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Posts Tagged ‘Marjorie Hart’

Summer at Tiffany (Harper Collins Publishers, 2007) is a memoir by Marjorie Hart, music professor, celloist, and former chairman of the Fine Arts Department at the University of San Diego. Memoirs are often about an interesting slice of a person’s life and this one tells the story of Ms. Hart’s (née Jacobson) summer in 1945 when she and her best friend, Marty, both students at University of Iowa, traveled to New York City to work for the summer.

Initially the two pals thought they would have it made working in the Big Apple. Through sorority sister connections they had a place to stay for the summer and they had heard that getting “shopgirl” jobs was a cinch. After much convincing of their families to let them go, Marjorie and Marty dressed in their best and boarded the train headed for adventure. But upon arrival, they discovered getting a job wasn’t a cinch after all. They were turned away from all the best stores – Lord & Taylor, Bonwit Teller, Sacks Fifth Avenue and others. Marjorie asks herself “What was this wild rumor that finding a job in Manhattan was easy?”

Indeed it was no easy task, but once again connections played a role in helping our two heroines land positions as pages at the one and only Tiffany jewelry store on 5th Avenue and E. 57the Street. Wait, it gets better – they are the first women to ever work on the sales floor (WWII is raging and all the men are abroad fighting) AND they are outfitted in custom Tiffany blue shirtwaist dresses topped with leather messenger bags to carry the treasures upstairs to either the credit department or the repair department. And so the summer of adventure beings – dinner dates with servicemen, a trip to the ocean, a brush with Elizabeth Taylor, VJ Day in Times Square.

I have to say, crazy at it sounds, it took me some time to warm up to Summer at Tiffany. I started reading it back when it was first published, but I soon put it down. Although well written and lively, I just couldn’t get into it. Fast forward to earlier this year when I was looking for a lighthearted book to read to my mother. I had been reading to Mom for a few years since she could no longer see due to the eye disease Macular Degeneration. I thought this book might appeal to Mom for the era and the jewelry, however, to be honest, I suspect that by then she wasn’t really connecting to much of anything; she just liked the sound of my voice.

This time around I really enjoyed Marjorie and Marty and all the details of Tiffany and how it operated back in the day. I followed with interest Marjorie’s youthful romance with a young gentleman in the Navy and I enjoyed the humorous misadventures that she got into – like the time a strand of pearls broke and ended up on the elevator floor. What I particularly appreciated about the book was its unaffected tone and the transportation back to a more charming time when women dressed up for dates and wrote letters to their families “back home.”

I enjoyed the book so much I kind of savored it, reading it slowly to linger just a bit longer in Marjorie’s world. I read the next to the last chapter the last afternoon I spent with my mother. She was awake, talking and aware, and I was completely unaware that that would be the last time I read to her.

After she died, I brought the book home and it sat on my desk for weeks. I just couldn’t bring myself to read that last chapter. Somehow, for me, coming to the end of the book was to step further away from those days that I sat with my mother reading to her. The End meant the end for us too.

Once I was ready, I did read that last chapter and I read it aloud. Instead of making me feel more apart from my mother, the act of reading aloud helped me to feel connected. I like to think that Mom was listening from wherever she might be now.

Summer at Tiffany is a delightful visit back in time and just the right read for a sunny afternoon under an umbrella in the garden, perhaps sipping a lemonade or a cocktail. (Maybe you’d like to share it with your mom.)

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Marjorie Hart (née Jacobson) in 1945 and Ms. Hart in 2007.

I wore my best outfit on the train: a black three-piece linen-like suit, sling-back pumps, and my all time favorite, a broad-brimmed cartwheel hat. Everything was black (what was I thinking?), and I carried my white gloves and a herring-bone coat, which doubled as a raincoat, with a blue scarf stashed in the pocket. I must say I felt very Harper’s Bazaar-ish when that train came down the tracks.

Marjorie Hart – music professor and author of Summer at Tiffany (Harper Collins Publishers, 2007).

Ms. Hart is speaking about her outfit for the train ride from Iowa City, where she was a student at the University of Iowa, to New York City where she and her friend, Marty planned to work for the summer in 1945.

I keep thinking about those sling-back shoes. My experience with sling-backs is not positive – because I have a narrow heel, the strap tended to slip off. The only sling-backs I have in my closet now are a pair of kitten heels that belonged to my mother. She bought them in Paris back in 1964. They are lovely but they won’t stay on my foot and I think my mother had the same issue. I imagine Ms. Hart running around on and off trains, walking the streets of NYC with her sling-back straps slipping. In fact she does tell a story about aching feet after a very hot day walking in and out of NYC department stores looking for work. But no slipping straps.

Come back tomorrow for my review of Summer at Tiffany.

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