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Nov. 1st, 2016 11:35 pm
smackenzie: (faye)
[personal profile] smackenzie
Now all Sadie needed was a job.

She was torn between enjoying the city while she had a lot of free time to enjoy it, and finding work right away so she could afford all that fun. She and the twins had enough money for a few weeks at the residential hotel, but they would need jobs if they wanted to stay. Sadie let the twins convince her to start applying for jobs right away, on the theory that they'd have more fun once they had money and weren't so worried about having to go home unfulfilled, and prove all their parents right about New York not being the place for them.

The residential hotel wasn't much help with finding jobs, but one of the matrons, once she learned the girls had already been to secretarial school and had also graduated from the commercial program at their high school – geared towards young ladies and young gentlemen finding jobs after school, rather than as preparation for college – she pointed the girls in the direction of a placement agency. The agency was run by a middle-aged woman who took one look at Rose and Ida's qualifications and their letters of recommendation, and said “I don't think I'll be able to find much for you girls. Your qualifications are fine but your name is....” She trailed off, trying to find a diplomatic way to say what Sadie and the twins could tell was coming.

“What if we change it?” Ida asked. Rose stared at her. “We can tell people our last name is Teller. Would that help?”

The woman tapped her lips with a forefinger. Sadie wondered if she'd have to change her name too. Was “Grabel” innocuous enough? She didn't want prospective employers to think she was fresh off the boat, or that she was somehow deficient for having a Jewish name and upbringing.

Anti-semitism wasn't an entirely new experience for her or the twins, but to see it so soon after arriving in New York City, a place they all thought was more sophisticated and open than the town they'd left, was disconcerting. It was especially disturbing because it seemed to imply that finding work would be more difficult than they'd expected.

The agency woman scratched out “Teitelbaum” on Rose and Ida's letters of recommendation and wrote “Teller” instead. She glanced over Sadie's letters and qualifications, peered at Sadie, and said “Your coloring is light enough. You should do fine.”

She told them to come back the next morning and in the meantime she'd see if she had anything for them. They gave her the phone number of the residential hotel – girls didn't have phones in their rooms, although they could pay to have them installed, and then the bill for usage would go to them – the desk clerk would take a message. The woman wished them a good day, suggested they wear something smart when they came back, and the secretary showed them out.

“What did you mean, 'What if we change it'?” Rose demanded of her sister. “We didn't come here to - “

“But if it helps us find work?” Ida interrupted. “We're still the same people, whatever our last name is. So what if an employer can't tell we're Jewish?”

“It's lying. It's disrespectful.”

“It's practical. Sadie, help me out. If you had to change your name to get people to take you seriously as a dressmaker, wouldn't you do it?”

“Yes,” Sadie said without even thinking.

“See?” Ida turned on her sister triumphantly.

“I'm not talking to either of you,” Rose said, and stalked off.

“I didn't have to, though,” Sadie pointed out to Ida.

“Didn't have to what?”

“Change my name. At the agency.”

“But you would, if you had to?”

Now Sadie had time to think about it, now that she wasn't being put on the spot, she wasn't so sure. “It would depend on what I'd be losing if I didn't. If it was a choice between the position of my dreams and nothing? Of course I'd do it. But I don't think I can say what I'd do until I actually have to do it.”

“Well,” Ida said, “I can be Ida Teller. I can get away from being Bernie Teitelbaum's baby sister and Nathan Teitelbaum's daughter and 'one of the Teitelbaum girls'.”

The Teitelbaum parents had six children, five of them girls. Bernie was the oldest and Rose and Ida were smack in the middle.

“I can't do it without Rose, though,” Ida went on. “I'll always be Rose's twin sister. We have to have the same last name.”

“I don't think she likes 'Teller'.”

“No.” Ida sighed. “But look, we haven't even been here a week and we might already have work. Good work.”

It was hard for them to really vet the placement agency, but the matron who told them about it had also mentioned several girls at the residential hotel who had found jobs through it, and Sadie and the twins had talked to a few of them and gotten generally good reports. And if the agency could indeed place them in good positions, positions that were worth the time and money they'd spent in Albany, they'd be on their way.

Office work wasn't what Sadie wanted to do, even just until she found a husband, as Rose and Ida were planning, but it would keep her while she set the next part of her plan in motion and looked for dressmaking work. She didn't know where to go or who to contact, so while she was working in an office and making some money, she could do some research. It couldn't be that hard, could it? New York was a big city. There had to be dressmakers or tailors who needed help. If she was lucky she could even find one for whom her name was a plus.

The next morning she and Ida and Rose went back to the placement agency, all of them washed and pressed and dressed in their smartest clothes. Ida hadn't convinced her sister to let the agency send them out as the Teller girls, rather than Teitelbaums, but when Ida was successfully placed in an investment firm after two days, and Sadie found a position with an import/export firm after three, Rose let the agency woman send her out as Rose Teller. The agency managed to place her in a law firm, much to her excitement.

“At least two of the lawyers are landsmen,” she told Ida and Sadie. “Well, one of them is a junior lawyer, an associate really, but the other one, definitely.”

“What's his name?” Ida asked. They had met after work and gone to the Automat for dinner, and now Rose reached across the table and forked up a piece of Ida's chocolate cake. Ida in return stuck her spoon in Rose's pudding.

“Mr Rockland,” Rose said, her mouth full of cake.

“Don't talk with your mouth full,” Sadie told her.

Rose shrugged, swallowed, and said “The associate is Mr Tanner.”

“'Rockland' isn't Jewish.”

“Maybe he changed it,” Ida suggested. “His parents are really Mr and Mrs Rothberg.”

“He looks like Bennie Meyers,” Rose said. “He has Bennie's nose. He wears a lot of pomade but I can tell his hair is curly like Bennie's too.” She finished her cake and nodded at Ida and Sadie. “And he isn't married.”

Bennie Meyers had a big nose, Sadie thought. He was nicer than his brother Solomon – Solomon was a terror – but he wasn't all that smart and he wasn't all that ambitious and he wasn't even all that handsome. If Rose's Mr Rockland looked like Bennie Meyers, Rose could definitely do better.

But he was a lawyer, so he already had more ambition and more smarts than Bennie did. And this was one of the reasons why Rose had agreed to come to the city with Sadie in the first place – to meet a nice young man with prospects.

None of the men at the import/export firm were Sadie's type. They were all too old, for one thing, or too married, for another. But they were all gainfully employed, and to hear the owner of the firm talk, one would think business was booming and expansion was imminent. From what Sadie could see, business was good. Maybe not good enough to open an office in Chicago, but certainly profitable enough.

Everything was profitable now. Sadie sketched ideas for day dresses and party frocks and coats and hats and summer wear, and every morning she brushed her hair and powdered her face and went off to work where she took dictation and typed letters and filed invoices and fielded phone calls and brushed off the comments from dealers and retailers and shippers and overseas agents about her nonexistent boyfriend. Most of the men she came in contact with at work were gentlemen, and she could ignore the faintly lewd remarks from the ones who weren't. Just because she was single didn't mean she was available for any man who might look at her twice.

The money was fine and the experience was good, but Sadie was still dissatisfied. She and Ida and Rose went to the movies and out to eat, they shopped with all the other fancy-free young women populating New York, they made friends at the residential hotel, they started going out at night. The girl who lived across the hall from Sadie was a pretty blonde thing named Frances, who came from Philadelphia and worked in the hat department at Macy's. She talked Sadie and the twins into coming with her to jazz clubs, where they drank newfangled cocktails and danced newfangled dances.

One night Frances and Sadie and another shopgirl from Macy's named Emmy went up to Harlem, to the Cotton Club, to drink and dance and watch the performers. Rose wasn't feeling well and Ida stayed with her, and as Sadie sat in the taxi going uptown, sandwiched between Emmy and Frances in their dancing clothes, she found herself not missing her friends at all. Sometimes it was good to get away from the people who'd known you almost your whole life, and be with people you'd just met. She didn't want to completely reinvent herself, but she wanted to be able to cut loose without the possibility of disapproval from girls she genuinely liked.



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