Career Romances for Young Moderns

Career Romances for Young Moderns were a series of books published from the 1950s-1970s about young women striking out in different career fields. But because these were career romances, the books usually ended when the women gleefully give up their career for a man. The books paint a hilarious picture of a business world that's thankfully out-of-date. They're a little hard to come by today, but can be found in used bookstores and online.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bread and Butter

"Bread and Butter," by Marjory Hall, 1942

Main character: Laura Lou Nott (no, really)
Career: Bake shop owner
Gael's grade: B, for somewhat of a stiffness and dryness, which perhaps comes from the book being of the 1940s as opposed to later CRFYMs from the 1950s.

Trauma #1: Laura Lou's friends are all away at school or jobs, and she's left behind, unable to afford college. Her mother is busy running an inn, and Laura Lou has been given the opportunity to run a small bake shop that adjoins it. But for two months she kicks around and does nothing, expecting her parents to push her into it, or something. "Guess I've just been waiting for Mamma to tell me what to do and why." she says at one point. She's also lost touch with her friend, Roz, but in true happy-ending fashion, they come back together by the end of the book.
Trauma #2: Laura Lou looks in the mirror one day and decides she's a mess -- she wears glasses, has messy hair, and has gained a whopping EIGHT POUNDS (over what time period is never quite clear). She enlists Cilla, a P.G. (not "pregnant," here it stands for "post-graduate") who's writing her thesis on weight control. Her brilliant advice? "Easy on calories, and a few exercises. And the best exercise, in case no one's told you, is shaking your head slowly from side to side when hot fudge sundaes are offered." (One can only imagine that her thesis will be filled with such outstanding tidbits of wisdom.)
Trauma #3: A competitor, Hugo Hatch, opens another bake shop in Laura Lou's town of Porthaven. Her food is better -- he buys his bread rather than baking it -- but people still flock there. Laura Lou tries to compete by making non-baked goods ("why can't we have chicken pies, or creamed chicken, or vegetable soup, or fish chowder?") and offering deals. (None of this really matters when it turns out poor Hugo doesn't really want to run the shop, and he agrees to close down and sell Laura Lou his equipment.) Also, someone is prowling around her shop when it's closed. Alert Nancy Drew! (It turns out to be Hugo's senile old uncle, who means no harm.)

Signs o' the times:
1) "I cried like a pooh-baby," Laura Lou says at one point. Like a what? Is she four?

2) At one point, a guy named "Bozo" (not the clown), announces "I don't think Laura Lou is equipped to run an establishment of this type. She hasn't enough crust." Ha ha...ha?

3) "Imagine me forgetting ashtrays for all the rooms!" exclaims Laura Lou's mother about her inn. Yeah, just wait 50 years and no one will smoke any more.

4) Laura Lou hunts for a Christmas gift, and someone suggests "There's a trick pencil here, for a quarter, that's really awfully good. I think a man might like that." A trick pencil?'s rubber and doesn't really write? does tricks like a dog? What man wouldn't want that?

Quote that says it all: "Just before they reached the cashier's desk they came to a pedestal with a small splashing fountain on it. Laura Lou went automatically to the right, Trudie to the left. When they came back together again, they said, in chorus, as they had since they were small girls, 'Bread and butter!' and burst out laughing."

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Greetings from Glenna

"Greetings from Glenna," by Marjory Hall, 1953

Main character: Glenna Holbrook
Career: Greeting-card company employee
Gael's grade: B+

This is the first CRFYM by Marjory Hall that I'm reviewing. Marjory Hall is perhaps one of the most well-known career-romance authors, not just writing career-romances, but writing all kinds of young-adult literature. Her books are always a step above most of those written by no-name authors -- in character, in plot, in flow, all around.

Trauma #1: Due to a mysterious scandal in which a dishonest employee somehow bankrupted her family business, Glenna can't go off to nearby Camden College with her three friends as they'd planned. Instead she must stay home, work, and jealously watch them dive into college life. Aw, Glenna, don't sweat it. They're all in it for their MRS degree, anyway. (And I find it tres ironic that "Camden College" is the name Bret Easton Ellis later used when he fictionalized Bennington in "Rules of Attraction" and other books. Maybe BEE was a fan.)
Trauma #2: She gets her job at Warwick Publishing Company via Miss Brick, a woman her family must take in as a boarder to raise money, and must struggle with their new relationship as executive and underling while living in the same house. Miss Brick's kind of a prick, when it comes down to it, as unmarried career women of A Certain Age generally are in this genre.

Prince Charming: Peter Graham
What's standing in their way?: Not that much, really. This is much more a story about Glenna and greeting cards than about the romance, although she is unsure about whether he's the right guy for her for a while. I kind of skipped over the parts about Peter, actually, looking for more bad greeting-card verses.

Signs o' the times:
1) My copy of this book has handwritten notes in it, including "If this book should ever roam; box its ears and send it home" and "Given by my mother on the Saturday of Nov. 20, 1954, Patricia Anderson, 13 years old." Patricia Anderson, where are you today? You'd be 65, if I figure correctly. Did Glenna inspire you to seek out work with Hallmark, or did you find your own Peter Graham somewhere near Haight-Ashbury? I guess you might have been a bit old for that by 1968.

2) The greeting cards themselves are so unlike the mass-produced Hallmark cards of today. They have hand-glued pussy willows on them, women (called "girls," of course) hand-apply satin, glitter, lace, and more. The cards sell for a whopping 10-15 cents, by the way, not the $2.99 plus of today. At one point, Glenna stages a "greeting card shower" for two little old ladies, reminding their friends to all send them cards for their birthdays.

3) When Glenna finally writes verses for cards, they are unbelievably awful to our modern ears, but one of them still gets bought by the company. They include: "Love me, love my dog," "Even worm will turn -- when coaxed!," "Dial ME 2 YOU for a Merry Christmas," and "I'm not the kind who'd kiss and tell, I'd kiss and yell -- for more." Oh fer trite. Makes Maxine of Shoebox Greetings look like Faulkner.

Quote that says it all: "Nancy nudged Glenna once and they stood silently watching one card have a perfumed wafer, a wedding ring, a piece of white satin ribbon and a swatch of lace that looked like a wedding veil, all attached to a single sheet. The bow-tiers seemed to interest Nancy the most, and she made Miss Prentiss repeat twice her statement that two or three dozen bow-tiers had been known to tie more than two hundred thousand bow ties in one week." Well, that's her perogative, but I'm more fascinated with the "perfumed wafer." Was this, say, a hidden wafer, just to make the card scented, or was it supposed to be a communion wafer, or what? Because either way, weird.

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