Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s


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I loved Gregg shorthand from the get-go and wanted a secretarial job that would make good use of it. Oh, the joy of being able to write rapidly in a language that the average passerby couldn't read! A secret code. I still use Gregg today, especially the dotted curlicue of "I think", to annotate something I'm not sure about. However, I was late to the party: by 1966 many offices had turned to the dictaphone.

Letters from New York City - May 1966

Sat. aft.

Changing jobs

This past week has flown; I thought it would drag. But in winding up all my little projects at the office to leave everything in perfect shape, there was enough to do. I've made a looseleaf notebook, all typed and indexed, covering everything anybody succeeding me would need to know. Unfortunately, after all the loving hours I've spent on it, I find myself passing it on to Pat. Most of the radio shows were canceled a few weeks ago, so now that I've left they may not hire a replacement but just dole out my work to the other three girls.

It was really sad, leaving yesterday. Jean gave me Bellodgia cologne, and Pat and Renee gave me a Japanese tea set for six "for my apartment" (I've been looking). And there are so many little "lasts"—filing the last card, typing the last program, and saying goodbye to the people I talk to on the phone every day.

Day after tomorrow I will start being a secretary. The anticipation period has been so long, I'm not so excited any more. Thank heaven. I wish I hadn't told Mr. Roennau I especially wanted a job with a lot of dictation because I liked it. He said something about "If a girl has good shorthand, it can be helpful". I didn't say I was good! This past week I've been practicing it madly.

Diane and I went shopping this morning. I bought a pair of pink shorts in Stern's basement for $1.00 for suntanning in the park. Last week I bought a navy and white two-piece knit dress at Peck & Peck. The Sears order came, and the girdle makes the knits look much smoother.

Diane and I have been looking at apartments. One, just off 5th Avenue on 58th Street, was nice except it was like a cave. It was furnished nicely, doorman, elevator, etc., but only on the second floor of a 15-story building and no light at all. It faced on a narrow, walls-on-all-sides area way. Only $160. But we wouldn't get any air.

The one I like best so far was on Lexington Avenue at 57th Street. It was a third floor walk-up with windows overlooking Lexington. It was over a 24-hour-a-day flower shop, which sounds romantic. Beautifully furnished, with a fireplace and drapes and wall-to-wall carpet. But it's really a bachelor apartment, very small. A double bed in the bedroom, no shower in the tub, and no oven in the kitchen alcove (really, not much more than a hotplate and tiny refrigerator). But it was very pretty and cozy. Only $165.

Another girl, Sylvia, was going to get an apartment with us but she is a skater and has an offer to join the touring "Holiday on Ice" at $125 and is considering it. Here in NYC she makes about $70 a week typing for the Estee Lauder cosmetic company. But she isn't sure she wants to travel.

Diane and I went to see the City Center production of "How to Succeed in Business" last Sunday. It was very good, as polished as a Broadway production, and only $1.95.

I'm glad you like the soap, Mother. It sounds like the new house is coming along fast. You're probably out to look at it every other night. In no time at all, my home will be transplanted. I can't believe it's the middle of May. The weather doesn't help; another miserable gray damp Saturday.

Remind Carol when you see her that I'm waiting to hear when she's coming. Any weekend. I'm not sure if I'm coming home Memorial weekend yet. I want to get some more summer clothes.

You'll probably get this on my first day. Wish me luck!


My new boss is a dreamboat

It's ten past five and I've got nothing to do at the moment. The Boss has been at a meeting all afternoon. He has jillion phone messages.

He just came in. To be continued.

Saturday afternoon, May 28:

Carol is reading some Glamour magazines while I write this (she arrived this morning for the weekend, called last night to warn me). We went to Radio CIty earlier, saw "Arabesque", a spy spoof with Sophia Loren. Then went to Macys and Ohrbachs. Tonight we'll probably go down to the Village, and tomorrow to Coney Island. It better be nice tomorrow! Today was miserable, always on the verge of raining, and after they forecast a beautiful weekend.

I haven't written lately because I've felt so restless. Every evening I've gone some place or other—shopping, looking at apartments, walking in the park, swimming, movies—working off nervous energy about my job.

It's interesting; I type a lot of letters and contracts, and it's impressive to think that this, that I am typing, is the original legal agreement betweet ABC and RCA, for example. Last night I was at the office till nearly seven typing a contract that had to go out before the weekend. It's nice to feel, unlike the other job, that things have to be done.

I will never, I bet, have another boss like the present one. Stewart Cheifet is the paragon type—27, single, tall, dark, handsome, grad of U.S.C. and Harvard Law, plays the violin, doesn't smoke, goes swimming at the YMCA during lunch hour, plays baseball on the News Dept. team in Central Park after work, also plays tennis, great taste in clothes (gorgeous combination of blue shirt and olive suit yesterday), radiates confidence and intelligence. A perfectionist in all things.

I get the feeling he's engaged to his previous secretary, Jane. She now works in the building I used to work in, down the street. She calls about twice a day, and comes over after five-thirty and I guess they usually go for dinner together. That's probably why she was transferred. I haven't asked; ignorance is bliss. But it's a funny situation.

Really, I'm vaguely uncomfortable at all times in this job. Maybe it's just the newness; I have the definite, definite feeling, though, that I won't have this job very long. Maybe just until next January or so.

Carol just mentioned that Louise Ann died. [She was an adorable always-smiling little girl in our church, who'd been on crutches all her brief life.]

Carol and I have just discussed the previous sentence, and do not know what to say next. End of subject.

I may come home next weekend, or maybe the one after that. I want to get my contacts polished when I do. I stopped wearing them again last week, but am going to start again (someday, someday...I do think I'll get used to them) but then this whole past week at work I haven't worn either contacts or glasses; it's easier to just get along with neither.

Carol says Reverend Webster [the minister of our church; an elderly man who lived in the parsonage with his mother] has been telling people he's been "fired". It is very sad. The new minister, a family man Carol says, will be quite a change. As will Reverend Webster be for Vestal, NY. [The Methodist ministers were rotated about, periodically.]

I'm sorry to hear about Grandpa Shaw. What you say is true, about how it would just be attributed to old age a few years ago, which, being vague and inevitable, is not as hard to face. I guess you'll probably be going there this summer?

I just can't concentrate on this letter. Two other girls have just come in to get our opinion on some clothes. Now that I've broken the ice after two weeks, I'll write again in a few days. Promise. It's about time for Carol and I to go out if we're going; it's twenty of nine.

Sat. night

Getting cold feet about an apartment

Today was such a gorgeous day, I have a start on a tan. Tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful too. Summer is my favorite season.

Carol and I did go to Coney Island last Sunday and got hot dogs at Nathan's, which Jackie Kennedy did a few days before us. We rode on the big ferris wheel. But what an ancient shabby place! I was disappointed. It's really messy; nothing's been painted in years. And it's mostly carnival games, with very aggressive barkers.

Monday, after Carol left, was reasonably nice and I went to the park. The other girls went to Coney Island, but I didn't want to go there again.

Also on Monday I looked at an apartment in Greenwich Village. Very nice, furnished complete with grand piano and wonderful roof for sun bathing. 10 month sublet; girl musician going to Paris. $150 a month.

So that night I brought Diane down to see it (she was at Coney Island before) and she liked it too. We said we'd let the girl know definitely on Tuesday, and Diane paid a $10 deposit.

We left the apartment and started walking around the neighborhood. And me, faced with even just a 10 month lease, started feeling doubtful. And even about whether I really wanted to or could live with Diane.

Anyway, the following day I called the girl and said we'd decided against it. Diane was just as glad to pass it up too. And yesterday when I got paid I gave her the $10, since the whole thing was at my instigation and she makes less money than me.

I like living at the YWCA. Getting that close to an apartment taught me how much I don't want it. Really, the only thing I like about an apartment is being able to tell people you have an apartment, because so many people think it's odd to live in a YWCA.

Last night I went swimming in the pool. [On the top floor of the YWCA was a delightful swimming pool.] It was so nice, so heavenly, that I wonder, as I do every time I go, why I don't go more often. Tomorrow night I'm going again.

The job is coming along all right. There isn't too much to do, unfortunately. But he is one of those fascinating-type people that it is a joy to be around.

Talking with Carol last weekend, I really can't believe the whole thing. Little facts I hadn't realized before: no electricity or running water, no radios probably, much less television. No piano, no nothing. And the horrible weather, fighting rot and fungus. She must be insane. It sounds really awful. [Carol has joined the Peace Corps, assigned to Liberia.]

This coming week is probably Chris' last of school, last of the same schools I went to, sob! [My parents and younger brother are moving to a new house out in the country.] I'm definitely coming home this Friday night, the 10th, if it's okay with you. Probably a later bus than the 5:20 I usually take, since the official work hours with Cheifet are 9:30-5:30. I hope it's good lake weather next weekend.

Tues. night

My boss is leaving me

Life is so peculiar. Again I am faced with a change in employment. My strong feeling that the job wouldn't last long was well founded.

Yesterday Stewart told me he is leaving ABC in two weeks, going to California on the 19th, to work for his uncle who is an independent producer out there. Bombshell! [He would be working on a TV show called "Divorce Court".]

I don't know what ABC Personnel is planning to do with me, whether they'll get an immediate replacement for Stewart or what. But anyway, I've made an appointment to see ASCAP personnel tomorrow during my lunch hour.

Yesterday and today were so hot and beautiful. I went swimming last night and am going again tonight.

I feel deserted, buffeted by fate!

It will be nice to come home this weekend I got my ticket today, the 6:30 bus on Friday, it's supposed to get in at 9:05. I will call from the station.

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