Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Grandma and the Prince - Part 11

My brother Cass was a beautiful boy. We grew up together, were thick as thieves we were. Edith . . . she wasn't like us. She was raised in England. There was nothing of the child about my sister. Cass and I could run and jump. Edith was clumsy and slow.

I didn't see her from the time I was four until I was -- oh, sixteen or so. We were all strangers. Not like family at all.

Did I ever tell you about the time she walked into a tree? [wicked laughter] She was so busy looking at the sights she didn't pay attention where she was walking. [more wicked laughter]

But we were sisters and we both left the glove factory together. She found another job somewhere. I don't remember what.

So one day I was walking with Mother on the Concourse and I saw a "Saleslady Wanted" sign. Mother waited outside and I went in. Dresses. Coats. Nothing difficult. I could try, you know? And that's what the owner said. "I'll give you a try. When do you want to start?

"Whenever you want me," I said. "Tomorrow morning?"

"Ten o'clock," he said.

I was there early the next day. Mr. Wheeling's window was all full of signs for sales. "Everything must go." And there I was alone with no other saleslady in the shop! He says "I'm having a big sale. Everything's marked on the tickets. You charge whatever's on the tickets. You know American money, right? There's the dressing room. They can try it on but after they buy, there's no exchange and no returns." He reached for his coat.

"Oh no!" I said. "You're leaving?"

"I have to go to the bank downtown. I'll be back at lunchtime. Don't worry, princess. Nothing happens in the morning."

"Oh, you're not going to leave me!" I said. I was still just a kid. A teenager.

"I'll be back soon as I can. Don't worry. Just do what you can."

I started praying as soon as the door closed behind him. Please, dear God, please, don't let any customers come in! All those coats and dresses on sale and me, still a greenhorn. Around eleven one lady comes into the shop. "Oh," she says, "you've got a sale. Mind if I look around?"

And I'm thinking, "Please don't buy anything!"

But she tried on a coat – they were dear then, like now. A coat in those days cost sixty or seventy dollars. Things were very high during the war. [note: World War i] One dress was sixty dollars alone! Anyway, she tried on a coat and it looked very nice on her and I told her that. I was always honest as a saleslady. I never lied—not even in New Jersey. And, not to flatter myself, but Edith and mother and I dressed very well. My dear, it made a difference.

Anyway she woman gives me the money. They didn't have fancy machines back then, just a simple cash register. You put the money in the file and you made change. I wrote out he bill.. My first sale of my life! I was so proud! She said, "You're new here, aren't you?" And I laughed. She didn't know how new I was!

From then on that first day I had one customer after another and Mr. Wheeling didn't show up until 4 or 5 in the afternoon. I forgot all about him! I didn't even have lunch, I was so busy. I had so many customer and, thank God, no trouble with American money.

And here he came in and the stack of money is getting higher and higher! He didn't expect it. "Well, Elsie," he said. "how did things go today?"

"Oh, " I said so casually, "I had some sales."

"You did?" he asked. "Really?" He thought I was making a joke so he nearly fell on the floor when I showed him the receipts. "You did all of that alone?"

"Yes," I said.

"And where's the money?"

I showed him two boxes full that I'd pushed under the counter. He nearly fell off his feet! He couldn't believe it. "Well, I'll be damned!" he said. "On your first day."

He gave me my first raise then and there.

From then on I had steady raises and a commission. I didn't want to work nights and I told him. He liked me so much that he said, "Would you work one night a week?" So I said yes, until nine o'clock.

I stayed with him for three years until he went out of business.

Oh, dearie, I was quite the saleswoman! My mother was that way too. Mother could sell you the paint off the walls. My father and Cass had it as well but not Edith. Poor thing. Edith just wasn't like the rest of us. . .

# # #

Which probably explains why Dede eloped with a handsome Irish cop from Detroit and left them all behind.

At least until tragedy struck.

PS: I'm Barbara Bretton and you can find me here and here. Laced With Magic is on the stands now. It was recently named one one of Booklist's Top Ten Romances of 2009. I hope you'll look for it.


Emmanuelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emmanuelle said...

Great blog !
My monthly Rendez-vous with your grand-mother is always a real delight.
ps : I've just finished "Girls of Summer" and really, REALLY loved it. I did cry reading the bitter-sweet end. Btw, do you plan to write Susan and Jack's story ?

Mint said...

What a great blog. Will have to pick up this book.

Linda Henderson

Mary said...

What a great blog. I read Girls Of Summer and just loved it! What a great book.

Estella said...

I love these glimpses into your familys life.
I loved Girls of Summer.

penney said...

Thanks for being here today Barbara I love your books.