My Friend, Priscilla…

…Was the one who took me to the Vets Hospital. She worked there and had a date one week with a guy she met there. He stood her up. Somehow I met the same guy and he asked me out. Priscilla and I both knew he’d stand me up.

He did. He must have had a vendetta against women.

Priscilla invited me to her home for Thanksgiving. Not a comfortable home. It is the only Thanksgiving in my life that all the food on my plate was white.

We were both depressed and left as soon after dinner as we could. She didn’t need to explain why she worked at the candy stand in the Vets Hospital and lived at the Blue Triangle. I would have done anything to get out of that house too.

At Christmas Pauline asked me to Christmas dinner at her house. We  got there on time. There was a long table of food and people ready to eat the food. There was also her mother at the head of the table, drunk as a goose. We ate and left. I could see why Pauline lived in Oakland too.

We went horseback riding. It was a beautiful, sunny warm day and we enjoyed our ride. I did despite the clever way my horse suddenly galloped and then took a quick right. If my foot hadn’t got stuck in the stirrup, I would have flown to the left. And there were rocks everywhere. That should have taught me a lesson, to avoid horses-by-hire. Unfortunately for my well-being some months later, it didn’t.

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Psychology Research

I can’t understand how I could fly to California without a job awaiting me. It would be foolhardy now. Yet I had some money and felt perfectly sure I’d be okay. And I was.

I started to work at Kaiser Permanente Psychology Research the day after I’d had my interview. Working for Helen and Tim Leary meant doing a variety of jobs: typing dittos (like mimeographs, only more primitive), packaging orders for Tim’s questionnaires and diagrams of how groups operate, (he’d written a well-received Social Psychology text book) and proofreading an index for a new book of his. Among other things which I’ve forgotten.

The office was tuned to a new project: Finding a numerical system to codify therapeutic interactions in psychotherapy. Tim was working with Dr. Merton Gill, formerly of Yale. Gill had sessions of therapy with one patient recorded. Once a system was set up, several of the people in the office would be listening to the recorded sessions and using the new system to evaluate it.

I should tell you now that it didn’t work.  That’s why you haven’t heard of it.

Many long afternoons were spent on it. I wasn’t included as I’d told Helen and Tim I’d like to take May off and drive back home to Connecticut. I had purchased a used Ford and drove to work every day.

Soon after I began, Patricia joined the office. She and her roommate, Joan, soon became my good friends. They lived in academic Berkeley and I visited them often. I also had friends at the Blue Triangle Club where I lived. It was a women’s hotel run by the YWCA and I liked it. I’d get long telephone calls from my new Mexican friend at the Veterans’ Hospital. That went nowhere. Not only was he lin traction for a bad back by he was married.

Oakland

I stayed for a weekend at my parents’ friends in Walnut Creek. On arriving at their house, I was promptly told I was welcome but only for the weekend. A guest, a woman, had not only stayed and stayed but started making eyes at Mr. Smith. So no visitors were welcome after three days.

Which was fine with me. I needed to get a job. Sunday I was back at the YWCA hotel in Oakland and Monday I went to an employment agency.

They smiled at me and gave me a typing test. All employers smiled at fresh graduates of Ivy League colleges in those days, although they smiled at most people looking for jobs. The economy was booming and people were needed for all kinds of things.

I was sent to Kaiser Permanente Research, where I was interviewed by Dr. Tim Leary and his secretary, Helen. I thought I did okay. After I left, I called my agent and asked her for another referral. My agent said,Call Dr. Leary and tell him how much you enjoyed talking to him and that you hope to hear from him soon.

I did. Helen said, We were just talking about you. We want you to come to work here.

Happy Days! I had a new job.

The West Coast

After a hot summer spent on Wolfpit Road in Bethel, Connecticut, seeing all my high school friends, I left for California in early September. I’d written a college friend who lived in Berkeley, asking if I could see her, or visit her. She responded that she was leaving Berkeley for New York City and since her flight left for New York after mine came in, she’d be able to say hello and goodbye to me.

And so she did. Her sister kindly drove me to a hotel in San Francisco and dropped me off there.

That left me to rapidly make some plans. I took a tour of San Francisco the next day and the day after I was on a bus to Los Angeles. Sylvia, my Baltimore roommate, wanted me to come down and stay with her in her aunt’s and uncle’s apartment in Hollywood.

While Sylvia and her family worked six days a week and sat around the pool on Sunday, I spent time every day by the pool, practicing my diving. There was a young woman of 20 or so who was newly married. Her husband was a lawyer for a film company and met her at her home, while seeing her father on business. Somehow this young woman talked him into marrying her. He seemed stunned by his good luck. (He’d been raised in an orphanage.) She was very happy and, I suspected, pleased to be out of her father’s house.

One day she took her husband’s convertible and we drove through the smog of central Los Angeles to go to Disneyland. My eyes ran with water in the foul air. I’d heard of the famous LA smog. Being in it was a nasty shock. I can see the two of us now, trying to be cool sophisticated young women, with our eyes running down our faces behind our stylish sunglasses.

But I spent only a week with them all. Soon I was back on a bus to San Francisco to call old friends of my parents from Rochester, New York who now lived in Walnut Creek. I was going to ask them if I could come and visit.

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Leaving Baltimore

I left Baltimore with relief. (But then I always leave my jobs with relief. Always something better around the bend.) I was tired of the heat and humidity and tired of my case load: all nursing homes. I’d been switched to it several months before I left. All the nursing homes except the large Jewish one were depressing. I was too busy at the Jewish home to get depressed.

The social worker always arranged for me to have a good lunch with him before I saw any clients. There was so much going on, workers coming and going, activities scheduled. Many of the women and men there were still able to participate in Bingo, singing or cards or what have you. Since the social worker knew who I was supposed to see, I hardly had to work at all. And the job came with a car.

I had a new roommate in the Spring: Charlotte. She was married to a guy who was serving in the army in Korea. They’d make an arrangement by mail to talk on the phone on a Sunday. Charlotte, who was somewhat nervous, was always both relieved to hear her husband’s voice and distressed again to realize he was fighting a war and could be injured at any time.

After hearing about her family, I suspected she’d married to get away from them. As a teenager she’d had ulcers from the formal mealtimes where her brother and his wife fought every day with chilling good manners.

When I left, I’d made a date with Charlotte. I borrowed my  Dad’s car and drive down on a Friday to get all the stuff I’d accumulated over the year I’d been there. She came back with me that night, sharing the driving. She found my parents’ house to be heaven: no formality, no arguments, no frosty silences.

She cried when she had to leave.

My Baltimore Boyfriends

…as though I had so many. There was Bernie J. who worked at the Welfare Department, as did Bruce F.

I always thought that Bernie was a serious boyfriend but as I think back now, I can’t remember what we did together. There must have been dates, weren’t there? And yet I can remember Bruce and the time i was his guest at a dance at his former college somewhere in Virginia. Or Maryland. I only remember a Southern girl saying I had a hard Northern voice, or something like that. She had a Southern accent but not one of the soft, sweet ones.

Sitting here on a dull February afternoon, I don’t believe Bernie was even a good boyfriend. Although he later declared he loved me. I found that letter in the same envelope I found my Bernie’s postcards.

A better boyfriend was Ivan. One evening, I’d walked to the Baltimore Public Library and found a copy of James Thurber. Thurber was always good for a laugh so I found a comfortable seat and began reading. Every few minutes I’d laugh. I’d try to hold it in, but it was difficult.

After awhile, I returned the book to the shelves and left the library. A short distance from the library a young man approached me and introduced himself himself. He said he had seen me enjoying my book. We began talking and he asked me out. Sure. Why not?

We had several dates including one to visit a friend with a new record player and two speakers!! Stereophonic sound. We listened to music with stereophonic sound and without. It was exciting, although more for the owner than for me.

My date with Charlie from Yale didn’t turn out well. Bob was too young and Warren, who took me and my new roommate, Charlotte, sailing, was really and old beau of Sylvia’s

When I left, Bernie gave me a great party. And my friends at my office gave me a farewell party after work one afternoon. The only unsegregated place in Baltimore that we could meet socially was the Pennsylvania Railroad Station. We put tables together and had a party. But the big room was empty except for us. Not so many parties at five in the afternoon on a hot June day.