walked through the kitchen door at 9:30 that morning my father burst out
laughing. I was not amused. My father
was standing on the sidewalk outside of the kitchen window with his friend
Brock from work when he noticed that I had come home early that day. I secretly
had a crush on my father’s friend and I didn’t want him to witness my
humiliation. My toes hurt and I
desperately needed to take off my shoes.
happened?” Mom asked. “I couldn’t take
it anymore. So, I quit.” I responded in a defeated tone. “You should see what
those women look like that work there. They were awful.”
“You’re not made to work in a factory,” my
father said while he and Brock were still laughing outside at my expense.
I am girlie,
even for a girl. My free time was spent reading poetry and romance novels imagining
my own Mr. Darcy or John Thornton waltzing up to my door and sweeping me
away. I dreamt of wearing those
beautiful costumes from times past and living the genteel life. My head was in
the clouds, far from the reality of life.
For as long as I can remember, I always wore skirts and dresses because
I wanted to look like a Jane Austen character.
Wearing them made me feel feminine and I did it for religious reasons
too. I could count on one hand the
slacks that were included in my
Me at the shoe store with handmade clowns from a customer
from high school in January of 1978 when I was 17 years old and began working
at a small discount shoe store on Broadway called The 350 Shop. The store was owned by Alice Meadows, who was nearly
60 when I came on board.I was the only
full time employee and another girl came in for a couple of hours after school.
Me at the shoe store
wage was $2.50 an hour and my take home pay was less than $100.00 a week, but
for a teenager I felt rich and this money enabled me to buy clothes and those
precious books that I spent endless hours reading.
Alice Meadows and Me
with the public was nearly non-existent before working at the shoe store and
nothing could prepare me for how people really are in life. The clientele
ranged from nuns to drag queens, and Disco Harry, a local celebrity, came to
the store quit often, even though we only sold women’s shoes. People can be
scary, even women. I watched in horror
as hefty females with puffed feet and toes like sausages tried to cram their
oversized extremity into shoes that were much too small for them.Many men and women that came into the store
had rough features, were loud or threatening and their
manners were brutish, I was terrified of those people. My parents were country folk and my mother’s
outbreaks were mild compared to what I witnessed at the store. After enduring the public for a few years, I
wanted to do something else with my life.
Ed Meadows (Alice' husband) and me
applying at a lot of company’s around town.My father worked at Fruehauf Corporation on the city’s south side and he
liked it very much. Maybe, I would like working at a factory as well, I thought
to myself. I was told about a company in New Haven called Bennett’s, which was
a clothing factory and I went there to fill out an application.It was 1983 and I was on vacation from the
shoe store for two weeks when someone from the company called me about a
position.I decided to try it out since
I didn’t have to give up the shoe store job and I had two weeks to see if I
would like working in a factory environment.
It was July
and extremely hot. When I woke up at 5 a.m. for work it was already 80 degrees.
The expected high for the day was near 100. When I arrived at the factory I was
surprised to see that only women worked there. Someone brought me to my
station, which was a steam press. A large blower attached to the ceiling was
the only cooling and heating element in the building. It was extremely hot
inside even though it was early morning. The blower was operating at full blast
but didn’t make a difference in the sweltering factory. Sewing machines were
scattered all over the floor with a pile of fabric next to each machine. I was shown how to use the press and noticed
that my station had three piles of fabric pieces beside it. Observing the height of the piles alarmed
me. I was starting a job already behind,
which put me in a panic mode. I had to
wear pants with closed toe shoes. By the
time of the first break, I was drenched in sweat. My clothing clung to my body as if I had
stepped out of a pool of water and my perfectly coiffed hair lay flat on my
head. Sweat poured down my back and legs which ran like a stream to my socks. I was miserably hot and sticky.
around the factory as I pressed the fabric.
The women looked hard and unfeminine.
One woman stood out from the rest.
She was probably in her 50’s and looked old to one who is only 23. Her brown hair was braided and wrapped around
her head. I couldn’t tell what era here clothing was from, I think maybe she was
an old hippy from the 70’s, at least her outfit was. She was wearing patterned pants with a smock
top. Then I glanced around at the other
women working around me and they were wearing tattered jeans and old worn out
tee shirts. It was then that I had an
epiphany of my future and it scared me. I don’t want to look like those women, I
told myself. If I stay here then I will
definitely end up resembling them and I am not about to go down that road.
When I came
home, I headed straight for the shower.
I put on a blouse and a skirt, my favorite attire and thought about my
next move. My family asked about my
first day while we were eating dinner. I mumbled that work was okay. That evening
I went to bed early, exhausted from the work and the heat had taken its toll on
morning was a repeat of the day before.
The sun was high in the sky and was beating down upon my small place of
the earth at the early hour of 5 a.m. I
drove to work, dreading the day.
arriving at the factory, I went directly to my station. I tried to prepare myself for working in the
immense heat, but I couldn’t do it. I
was miserable. The sweat began pouring
as soon as I started operating the press. My toes were hurting because my shoes
were too short. It didn’t take me long
before I convinced myself that I wasn’t going to like working at the
factory. I just couldn’t see myself
there. When the first break came at
9:15, I told my boss that I wanted to go home and will not be coming back. She
offered to let me sew together garments at one of the machines. Then the vision of the woman that I wanted to
avoid resembling when I was middle-aged crossed my mind. I grabbed my lunch and purse then headed towards
my car. When I turned the key in the
ignition, I felt a sense of relief, and then I put the car in gear, not ever looking
I baked two of these cakes this evening. One for the birds and one for me. As you can guess the first one was a complete flop. I hate it when that happens. Anyway, I just found this recipe in a book called, The London Ritz Book ofAfternoon Tea, by Helen Simpson. This recipe has existed in various forms since the Middle Ages. It has caraway seeds, which gives the cake a distinct flavor. I rather like this cake and shall be making it to have with tea or coffee. Ingredients: 8 TBS butter (1 stick of butter) 2/3 cup of sugar 2 large eggs, beaten 2 tsp caraway seeds 1 1/4 cups cake flour or all purpose flour 3 TBS cornstarch or rice flour 1 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp ground cloves 1 tsp cinnamon 6 inch round cake pan about 3 inches deep (I used a square pan) Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease the cake pan and set aside. Cream together the butter and the sugar. Add the spices, baking powder, and rice flour. Mix well. Next begin adding the eggs and the flour a little at a time, alternating with add a little of the eggs and a little of the flour until it is mixed well. Lastly, fold in the caraway seeds. Pour the batter into the cake pan. Bake between 40-60 minutes or until the center of the cake is firm. Let it cool on a wire rack and then sprinkle with powdered sugar or leave plain. Enjoy!