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
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?"
"," 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
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
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 .
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.