Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s


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At last a guy I'm actually attracted to has asked me out: Charlie was an actor in his mid-thirties who'd done some television commercials and was producing plays for children. He lived in Hell's Kitchen (a few blocks west of the Y) in a tenement apartment whose claw-foot bathtub was in the living-room/kitchen. He'd come over on the Normandie as a child.

Letters from New York City - October 1966

Mon. night

A job answering letters?

I'm listening to the record of Sweet Charity. Thursday night Barb F. and I went to see it, and paid $8.50 for seats. If only musicals weren't so expensive.

Saturday and Sunday afternoons Diane and I played tennis and today I can hardly walk. You just can't do that only once in a while. We're going up again some evening this week.

Did you watch the Miss America pageant? Everybody at the Y did because of Carol Kennedy, Miss Massachusetts, who lived here [within the past year]. She made it to the final 10, and I thought she was the most naturally pretty.

Today I began a week as secretary to Phil Harmon in the Advertising Dept. I like it better than the last one. For one thing, I'm only working for one man and my desk is more in a corner, not out in a sea of people.

It's still doing mechanical things that a machine could do. Stuffing envelopes, xeroxing, labeling pictures (Write across the backs of 80 photos: "Virginia Graham with Judy Weil, Libby Morris & Susan Snyder" was one of the things I did).

The main project is sending out copies of a poem called "Trouble in the Amen Corner" that was read on Hayride, a TV program that isn't seen in New York but is in the backwoods of Pa., W. Va., and Michigan. They said when the poem was read that anyone could have a copy by writing to AVCO Broadcasting Co. in Cincinnati.

The letters were shipped unopened to us in New York and I get to read them and send them the poem. It's fascinating to read them, to see how people can screw up the address and still the letter has found the right place (and people's horrible handwriting—it gives you real respect for the mail, that they can wade through wrong box numbers, wrong cities, pigeon scratch, and get the letter to the right party).

Reading this stuff is so much fun that next time I talk to Carole Foster in Personnel I'm going to ask her about future openings in the Audience Information Dept., which answers all kinds of questions people write to ABC in general.

My check was sent to 66th St. Friday and when I went up to get it I met Dottie from the Music Dept. She said Jean D. is still in the hospital, Maxine's last day will be the 23rd (she's going back to school), Mr. Vagnoni has retired, and Al Datz, the librarian, has been let go. He was union like the musicians and his contract was up.

That department is really sick. She asked if I'd come back there temporarily till Jean got back, and I said I wouldn't mind for a month. So maybe that will happen.

The view out my window tonight is clear as crystal. Goodnight.

Mon. night

At last, a boyfriend

Great that the house is sold! [My parents had a new house built out in the country, and were moving there with my younger brother.] But I can't imagine five kids in it. Do you know if they're all young? If they don't use the room over the garage for anything else maybe they could fix it up for an older boy. Anyway, it's good that a family with children is moving in. Our block could have used more.

Jean [my mother's much-younger sister] was gone when I got home tonight; hope she was able to get on the bus she wanted. I really like having people stay with me. You better come in soon for your drapes, Mother. Jean said she'll probably be here again this Saturday night. Are you all thinking of driving in that day?

Today began my third week back in the Music Department. The joy of being "back home" is wearing off and I don't want to stay here more than one more week. This department is dying on its feet. Jean D. comes to work, then goes home at night to Roosevelt Hospital. Maxine is gone and everything is a mess.

Saturday night I went to a party at a guy's apartment on E. 77th St. What an apartment! He must spend every cent he makes on it. It's on the 18th floor of a luxury building, has a terrace from which you can see the East River, is very chicly furnished in Spanish or Mediterranean something. Complete with sculpture and paintings, piano, stereo, etc. He works for the government, something to do with the moonshots. But even so, he's young, I don't see how he affords it all by himself.

The crowd at this party was very interesting. Many beards and mustaches. I went with Pam from the Y who knew the guy who is staying temporarily with Brian, the host, from college. We really had a good time.

I got a letter from Barbara Rowland. She's moved into an apartment all by herself. 15 Gloucester Street. She turns out to be the most independent one. She's still seeing Bob.

The main reason I haven't written lately is Charlie [a guy I met at the Y pool]. I see him about three nights a week and then in between, like tonight, I sit around staring at the phone.

His apartment makes me want to get one all by myself too. It's so cozy. Only $42 a month, it's on 50th between 10th and 11th Avenues, a real slum district. Five-flight walk-up back apartment. But once inside, it's charming. He has a piano and little sofa, TV, record player, and a combination of hot plate and broiler that's sufficient to make a variety of stuff. He makes dinner for me sometimes. He's great! But so impermanent. What a life he leads. Last week he spent three days in Wichita making an industrial movie for an aircraft company. Today he tried out for the Las Vegas company of "Sweet Charity". He's always ready to take off. That's what makes him so fascinating.

I wish I'd signed up for some kind of night class this fall. Now that I've learned how to be a secretary, and decided I don't like it as well as independent work, I don't know what to do.

It's hard to believe it's October. This was the fastest summer on record. And it's gotten cold so fast.

I'll see you some weekend soon.

Wed. eve.

Stepping out with Charlie

Jean [my mother's much-younger sister] got in quite early Saturday morning and she and Carol [Jean's roommate] spent the day and evening on organized tours of the U.N., Lincoln Center, and the city. I'm glad she stayed here. Did she show you the picture of her "adopted child"? He's really cute.

And Uncle Harold [my mother's brother] has called twice. Last night he asked me out for a steak but it was late and I'd already eaten. He said he thinks he'll fly to Scranton Friday. As soon as he or Jean says "Hello" on the phone, you know they're not New Yorkers. Kansas accents are so nice.

I went shopping Saturday with Stephanie and Diane, looking for a dress. Didn't find anything. I want to work in a store before Christmas part-time this year, just to see what it's like. It certainly isn't worth the money—$1.25/hour at Macys.

Charlie and I went to see "The Investigation" Saturday night. It's about the trials of people connected with Auschwitz. There's no action; the actors just sit in a jury box on the stage and testify, and the testimony is discomforting, to say the least. But it was interesting.

Charlie was an end on the Lehigh football team. Chris certainly sounds enthused with the game. Did they beat Summit?

10-12-1966, continued...

Friday night Barb F. and I went to see Jennifer Jones in "The Country Girl" at City Center. It was good. We went out again last night to a "singles party" at the Phone Booth, an east-side bar-discotheque. We left practically as soon as we got there because I wanted to. I don't fit in in places like that! Those people are not like me. They are the swingers.

Barb was home last weekend and she and Rose went over to the Harmons. They saw slides and heard tapes Carol has sent [from Liberia], and talked on a tape that will be sent to her. Barb says the girl who lives with Carol has asked to be transferred and they are getting someone to replace her. That's too bad, because Carol especially liked her and the replacement may not be so congenial. And when it's the only person you're going to see most of the time.

I'm still in the music department this week, but next week will be somewhere else. They've hired a new permanent girl for the department. She is 18, a recent high school graduate from Ohio. At least they did fill the job with a high school grad instead of college. Because it's such a waste of college! I want to try another company in January (after I get my week's-pay Christmas bonus).

When are you all coming in for a day on the town? I really thought you might when Jean came back. Mother, when you come, I'll try to get us tickets for "Cactus Flower". It's so good, even if we have to stand, which I did before, it's worth it.

Well, it's time to go swimming. I'm thinking of coming home in a week or two.

Mon. aft.

More thumb-twiddling at work

This week I'm in the TV Programming department on the 37th floor. My desk is by a bank of windows facing north and I can see both rivers, Central Park, and even the George Washington bridge. I'm secretary to Jerry Bredouw. It's 4:30 and he hasn't given me anything to do all day. He's been in the screening room and I just answer the phone and read.

I'd love to see you this weekend. I'll leave a note in my box Friday, Mother, for them to give you my key. Saturday we can go shopping together, because I get paid Friday and will have money to get rid of.

Oh, I'm so incredibly bored.

Today I learned something about the Literary Rights department on the 25th floor. The girls there read books, stories, and scripts that are submitted to ABC and type up synopses of them for the Programming department. Wonder if I would like that.

I'm really not in a letter-writing mood right now. I want work to do! 40 minutes till quitting time.

Unless I hear otherwise, I'll expect to see you when I get home from work Friday night around 5:45, Mother.


Secretary to the Treasurer

I'm working for the Company Treasurer! Very important man. His secretary is on vacation for two weeks. Mr. Martin Brown is away all day today (this is my first day with him) and now I'm trying out the typewriter. This style of type is beautiful. I like the way the "I" is just one straight line.

He gets tons of mail, a lot of it marked "Personal and Confidential". It's to do with salaries, loans, profits. He has to sign almost every financial transaction, from hiring and firing people to simple expense vouchers to big international deals.

I went for a job interview last Friday at the suggestion of Dottie in the music department. She's now secretary to Sol Shapiro since Mr. Vagnoni retired. It was for a job as assistant to the secretary to the president of the American Federation of Musicians. I liked the woman, Nita Henderson, but the job sounded very "under" with probably me just getting the dirty jobs like filing. I thanked her and said I knew I would like working with her but that I had about decided that I'd like to get into some line of independent work and away from secretarial. She asked me to think about it and let her know this week.

Today Sol Shapiro called and gave me a pep talk about it. He says Nita is ready to retire and just wants to stay on around a year or so to break someone in. Hers is the type of job where she becomes indispensable and it takes time to teach a replacement all the aspects of the job. So it is really a career spot (she's been there 30-some years), and a very responsible position. Apparently she liked me and wants me to take the job. The president is a Mr. Kenin (whom I didn't meet) and he takes Nita with him to conferences and conventions several times a year; the last one was just a month ago in Las Vegas.

Just think—in a year, at age 23, I could be secretary to the president of a nationwide organization. But do I want that? Am I the convention-going type? Do I want to be a secretary? My problem is, as usual, I don't know what I want.

She asked what salary I was asking; I said my present was $90/week and I was asking $100. She said fine, and there are six-month reviews. So I don't know. I'm thinking about it.

I guess I'll wait till Thanksgiving now to come home. We are getting Friday off, so I'll get a bus Wednesday evening. Your visit was very refreshing. You said the house was nicer after the change, and that's how New York is when there's someone different around to see it with.

My feet got tired on the standing-room ticket for "The Apple Tree" because the musical was disappointing. But I'm glad I saw it so early, and it was worth seeing. "The Rose Tattoo" is being moved to a regular Broadway theater for an extended run because it's so popular.

Friday night I went ice skating at Madison Square Garden. It was very nice, they have an organist there in person to play, and the rink is pretty big. It's $1.50 from 8:15 to ll p.m.

The hours at the AFM job are 9:30-5, even better than ABC, with an hour off for lunch. It's at Lexington Avenue and 54th Street.

The coffee wagon just came in. I got coffee and a cherry danish. They always have such good stuff, it's hard to resist it.

Only 3:15 and it's getting dark out.

Are Bill and Judy [older brother and wife] coming for Thanksgiving? It's a shame about his job. I don't see how they can get away with doing that, promoting and then demoting, that just isn't done!

Surely you will inaugurate the new house by having Thanksgiving dinnner there rather than Kingston [grandparents' house]. I'm really looking forward to it. A very big turkey. It feels like time for a holiday, like it's been a long time since the last one.

It sounds like Christopher [younger brother] is doing very well, especially when you consider the getting used to a new atmosphere, new teachers and new ways of doing things. Things like Latin do take a little while to catch on to; you have to get the whole general idea first before it starts coming easily.

I keep turning around to look out the window. I'm on the 53rd Street side now and can look into CBS's windows.

Another ton of mail just arrived, which I shall stamp in.

Mon. 7:15 p.m.

A friend joins the Air Force

I'm coming home on an added section 6:30 bus, by shortway, is supposed to arrive in Scranton by 9:30 but I think if you are there to meet me at 10:00 it should work out about right. Can't wait to get home! It is time for a holiday.

Be sure to have the ingredients on hand for Wesh, chocolate chip, and coconut cookies (including cherries for the tops). I feel like baking.

I'm so glad Bill and Judy are coming. It will really be a big dinner. Get a huge turkey so there'll be plenty of leftovers.

Last night I went skating and it was very nice, just cold enough and not alot of wind. Tonight another girl and I have free tickets for the play "Those That Play the Clowns".

Rose was in the city Friday night, staying at the Barbizon Plaza with her parents, and she and Barb and I went to Radio City Friday night to see "Penelope", had lunch at Larre's on Saturday.

Barb F. is joining the Air Force, will begin basic training in Texas in March.

Have to iron, and get ready for the play. See you Wednesday night around 10.

Sun. aft.

Lots of evenings out

It's raining out and I'm washing clothes. Pat just called offering me two free tickets to an actor's benefit tonight but I would have to go all the way over to her place on E. 75th to get them in the rain and waste the afternoon and evening so I decided not to.

Your visit was fun but there was so little time! And I do wish Chris could see it on some other day besides Sunday. On Sunday it's not the same.

The stockings you brought are wonderful. I can hardly believe that they feel so good; they must be very stretchy. I'm getting them from now on.

Barb and Judy and I were going skating in the park last night but didn't because of the weather. Eleanor works evenings this month. I really kind of wish I'd gone in with them, we get along so well.

Yesterday afternoon the Y girls had a party for underprivileged little girls in the neighborhood. About 50 or 60 little girls came and only around ten Y girls. They asked us to contribute 50-cent presents. They were one gift short, and the little left-out cried. But it didn't go too badly. We sang carols and played games and had refreshments.

Friday night Barb and Judy and I went to the Le Metro cafe in the East Village. Maxine in my office had recommended it. It is unsullied by commercialism. It's in a basement. The door at street level looks like you're going into a second-hand furniture store. You walk through the junk-laden landing and down the stairs and there are heavy wood tables and chairs and old posters on the walls. People sit and play cards for hours. There's a rocking chair on a platform where they have poetry readings two nights a week. Coffee is a quarter, the best coffee I ever tasted, and food is not too much (hamburger - 75 cents) and there is absolutely no pressure. You can sit around all night.

It has the friendliest atmosphere. It is "real village", and out-of-the-way, at 2nd Avenue and 9th Street. We're going again Tuesday night, since we'll be down there anyway to see an off-Broadway production of "View from the Bridge" that I have discount tickets for.

Thursday night B & J & I had discount tickets for "The Subject was Roses" which was very good. Afterward we had cheesecake at Lindy's. That place left me very unimpressed. There was even a fly around our table and I've tasted better than their world-famous cheesecake.

Wednesday night the girls in the Y were invited to the dress rehearsal of a Clark Center play, free. It was Georg Buchner's "Leonce and Lena". It was done in the round and was one of those obscure things, symbolic.

Tuesday night B & J & I went to see "The Cincinnati Kid", a good movie. And they took Barb's stuff home that evening.

Right now you are probably asking yourself, "Where is the money coming from?". Out of the lunch fund. We have a hot plate at the office and I make soup for lunch. I wish the bonus would come through, or they'd tell you when it was going to.

Yesterday I received a letter from the Professional Placement Service of the N.Y. State Employment Service telling about job openings in which I might be interested: to become an employment interviewer. I'm going over tomorrow on my lunch hour and see what it is. The starting salary is $5,359/year, and $5,748 after six months.

Barb and I are coming home Thursday night the 23rd.

Tues. night

Christmas program at the Y

Gee, I just missed the deer by one day. But am glad I did. Where are you putting all the meat? That land must be great for game, to get it first thing in the morning on the first day.

The curtains must be beautiful and certainly make a tremendous difference in the room. It will look so cozy, rich red drapes and a fire in the fireplace.

The Y is having its Christmas program tomorrow night and I've been rehearsing for it, playing piano for the chorus. It's going to be held in the auditorium off the lobby, open to the public, a dance with small combo, refreshments, etc.

I'm still in ABC Films; Carole Foster gave me a couple of other choices last Friday, but they didn't sound any more interesting.

Yesterday I went for an interview for a job advertised in the Sunday Times. It was a talent agency, and I hoped it was Equity theater. But it was an agency devoted to teenage rock-n-roll groups. They handle Herman's Hermits, the Yardbirds, etc. So I wasn't interested.

Last week I saw "A Joyful Noise", a musical which is still in previews, and it was very good.

Charlie and I have had a disagreement and I probably won't be seeing him again.

The decorations are mostly all up here now. The tree in Rockefeller Center is decorated with bells this year. Saks Fifth Ave. looks like a winter wonderland inside with white angel's hair and silver hanging from the ceilings.

Have to go down and practice with Pam now. She is singing "O Holy Night" tomorrow night.

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