Festive Air of 'Hiring Hall' : 1,000 in First-Day Line for 487 Jobs

Times Staff Writer

Standing, sitting, pushing strollers or clutching briefcases, more than 1,000 job seekers lined the grounds of the Torrance Recreation Center last week, vying for the 487 jobs being offered by the Torrance Marriott Hotel that will open next month.

But the first-day applicants on Thursday were only the first wave in what Marriott officials expect will be a sea of more than 5,000 people who will apply for jobs with the hotel by the time hiring ends Jan. 25. The 427-room hotel opens Feb. 20.

The "hiring hall," as it was informally called, wore a festive air, with pillars of multicolored balloons sparkling in the morning sun and a rainbow of balloons straddling the entrance. Nearby, an enterprising food truck owner parked his mobile cafeteria strategically near the front of the line, where those who had been standing longest were easy targets.

The line itself represented a cross section of Americans. Older men in three-piece suits stood next to boys in Army fatigue jackets and jeans. Women in pearls and silk dresses chatted amiably with those sporting polyester attire. People with 20 years work experience gave tips to teen-agers braving their first interview.

While many came with specific jobs in mind--from dishwasher to security guard, from laundry attendant to reservations clerk--others sought only relief from the numbing monotony of unemployment.

Hope of Breaking Out "I'd work 24 hours a day if they'd give me a job--any job," said Susan Madrid, 21, of Gardena. Madrid, who has been out of work for a year and a half, said she had been denied both unemployment and welfare after leaving her clerk's job with Los Angeles County.

"I would work hard if someone would let me, but nobody wants to give you a chance," she said. "Everybody talks about the economy booming, but I don't see it. I wish those government people had to wait four hours in line and not even know if they're going to get a job. They just sit in their fancy houses . . . and tell the rest of us how great things are. They don't know what young people have to go through to get work."

Others, like 21-year-old Latrice Mitchell, came in the hope of breaking out of the low-paying menial jobs they had taken in the past.

Attired in a black-and-white checked dress with black stockings and a scarlet belt, Mitchell said she had taken special care with her appearance, hoping to get a job as a front-desk clerk.

"I was doing janitorial work," she said, "but I want something better than that. There's no future in it. I'd be willing to start off at minimum wage if they'd just give me something where I had a chance to move up."

Marriott spokesman Jeff Loo said that while only one applicant in 10 could be hired, the lucky ones stand a good chance of moving up.

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