Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s


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The glamour companies in New York City don't seem to have been holding their breath waiting to hear from me. It looks like I'd be stuck as a salesgirl or a typist. Maybe I should take this last best opportunity to break the chains of a mundane life and look for a job that would let me travel the world.

Letters from Penn State - February 1965

Mon. eve.

I better learn shorthand

Three replies to my six applications came, and they all came last Tuesday. I think the other three won't, then (ABC, NBC & Bonwit Teller). Lord and Taylor sent the nicest reply, saying to come in when I came to the city, very friendly; they were "very happy to hear of my interest in their Training Program", which includes "selling, promotion, etc." depending on what experience you've had. Which means low salary and being a clerk. Anyway I've about decided I definitely don't want to work for a department store, and may not write to any more.

The UN did not enclose a letter, just information on jobs as guides, clerks, typists and secretaries. They included wage information (Guides, $306 net monthly) and clerks, typists, etc. (3752-4368 net yearly). Which isn't very high and I'm not that interested in the UN anyway.

This probably sounds like, look, you haven't even got any choice yet, but I think I definitely want something in the entertainment (or maybe publishing) field. My reply from CBS was a nice letter and a personnel application form, which they said I should fill out and bring to their office when I come to New York. They also said their requirements for secretaries are typing - 55 wpm and shorthand - 80 wpm.

Advanced Shorthand is the only one that's given this term. I went in this morning to get the teacher's professional opinion on whether it's possible to learn to write shorthand at 80 wpm in two months. She said it's impossible and was rather short about it. Then I ran into a girl I know who is a business education major. She didn't take the commercial course in High School but said that after one term, Shorthand 1, she took dictation at 70 wpm. She thinks it's possible. Of course, I wouldn't have the benefit of regular instruction. But there is a shorthand laboratory Monday through Friday 6th period that I could attend on Tues. and Thurs. and also a typing lab Monday through Friday 5th period. So on Tuesday and Thursday from 2:20 to 5:10 I could work on them both with supervision. I'm going tomorrow. I have an old Gregg manual from the library and a Gregg dictionary but may need to buy a book. The library isn't very up-to-date. This one is copyright 1929. I started on it last night. See if the below is readable.

[Here there's two lines of Gregg shorthand. My mother knows Gregg. I follow with the translation: "He can go there in an hour. I will not go. Are there more in there? It would not go well in there. In the hour I am going."]

Do you think it's possible, Mother? I really like it (lesson 1, anyway), like code. Janie timed my typing and I can type straight book narrative (no numbers, etc.) at 40-50 wpm now.

I got shanghaied into playing for another singing performance Saturday night, for a boy and girl at Penn State's Playboy Club. They didn't have the music so I got to borrow their records of Oliver! and Take Me Along for a couple of days to figure out the chords. Oliver! is tremendous. It's killing that I've missed seeing it.The show went off pretty well and was broadcast over WDFM.

I haven't seen Carol once since I got back, but as far as I know she hasn't heard from the Peace Corps yet. Maybe she could come to dinner with us when you're here. This weekend will really be nice. If I'm over there I'll stop at the Inn desk this week and re-check. Don't forget I have Chem Lab until 12:30 Saturday; there's no point in getting up at the "crack of dawn" (not that you're dying to see me). I don't know how you produced me; I love to sleep. Maybe you can see Woolrich if you want to. Curtain time for Miracle is 8:00. Enclosed are some clippings. See you Saturday.

Mon. morn.

Perhaps a job on the love boat

This morning is bright and cold, exhilarating. I dragged out of bed for breakfast and then, fired up with new ambition, decided to cut health in favor of bigger and better things.

I'm on a new kick. After reading Of Human Bondage about Philip Carey and his travels in search of himself, and now being in the middle of F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise in which Amory Blaine is searching too, I'm in the mood to search. Now is the time. I have no definite career in mind; if I go to NYC now and pick something out and start working at it, I'll be caught in another pattern, another thing I'm working toward, like now I'm working for a degree.

When I greaduate I'll just be twenty-one and at a turning point. To quote Jacqueline Kennedy, when she turned down Vogue's Grande Prix de Paris, "the year after graduation is such a formative one". It's the exactly-right time to see the world.

My next applications are going to Steamship companies. I checked with Placement this morning; they don't know anything about the possibilities along that line. Then I went down to Penn State Travel and they loaned me a cruise catalog to copy down the names and addresses of the lines that interest me. I've canvassed magazines for ads. The SS Rotterdam, Holland-America Line, leaves next January for an 80-day Around the World cruise. The woman at the travel agency said I would have to join a union.

I suppose this all sounds crazy but it isn't all spur-of-the-moment. I've been thinking about it for quite a while, and when else, if I go and get an office job, will I get the chance, will I be free again?

Grade news: all B's in Chem, Theater, and Art History major tests; C in zoology. I don't know what I got in the first half of Phys Ed; am taking health the second half.

Consequently I had to buy a health book, $3.00. The shorthand books came to $4 and typing was $4 and the $20 is going fast; please send more with your next letter. It seems like a lot of money is flowing through my hands this term, but really, most of it seems legitimate.

34 days till graduation. I feel like I've never been here. It really has gone almost too fast. But I feel like I'm getting all the "preliminary requirements" out of the way (namely, school) and am on the brink of living. I hope the steamship-lines idea doesn't sound too wacky to you. I think it's tremendous.


Maybe a government job

You do surprise me, and very pleasantly. Janie was saying all week, "Just wait till your parents hear that insanity!" She and her family went on a Caribbean cruise once and she thinks the crew lives too free a life; one of them was rendez-vousing with her older sister in the evenings, and they weren't supposed to fraternize with the passengers.

But I've sent in three applications so far: Cunard, Holland-America, and American Export Isbrandtsen. It takes me reams of paper to come up with a finished product on this non-erasable stuff, but I suppose it's wonderful practice. The specific sentence reads "After graduation I would like very much to find a permanent position on an (Isbrandtsen) ship, as a stewardess, waitress, maid, secretary, or whatever else I might be qualified to do".


2-24-1965, continued

Wanting to get across that I didn't just want free passage across and then jump ship like a lot of college kids have in mind, I thought I'd mention my willingness to join the union. So I called one of the teachers in labor education and asked him what union it would be. So he said to come in and talk to him about it and I did, and he said he didn't think it would be such a hot idea to mention the union since it (the Seafarers') is divided into many subdivisions and it might be the Maritime union. He suggested "permanent position", so that's what I used. He was really a nice guy and very interested in the idea. I got the feeling he would like to pack up and go.

I haven't gotten around to writing to the two Barbaras yet. Me, enthusiasm plus, the first one to back out! Well, if Peggy Mooney is going, Barb will have someone to start out with anyway. [I've been trying to talk some of my high school friends, who are at other colleges, into moving to NYC after graduation.]

I will go over to Placement and find out about government jobs; there might be something. I kind of like the idea of a ship, though. I'll probably turn out to be congenitally seasick. That placement office; I have less faith in it every day. There is one guy over there, who always seems to be the one I have to talk to when I go over, who seems so disinterested and unhelpful that I think they could find a better slot for him than in that office, where all kids do is ask questions.

The skirt is beautiful and fits exactly, and gives me something to wear beige and green with. And I love herringbone at the moment. Also it's nice because it's a light color; I think it makes me look a little bigger and I kind of like that.

Speaking of clothes, I've recently discovered spray starch and love it. I'm going nuts over the crisp tailored look, and have all my blouses stiff. I've also started using bleach (Snowy). Wash-day is creative any more.

I do seem to need ten dollars a little oftener than bi-weekly. Everyone wants my money. McElwain has just decided to "adopt" a child (Foster Parents Plan) and we are waiting for the collector's knock now.

Mu Phi had a meeting last night. Officers for next year were elected and installed. The pledges are to give their pledge concert next Friday in that new auditorium in Arts I. Thank heaven when I went through that last year it was just held in a classroom, we weren't on a stage. And this year it's going to be open to the public. Thank heaven I was last year! The district Mu Phi director is going to be there. The pledges will be initiated the last week of the term.

Sunday after lunch Janie and I were in the room and there was a big explosion. A few minutes later fire engines were roaring around the corner out here, so we grabbed our coats and followed the mob down Pollock Road to Pond Lab, where one of the chem labs had exploded. They fought the fire with chemicals which were really nauseating, smelled like overpowering fish; we couldn't stand to stay and watch because the smell was so bad. But there was the usual student cheering section. Earlier this month there was a fire in the barns and twenty-some cattle were lost.

Janie had an interview with Bell Telephone last week and is waiting to hear from them. Her boyfriend had an interview with—oh, I can't remember the name—they make soap toothpaste, etc.—and they have invited him to fly out Monday to Cincinnati to look over the plant and decide if he wants the job—and this is just a summer job! It must be nice to be Mech Eng and have a three-something.

I got a B in the second AAH test and C's in the second Zoology and Theater tests. The second chem test is Monday night, and there's the usual weekly quiz in it tomorrow morning which I've got to start learning something for. Twenty-five days!

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