Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s


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Because the YWCA had both a length-of-stay limit (two years) and also probably an age limit, most of the residents were twenty-somethings. It was easy to make friends. The weekly rate included morning and evening meals six days a week and morning and noon on Sunday. You went through a cafeteria line and then into the 1st-floor dining room, which had tables for eight or ten in the middle of the room and four-tops along the sides. All of us regular working girls sat at the large tables, with newbies always welcome. The general public could also dine there and many did, paying cash. There was a group of elderly male musicians who dined there every night; they seemed to find us entertaining.

Letters from New York City - July 1965

Sun. aft.

The rayon dress shrank

It's been raining all day and Barbara and I decided to postpone the apartment hunting. I've spent the afternoon playing the piano in the 4th-floor lounge and reading the Times. But we'll have to go out in it in a little while for dinner, have decided to try the Tad's steak place on 49th.

I dropped my room key down the elevator shaft this morning and had to get a new one, which will appear on my bill Friday. Honestly!

It's probably raining at the lake now too. You'll be taking off on the vacation trip this weekend? This weekend would've been a good one for me to come home on; we got out of work at noon on Friday when the movers took over. But I didn't know in advance that we would. Tomorrow I'll go to work on Columbus Avenue. The gripe about the new quarters is the desk arrangements, which we get the feeling we will not be allowed to change. The desks are arranged in pairs, pushed together facing each other. Pat and I face each other. It is so distracting!

I got a letter from Peck & Peck Friday with a credit slip for $23.92. I felt so good about it! Really, when the dress shrank, I was just all set to send it home to you for alterations if possible, and was mourning about its two-or-three-week absence and maybe never fitting right again to Pat, with never a thought of returning it, when she said I was crazy not to return it. [My new green rayon dress had shrunk when I washed it. In 1965 clothes weren't required to have care labels and I didn't know that rayon should be dry-cleaned, though when I took it back on Pat's advice the saleswoman sniffed "Everyone knows rayon isn't washable", but she accepted the return.]

I always had the feeling of caveat emptor about buying, and am so happy to have a second chance with that money. Yesterday I went to one of the three Peck & Peck stores and found them in the middle of a welcome summer sale. I got a dark green two-piece short-sleeved A-line dress in a heavy-weave dacron and cotton, machine washable, marked down from $30 to $19.95, and it fits beautifully. Plus three pairs of stockings to make up the rest of the credit. I love the dress, it's definitely season-spanning, and this lovely feeling of getting something on sale! You have no idea how much more attention I pay to money now, particularly in certain areas. So educational!

Change of verdict on the best movie I have seen to date: "The Collector" is not the light and beautiful fantasy that is "My Fair Lady", it is exciting and absolutely absorbing. "La Tia Tula" did not weave such a spell. You people must stop going just to the few movies that Chris drags you to; movies are getting more terrific all the time (and it's more in my budget to go to them all the time than to the live shows) and you're missing all the goodies. When "The Collector" hits Scranton, go! It's great. Kathy and I saw it Friday night; its atmosphere lingers for days.

Afterward we went to a Sixth Avenue delicatessen-restaurant. Such a menu! Chopped liver and chicken fat sandwiches and celery tonic, etc.

Thanks for Carol's address, I'll write to her. I can't picture her chopping off a chicken's head. Maybe she can come visit me for a couple of days at the end of the summer. And you must come in August or September, Mother; don't you need to shop for a winter coat or something? Or distinctive wallpaper to re-do the downstairs.

Every Sunday I read those lucrative secretary want ads and can't wait to begin steno in September. This Saturday I plan to buy a typing book and go through it systematically at work, where I have a good typewriter.

Thurs. morn.

Improving my typing

Bad practice, writing from the office, but things are rather slow right now. I meant to write last night but Miss Kuusisto asked me to mind the residence library. It was interesting, though it's very small. I could look at the night view of Manhattan to the north, the one side of the building I hadn't seen from before.

And the night before I went to the library (public) with Eiko and we stopped in a coffee shop under the Americana hotel on the way back. There are so many nice little eating places to try. Today Pat and I are going to try a new restaurant that just opened across the street from the Lincoln Center Philharmonic. It's called The Nine Muses and has sidewalk tables, looks very nice.

Oh, the dress came yesterday and I'm wearing it today. I'd about given up; I thought you hadn't mailed it Wednesday. The mail is so slow! Anyway, I love it, the fabric and style, and think I will get some more material for another of the same pattern for fall. The dress is shorter than I would like it though, by an inch. I never would have dreamed of checking the length either; they certainly were cutting it short, when even with no hem it could afford to be longer.

I also got your postcard yesterday. I wish I were out someplace getting a tan, especially in a motorboat. Renee left on vacation Sunday and is in Haiti. Next year I am definitely going to some island.

Last weekend I didn't do anything in particular. Barbara and I went to the Guggenheim. Most of the pictures were really abstract and I didn't appreciate them much. We walked past Jackie Kennedy's building, which doesn't look very special compared to a lot of the 5th Avenue ones. We had dinner at the Sun Luck Gourmet on 49th.

It's five of noon and almost lunch time. Tonight Barbara and I are going to the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd; there will be a jazz concert in the garden at 8:30 featuring Bobby Hackett. Barbara already doesn't want to go back to Washington; she's looking into NYU.

I bought a typing book and am practicing at the office, but Jean just said that I was "driving her straight to Bellevue" with the even incessantness, so I desisted, and will henceforth practice between 9 and 10 before she gets here.

Here I am writing letters and privately practicing typing; don't think I'm doing nothing and am on my way to being kicked out. The pace is very slow. Oh, some work just arrived—the FM programs for the day. And Pat's ready for lunch.

Mon. eve.

No socks with high heels

I'm sitting in the lounge of the Plaza movie theater on E. 58th with Ann and Barbara waiting for 8:40 and the next showing of "The Knack". We started out at 7 and were going to look around the 5th Avenue stores but they are all closed on Monday nights as well as Saturdays for summer vacation. So we got tired walking around.

I've decided to come home on Friday the 13th (that doesn't sound too auspicious) it that's all right with you. I've been hesitating because your being up at the lake weekends seems too complicated --- break. It's now 9 a.m. Tuesday and I'm writing on company time again. But nobody's here yet.

About coming home—I'll get a ticket during lunch hour after I get paid that Friday and leave probably right after work, and call you when I get to Scranton. About the lake though, one thing that makes it inconvenient is that I hate the idea of getting back to NYC at 1 a.m., which it would probably be if I came up to the lake and and then left there at the usual hour.

Anyway I'll plan on that weekend and then I still may come Labor Day too.

"The Knack" last night was very good, very clever, unlike that icky "What's New Pussycat" which Pat has been extolling for several days. It seems I missed a lot of "in" jokes in that picture, a lot of witty satire and double entendre.

On with the movie reviews—Ann and I saw "Harlow" (Carroll Baker) Friday night, and while the pretty clothes and glamour life were interesting, it wasn't so hot. Last weekend Vani (from Thailand) and I went to two movies, "The Sandpiper" at Radio City and "Mary Poppins". "The Sandpiper was unbelievably corny and melodramatic and I really think Walt Disney has done better than "Mary Poppins". I read a review that called it a child's "My Fair Lady" but I think a child would rather see "My Fair Lady".

Your vacation sounded very nice. I don't believe you went to a movie, much less a drive-in. Going out in motorboats and schooners—Christopher is lucky to be the last child. It must be much easier to do things now. Every time I see Chris's name in print, or hear it, I stop to admire it. It's such a great name, maybe my favorite name for a boy.

Sunday night Vani and I and two Japanese girls went to an extremely authentic Japanese restaurant, a block away from the Columbia University campus, which we walked through. It seemed really beautiful to me, but maybe it's just seeing campus-y yards in the middle of the city and the atmosphere of college again. And we walked down Riverside Drive, which is so pretty! I wouldn't mind living there instead of the East side and it's probably much cheaper.

It was nice going to this restaurant with Japanese girls because they could talk to the waitress and recommend things and tell you what's in things. I told them I didn't want anything with raw fish in it. They recommended suki yaki, the most popular dish, so I had it. It was okay; it had bamboo and soybean cake in it and stuff with the consistency of seaweed. Also there was green tea and rice and a lot of little side dishes, sweet fish and greens pickled in soy and eggplant pickled in soy. Everyone else ate with chopsticks (they do in Thailand too) but I soon gave that up because I would've been there all night. There was popular Japanese music playing (weird sounding) and Japanese lanterns all around and the waiters and waitresses wore traditional Japanese costumes. About half the people there were Japanese, and Suzuki, who is studying at Columbia, said that a lot of Americans who ate there were studying Japanese at Columbia.

I bought a new pair of black shoes Saturday and they are making blisters on my heels. Shoes and I just do not get along.

Carol's training does sound rigorous. This dropping them out in the wilderness sounds a little drastic. I'm going to write to her this week; have to go to the library tonight to return some books.

In this new office three engineers have their offices right next to us, and they share a secretary. The one they had just left after three weeks and now they have a new one. She is fresh out of high school, about five feet tall and wears her hair loose down to her waist. And she has a hysterical giggle. I've gotten the impression that she thinks this office is moving down to the new building too, but the engineers aren't either. She'll probably leave when she finds that out. She's already talking about how quiet it is here, compared to the videotape office where she used to work.

It's true that office experience makes a difference. I've learned so much, about sounding businesslike and courteous on the phone, about little things like filing cards and how to make them and many things about the typewriter, and changing ribbons, deciding what's important and what isn't, and what things should be done first. And just getting used to a nine to five day, and "business etiquette". And observing what kind of things this secretary to the engineers is asked to do.

I sent away for a booklet about stenotype which hasn't come yet, but the whole idea doesn't appeal to me—being dependent on a machine, whose noise I'd think would be annoying anyway. The idea of being able to take Gregg shorthand sounds so unobtrusive, and also more of an art. The course I want to take starts Sept. 8 at Mary Byers and I'm pretty decided about it.

I'll have to start doing something, and so will sign off.

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