Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s



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Now that I've started getting paychecks, I can go shopping and buy my own clothes; I no longer need my mother to make dresses for me. But how was that for her? She was 50 in 1965, and had been "just a housewife" ever since marrying. Her chief activities were sewing (for me and herself) and cooking. I'd always been so grateful for her sewing talents, but now it was exciting to get ready-made clothes, instead of buying a pattern and fabric and hoping that the finished product would turn out well.


Letters from New York City - Late May 1965

5-23-1965
 

Will I ever get into the YWCA?

I am so tee'd off with that Y, I was ready to throw things last night. I called to ask what my rate would be. The third head, Mrs. Burgraf, was in charge, and I asked her. She looked it up, said I hadn't been assigned one yet (a room) and so she didn't know what my rate would be, but probably 35 or 36 dollars a week.

I can't go in to this again, it's too frustrating, but if my rate is over $31.50 (the highest rate Miss Kuusisto mentioned when I last talked to her, and I sent in the application again the next day), I'm not moving in. I'm going to talk to Miss Kuusisto on Monday. In my last interview I asked what my rate would be and she said, approximately, "Our singles with showers range from $28 to $31.50, depending on the view. We have cheaper singles, but then you have to share a bath." So I said eagerly that I'd take the cheapest one they had. Mrs. Burgraf, on the phone last night, said that sometimes girls, in their eagerness to hear what they want to hear, don't get all the details correctly. Oh!!

I don't know if I should move into the Y now anyway. I despise all three head women so much for everything that I doubt if I could be civil to them. I probably shouldn't have talked to Burgraf anyway; tomorrow night I'll go in and ask Miss Kuusisto if she knows what my rate would be. If it is over $31.50 or if she doesn't know yet (I'd have to give notice here the following morning), I'll take my $10.00 desposit back (it is refundable, thank heaven) and never darken their doors again.

Yesterday I went shopping and got a two-piece blue dress at Peck & Peck for $23.00. I like it a lot, but it may wrinkle. I also did something I'm sure I'll never do again: put a deposit on another dress which I can pick up in two weeks. It's a very pretty dress, fits perfectly, and yet it's not so nice to spend your salary before you make it.

Pam called yesterday. I'm meeting her and her mother at the Plaza Hotel for lunch on Wednesday. Her mother will be at the Plaza on business; she has become a greeting card saleswoman, of elegant cards that sell from $1.50 apiece.

Barb R.'s job sounds nice. I wrote to her but haven't gotten a reply yet. And Carol I haven't written to. She certainly must look with some trepidation at all these plans which are solidifying. Liberia, at least, doesn't sound so remote as Malaysia. I bet she'll really like being a pioneer student teacher. It would be fun to try living in Philadelphia for a while too.

I got a letter from Barb Fogarty [a high school friend finishing nursing school at U. of Penn.]; she is still definitely coming, starts work at Mt. Sinai on Sept. 20th, and may bring two other girls with her. She has a four-week vacation beginning this Thursday, and I want to see her while I'm home over Memorial day. I'm wondering if I should make bus reservations right away; maybe it's hard to get a place on this weekend. And I don't know when to make it for, Friday evening or Saturday morning. If you're going to be up at the lake I could make it for Saturday and come in by the Factoryville bus, you leave the key in the drawer, and then I could wait for Bill and Judy to get to see you, or something. If, upon calling the buses, I find I have to make a reservation right away, I'll make it for Friday night. I could take a taxi in, anyway.

I took out a card and two books at the big public library yesterday. I thought, walking into that huge place, that it would be difficult, but I was out again in half an hour.

I'm going to "The Roar of the Greasepaint—The Smell of the Crowd" Tuesday night the 1st too, so wouldn't want to come back here too late Monday night and be tired for it.

Tell me your tentative plans for the weekend.

5-28-1965
Tues. eve.

Yes!—I'll be a Spelman Y resident

I just thought today that if I waited for another letter from you before making bus reservations, then I'd probably have to call to let you know. So I went ahead and got a round-trip ticket today, Martz. I'm leaving here at 6:30 p.m. this Friday evening and am supposed to arrive in Scranton at 9:05, though I imagine that it will probably be later than usual with the Memorial day traffic. If you can't make it in for one reason or other, there may be a Greyhound bus go.. (I HATE ballpoint pens!!) going through, or I will get a taxi.

For coming back, I have to make a reservation with the Scranton terminal. I already have a ticket for coming back, but please call Martz and make a reservation for me for late Monday afternoon; they may be filling up fast. I'm not sure if you can reserve over the phone there, you can't in NYC. But I did in Wilkes-Barre.

I want to leave in the afternoon Monday because I have to move to Spelman before I leave for work Tuesday morning, and I don't want to be totally dead, especially since I'm going to see "Roar of the Greasepaint" that evening. I called Miss Kuusisto and she promised me that the highest rate would be $29.50. Three dollars more a week is well worth it to me, and I'll have a private bath. (shower.)

I brought my knit two-piece home from a cleaners last night (one that advertised as "specialists in knitted wear" and could have cried; it is shorter and tighter. I'm bringing it home and hope you can lengthen it somehow.

Looking forward to seeing you soon.

6-2-1965
Wed. eve.

Show biz is so grand

Well, I'm all settled in here (at $29.50 a week) and very, very happy. I moved my things before going to work yesterday morning and was allowed to check in then. My room is a good deal larger than the Webster one, is pink, and has a shower and telephone (CIrcle 6-3700, extension 317). Things Webster had that it lacks is a rug, a fan, and a medicine cabinet. But it's heaven to me. It faces on an area-way but I still have a good view toward the southeast, the empire state building, etc. It's Room 1005.

Yesterday evening after I got home Miss Kuusisto called and asked if she could bring down another girl who had arrived that day, and so I met Kathy from Bryn Mawr and we had dinner together. She's between her junior and senior years at college and is working for Bell Telephone here this summer as a statistician.

This place has an absolutely lovable atmosphere and that's the most important thing.

I knew as soon as I saw a show I would be hooked. Seeing "Roar of the Greasepaint" last night I was sick with the thrill of it all. Anthony Newley is very powerful; everyone on the stage is so magnetic and forceful.

Today Pat and I decided we'd go see "The Glass Menagerie" revival tomorrow night and I just came back from picking up the tickets. Then on a burst of hope I called City Center to see if the opening night performance of "South Pacific" with Betsy Palmer tonight was sold out; it wasn't, so I went over and got a ticket and at 8:30 will attend my first New York opening night.

Jean, my boss, did not come in yesterday or today; her mother, whom she lived with, died of a heart attack. We four sent flowers.

It was a very nice weekend at home. Barb and Rose [high school friends] just happened over Saturday afternoon to ask you for my number so they could call me in New York. I had dinner at Rose's and then we went to the movies, "Mirage".

I had to take a taxi ($2.95) to Scranton. I had a good seat by the window, and the bus was exactly an hour late. I hate to think how it would have been if I'd started later.

6-6-1965
Sun. eve.

A rayon dress from Peck & Peck

This has been a very nice week. I hope yours went as well, and no more trouble with the bathroom (I noticed when I took a bath that the H-C labels on the tub are mixed up).

I got along perfectly well financially this week, though I must admit a ten-dollar graduation gift from Aunt Louise (which I wrote tonight thanking her for) did help out. If I ever find myself suddenly broke, there is always the fifty dollars you started my savings account with. At Spelman board is paid on Fridays, so I paid for two weeks on Friday and got rid of a lot of my money that way.

Then yesterday I got rid of most of the rest of it, as usual. I decided not to take the dress I had paid a deposit on at Peck & Peck and was afraid I might have to forfeit the deposit, but I didn't, and got another dress there. I love that store. The dress is Jackie-Kennedy style, with a squared-off collar and welt seam across the front just under the arms. It's rayon, hop-sacking texture, the color of my old green corduroy dress. It looks very career-girl.

And I got a slip at Best's and a shift nightgown (very pretty and on sale at $3.90) and various odds & ends in a dime store, Lamsons on Madison Avenue, that is the most refined dime store I've ever been in. Then I kept walking over in the East Fifties, where I would like to live. What a different world! Quiet, trees, clean sidewalks, flower beds. It's beautiful.

Pat and I saw "The Glass Menagerie" Thursday night. It outlived my expectations, it was wonderful, I think the most fascinating stage production I've ever seen. I wish you could see it. By the way, Mother, any time you want to come in to the city for an extended shopping trip, you can stay with me at $3.00 a night, up to seven nights. And the room is as large as my dorm room at Penn State. No advance notice is required.

After the play we went to the Howard Johnson's across the street diagonally from the Y. It's the most elegant Howard Johnson's I've ever seen. Then Pat went to her aunt's apartment, 55th between 8th and 9th, where she stays nights when she's doing something in town (she lives in Brooklyn). This past week she found a new attraction at her aunt's: the apartment next door is occupied by Barry Newman, a 30-year-old actor who plays someone in "The Edge of Night", the young lawyer, I think. And in the evenings he has a supporting part in "What Makes Sammy Run", which Pat and I are attending next week. ABC has discount tickets for it.

Kathy, the other new girl here, and I have been going to dinner together. Tonight, when the cafeteria wasn't open, we went to Toffenetti's. Friday night we went to see the movie "My Fair Lady". You have got to see it. I could hardly believe it was a movie. People were clapping. It's absolutely unbelievable, and worth coming to NYC just to see it.

I've started taking the bus to work and like it better than the subway. The subway is more like an amusement park ride, but watching the passing scene in the bus is nice, and it seems cleaner and safer.

I meant to get some material this week and send it to you for another dress (by the way, will the yellow shrink? it needs washing), but I over-spent. Next payday I'm going to, and also start banking some. I'll have to have some money ahead to ever get an apartment.

I just looked out the window. The upper part of the Empire State is lit up and it looks regal. I can see upper Times Square and lights flashing on and off for "The Sound of Music" and "Lord Jim". Broadway is really something after dark.

Come in again soon for the fair; make it overnight and you could see the best motion picture ever made.

 
 
 
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