CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Can I help you, honey?"
She's a fixture at CAMC General Hospital. She's there in the lobby from 6 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., in her customary spot behind the round information desk, answering questions and dispensing passes to patient rooms.
That's Frances Dickson, the one who calls everybody honey. She has snow-white hair and wears dangling hoop earrings and a spiffy white shirt with a bold security patch and a gleaming silver badge.
At 86, she still enjoys every minute of the job she has loved from the day she started 49 years ago.
If you want to see someone upstairs, she's a softie. Heartbreak of her own fills her with compassion for people visiting loved ones in the hospital.
"I grew up in North Charleston on Chandler Drive. My dad worked at True Temper. My mom worked there a number of years. I have two sisters.
"I went to Woodrow Wilson and Stonewall. I never gave a thought to what I wanted to be. After high school, I went to work at Holsum Bakery. I was a cake icer. I made $13 a week.
"I got married when I was 19. My husband was in the Navy. We lived in New Orleans for about a year. I loved New Orleans. I worked on Bourbon Street at Kress, a big department store, at the candy counter.
"We lived in Algiers [part of New Orleans]. My husband was stationed there. I had to ride a ferry every day to get to work. The war was going on, so New Orleans was filled with military people. When he went overseas, I came home and went back to the bakery.
"I've been here for 49 years. My daughter's mother-in-law worked here and she called and told me they were starting their own security department.
"People from different departments went into the new security department. They'd hired everybody they were going to hire and needed one more. I was the only outsider.
"I didn't know a thing in this world about it. I worked with someone for a couple of weeks then went on my own.
"I think there was one other woman. Then it got down to where I was the only one. I'm the only woman in security at this hospital. It's great. Those guys are just like my kids, even though they're grown men. You could never be treated any better than I am.
"When I started, none of this addition was out there. Elmwood Avenue ran through the front of the hospital. The nursing school was across the street. You came up the steps, and at the elevators, they had a chair, and I sat in that chair. They kept the double doors locked until time to visit. They were very strict then.