From the book, “Pensacola’s Finest in Pictures,” by Mike Simmons (available on Amazon)
On February 27, 1958, the Pensacola City Council approved a new program called “Women Parking Control Officers.” The idea was fairly new, maybe a year old. It was found that women could be hired, provided tailored uniforms and trained to monitor parking meters, illegal parking, “meter feeders,” and various other parking violations downtown. The ladies would be paid the same wages as a clerk 1 and would operate on foot.
The idea was that people wouldn’t become as upset over receiving a citation from a woman as they would from a man. Popularly known as “Meter Maids,” the program was designed to hire five qualified applicants to patrol the traffic areas of the city and issue citations to violators. The candidates had to be female, 108—135 lbs, at least 5’ 3” in height. Monthly pay was from $276 to $321. The first meter maids to take an oath were Betty Gent, Mildred Johnson, Elizabeth Rutherford, Elizabeth Hubbard, and Willie Bryan.
At first, expectations that parking violators would better receive a citation from an attractive female were met with high hopes and a light-hearted attitude. The meter maids’ supervisor, Emory Castro (left), seemed to have an easy job.
However, all was not as it seemed. Before long, the question came up regarding the female officers’ authority. Were they police officers? No. But they had taken an oath and they had the authority to issue citations. How much authority did they have? If they could issue citations, that meant any citations (in those days), including speeding, running stop signs, etc. One Meter Maid said she had issued tickets for drunk driving. So the argument expanded to cover the question, “If an officer gives a citation to a criminal for a crime, shouldn’t she be paid the same as other officers?”
Another question arose. If they were in uniform and wearing a badge, shouldn’t they be armed? Another one – what about the pay grades, and promotions and retirements? What was that doing to the budget?
What started as a comical, easy answer to a small problem exploded into a major issue, especially with budget belt-tightening now becoming necessary. Easy – just fire the women. Problem taken care of. Uh…no.
The women appealed. Judge M. C. Blanchard agreed. The women were let go in violation of civil service law. He ordered them back to work with back pay.
Suddenly, whoever the brilliant guy was that came up with the idea was not looked on as favorably as he had been. On October 31, 1963, all Parking Control Officer positions were abolished. The women either quit or were transferred to other positions of equal pay. All in all, the backpay the city fathers had to fork over amounted to $12,200.
So, it seemed that the City of Pensacola learned a valuable lesson. If you play games with a woman’s money, you will lose.