I arrived at the Hartford bus station and took a taxi to the apartment. I had one suitcase and a small carry-on bag, the nice driver carried the bag to the door, and I only paid the fare to my discredit. I didn’t know you should tip. It was kind of fun living in the house. We each had a bedroom and kitchen privileges. The family usually prepared a meal and ate together.
I got to meet my father as he was living in Connecticut with his wife. He seemed quite happy to see me and helped me get a keypunch operator job at Hartford Fire Insurance Company. It was thrilling at first working in a great big city in a big company. The computers situated on the other side of the file cabinets needed the cards that us “girls” created by punching holes in them depending on the use. My great big pay was $1.58 an hour, unlike the two or three times the pay of the “Men” who were privileged to work on the other side. No girls were ever hired for that job.
It was fun in the beginning anyway. I met Pat at work, and we decided to become roomies. Our apartment was a 2 bedroom, one bath with a kitchen and living room on each end. It was referred to as a “Railroad apartment,” but we didn’t care; it was all ours, and we split the $125.00 a month rent. I discovered that our ideas for cleaning were quite different. On Saturday, when it was my cleaning day, I washed floors, cleaned the bathroom, and washed my clothes by hand in the large sink. I hung them on the clothesline on the porch next to the kitchen. We survived because we rarely ate out and took lunches to work; we had plenty of dates that bought dinner. I did have to train Pat to get up in the morning! She frequently slept late and just had to have her makeup perfect! I left her “getting ready” and caught the bus, leaving her to pay the full taxi fare.
We became friends more than roomies when Pat had a Pionital Cyst on the end of her spine. I dressed that for weeks until it healed. And as soon as that ordeal was over, I came down with an awful earache. We didn’t yet have insurance coverage, so I went to the ER (in those days, you would be treated even if you were broke. I was about 20 cents short of broke.
I had to wait until they could fit me in for surgery by an Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor. The hospital sent me home with a prescription for enough Morphine to take down a Rhino. When they finally okay’d me for surgery, I was skin and bones because all I remember was sleeping and taking pills. The good thing is I had the best ENT in Hartford, Conn., to do the surgery. He even forgave the co-pay from my Ins. It is a good thing I do not have an addictive personality because I would have been hooked. It was my first job, and I went under not knowing if my Insurance would cover the cost. When I woke up, I swear I was looking up a long black tunnel, and at the other end was Pat shouting, “You are covered!” Great, I would not owe thousands of dollars.
I finally came home with nearly half of my head shaved, but Pat did some magic with scissors, and I looked reasonably human. The Doctor did a great job! Now I had no more pain, and I could hear my watch tick.
The city girls didn’t like us “Maniacs” and did everything they could to make us miserable. It didn’t work! We come from strong stock. They called us “Hicks from the sticks,” and we just laughed at them. We worked up a routine that killed them! We played the hick thing up well in a kind of skit. We exclaimed how wonderful it was to have that great appliance in the bathroom to wash our hair. You lathered it up real good and then put your head down in the bowl and just push down the handle, and voila, you get more clean water. When they gagged and tried to explain it in words of one syllable that it was a toilet and not meant to be used for hair washing. We said we knew that, but it could do our hair real good too! I think everyone knew we were putting them on, but they weren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer.
I never looked my age, and I found it strange that when a few girls were over for drinks, they sent me down to the liquor store under our apartment to buy beer. They rehearsed me how to act and what to say. I went into the store and stumbled over my words until the guy said, “You girls want some beer, right?” I mumbled “Yes” and handed him all our money. He gave me back some of it and handed me a box of beer. I turned and ran for my life. My friends were as surprised as I was that we had a beer. That was when I learned what the meaning of “Paying Homage to the porcelain God” meant. Unfortunately, I prayed more times than I cared to remember during that time.
Dating was a lot more innocent during that time, or we were a lot more innocent. Remember that I grew up on a farm, and the guys I met were amazed at my lack of knowledge of the perks of city life. I’ll tell you more about that next time.