A Sparkling Vintage Life

kimbrough2Okay, oh-so-patient Emily Kimbrough fans . . . here’s some info about Emily’s job at Marshall Field’s (courtesy of Emily herself, in the memoir Through Charley’s Door). I think Emily and Marjorie would have been great pals, don’t you?

“On Monday morning at nine o’clock, I presented myself in a brown suit and without Gamin [her dog] at the counter of the Advertising Bureau of Marshall Field’s on the ninth floor. My typewriter was in my hand, and my equipment as a copywriter of advertising was the ability to render six times in a minute, ‘Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party.’ . . .

“‘You’re over there,’ the office boy said, pointing in the direction behind me and away from the Advertising Offices. ‘In there with the stenographers. One of them can show you your desk. Miss Gardner’ll send for you as soon as she’s ready to see you.’

“I had not anticipated an actual receiving line, but on the way downtown I had conjured up a pleasant picture, people waving from their desks, or coming to the door of the offices as I passed on my way to Miss Gardner, and calling out, ‘So you’re Miss Kimbrough”–“Delighted to have you with us,’ and maybe an invitation or two for lunch.

“A low railing set off a large open space, so filled with desks there was barely room to move among them. Each desk had an occupant, a young girl typing away on a machine at a speed I had not as yet achieved with ‘Now is the time . . .’ The girl at the desk nearest the rail stopped typing and smiled at me. ‘I’m working in the Advertising Bureau,’ I said.

“‘That’s right,’ she answered, ‘they told us you were coming over here. What’s your name?’

“‘Emily Kimbrough.’

“She half turned in her chair. ‘Hi, girls.’ The typing stopped. ‘This is Emily Kimbrough. She’s going to work in the Advertising Bureau. They haven’t got office room for her over there, so they sent word we were to give her a desk here. Emily, this is Mary, Josephine, Elsie . . .’ She made the rounds.

“A girl at one of the back desks called out, ‘Now watch, Emily, I’ll show you how to get to your desk. Go down two, then you can pass between that one and the next one, then go across three, and down one. You get it?’

“It was like the maze at Hampton Court in which I’d got lost once the year before, but I didn’t say so. I had to hold my typewriter with both hands above my waist as I made my way, because the space was too narrow for me to carry it at my side. The girls noticed the machine, and one of them asked why I’d brought it.

“‘Marshall Field’s is no Santa Claus,’ she said, ‘but at least they provide you with a typewriter.’

“While I put my portable on the flat space in front of me and opened it, I was deciding whether or not to admit my stenographic shortcomings and the misconception of my ability that was the cause of my being hired. I decided in those close quarters I couldn’t possibly keep it from them, so I blurted out the whole story.

“The girls were wonderful. Not one of them by so much as a look indicated she resented my getting a job partly on a fluke. Instead they took it as a cute trick on Field’s, and within a minute or two had worked out a system of helping me. They’d all keep a sort of watch, they agreed, and whenever anyone saw a member of the Advertising staff coming over, she’d give me a signal. I was to whisk out the paper I would be pecking on, insert another, and rattle, ‘Now is the time for all good men . . .’ until the coast was clear. Then I could pull that page out of the machine, put back the one on which I was working and go at my one-finger technique again.”

What do you remember about your first day on the job? Were your coworkers as helpful to you as Emily’s were?