A Visit from an Old Friend
Recently, I had a visit from an old friend named Ruth, it had been many years since I had seen her. When her son learned that his mother had an old friend in Bel Air and he had a daughter living in Abingdon he offered to bring his parents for a visit. I will always appreciate his thoughtfulness.
I met Ruth in 1942 when we were about 15 years old. We were starting to work in Hutzler's department store. It was during the summer and I was going through a bout of teenage depressing. World War II was raging in Europe and in the South Pacific. My cousins, Uncles, and friends were being called up for service. No one knew what this war was going to cost our country in lives and money. My family was still struggling with the effects of the great depression. We lived from week to week and month to month.
An English lady who lived across the street told my mother that Hutzler's department store was hiring girls my age with a working permit. Mom soon took me to get a permit and off to Hutzler's we went. It was exciting to enter a beautiful large store with beautiful clothing and furniture. The job was to serve food in a salad luncheon room on the sixth floor. This was a new style that was copied from a salad room in New York. The room was decorated in green and yellow colored leather chairs. The salad and deserts were well prepared. It looked like heaven to me.
Located next to the Quixie was an elegant tea and dining room and the chairs were covered with white satin with red stripes. There was a beauty parlor on the same floor and the ladies would have their lunch sent over, a lifestyle at fifteen that I had never seen before. The clientele were very courteous, not like at the lunch counter in the basement. Sometimes on Thursday evening there would be a fashion show in the tea room. All of this was like a wonderful awaking and I was learning that there was a brighter side of life. It was a nice solution for a young depressed girl.
I worked with a group of girls my age and we wore cute colorful uniforms. I became friends with some of them. Ruth Filbey and Loraine Schneider were two of them. Sometimes on pay day a few of us would go some where to eat. We also went to the movies or the roller rink together. In time we broke up to search for higher paying jobs. Some of us tried to keep in touch by sending Christmas cards. As the war ended most of the girls were getting married and starting families. Then when I was 50 years old I got word that Lorraine who was the same age as I, had passed away. Now some of my friends were dying off. It was painful, but you have to learn to deal with it the best that you can.
In the spring of 2008, I sent Ruth a memoir story about taking a bus trip to the lovely little town where she lives in Pennsylvania. I was so close and knew I couldn't see her because on a bus trip you have to stay with the group. Ed couldn't drive that distance because he was having health problems. Then I received a call from Ruth that she was going to visit her granddaughter in Abingdon and her son could bring her and her husband for a visit. I was very anxious to see her after all of these years. I waited on the porch as the car pulled up. When Ruth got out of the car I could see the girl that I had remembered. Even though her hair was white, her stature was still the same. She said she has had some replacements, but it didn't show. We both have some heart problems and that didn't show either.
When I started to reminisce about our days at Hutzler's, Ruth had different memories then I did. She didn't seem to be impressed with the beauty of the store and she remembered that we only made 25 cents an hour. It never occurred to me that we worked for such a low wage. I could see that Ruth was more practical then me and that I was a dreamer. All that mattered to me was that I didn't have any money before and with my salary I could pay Mom four dollars board and have some dental work done on a payment plan. I needed one dollar for car fare and there was still some left over to buy a garment on lay away plan. Movies were 25 cents and if the girls ate out it was a cheap meal with no tipping. The experience of working at Hutzler's lifted my spirits, made me happy and taught me to want a better life. I think that was worth more than 25 cents an hour. I was on my way to the future.
Audrey Teal Kaminski
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