The working life/retirement/surprises from a Cramer Hill “girl”

Dear Readers,

When I first retired, I thought that I’d be so lazy, so justly lazy, so righteously lazy. Can you imagine—unplanned days? No specific time to wake up? Hardest part of the day to decide how many minutes to browse Facebook?  And, I was lazy. I reveled in L-A-Z-Y! Ahhhh! Why not? I’d been working since fourteen when Woolworth’s employed me as a counter girl at their place at 26th and Federal Streets in East Camden.

1964…old enough for working papers…I thought that I’d died and gone to heaven. Minimum wage ($1.65 an hour) AND tips. Discount on everything in the store AND a free lunch or dinner if you worked enough hours that day or night. I wince thinking about how many deluxe cheeseburgers with fries and root beer floats I consumed.

The turquoise polyester waitress uniform, thick white waitress shoes and “blonde” hairnet must have been an attractive outfit, but I didn’t care. I gave twelve dollars to my mom and the rest was all for me. On payday, I bought a little toy for my brother, Kenny, and something for my cousins, Annie and Vera. I had money to buy that thick Seventeen magazine once a month and a little cake of Maybelline mascara. What fun to be extravagant!

On Friday nights I trudged home alone across the 27th Street Bridge that divided East Camden from Cramer Hill, feet throbbing in my chocolate syrup stained waitress shoes, uniform smelling of grill grease and hair free of that nasty hair net.   No danger. Although once I saw the man who walked backwards, Theodore, and I ran the rest of the way home. (He didn’t even see me, nor would he have bothered me.)

I didn’t work every night, but I was no slacker. My neighbors loved their bingo and I babysat for many kids in the Anthony Park Townhouses where I lived. No time to get in trouble, but not a lot of leisure time…

I worked until I was sixty-four. Fifty years of working. Let me clarify that I didn’t work forever at Woolworth’s. That store isn’t even there anymore. I ended up teaching English as a Second Language.

Now I am retired–it’s been a year–and retirement seemed heavenly. I had so many plans for myself, some practical, some that now seem ridiculous. But, life intervenes and now I’m busy again. I poured out some of those bucket list wishes into the backyard drain.

My mom lives next door with my brothers and she is ninety. It only makes sense that I need to help more and more. Duh. I didn’t expect my mother to get “old.” She was driving five years ago and she, not long ago, was insisting on doing my brothers’ laundry, reading the Courier-Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Wall Street Journal and sometimes USA TODAY. But, surprise! now Mom is really “old.”   No more driving to the malls, no more folding my brothers’ jeans, reading only one newspaper a day…  Now we take care of her every need, but she’s happy to be in her home with family.

Bam! More life happened. Two months ago, my daughter, Kim, and her husband, Lon, had a baby girl. Aw. Surprise! Youngster me is a grandmother!

What can I say? I’m in love, a sappy, silly, slobbering grandmother. I have to see little Nora as much as I can. Being a grandmother is a kind of joy that others professed and I secretly wondered at their excess of happiness.

Now I get it. I’m like Frank Barone on the TV show, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND—I love that baby smell, the one that Frank called “the fountain of youth.” I can’t stay away from that beautiful baby. Who needs to lie in bed with a Kindle, eat fig bars and drink coffee? Let me get in the car and go see my girl! She’s smiling and almost rolling over. She’s a grandmother magnet.

Life is whizzing by again. Those lazy days at the beginning of my retirement are but a dream. However, I know that I’m blessed and I am so happy that I’ll never have to wear a turquoise waitress uniform, waitress shoes or a hairnet again.

Unless life wants to surprise me again?


3 thoughts on “The working life/retirement/surprises from a Cramer Hill “girl”

  1. I remember you and Joan Nooren (sp?) behind the counter when I used to shop for Beatles 45 rpms or school supplies. You were certainly ambitious and hard working so enjoy your retirement. I love reading your blogs! You should think about publishing them as a short collection of reminiscences! A fellow classmate and friend, Zana


  2. Yep, good memory, Senna/Zana. It was Joanne Knooren and me. Thanks for liking my blogs. It might be nice to print them and have them all together as a book of memories. Good idea. I hope to contact you maybe tonight with some dates that are open for us to get together. I miss you! Thanks for our long and loyal friendship. God bless you lots and lots.


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