From the top deck of the bus, Marty and I were mesmerized by Fifth Avenue as we watched glamorous stores spring up like pages out of Mademoiselle. Bergdorf Goodman. Bonwit Teller. Cartier. De Pinna. Saks Fifth Avenue. Peck & Peck. We knew all of the stores even if we had never been through any of their doors—or even seen a store bigger than Younkers in Des Moines!
When the Empire State Building loomed ahead, we were speechless. I felt like a princess on a Fourth of July float, looking at my kingdom, which in this case was a landscape of high-fashion show windows, screeching traffic, and the tallest building in the world.
We couldn't stop to sightsee. We were looking for a job.
Marty was holding a Manhattan map in her lap, while I held on to my hat.
"Get ready." She pointed. "Thirty-eighth Street is coming up!"
We barely made it down the narrow circular stairs before the bus took off again. In my eagerness to cross the street, I stepped into the path of a Checker Cab. A man pulled me back and Marty screamed. My heart lurched as I tried to catch my breath. The light changed from red to green, red to green, before I found the courage to step off the curb and cross the street.
I felt calmer as we entered Lord & Taylor. It was a historic moment. We could be working behind one of their glistening counters as early as tomorrow. In a trance, I followed the scent of Chanel No. 5 past the cosmetics counters and the racks of two-piece bathing suits, Hawaiian dresses, and turbans with sparkling rhinestone clips. By the time we reached the elevator, I had mentally spent my first paycheck.
Opening the door to the employment office, I stared in disbelief. Marty was wide-eyed. There, cramped into a vestibule with overflowing ashtrays, were over thirty girls waiting for applications, some crouched on the floor. Included in that group were a Powers model type in a sleeveless pink linen dress; a pert brunette teetering on four-inch white ankle-strap heels; and two elegant girls with white shantung jackets. Looking at us, they smiled, giggled, and laughed. My face flamed as we squeezed into the line.
We were garbed in black. Totally. Black dresses, shoes, and cartwheel hats. Our inspired outfit had been copied from a glossy ad in Vogue, but that sweltering day, we looked like characters out of a Tolstoy tragedy.
Marty and I gave each other The Look. With heads up, we peeled off our white gloves to fill out our applications, and smiled back at the girls. Little did they know the kind of pull we had.
The harried manager didn't bother to look up when we handed our applications in.
"Come back next fall," she said crisply.
Next fall? She's dismissing us without reading our applications? She doesn't know our connections? I was furious! We'd counted on this job. We needed it for the summer. Now.
"Excuse me," I said. "We have friends working here"—my voice was so tight, I scarcely recognized the anger in it—"and an important reference—"
She shook her head, filing our applications without glancing at them. Or us.
"Don't worry, Marjorie, this isn't the only big deal in town," Marty said on the way out.
Beads of sweat trickled down my face. We trudged in and out of a dozen stores, waiting in lines and filling out applications. When we reached Saks Fifth Avenue the management only shooed us away. I couldn't believe it! What was this wild rumor that finding a job in Manhattan was easy?
It had all started a month ago, when three of our sorority sisters had landed...
Author: Marjorie Hart
Marjorie Hart is the former chairman of the Fine Arts Department at the University of San Diego and a professional cellist. She lives in La Mesa, California.
"This warm account of more innocent times makes an unspoken comparison with the way we live now. A fond backwardglance." - Kirkus Reviews
"A charming story of a charmed summer...I didn't want Marjorie Hart's effervescent memoir to end." - Emily Giffin, author of Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and Baby Proof
"The (Tiffany) company should put this book on prominent display, for heaven's sake--it's that much of a paean." - Buffalo News
"What do you imagine might be the most memorable summer of your life? Do you think it's happened yet? - San Diego City Beat
"Hart writes about that stylish summer with verve, recollecting with a touching purity a magical summer in Manhattan." - Cleveland Plain Dealer