My paternal grandfather was a steelworker. More specifically, he was a crane operator that guided a giant vat of molten steel down an assembly line to be poured into molds and other vats and who knows what else.
It was a dank, unbearably hot, and potentially dangerous job, but hell, it paid well, and for an early 20-something from rural Kentucky who grew up on a hardscrabble sharecropper's farm, the idea of putting in 25 to 30 years of hard time and then peacing out in relative comfort was not a bad one.
So that's what he did, and by the time Shirley Ginter hit his mid 50's, he knew that he had another 20 years of fishing, whittling, and attending Reds games to look forward to.
Because that was the deal, see: work hard for a long time at one job, get your gold timepiece, and peace out to whatever slice of heaven you've carved out for yourself in the meantime. It's not a bad gig if you can get it; my mom has been a nurse for over 40 years now, my dad a teacher for over 25, and they're hoping for a similar deal once they decide to throw up deuces and retire.
Society is still mostly pretty cool with that (even if in reality those jobs really don't exist with any great abundance anymore), even to the point where we extrapolate this concept to apply to a wide range of jobs, and to a ridiculous degree. Like, say, CEOs. Or senators.
Or football coaches.
Or university presidents.