 1979, our daughter (Rayna) was born in Omaha. That was an amazingly joyful time in our lives (of course). My Mother and Aunt Pauline visited again to meet Rayna, and we all focused on baby Rayna instead of sightseeing.

Pat, Rayna,, Clark 1979
Marie (Clark's Mother) with Rayna 1979

Clark's Aunt Pauline with Rayna 1979

Rayna’s joyful birth changed our lives in more ways than we expected. I quickly decided that I needed to make more money. The Dean of Libraries (Robert R.) liked to take us for walks around campus or on the adjacent golf course to talk. During a couple of golf-course walks, he tried to convince me that he would make it worthwhile for me to remain at UNO. He was a great guy and I liked working with him, but I wanted to go to a bigger library system and a bigger city with a bigger salary. Therefore, I got a new job at the University of Cincinnati, Central Library and we moved in late June 1980. Pat drove herself and Rayna in our car and I drove a U-Haul truck full of our stuff to Cincinnati. BTW: While Pat and I flew to Cincinnati to find a place to live, we left Rayna with Janet K. (a very good and trusted friend) and her family. Janet had a couple of older kids and evidently Rayna liked Janet’s family, because she didn’t want to leave them when we came to retrieve her. 

Clark in the UNO Library, Late-1970s

Pat and Clark shortly before leaving Omaha, 1980

Bill – We enjoyed living in Omaha and still enjoy visiting that city, which is not too far from Sioux Falls. I wish you could have visited us while we lived there.

I hope you and your family are well and happy.

Take care.

Sincerely Clark

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