Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I know I have been neglecting my blog again, and I apologize to my readers. I've been working on my memoirs.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

Part I - Windy City

I was mesmerized by my co-workers at 43 East Ohio Street, who welcomed me into the fold with open arms. I had grown up in a small town in Kentucky where everyone was white and Southern Baptist, girls taught to keep smiles on their faces, be nice to everyone and keep their personal lives to themselves. Most of the Chicago girls were Catholic, a religion that was unacceptable down home. Or at least in our little community, where backwoods preachers ruled with threats of eternal agony in the lake of fire to those who questioned their doctrine.

The girls knew nothing about keeping their personal lives to themselves; they didn’t care what they said or how someone took what they said. Most of them smoked and drank and were fond of saying, “Oh, my Gawd!” in response to just about everything. They were kind and caring. And they were not hypocrites. I began to rethink my religious upbringing, and, for the first time in my life, question it.

Down on the fourth floor, Carroll was getting a rude awakening. Marie, his boss (whom I nicknamed "Helmet Head"), was a wild-eyed, fifty-something spinster who wore her bleached hair in a heavily sprayed pageboy. She ruled the accounting department with an iron hand, and nothing anyone did pleased her. She yelled, stomped and threw fits when everything wasn’t going to her satisfaction. Some days she went into frenzies and yelled so loud that she could be heard from one end of the fourth floor to the other.

Each day, on our way home, Carroll had another story to tell about Helmet Head. She had jumped all over him or a co-worker, yelled at someone for a mistake, or made a mistake and blamed someone else. One day she ran out of her office, glaring at Carroll and others in the department. They hadn’t done anything wrong, so she reared back and kicked the file cabinet. She blamed them all when she broke her big toe.

* * *

Since Carroll and I had no money, we were short in the clothing department. I had three outfits, a blue shirtwaist dress and a two-piece floral green dress with a peplum and straight skirt. They were seconds; I bought them at a factory in Southern Illinois for three dollars each. The third was a beige sheath wool dress with a short matching jacket, the neckline trimmed in fur, which I splurged on when we went to a company banquet at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. I rotated the outfits that whole winter.

Carroll owned two used suits, a black one, the trousers of which were long enough for a six-foot man (he was five feet, four inches tall). When they were altered for him they just cut off the legs, and if he raised his leg you could see his Fruit of the Looms. He called them his “Knee Straddlers.”

“Looks like it’s the Knee-Straddlers today," he'd say, pulling on the wide-legged trousers, or “Can’t decide what to wear today; oh, I think I’ll wear my ‘Panama Suit!’”

The Panama Suit was a very light gray flannel, almost white, which reminded me of Humphrey Bogart's attire in “Casablanca.” His wool topcoat, given to him by a tall friend in Southern Illinois, sported tiny blue checks on a cream background, and it fell to his ankles.

“We should have it shortened,” I said.

“Keeps my legs warm," said Carroll.


Suzanne said...

HA HA HA! That sounds like something he would say! (And I guess he did.)

met said...

You've got the Chicago girls down pat. They spoke their mind about everything and were SO funny! I loved that city and the people. Loved the descriptions of your wardrobes and Carroll's comments.

Patience-please said...

Oh I can't wait for the whole thing! I love your writing!

Anonymous said...

Love this story, Brenda. I can see everything you write about.

Brenda said...

Thanks SO much, y'all!

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley