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The Summer of Deception and Shaking on Stage

Life Story Club Contributor

Queens College, New York; 1951

In June 1951, I had just graduated high school and planned to attend Queen’s College in September as a full-time student. But I needed a summer job to help pay for books and other college expenses. Unfortunately, there were only a few jobs available specifically for the summer.

I answered an ad in the New York Times for a job as a file clerk for a large company in Manhattan. I filled out the application and was interviewed by a middle-aged woman with a big smile. After she read my application, she told me that I was a very smart young lady. She could tell because I had lovely penmanship and I was good at spelling. She also stated that this was not a summer job because the company would train me to advance in the company. Even though I could feel my heart beating rapidly, I assured her that this would be my full-time job in the future.

The job turned out to be more difficult than I had anticipated because it involved standing for eight hours to file hundreds of documents in many file cabinets, while the ceiling fan was blowing hot air. There was no air conditioning and paper would blow off the desks of many of the other employees. A positive aspect of the job was that I was paid $40 a week for 40 hours of work and many of my co-workers were young people who were very friendly. The best part of the day was the one-hour lunchtime, where we ate together in the company cafeteria.

Two weeks before the end of the summer, the moment I had been dreading arrived. I had to tell the manager the big lie. I told her that I was leaving in two weeks because I was getting married and moving out of town. I thought I sounded convincing, even though the rapid beating of my heart reminded me of my big lie. I told the same story to the other employees. The manager seemed to be disappointed, but she wished me well. On my last day she called me into her office as lunchtime was beginning, in order to sign some papers. And I was very annoyed because she was taking time away from my lunch hour.

I reluctantly went to her large office. There to greet me were a dozen or so other employees. And on her desk were a few beautifully wrapped gifts. Immediately the employees began congratulating me on my upcoming wedding. They hoped I liked the wedding gifts I was asked to open. The gifts consisted of sexy, lace nightgowns, a gorgeous bathrobe, and a large album for my wedding pictures. I began to cry from guilt, but they assumed it was from joy.

The epilogue of the story was that approximately three years later when I got married, I moved out of town and the wedding gifts, I assure you, were put to good use.

Shaking on Stage

One of the most memorable things when I was growing up was the time I spent after school at the Jewish Center in my area. Because it was usually a Jewish holiday, we had to put on a play for the people in the congregation and I loved to be in plays – especially comedies. The reason I like comedies is because when I shook out of nervousness they would laugh and think it was part of the play. So I was very good at that. And I played the violin in the choir there… acting, singing, and it was all the things I loved to do. I was never great at any of them but it was so enjoyable and brought a lot of kids my age together. And those were about the most memorable parts of my growing up. 

For every Jewish holiday, there was some play to put on. On Purim, there was always a play with the king and the queen, and the good guys and the bad guys. And I loved being the queen so I could wear the crown, and they would call me, “Your Majesty.” All of the plays included stuff from the Bible, but they made it fun for the kids so that we would enjoy it. 

I remember one performance in particular. The majority of it was in Yiddish and Jewish. One of the songs my brother –who was three years younger– and I sang was called, “He is 80, and she is 70.” So we dressed up as two old people carrying canes. Back then, I was acting like I do now because it’s the same age I am now –it’s just that I looked a little cuter then!

And I was so nervous with stage fright that the more I shook, the more they thought I was just being an old lady, and the audience laughed even louder. My brother was a little jealous because they laughed at me more than they laughed at him. But those are the kinds of acts we put on. 

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