A Story of My Life Part 9: The Job
Hilda and Louie broke up over the Christmas holidays. Alas, parting is such sorrow! Brother Louie came home for a while, to get some things sorted out. He and I had many, many heart-to-heart talks. Louie was in the doldrums. He felt like he failed at the thing he most wanted to succeed at--keeping Hilda, the love of his life, with him and by his side.
The parents just didn't understand. Both parents thought "divorce" was a dirty word. They were not easy on Louie. They thought it was "shameful", and were pressuring Lou to try to get back with Hilda, who wanted no part of this. Louie would've given his eyeteeth to do that very thing. The parents didn't seem to have a clue that Hilda was the deciding factor, not Lou. The parents kept saying how bad it was for the children.
Well, perhaps they're right, but they were no prizes as parents, themselves, which you know if you've been following this story.
I encouraged Lou to come to terms with the situation the best he could. He was continuing to work on his dissertation, and both Mother and myself offered him the best encouragement that we could. We gave his our listening ears, even when we didn't understand a word he said!
Carole had gone with Jesus to New York City, right after Christmas day. She dropped out of college. She was getting into things that I didn't really want to know about, which scared me. She was into some heavy drugs by that time, and was starting to have an alcohol problem, too. I understood her teenage rebellious period, and her wish to fit in with SOMEBODY, even the losers. But I was afraid for all the personal risks she was taking.
I went back to Albany, briefly, to withdraw from Albany State University. That made me so sad! I felt like a failure, too. I had to put my studies on hold and defer my scholarship. There wasn't the money in my personal exchequer to continue on at Albany State U., and pay their (exorbitant!) room and board fees for living in the dorms. It was out of the question that I could continue to board at Orange Street, which was now Hilda's house.
One of the many things Lou and I talked about was how to continue with my education. Both Mom and Lou said, take out enough college loans to see you through. Dad, even though he had plenty of money in the bank, offered no help. He said, "Don't start out your life in debt. Get a job, save up the money, and go back to school."
I listened to Dad instead of Mom and Louie. I wonder now, if I did the right thing. I was afraid of contracting a debt that I had no present means of paying. I thought it took a lot of faith in the future to do that. I just decided in my own heart, my priorities changed. What I REALLY wanted now, was a place of my own. The home place was too terribly uncomfortable, with no heat upstairs in the winter and limited water, and Dad was talking of early retirement and moving to Tennessee, and he made it abundantly clear, I'd be out on my own then.
So I got a job as a shirt folder in a shirt factory. I commuted down the long country roads for the rest of the winter and into the spring, to the town where the factory was. I made $2.50 and hour, I think it was. Minimum wage. I took home about $70.00 per week.
It seemed like a fortune to me then! I didn't mind the work so much. I had to get used to standing, for eight hours per day, on a concrete floor. I had to rapidly fold T-shirts around a piece of cardboard and fling them onto a conveyor belt, except for those times when it rained Jello from the ceiling, in which case I had to rapidly remove all the white T-shirts from the conveyor belt. The factory had been converted from an old Jello factory, and the Jello powder got into the rafters, and when it rained, the roof leaks dribbled Jello-y like liquid from the ceilings.
I liked the women I worked around. After I got used to my job, I could do it like a robot and carry on some interesting conversations with the people all around me. I liked that, a lot. The lady immediately behind was named Sandy, and she was cool! She offered to sell me her above-ground swimming pool for $500, and I would have bought it had I a place to put it!
The main floor of the factory was all women, sewing away on industrial-type sewing machines, for "rate". They got paid bonuses for anything extra they produced over rate, and they were very busy and dedicated women. The goal for the "lifers" (factory workers whose career was in the factory) was to become a sewing lady, where you could make REAL money! (Maybe $5.00 per hour!).
The only men were the "cutters", the people who cut out the bolts of cloth into the patterns for the shirts. They were the highest paid people in the place.
Folders were way down the totem pole.
I didn't mind. I didn't care. I wasn't going to make a career of this. I was going back to school, some day.
Rome. The Vatican.
I moved out in the spring, into my own little apartment. God, I loved that place! It wasn't much, but it was mine. I had NO furniture of my own, so I took a little of my savings, and got some bits and pieces from Goodwill and the Salvation Army, and stores like that.
Louie went to Rome, to the Vatican, to do some research for his doctorate in Classic Languages. Louie got lucky, I think. He had won a fellowship, earlier in his academic career, and made a good impression on the right people.
Though I liked my life a lot better now that I was in control of my finances and my future, and I had my own little place and a job, of sorts, that at least paid the rent ($85.00 per month. Those were the days!), I still thought it wasn't fair that Louie had got so much more assistance and support from the parents with his schooling and I got none. I was just as bright, just as academically inclined, but to the parents, I was a girl, and therefore earmarked for marriage, and education was wasted on me.
I had to make my own way, and I realized that. Marriage wasn't amongst my life goals. How little I knew what the future had in store! Life is what happens while we're making other plans.