NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Arlene Fricke’s shorthand resembles, well, not much of anything.
The writing style, known as Gregg Shorthand, is a relic of days long gone. Fricke learned the trick at the Berkeley Secretarial School, from which she graduated in 1967. Only those in the know can decipher the messages hidden in the code’s squiggles, loops and scratches.
For many years, shorthand was critical to the Cranford resident's job. It helped her to quickly record information from the attorneys she served. And while technology has since mostly quashed the need for that fast-paced writing, Fricke remains a key player in her law office.
This month marks her 50th work anniversary. She has been employed as a secretary by several smaller law firms that, through the years, merged and ultimately became the New Brunswick-based group Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst and Doukas.
“When I tell people that I have had one job my entire life, they are very surprised,” Fricke said. “When you work at a job that you like and for people who you like and appreciate you, then I think you have a formula for a good job.”
Fricke kicked off her career at the law firm of Ryan, Saros, Davis and Stone in Elizabeth. She worked as a secretary and legal assistant, took care of the books, maintained lawyers’ daily calendars and did just about anything else that was asked of her.
She recalled surrounding a table with the firm’s partners each morning, sifting through piles of mail.
“We would create an assembly line together to sort and distribute,” she said. “Today, we have a mailroom.”
The law firm eventually became Longo and Stone. In 1977, it combined forces with Hoagland and Keefe. Finally, in 1992, the law firm took on its current name.
Through it all, Fricke said, she adapted to new technology and the changing times. When Gregg Shorthand grew inefficient, she used a clunky cassette machine to dictate audio notes taken by attorneys. Those behemoths eventually gave way to lightweight, portable dictation machines, she said.
But she can still use Gregg Shorthand in a pinch.
To see her firm go from three attorneys in one office to more than 80 spread across six workplaces has been “simply special,” Fricke said. Even so, most of her work still supports the same attorney, Ted Hubert, who she’s supported for the lion’s share of her career.
“She has been a vital asset to the expansion of the firm and a true part of our core,” reads a statement from Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst and Doukas.
As it happens, the firm is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year—meaning Fricke has been there since well before the beginning.