Actually…

…what I keep remembering is my roommate, Sylvia. Boyfriends later.

I didn’t want to stay at the YWCA, so I was glad to hear of someone who wanted a roommate to share the expenses of an apartment. It was in the 900 block of Charles Street, a nice area of Baltimore, not too far from the Welfare Department. Sylvia and I seemed to get along just fine. I happily moved in.

The small apartment building, six apartments, was owned by another Sylvia who also owned two dress shops. My Sylvia worked in one of those shops. People who worked with them called my Sylvia Little Sylvia and the shop owner, Big Sylvia. No one was either big or little, you understand.

Sylvia and I spend time in Big Sylvia’s apartment play Bridge with her and her deaf son. Big Sylvia wanted her son to socialize. Because of his deafness–he could read lips–he didn’t spend much time with non-deaf people. So the four of us played Bridge.

Sylvia was a good roommate. We had no differences about who cooked–we took turns–and who cleaned–neither one of us. But she was a bulemic. I didn’t know that name then. I was just confused. It never occurred to me that she might be controlling weight by throwing up her dinner every night. Besides, late in the evening, she’d eat up all the leftovers in the refrigerator.

Perhaps it was my talk of going to California that motivated Sylvia to go to Hollywood the following Spring. She was going to live with her aunt and uncle who ran a dry cleaning shop, and work for them.

I’d been thinking of going to California for some time. In the Spring, I started to save my money to buy a car after I was there. I’d heard you needed one to get around. I figured I could afford a second-hand car of some kind.

Just before I left Baltimore, big Sylvia confessed that she’d hoped I’d invite her son to drive to California with me. No, I hadn’t thought of that. Nor did I want the romance that Sylvia hoped we’d fall into. And then, she hoped, fall into bed together. Not on my agenda!

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Baltimore

After I graduated from Smith in 1955, I wanted a job, a job not in Bethel, Connecticut. I was sick of school. Very few of my classmates went on to graduate school. I only knew one girl who was going to get a Ph.D. But many got married, getting their Mrs. That’s the way people talked then. We all thought it was stupid.

I hadn’t tried very hard getting a job before graduation. I knew I could stay with my parents until I found something.

On July 4th I had an appointment with a woman who was in charge of hiring at the Baltimore, Maryland Department of Welfare. It wasn’t a job that interested me much but I would be in a big city and not too far from home.

The interview took place in an apartment on the upper west side of New York City. But next to Harlem. After my interview I walked the streets looking for a way downtown to get back to Norwalk where I’d parked Dad’s car.

Was I uneasy? Yes, but my rule is, act as though you’ve got a place to go to. Nobody bothers you then.

I took the train back to Norwalk and when I opened the car door, Whoosh! went the hot air trapped in the car. I thought for a second that I had broken something. I should have left the windows open a bit. It was a very hot day. And I didn’t know much about cars.

Within a week or two, I was in Baltimore in a room at the YWCA Hotel. The room was okay, but , oh my God, was it hot. I read articles in the newspapers and magazines on how to stay cool: take a cool shower, don’t dry yourself, put your nightgown on your wet body, sprinkle the bed with water. This helped a lot.

I had a week of training before I took my 5″ by 4″ welfare department notebook and hit the streets. I had a mix of black and white clients spread over a large area. I memorized my map and the trolley/bus system. I began to lose weight.

I don’t remember much about my day to day job; I do remember my boyfriends.