“Sickness should be an alternative to health, not vice versa,” says Jane Lumsden. “In taking care of what we put into our bodies we can prevent a lot of discomfort and disease. We’re giving our bodies an option to be healthy.”
If Jane looks and sounds like a hired spokesperson for Semilla Natural Foods store, that’s fine because she owns it.
As a teenager in California during the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Jane was privy to the first stirrings of a “natural” movement that’s just now coming to the attention of a nation and world concerned with rejecting the chemical and artificial in pursuit of personal health and the health of the planet. Finding this philosophy compatible with her own ideals, Jane came to Las Vegas as a 16-year-old in 1972 to join her boyfriend in starting up a natural foods store: Old Town Natural Foods. There were good times and there were lean times.
“We had no business plan, no plans of any kind,” says Jane. “We just worked hard and in blind faith we never doubted that we’d make it.”
Being a small business has not always been an easy path, but the store has survived and expanded greatly. What’s more important to Jane, however, is the purpose it serves in her life.
“I’m lucky in that my business is a physical expression of my belief. I feel that by taking care of our bodies and our own health with whole foods, we’re taking the first step toward caring better for our families and our homes, and subsequently our communities and the earth,” she explains. “I also get to learn something new every day in this business.”
Learning is very important to Jane because through it she sees a way to be a complete, happy person, avoiding stagnation and depression.
“There’ve been times I’ve gotten stuck and didn’t seem to go forward. I’ve had to consciously open my eyes a little wider and make a decision to change and to learn.”
She continues, “All that anyone could want to learn is close at hand – and it doesn’t have to be in a classroom. Life offers many lessons and if we’re willing to see that, we can be learning all the time.”
Recently, Jane moved into a house of her own design that’s taken twelve years to build. She’s also an avid rider and owns several horses.
“Those things used to be only dreams for me,” she says. “Having a dream, going after it and getting it sets you up for knowing anything is possible. It’s a good example for other people, too.
“I do know that I can have anything I want – I can do anything I dream.” Adds Jane with a smile, “I just have to be careful what I dream.”
Blair Mahon was laughing out loud by the time she finished relating her career ventures of the past seventeen years.
“I’ve never listed these things before and they sound kind of crazy all together!”
She began: “Right after college I opened a sea shell shop in Dallas. I had it about a year and the main thing it did was lead to something else. See, I had taken this one wall in the shop and stamped all over it with a sea shell stamp I cut out of a potato. Everyone really liked that wall! So I thought, ‘Why couldn’t I block-print on fabric and sell it as a wall hanging?’ Well, a friend and I started a business doing that. We began with a potato, too, and advanced to screen-printing. We had about 400 accounts and did it for about ten years. I met my husband Phil during that time when he and I and my partner Nancy were working nights at a sandwich shop. We had a great time.”
“Then I moved here with Phil and while we were working at other jobs I got an idea to make poured-plaster reproductions of antique bonnet stands. I called them Folk Heads and sold them through the World Trade Center.”
“After Folk Heads came Animal Rackers, fiberboard cutouts of life-size human figures with animal heads. We thought they’d be fun to use in the store windows or around the house. But my partner moved away and they were never marketed. So Earl Tarr, who had been cutting our fiberboard started working with me building log furniture I designed.”
“I still do the furniture and I really enjoy it, but it’s very part-time now because I’ve got two preschool children, and then there’s the inn. That’s my main job right now.”
(The “inn” is Starhill Inn, the only astronomy resort in the country and perhaps the world. It’s a dream of Blair’s husband’s that they operate together. Using her college education in interior design, Blair designed the inn and its five cabins just north of Las Vegas.)
And to think it all started with a potato.
After learning what really makes Cecilia Montano happy, one might wonder how she’s survived – even thoroughly enjoyed – a desk job for 21 years.
“I grew up in a big Christian family on a ranch in Lovato. My dad worked all week in Albuquerque and my mother and the kids stayed home. We had goats, pigs, ducks, chickens, and vegetables! I always worked outside helping my mother and I loved it.”
And when she retires from her work at New Mexico Highlands University in a little over four years?
“I want to build some sort of resort or inn on our land by San Jose. I want to work outside again.”
Cecilia Montano is a secretary and she began that career track when she was ten. That was when her father, home from the city, presented her with a used typewriter and an instructional typing booklet with the words, ‘If you practice typing you can grow up to be a secretary and make a good living for yourself.”
Cecilia recalls, “It was very important to my father that my sisters and I grow up to have careers and be independent. He knew that from what he saw working in Albuquerque. But he just naturally encouraged all of us in what were primarily female jobs.”
Cecilia Montano is a secretary in a day when many young women look past career options just because they’re termed “traditionally female.” But as Cecilia will tell you, hers is a career where one can rise to a position of extreme responsibility and authority. For eleven years she’s held the title of Administrative Assistant to the Vice President, and she occupies her own spacious corner office in Highlands’ Rogers Hall.
“It used to be that most of a secretary’s work was strictly behind a typewriter. That’s all changed now,” says Cecilia. “A secretary must have good communication skills and be able to work well with people. I work very closely with Dr. Rivera and that means added responsibility. Confidentiality is also very important in a position such as this.”
Cecilia highly recommends a secretarial career for young women – or men. Though in the past secretaries often fell short in the income and respect departments, Cecilia believes that’s changing, too.
“A competent secretary is a necessity nowadays. A busy professional can really improve his or her work and image with the help of a good, trained secretary.”
Susan Oster Drye knows first hand that being a woman in business for herself has drawbacks as well as rewards.
In 1988 Susan took over as president of Air Lock Log Co., a business that manufactures hollow, tongue-and-grooved logs for use in construction. The company had a successful history before and after its relocation to Las Vegas from Prescott, Arizona in 1972, but by the time Susan took the reins it had begun to suffer from some prior administration’s errors. Though it would not be an easy task given the recessive economy of the time, Susan determined to turn the troubled company around. But she found it difficult to convince others that she could do it, even with more than 20 years experience in the business that had originally been her parents’ while Susan was growing up. Susan believes her biggest obstacle in finding the necessary help was the fact that she was a woman.
“I got angry when people doubted I could do it and that fueled me to succeed. It was tough, but the company’s over the rough spot now and it’s mostly because I needed to meet that challenge. I have to give credit also to the on-going support of my family and employees – they backed me every step of the way.”
Yet, in spite of recent history, the rewards of heading her own company are many, according to Susan.
“Since my parents ran Air Lock Log Co. when I was growing up I knew that the work situation could be a plus for raising a family, and it’s been the same with my own daughters. You’re fairly flexible with your time so you can usually be there when your child needs you.”
“I also relish the creativity that’s required to run a company. Every day there’s a new challenge, something for me to learn. I just passed my contractor’s license test – that’s the first step toward a new direction for my business, another service we’ll be able to offer the customer. We’re also up for a big lodge project in San Francisco that would be wonderful to work on.”
“It’s exciting thinking about all the possibilities for the company – the choices I’ll have to make and the personal opportunities I’ll have as we grow.”
Rheua Pearce works long hours for someone who will be 97 years old on April 1.
“I work 24-hours a day,” she claims. “During the daytime I’m on the telephone. At night I’m working in my dreams.” It’s true. If you’re fortunate enough to know this dedicated lady, chances are you’ve been awakened at least once, bright and early, by the sound of your telephone ringing followed by Rheua’s urgent voice detailing a new slant on a project.
What’s she calling and dreaming about?
With roughly 80 years experience as an adult, she’s seen a lot of things in American society and the world that could stand improvement. Finding what works best to promote peace, equality, justice, and caring among the world’s citizenry is Rheua’s “job.”
Rheua has held so many positions and done so much volunteering that the list is rather resume-defying. For the sake of perspective, however, an example of one of her most important jobs was with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration that saw Rheua studying the rebuilding in Europe following World War II. In her adopted hometown, Rheua served as the first chair of the City’s Historic Design Review Board and was one of the organizers of the Citizens’ Committee for Historic Preservation.
Her latest job description?
“I’m a catalyst,” she says. “– a catalyst in human behavior. I don’t have to convince anyone to believe the same way I do. There are always many viewpoints. But I don’t like apathy. I encourage people to participate more.”
At any one time, Rheua may be involved in four or five separate projects that share a common goal. Lately, she’s been concentrating on the different roles women and men will have to play to keep alive the pursuit of true democracy and to work to save our planet.
“I think there’s a lot of work to be done and it will involve women and men working together. But I believe women are going to be leading the crusade. Women seem especially suited to caring for society and the earth because it’s already inherent in us to care – for our children, our brothers and sisters, our parents, our friends.”
“It’s important for all of us working together to remember that cooperation is a better motivator than competition.”
On the subject of work, Rheua laughingly calls herself a “self-made vocational counselor,” but offers the following advice:
“People of all ages should be open to volunteering. Some of my best jobs started as volunteer work. It’s a good way to get experience and to give something at the same time. If you see a job that needs to be done and you care about it, do it voluntarily.” Rheua points out, “ All of the work I’m doing now is as a volunteer.”
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