Jean McGavin, 2009
Paper Route It was 1965, I was 11 or 12. I had 2 older brothers who had saved a lot of money delivering papers and I wanted a piece of the action. My brothers were able to buy their own cars = freedom. I was getting $.25 allowance/week and no car was going to come out of that. I called our local paper “The Northern Virginia Sun” and told the man on the phone that I would like to apply for a job delivering papers. This man on the phone began to laugh and told me, “We don’t hire girls!” as though my inquiry was utterly ridiculous and how could I be so mutton headed as to think that they might. I was mortified. I thought how stupid I was to think that I should be able to step into that world. Rather than become angry with this big jerk on the phone and the entire establishment of people who seek to exclude others from the in crowd, I took it on as my own shame. I did not tell my parents or siblings or friends. Even though I was generally a kid who was not thwarted by “No”, and even though I was a fairly spunky and out of my place kid, I took this shame to my young girl heart and kept it as a wound and a reminder that I had best not risk the embarrassment of trying to join the big boy club. I needed to keep in place. I wonder how many other girls have been put in their place in this way. I wonder how many have stayed in their place because of some jerk. In high school we fought for the privilege to wear pants to school and to not have to take home ec and we were all taught to type and take shorthand so that we might earn a living as a secretary. The few sports available to women were very low on the priority list - we were encouraged to be cheerleaders. 34 years after my initial job search, when the U.S. women’s soccer team beat the Chinese and Brandy Chastain ripped off her shirt in glorious defiance of girls in their place, I cried and screamed and exulted for my daughter and future granddaughters and the notion that they could do anything they wanted - even own the newspaper company.
Lois Keating Learned, 2011
To a ten-year-old, Saturday is the prize at the end of the week, a day teeming with anticipation and beckoning adventures. Dad gave me my allowance on Friday night after he had checked my chores and approved the grades on my tests and homework. Kindhearted man that he was, he would rarely dock any funds, even if I failed this rigorous inspection. So, Saturday morning with 25 cents jingling in my pocket, I’d take off for downtown Garden City, Long Island, and the local Five and Dime where most of the items really cost only five or ten cents. It was the route I followed that I fondly remember rather than the comics and candy I might purchase. No kid goes by the road when on foot. The hypotenuse, a concept I learned in the eighth grade, was the only way to travel. My friend, Joan Olsen, lived on the corner of Tenth Street and Cherry Valley Road. Her property, like ours on Eleventh Street backed on to the Garden City Golf Course. So, after breakfast I’d slam out the door, wearing my beat-up Keds, my older brother’s discarded jeans, a white shirt (never tucked in), maybe an old favorite sweater and gallop over the yard to the golf course and through the cut in the privet hedge into the Olsen’s yard. By now my Keds were wet from the dew and my toes would tingle, but I’d continue along the side of their yard avoiding discovery and Mrs. Olsen’s flower beds. Of course if Joan were about we’d go together, but I was just as happy having my weekly adventure alone. Their front yard took a steep pitch down to busy Cherry Valley Road and I fling myself pell-mell down the slope, glancing left and right to see if I’d have to stop for interfering traffic. On the other side, my momentum would carry me up the hill. There I would enter the Bartlett’s less trimmed, but more intriguing back yard of neatly piled discarded garden tools and old car parts. I don’t think Mr. Bartlett put anything in the garbage. “Someday,” he would say, “we’re gonna need that thing.” He was a champion yeller and had a degree in Grouchy, so I avoided him whenever possible. Getting through his yard without detection was always a challenge. By now I had reached Ninth Street and had to decide if I would sneak through the Garden City Hotel. At the west end of the hotel was an exit door, usually unlocked. Peeking in I would slide through the opening, making up a story in case one of the staff stopped me. That part was easy as our family doctor had an office in the basement and I could say I was looking for him. Or I could be searching for my dad in the barber shop, also located in the hotel. I can still see the worn, red carpet that beckoned me down the narrow hallway, with wainscot paneling half way up to the ten-foot ceiling. Sauntering down the hall as if I belonged there, at the newsstand, I pretended to read the headlines on the many daily papers we had in the Forties. Sometimes I might even part with a nickel to buy a pack of Wrigley’s spearmint gum. Nodding to the uniformed doorman I would enter the revolving door for him to push me out. Or, if it was raining, I’d walk past the Polo Bar and the huge dining room to an unused exit. Today, I’m sure all sorts of bells would clang announcing my trespass. Finally, I would cross Hilton Avenue and stroll down Seventh Street and examine the windows of the Pinafore Playshop, Best & Company, as well as the Five and Dime for my weekly perusal and purchases. It was a slower paced time; a time to delight in the seasonal changes and the vitality of childhood – a good time to remember.