Reflecting on 35 years at Erie Events

by Patti Wigham, Administrative Assistant

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Patti waiting for the Hogwarts train! Patti is a big Harry Potter fan.

After working at the Erie Insurance Arena for 35 years, it’s time for me to retire and I would like to take this opportunity to say goodbye and thank you to all the wonderful patrons that I have talked to and assisted on the phones during this time.  It has been a real pleasure for me as the vast majority of these patrons have been courteous; appreciative of the help they’re given and just utterly delightful.

What started out as working a few hours a day for a few days a week as a phone clerk quickly turned into a full time job working forty hours per week as an administrative assistant/receptionist.  I love my job for a number of reasons and I have a lot of fond memories from years gone by.  It’s never the same day twice working at the Erie Insurance Arena and that’s what makes it enjoyable.  My immediate supervisors were flexible when I needed flexibility and the work environment was always pleasant.

I wonder how many people remember what it was like way back when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus came to town.  The circus animals, including the elephants, would arrive by train.  A procession from the train station to the arena would follow.  People would line up along the parade route to catch a glimpse of these circus animals and the mood was always festive.   Long ago, the circus animals were housed in the “old Sears building” between performances and overnight.

I wonder how many people remember that the “old Sears building” once served as a meeting/exhibit hall.  Who remembers going to one of the Haunted Houses held there years ago?   If you did, I was there selling tickets.  I’m sure there are some people who would even remember going to the Haunted Houses that were hosted at the Warner Theatre with the proceeds benefitting the Warner Theatre restoration.

Many, many years ago, the Warner Theatre hosted a summer film festival featuring old-time movies.  It gave everyone a chance to see these movies on the big screen at very reasonable prices.  Does anyone remember going to any of these films?  I remember that on “Opening Night” of the summer film series, employees would dress up elegantly like the actors and actresses starring in the films and they would arrive in front of the Warner Theatre to walk ‘the red carpet’.  Fans would be assembled to take their pictures and then go inside to watch the film.

Another memorable event was watching the demolition of the “old Sears building” from our office window. This demolition was making way for the construction of the ballpark. We (my coworkers and I) also watched the entire construction of the ballpark from our office.  It was completed in May of 1995.  We attended the grand opening of the ballpark which was quite a great celebration.

Years and years ago, as an administrative assistant, I had a great deal of typing to do and this was before word processors.  I used a typewriter and carbon paper if I needed duplicates.  When typing purchase orders, there were three pages – one was white, one was yellow and one was pink.  I was lucky enough to have white, yellow and pink Wite Out for my typographical errors.  I was ecstatic when I received my computer.  The typewriter, carbon paper and Wite Out became obsolete.  I also remember that our first copier was called a Xerox machine.  Copies made were often referred to as carbon copies.

I fondly remember coming in to work the day after our first Elton John Concert (April 2000) to find a huge floral arrangement sitting on my desk.  After making a few inquiries, I learned that the show promoter for this concert arranged for me to receive these beautiful flowers that were in Elton John’s dressing room.  I was very touched by this kind gesture.

I remember there were two days during my employment where the mood in the office was extremely somber and not much work was accomplished.  The staff stayed glued to the small television set in the office all day trying to make sense of what was happening. The first disaster was when the Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff on January 28, 1986 with seven people killed.  The staff was heartbroken to hear about this.   They were even more distressed to watch what was occurring in our country on September 11, 2001.   We saw the devastation and destruction.  We learned about the loss of thousands of lives and we heard about the heroes who gave their lives helping others.

For quite some time, I served as swear police for our main office.  I was given a genuine certificate and a shiny badge to substantiate my appointment to this position.  I was in charge of the swear jar and I was very diligent in collecting $1.00 per offense.  Once, when the jar was full, we had enough money to buy dinner for all of us.  After that, the money collected was used to purchase clothing and toys for the homeless children we sponsored each year.

As my last day of work grows nearer, I’m asked more and more frequently what my plans are when I retire.  I’ll have been given the gift of time, which is the time to pursue all my hobbies and interests.  Birdwatching is my first love.  Photography is my second.  Two of my photos have appeared in wildlife calendars and I’ve won numerous ribbons for photos I’ve entered into contests.  I’m going to take some time when I retire to become more familiar with my fairly new camera and zoom lenses.  I need to learn how to use all the special features available to me.

I’m an avid reader of mostly non-fiction and mostly historical biographies.  I’m very interested in World War II, the Underground Railroad, the weather, birds & migration and life within the Arctic Circle.  I thoroughly enjoy coloring in my adult coloring books with my sparkle gel pens.   I’m also a “collector.”  I collect beach pottery and beach glass.  I collect Hallmark ornaments, focusing mainly on “The Beauty of Birds” and “Harry Potter”.   I collect some pop culture and movie dolls.  I have Barbie and Midge, Tris (Divergent/Insurgent), Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games), Harry Potter dolls and Jacob (Twilight).  I’m a novice “cloud collector” and I’m looking forward to learning more and more about clouds as I go along.

I think I’ll be busier when I retire than when I worked here.  And that’s fine with me.

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