Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s



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Pat, a recent college grad who started working in ABC's music clearance department at the same time I did, wanted to get into advertising. I don't know if it's still true today, but in the 1960s people who worked at ad agencies were considered rock stars, so the TV series "Mad Men" is very apt. The biggest lights in the business then were BBDO (Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn) and Grey Advertising. Pat mentioned them often.


Letters from New York City - February 1966

2-17-1966
Thurs. eve.

Maybe be a legal secretary

The ball has started rolling on a job switch. I'd told them, you know, that I wanted the last two weeks of April for my vacation. Renee is taking the first two weeks to go to Europe. So Jean asked one day this week what I was going to do on mine. I told her I was going to go job-hunting; I'd been going to tell her any time now anyway. They knew I was taking shorthand in preparation for a move up.

So everyone was very concerned (meaning Jean, and Dottie, the office manager) about having this done completely above-board. I mean, they're very nice about it. But they want to know what's going on.

This is because of Pat, who has not been above-board at all. She's been looking around for months, trying to make contacts in other departments of the company. Whispered telephone conversations. She seems pretty shrewd-intelligent, but you can see all she wants is to get out, try something new. She's aimless, unrealistic. She's gone to see people in other departments about openings under pretext of being at the Xerox machines.

And then she found out about this opening in the advertising promotion department as secretary to a Mr. Collins. The job didn't require steno. So she went to see him and he agreed to speak to personnel about transferring her over to him. Then Pat went to Personnel and told them about it, Personnel called Jean to see if she would okay it, and both Personnel and Jean were mad. Pat had gone over their heads, sneaking around on her own instead of telling Jean she wanted to transfer and without going through Personnel.

And to top it off, Mr. Collins still hasn't spoken to Personnel about Pat. Jean told me that when I was talking to her about my plans.

Anyway, I told Jean that I would just as soon stay at ABC in the Legal Department if they offered about the same opportunities as anywhere else. I would rather stay at ABC. But I hate to make the switch without seeing what other companies have to offer, if there's a much better opening I could fill somewhere else.

Jean and Dottie both think I should talk to Personnel very soon; then, whenever openings come up in Legal now, I can be considered for them. Which sounds sensible.

I've made an appointment with the NY State Employment Service again to talk to someone about what I can expect. It's for Thursday, March 3, at 1 p.m., and I told Jean I'd go to Personnel after I've talked with Mrs. Sopozy.

The thing that gets me about job hunting is timing. Maybe on March 20 I'll be informed of an opening in ABC Legal. I'll have nothing to compare it with. And Dottie reminds me that the notice expected is two weeks, so I should keep that in mind if I do take a different job over vacation or it will be a black mark on my record.

Shorthand class is coming along well. She is dictating at 100 wpm now. It seems like 120 must be unbelievable speed, though.

Last Saturday I bought a dress at Saks Fifth Avenue. $30. It's two piece, crisp textured dacron & cotton (washable; I just can't see dry-cleaning summer clothes, but so many now are made of rayon), big black and white plaid. It looks very smart, very legal secretary. And I bought a legal secretary's handbook, which makes decently interesting straight reading. I know I'll like legal, its neatness and precision.

I got a thank you note from Pam too, and a long letter giving details of their present situation: one-and-a-half room Bronx apartment, she works at Where magazine (kind of like Cue) full-time; used to work there part-time. Nick is a first-year law student at St. Johns. Pam's expecting this summer, when Nick will work. Next year she plans to leave the baby with her in-laws and go back to work. She's so full of enthusiasm and their little home sounds so cozy, I'm really jealous. I can't imagine my contemporaries as mothers. And she glows over Nick—he sounds like someone really destined for success.

I put Clairol Summer Blonde on my hair, but the hair is far from platinum. Still, it is definitely lighter and not too brassy.

2-22-1966
Tues. eve.

Going home for the weekend

I got the ticket tonight and will be home around 8:30 Friday evening. I'll call from the Martz terminal. I'll be on the 5:20.

It's good to hear that Grandma Shaw is better. She always seemed so robust and vigorous, and certainly shouldn't "wear out" before Grandpa Shaw. Debbie's party for Beverly sounded really sweet. I haven't called them, feel guilty.

It was very cold today. Barb and I went to the Metropolitan Museum and walked around, and made dinner (pizza) at their apartment. [In 1966 Washington's Birthday was still a holiday.] That apartment looks too good to be true. You aren't supposed to start out having things so good! Complete with a Magnavox TV on a roll-around stand.

This is brief; I still have to iron tonight. See you Friday.

3-6-1966
Sun. aft.

A lofty opinion of my worth

It's pretty cold out and another girl, Diane, and I have just returned from a fruitless search for an open coin dry-cleaning place. It seems they are closed by law on Sunday, though the coin washers can stay open. Honestly!

You will be pleased to hear that I went to church with her this morning—Fifth Avenue Presbyterian at 55th Street. It was nice and the minister was good.

My bus got in at 9:30 Sunday night, nice and early. How is my knit coming along? I forgot to call about your mushroom book yet Daddy, but will do so. And I think I'll enclose the Scopus receipt, since it may be helpful if you haven't written yet. You can send it back if you don't need it.

On Thursday I had my appointment with NY State Employment. The man told me there is a shortage of girls wanting to get into the legal secretarial field and I could take my pick of jobs. Starting salary would be $90 to $100, with rapid advancement. All jobs, practically without exception, require electric typewriting facility, and he agreed that I should rent one for practice before I go for interviews.

Then on Friday I went to see ABC Personnel. They gave me a dictation test (90 wpm; no problem) and transcription. My transcription wasn't beautiful; I made typing errors, was very nervous. And I didn't know how to type P.M. (pm? p.m.? PM?), and did it wrong (pm). Anyway, I did all right. They said they'd get in touch with me on Monday or Tuesday about a transfer and "possible raise in salary".

I have decided that I want at least these three things from ABC if I am to transfer to their legal department without job-hunting elsewhere first:

  1. Position as private secretary to one man (there is a girl acting as secretary to three men in the department next door to ours and it doesn't always seem to work out well)
  2. An electric typewriter (if they are the norm outside of ABC in the legal field, I want one here)
  3. $95 a week (why should I accept only $90 if that is just the minimum "going rate"? And I wouldn't say that ABC specializes in rapid advancement)

So I will soon find out what they have in mind for me, and if it corresponds with my ideas. Bet you anything they only offer $90, a nothing $5 raise, and after not helping with my tuition!

I'm just reading in a secretarial book that it is very important that you feel loyalty toward your company, and only spread the good word about it. If you can't do this, you should find another company. I am grateful to ABC for my first job, which I consider a good beginning one. But...

Friday night Barb and I went to see the movie "The Oscar". It is the worst movie I have ever seen. The audience laughed through the tense dramatic scenes. And when it was over, they actually, in large numbers, hissed!. It is absolutely unbelievably terrible! I really thought it must be a farce on other "get to the top of the ladder by stepping on everybody else" movies, but apparently, by the ads, it is supposed to be a regular story. The worst! I can't wait to see what Time has to say about it.

I went shopping for a dress yesterday, $30 top, and nothing fit me. I'm size ten and they're all too short. I'm getting tired of two-piecers. This Friday is payday and I'm going to look for something with $60. Maybe a suit. And I will have the nerve to try Bergdorf's.

3-13-1966
Sun. night

The (too) big spender

It doesn't seem possible that winter is nearly over, but I'm glad it is. My winter wardrobe is such a mess, it needs cleaning, which I still haven't gotten around to, and I'm getting the warm-weather clothes all polished up. Had the spring coat cleaned. And received your package: the green is perfect, and the knit nearly perfect (I'd like the top a little longer). The blue—I still look like a deflated balloon. It looks icky. I mean, the jacket taking-in is an improvement, but it still somehow looks like a bag.

Yesterday I went shopping (and ran into the Danny Lewises at Hallmark on 5th Avenue) and bought a suit, but not at Bergdorf's (laughable idea).

I did go in to Bergdorf's, and it is frightening. You walk in, and you are not facing a big open ground floor. You are facing a lot of little alcoves, little boutiques. It's a maze with lots of blind alleys. And you have no idea where the elevators are. You are scared still that you will make a wrong turn and end up against a wall and a designer umbrella counter and have to turn around and retrace your steps. And show those icy saleswomen that you have no idea where you're going.

Thank heaven, I only made one false start before stumbling upon some elevators. I went up to the Miss Bergdorf Shop but even it is out of my class. Bergdorf's is "too far above me". Bonwit Teller is really like any other department store, but you need at least $50 to go dress shopping there. And Saks 5th Avenue is easy to take; they have a young, moderate-price department.

Bergdorf's I will leave for when I marry into some money.

Anyhow, the suit I got is now at Peck and Peck waiting for the balance I owe on it, the total price being $90. Why can't I keep my pinkies off things that are a little too expensive? Once I've tried them, nothing less looks good enough.

It's a very pretty green wool, "little" and close-fitting. It's the kind that you don't have to wear a blouse under, could just wear pearls, with three-quarter sleeves. It can, I think, be worn all year around and will fit under a coat during the winter.

I can easily pay it off with my next check but as I also want to rent an IBM typewriter with my next check things will be running a little close, so forget what I said while home about not liking monetary gifts—I'd love something monetary for my birthday.

Mr. Roennau said at the interview that they would call, probably Monday or Tuesday. But all last week went by and they didn't. You'd think they'd at least call and tell me that they're "working on it" or something.

If they don't call me, I'm not going to call them. They do not enthuse me too much about staying here. They don't do anything to foster company loyalty or boost morale.

It's good to hear that Grandma Shaw sounds back-to-normal. And I hope you're over the cold by now, Mother. I haven't had one all winter. I didn't see "Never Too Late" but read the play and it was good.

Pat says she has given up the idea of changing jobs for the present and will wait till after her vacation, which she is taking in August to go to Europe. She's taking Pitman shorthand at Hunter College at night. It doesn't look like it would be as easy as Gregg; it is so angular and spastic looking. Gregg is all curves. [That sentence is then repeated in Gregg.] I really like shorthand.

It's ten o'clock, sign-off time.

 
 
 
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