Credit: Sarah Louise Klose

The office door resembles that of private detective Sam Spade. Peer through the dusty inset glass and you’ll see red square telephones with attached pencil holders. Don Ruda opened Key Personnel at 4006 N. Milwaukee in 1952, to secure permanent clerical jobs for young women—for a 12 percent salary fee. “Catholic high school girls started the Monday after graduation,” says Ruda’s wife, Jackie Barratt, who joined in 1973 (keeping her maiden name so folks wouldn’t think it was a mom-and-pop). “The nuns pounded dictation and shorthand into their heads.” Barratt continued operating the agency with five extensions on her push-button phones—no cell phones or computers—until 2007 when her husband fell ill.

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