At the age of 82, Hart, a professional cellist, recalls 1945, when she and her best friend, Marty, students at the University of Iowa, spent the summer in Manhattan, in this pleasant but slight memoir. Failing to obtain work at Lord & Taylor, the pair, self-described as long-limbed, blue-eyed blondes, were hired at Tiffany's—the first female floor sales pages, delivering packages to the repair and shipping department, for $20 a week. Hart details their stringent budget ("1. Two nickels for subway. 2. Sandwich at the Automat: 15 cents") and describes, somewhat breathlessly, what a thrill it was to see such luminaries as Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland shop at the fabled store. Her romance with a midshipman, the combat death of her cousin, the news of the dropping of the first atomic bomb and a vivid account of the celebration in Times Square after Japan's surrender convey a sense of the WWII era, but without adding much illumination. She does, however, evoke New York City as seen through the eyes of two innocent smalltown girls. 16 pages of b&w photos and illus. (Apr.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Summer at Tiffanyby Marjorie Hart
Do you remember the best summer of your life?
New York City, 1945. Marjorie Jacobson and her best friend, Marty Garrett, arrive fresh from the Kappa house at the University of Iowa hoping to find summer positions as shopgirls. Turned away from the top department stores, they miraculously find jobs as pages at Tiffany & Co., becoming the first women to/p>… See more details below
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Do you remember the best summer of your life?
New York City, 1945. Marjorie Jacobson and her best friend, Marty Garrett, arrive fresh from the Kappa house at the University of Iowa hoping to find summer positions as shopgirls. Turned away from the top department stores, they miraculously find jobs as pages at Tiffany & Co., becoming the first women to ever work on the sales floor—a diamond-filled day job replete with Tiffany blue shirtwaist dresses from Bonwit Teller's—and the envy of all their friends.
Hart takes us back to the magical time when she and Marty rubbed elbows with the rich and famous; pinched pennies to eat at the Automat; experienced nightlife at La Martinique; and danced away their weekends with dashing midshipmen. Between being dazzled by Judy Garland's honeymoon visit to Tiffany, celebrating VJ Day in Times Square, and mingling with Café society, she fell in love, learned unforgettable lessons, made important decisions that would change her future, and created the remarkable memories she now shares with all of us.
Ah, old New York: city of Snow balls at the Stork Club, egg salad at the Automat, and breakfast at Tiffany, of course. All three institutions figure in this debut memoir set during the summer of 1945, when then Iowa sorority girl Hart, along with best friend Marty, ventured into Manhattan in search of shop-girl positions at Lord & Taylor. When that dream is dashed, the two call on an affluent lawyer reference, who helps them get jobs as the first female pages at Tiffany. Readers glimpse the glamour of their work (with a cameo by newlyweds Judy Garland and Vincent Minnelli) and sense the excitement of the city (as on V-J Day). Now 82 and retired from a university post, Hart competently conjures her giddy girl self, but this persona may be too wide-eyed and innocent for modern memoir readers. Take it from this New Yorker (a former midwesterner like Hart): the city ain't always pretty and couldn't have been 60 years ago either. Where, for that matter, is World War II in this fairy-tale summer? It comes but too late, and because she refuses to relinquish much innocence, Hart's sudden sadness seems out of place. Recommended for nostalgic members of the "greatest generation" and ardent New Yorkologists. [See Prepub Alert, LJ12/06.]
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Summer at Tiffany
By Marjorie Hart
William MorrowCopyright © 2007 Marjorie Hart
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFrom the top deck of the bus, Marty and I were mesmerized by Fifth Avenue as we watched glamorous stores spring up like pages out of Mademoiselle. Bergdorf Goodman. Bonwit Teller. Cartier. De Pinna. Saks Fifth Avenue. Peck & Peck. We knew all of the stores even if we had never been through any of their doors-or even seen a store bigger than Younkers in Des Moines!
When the Empire State Building loomed ahead, we were speechless. I felt like a princess on a Fourth of July float, looking at my kingdom, which in this case was a landscape of high-fashion show windows, screeching traffic, and the tallest building in the world.
We couldn't stop to sightsee. We were looking for a job.
Marty was holding a Manhattan map in her lap, while I held on to my hat.
"Get ready." She pointed. "Thirty-eighth Street is coming up!"
We barely made it down the narrow circular stairs before the bus took off again. In my eagerness to cross the street, I stepped into the path of a Checker Cab. A man pulled me back and Marty screamed. My heart lurched as I tried to catch my breath. The light changed from red to green, red to green, before I found the courage to step off the curb and cross the street.
I felt calmer as we enteredLord & Taylor. It was a historic moment. We could be working behind one of their glistening counters as early as tomorrow. In a trance, I followed the scent of Chanel No. 5 past the cosmetics counters and the racks of two-piece bathing suits, Hawaiian dresses, and turbans with sparkling rhinestone clips. By the time we reached the elevator, I had mentally spent my first paycheck.
Opening the door to the employment office, I stared in disbelief. Marty was wide-eyed. There, cramped into a vestibule with overflowing ashtrays, were over thirty girls waiting for applications, some crouched on the floor. Included in that group were a Powers model type in a sleeveless pink linen dress; a pert brunette teetering on four-inch white ankle-strap heels; and two elegant girls with white shantung jackets. Looking at us, they smiled, giggled, and laughed. My face flamed as we squeezed into the line.
We were garbed in black. Totally. Black dresses, shoes, and cartwheel hats. Our inspired outfit had been copied from a glossy ad in Vogue, but that sweltering day, we looked like characters out of a Tolstoy tragedy.
Marty and I gave each other The Look. With heads up, we peeled off our white gloves to fill out our applications, and smiled back at the girls. Little did they know the kind of pull we had.
The harried manager didn't bother to look up when we handed our applications in.
"Come back next fall," she said crisply.
Next fall? She's dismissing us without reading our applications? She doesn't know our connections? I was furious! We'd counted on this job. We needed it for the summer. Now.
"Excuse me," I said. "We have friends working here"-my voice was so tight, I scarcely recognized the anger in it-"and an important reference-"
She shook her head, filing our applications without glancing at them. Or us.
"Don't worry, Marjorie, this isn't the only big deal in town," Marty said on the way out.
Beads of sweat trickled down my face. We trudged in and out of a dozen stores, waiting in lines and filling out applications. When we reached Saks Fifth Avenue the management only shooed us away. I couldn't believe it! What was this wild rumor that finding a job in Manhattan was easy?
It had all started a month ago, when three of our sorority sisters had landed fabulous jobs at Lord & Taylor. Lord & Taylor! The day they received the letters, they shrieked and celebrated the news all over the Kappa house until our housemother put the kibosh on the wild conga line they had started.
"Come along," Anita had urged every Kappa. "Getting a summer job in Manhattan is a cinch!"
The next thing we knew, every girl at the University of Iowa wanted a train ticket for the East Coast to find a high-fashion job.
"We can get on a train for New York, too," Marty said in our dorm room.
"New York City?" She couldn't be serious. Summer school was beginning in a few weeks and I was sure that her savings were as meager as my own.
"You bet," she said, pitching our summer schedule in the wastebasket. "All we have to do is collect Coke bottles-there's tons around the campus. Enough for a couple train tickets." Gesturing with her cigarette, she added, "Think of the fun we'll have-Broadway shows ... nightclubs ... and those beaches!"
That struck a chord. I'd never been east of the Mississippi River and had always wanted to see the ocean. Remembering the last stifling Iowa City summer that only a row of corn could love and the dim social life at Whetstone's Drug Store-now that nearly every eligible man was either fighting in the Pacific or waiting to be shipped out-it wasn't difficult to start collecting those empty Coke bottles. Leave it to Marty. Scooping up those bottles was fun, frenzied, and frantic. All we needed was that job.
Now, standing outside of Saks Fifth Avenue, Marty shrugged. I was scared. We climbed back on the next bus. The upper deck was crammed with servicemen, shoppers, and kids with ice cream cones dripping from the blazing June sun.
Two navy lieutenants tried to stir up a breeze with a newspaper while they debated the merits of President Truman. I fanned myself with my hat. A red-hot blister forced me to take off my shoe.
Marty was undaunted. Sitting close to the rail, she studied each block looking for the next strategy like some four-star general. The stores were becoming smaller, more exclusive, and more unlikely. Hattie Carnegie? Good heavens.
Excerpted from Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart Copyright © 2007 by Marjorie Hart . Excerpted by permission.
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Marjorie Hart is the former chairman of the Fine Arts Department at the University of San Diego and a professional cellist. She lives in La Mesa, California.
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