As if working at two law firms and a credit bureau weren’t demanding enough, Betty Cannon went out and found a challenging role at a place where colorful characters and changing commerce meet.
Becoming a reliable, important part of the Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce proved to be a welcome respite, a different type of job from the one that meant processing paperwork on loans and bankruptcies, divorces and adoptions.
“But I had no idea that I was going to be there 44 years either,” Cannon said from her Auburn home. “If someone would have said that the first day I walked in, I probably would have walked back out or told them they were crazy. It just happened and I stayed.”
Cannon, 71, recently decided she had stayed long enough and retired, ending a long, fulfilling run that saw her be everything from receptionist to bookkeeper, community liaison to office manager.
“Even chief cook and bottle washer,” Cannon said with a grin.
During her time as a dependable front office personality with the chamber, Cannon worked under five managers – Bill Johnson, Bob Gaines, Gene Kasper, Mike Morrisette and Nancy Wyatt – and endured four office moves.
Through all the changes, Cannon persevered.
“Usually when they have a new manager come in, they make changes,” Cannon said. “But they all kept me instead of cleaning house.”
Cannon had the people skills, the demeanor.
“Betty brought such a wealth of knowledge about not just the chamber but the Auburn community as a whole. She knew where the skeletons kept skeletons,” said Wyatt, the chamber’s current president and chief operating officer. “She is an integral part of Auburn. Her connections in the community really helped me to quickly get acclimated over 7 1/2 years ago.”
Born and raised in South Dakota, Cannon lived on a cattle and sheep farm and went to a country school where all eight grades were taught in one classroom.
Better opportunity brought the family from the farm to the Northwest in 1960. Her father was a truck driver, her mother worked at a credit bureau.
Cannon would marry. She and her husband, Ron, raised a son, Mike.
In 1971, a car accident claimed her husband. But Cannon stayed close to family and remained in Auburn.
She did clerical work before landing a job with the chamber. When she began her new job, the chamber had between 150 and 200 members. Today, that membership has more than doubled.
“Years ago you knew most of your members,” Cannon said. “But today you don’t see or know everybody. It has changed so much. There has been so much growth.”
Back then, the manual typewriter, pen and pencil were the tools of the trade that kept the books. Today, of course, computers have streamlined the process.
All of which makes Cannon’s head swim.
“It just went. It went quickly when you look back on it,” Cannon said of her career. “You don’t realize it at the time, but you do once you look back on it.”
Through the hard days, Cannon’s sense of humor made the tough suff easier to handle.
“If you’re not laughing, you’re crying,” she said.
In retirement, Cannon intends to stay busy in her community with volunteer work. She makes time for her 94-year-old mother, Ardis Kansanback, who lives down the street. They frequently go to the casino to play bingo.
“It was a good run,” Cannon said of her time with the chamber. “Not every day was good … but I enjoyed it. I will miss the people.”
Cannon has left her mark.
“I miss having her sense of humor and sense of fun and mischief in our office,” Wyatt said. “No matter what event we attended, everyone knew and loved Betty.
“She is greatly missed here at our office.”