Friday, December 16, 2011

That First Paycheck: Where did it Go?

Robin's post on Monday about the shoes took me back to the days when I was just out of college. The first full-time grownup job I ever had was as a library assistant for the world-renowned Washington Post. Nobody believes how stupid I was in those days, because with the glasses and the sober expression I impress people as being intelligent, and did even then, but the fact is I was so dumb I didn't know the publisher's name. Some woman called and wanted me to look something up for her. Said she was Phil Graham's secretary. I told her to call the public library.

Somehow I kept my job, in spite of that and other similar gaffes. I think the boss of the library liked me. Anyway the day came when I received my first paycheck. My mom wanted ten dollars out of it for room and board, and of course I needed bus fare and lunch money, but the rest went for a fantasy garment.

My first trench coat.

In this coat, as I skulked about the streets of D.C., I could pretend to be anything, a newspaper reporter, a foreigner, a spy, a woman of mystery generally. Anybody but me. Later paychecks went for record albums, shoes – the shoes I wore in those days! They don't make them like that any more – even a matching fedora. But that trench coat I wore for years and years, long after I lost my job at the Post, even long after the waterproofing wore off, shortening it as hemlines rose during the sixties. I forget what finally happened to it. I guess it disintegrated completely at last and went into the ragbag.

What did you buy with your first grownup paycheck?

Kate Gallison


  1. Your note re Phil Graham's secty is one of the funniest things I've read in years!!!!!!!

  2. I now recall one of my own instances of really big dumbness: when I was at Randolph-Macon Woman's College the local college community had a big festival for Martha Graham and her entourage. I was assigned to ride with this real old man over to Sweetbriar College. To be polite, I asked the old guy, " Are you interested in modern dance?"
    You guessed it... the old guy was Louis Horst, the biggest name in modern dance's world!!

  3. The coat was a great investment. Wearing it and the fedora, you must have looked like Ingrid Bergman straight out of Casablanca!

  4. Don't remember what, probably a beer with lunch. My first check on my first serious summer job was from the Lionel Edie Co. on Fifth Ave. circa 1957. I remember it said $50.00 (a huge sum). My Italian barber in Greenpoint knew the headman in the mailroom. Lionel Edie did "investments" (an amorphous, dull-sounding thing to me). I ran to CitiBank
    immediately, I remember, requested and received 50 $1 bills.

  5. Thelma, I never heard of Louis Horst to this very day. Martha Graham, yes. Annamaria, you bet. That was the idea. Alas, looking mysterious and competent didn't make me any more competent. Bob, yes, that was the spirit, a big fistful of money. Gotta love it.