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Going into the City, Gracefully

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

My family moved to the big city when I was 12 from a small, midwestern town. At school, my pronunciation (feesh, deesh) and country ways caused me some adjustments, but a new girl transferred in and attention riveted on her. She was tall, beautiful and had a picture-perfect, shoulder-length blond page boy. Rumor had it she was going to be a model. My friend Sandy and I signed up at a downtown department store, our first step to becoming Seventeen Magazine cover girls. Four Saturday mornings, two busses each way, a seven dollar (total) tuition and upon graduation, attendance guaranteeing "52 great weekends a year."

Classes were held in one of the storerooms of the four-story building, huge windows overlooking the backsides of a myriad of city buildings. We sat, jammed in with naked mannequins, at tables along the makeshift runway for classes in applying Helena Rubenstein make-up, hairstyles, beauty tips and, best of all, practicing walking and making pivot turns on the elevated runway. We were advised to keep sundaes for Sunday, to sleep, even in sub-zero weather with a window cracked for fresh air (Were you born in a barn? daddy shouted more than once) and reminded that, "horses sweat, men perspire and women glow." We were advised, for the sake of mystery, to always wave wistfully from the door as our dates departed. As an eighth grader, dating wasn't yet on my radar, but I tucked away the hint for future use. I was singled out for my excellent taste in clothing wearing separates from the Susan Ives Shop filched from my sister, Jean's closet. The culminating event was a luncheon in the store's tea room where we modelled outfits from the store and learned that black was reserved for dressy dresses and cocktail gowns---and always appeared last in a fashion show.

Going alone into the city was a major thing. Sandy and I learned how to ride a bus like pros without lurching by standing sideways, holding the strap with one hand and swaying gently with the stop and go movements of the bus. I've kept diaries and journals most of my life and recommend the Stories of the City Journal, available soon from bobbin-olive productions. Memories are fun to conjure, write and pass along. Along with those helpful hints. My stint with Seventeen was limited to buying copies of the publication at the drugstore every month.

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