Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s



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After Judy Steinberg quit, I subsequently heard that she'd gone back to school for a master's degree. She'd gotten her B.A. in the spring and then used Met Life as a summer job, going through the programmer training course while always intending to leave at the end of summer—pretty sneaky. More sneaky stuff is, my housemother is trying to take advantage of me.


Letters from New York City - August 1967

8-14-1967
Mon. night

Eviction?—continued...

My job, the first week and today of actually working, has been so wonderful. I love it! The time flies. It's so much fun! Can't understand why it always sounded so dull and dry before I got into it. It's just like working a puzzle.

I have been given part of a program which is actually made up of about 60 programs, my part being called EFAC. It is a draw-off of certain hospital claims, someone who has left the company was working on it before me, and it doesn't work. After everything has been drawn off and sorted that is supposed to be, the totals don't come out right. I have the program in front of me, a bunch of statements like:

B0500    IF (A TOTAL) EQUALS OR EXCEEDS (B MAX-BEN) THEN GO TO B0700

B0600    MOVE (A TOTAL) TO (X CHECKAMT) AND ACCUMULATE *1* INTO (LINELIMIT)

(You have to slash zeros and dot Os so the keypunch operators can tell them apart) and I also have a flowchart and a copy of the incorrect draw-off that the computer has put out from this incorrect program. I sit there and figure out the various things that are making it go wrong.

Also I love my section, or team. It's great. Surely this complete happiness with the whole arrangement can't last forever, but right now it all seems perfect.

I'm making a new dress, Vogue 7063. Sample of the wool jersey is enclosed, and lining. The side with the red X is the right side, isn't it? I have a horror of making something on the wrong side, but I also hate to seem stupid and ask the salesman. He was a very high power salesman at Altmans. Which has the most beautiful fabrics. Did you ever shop there for material? They have some really delicious-is-the-only-word wools right now. But I was set on plain gray jersey when I went in.

Saturday night Billie and I went to La Groceria, a famous Village Italian restaurant, for dinner. It was the best Italian food I've ever had (maybe it just seemed that way because of the Chianti) and the prices aren't high. I had ravioli, $1.65. Plus the wine (85 cents), Italian rum cake (75 cents) and espresso (40 cents).

Also this weekend we went to see a double feature of Humphrey Bogart movies, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. They were amazingly good to watch, I never exactly knew who Bogart was before, but he certainly did have his own style. Especially liked Casablanca, and his line "Here's lookin' at you, kid."

Tomorrow night we are going to try to see Titus Andronicus in the Park. That means without a doubt it will rain tomorrow. Every single time this summer I've tried to see that Shakespeare in the Park...

Goodnight.

8-24-1967
Thurs. 5 p.m.

We actually have conferences

Just got home from a hard day's work. I'm so lucky to be in the little group I'm in! Judy Steinberg, who was in my training class and now works with the group across the aisle from mine, gets a lot of dull dirty work. Like writing other people's programming after they have done all the think part. And John Corrigan, also in my class and in the group on the other side, not only gets just dirty dull work like checking, but doesn't even get very much of that. Maybe because he expects to be drafted in September.

But my group is lovely. John Murray is the head programmer in my group, and he is mainly the one who tells me what to do. [I had a crush on him.] He gives me real "think" things to do; everyone in this group does their own dull and boring jobs, like copying and writing out the programs on keypunch forms.

I'll draw you a map of the set-up on the back of this.

[On the reverse is the layout of the 2nd-floor office—part of the office, that is, because my down-arrow at the bottom of the page is labeled "Miles more of desks & people". On the left side are windows overlooking 23rd St., with five pairs of desks alongside them. Further to the right, five more pairs are lined up, and five more pairs to the right of them. I think after that came another department and then the building core, with restrooms, elevators, and escalators. At the back of all these desks is an enclosed office against the windows, Mr. Falzon's office, and outside it his secretary's desk and then a conference table. The entire area is screened from the "Miles more of desks" by partitions (including file cabinets) at the top and bottom ends.]

Did I tell you we have conferences (had another one today) at the conference table. Everyone tells how their program is coming along. My group is called Project 41, consists of me, Phil Testa, John Murray, and Al DelleSite. John Corrigan, Dan Cerbone, and Al Manny are Project 38. Marie Ivany and Muriel Myers are two older women on loan to the EDP department by the Health Claims dept., which we are programming for, and they act sort of as liaisons to help the two departments understand what each other wants.

I just can't understand why I didn't go into this before. It's really a great way to spend the day. Time flies when you are using your head a lot instead of just your typing muscles.

Billie, my roommate, flew home to Dallas for a week Friday night and I saw her off at Kennedy. An orange Braniff jet. Kennedy Airport is a very exciting place. I'm going out to meet her Sunday night when she comes back.

You know that gray jersey, Mother? I got the lining pieces all basted to it, did some darts, and pressed some of the pieces. The wool shrank from the steam iron! Enough so that the lining buckles a little underneath. But I couldn't face taking it off and trying to fit it more evenly over the wool, and am making it as is. Hope it fits all right.

I'll be home a week from this Friday night. May bring my radio, it has suddenly conked out for some reason or other. [My father was an electrical engineer.]

Tomorrow I'll have $260 in the bank, $20 less than I should have since planning to save $35 a week. A plan is taking form to use my one day's vacation this year in conjunction with New Year's weekend and fly to Bermuda ($90 round trip, I think) for four days. Am sending for literature.

It's such a dreary day. This whole summer has been miserably wet. And, as you say, the shortest yet. Today was cool enough for October.

It's almost dinner time.

8-28-1967
Mon. morn.

My wool jersey shrank

It's 8:45. This is the 15 minutes or so when everyone sits around and reads newspapers.

Main point—I am leaving NYC on the 5:05 this Friday night. You may guess at what time I'll arrive in Scranton. As soon as you get this letter, please call Martz and make a reservation for me to come back Monday night Sept. 4, on the usual 6:45 if possible.

I'll be glad to be home for a while. The past couple of weeks have been solid rain. I think I got one nice beach day in August, that's all. I wish I had been there for dinner last Sunday.

This weekend I saw two movies—Accident and You Only Live Twice. The last one is James Bond and was as usual very exciting.

That jersey I sent you—I got the lining pieces all carefully basted to the jersey pieces, did the first assembly operation on the skirt part, pressed open the seams, and instantly the lining all buckled up as the jersey shrank over an inch. I mean, I did nothing out of the ordinary to it, it just shrank.

I took out the basting on the outer edges so the lining would lie smooth, thinking I'd just take smaller seams in the jersey, but on the top where the skirt attaches to the yoke, the jersey had shrunk till it was impossible to even catch it in the seam.

Friday night I packed up everything, material and pattern and sewing book which says nowadays it is not necessary to preshrink wool, and took it back to Altmans to show them. They gave me a whole new length of the material, and I'm starting over.

Time to get to work. I'll see you Friday night. Don't forget to make me a reservation back. It's such a gloomy day, hope the weekend is nice.

9-10-1967
Sun. night

Not a low-paid seamstress

I didn't mean to let a whole week slip by before writing. It was a fast week.

The bus got in at 10:00 Monday night, very good time considering. It took a slightly different route from the short-way, a highway north of the short-way one through New Jersey. Think I will try another express next time.

My weekend with you was very refreshing, always makes me feel sort of detached for a while after I get back to the city. The gray dress is coming along well and I'm so glad you introduced me to the Unique zipper, Mother, I feel like I'm getting in on a first. Should be putting it in some evening this week.

It was so cold today you had to wear a coat here. Billie and I went to see an off-Broadway production of Shaw's Arms and the Man this afternoon.

Yesterday Ingrid and I went to Jones Beach via the Long Island Railroad and a bus from Freeport, and I got sunburned. It was a beautiful warm clear day, we went swimming, and are happy to know that the buses to & from Freeport will continue through Sunday, October 1.

I got a letter from Barb F. with the news that Barbara Rowland is getting married in November in Our Lady of the Snows to Irving Shattuck, an oceanographer, before Thanksgiving, no definite date yet. Rose is planning a shower. We had heard of Irving before. He lives in the apartment over Barbara's.

Barb F. has 20 days' leave starting September 29. She is signing up for an extra two years so that she and another girl can go on an overseas assignment January 1, probably either to England or Germany. Everyone is really doing things!

Wednesday & Thursday of this week are registration days for Fashion Institute, and I am pretty sure I will sign up for construction and flat pattern design, if they sound like what I want when I talk to the counselors there.

And this week I plan to visit a travel agent. Got literature from the Barbados and Bermuda tourist boards, definitely want Barbados, but I can't tell enough about the hotels from the brief descriptions to tell which one is for me, so I guess I should talk to an agent. The tourist board literature says that reservations and consultations with travel agents are not charged for, but somehow I still distrust the setup.

Still haven't found a spot right around here where you could stay, Mother. It was so nice at the Y! Definitely am getting an apartment this year. A YWCA is probably still best, I think there is one on 35th St. or around there, near the stores. Tatham House. [38th & Lexington.] Or my old Y, which is on a straightish line from here by the IRT. They're so much cheaper than hotels. The Evangelines aren't for transients.

Judy Steinberg, the other girl in my office, left a week ago Friday (family moved to New Mexico, she went too) and this was my first week without anyone right around me to really talk to. I fervently hope they get a girl to replace Judy, or get a girl to replace John Corrigan when he goes into the Army. Because I really feel funny, being the only girl (Marie and Muriel, in front of me, are not really part of the group, are much older and have nothing to do with it). I hardly talked at all last week, because I feel like I'm in a men's club and don't belong. At all. I need a companion!

Things are fine at Rosemary House except for one thing—this new director, Mrs. Byrnes. She is making the mistake of getting chummy with the girls. Friday morning I came down to breakfast and she was even sitting at a table with two of the girls, and then me. (Dir. & Asst. Dir. have their own table at the back of the room.) Maybe I mentioned that a couple of weeks ago she asked if I'd like to earn some money taking up the hem of a dress for her (she'd seen me sewing in the basement), so I did it, and she left $2 in my box. Friday at breakfast she told me she'd bought three banlon dresses on sale the night before and two needed the hems up and one needed the sleeves up, and any time I wanted to earn some money, just tell her. And I um-hmmed, being too trapped-feeling to say anything. I'm going to tell her I'm beginning night school this week and won't have any more extra time. Honestly! Can she really think she's doing me a favor? $5 would hardly make it worth the agony I go through trying to sew for someone else, raising even my own perfectionist standards because I don't want them to think I'm sloppy or stupid. Now I go around here all the time trying to avoid her, which makes me uncomfortable.

Friday night I saw the movie Bonnie and Clyde about Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. I didn't like it. It started out as kind of comic and ended up very gory. Had a lobster dinner at a newish restaurant called Max's Kansas City, waitresses in short skirts, waiters in western outfits, and Sangria Spanish wine. Pretty good, but not all that good, and very loud and crowded.

Time to go down those four flights to iron something for tomorrow, groan. Goodnight.

 
 
 
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