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 The books paint a hilarious picture of a business world that's thankfully out-of-date.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.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

You Can't Tell About Love

You Can't Tell About Love, by Helen Diehl Olds, 1950

Lively and typical CRFYM about the beauty biz. Fun training scenes in the school, and wonderful goofy, dated details about how women used to get their hair done.

Main character: Susan Day, not to be confused with Susan Dey from "Partridge Family" fame.

Career: After attending South Shore Beauty School, Susan goes to work at the Beauty Box, a small salon. She moves on to her dream job working on a TV show about teens and beauty -- but wait! This is 1950! As the book's interior flap says, "how she learned that marriage is just as important as a career and that a smart girl can have both is a modern romance told against the million dollar beauty business.

Gael's grade: B+

Trauma #1: Susan has a nemesis, Avis Blake, who has a facial scar and is just as scarred inside. She'll do anything, including ruin Susan's hair, to try and put our heroine down and steal her man, Larry Knight. In the end, however, our brilliant Susan finds a cover-up for Avis' scar (Sculpto Skin!) and Avis becomes her biggest fan.

Trauma #2: After graduation, Susan and widow-at-21 Miriam begin working at Mrs. Wells' small shop, the Beauty Box. But no! A fancy shop opens around the corner that can outspend them. And no again! Mrs. Wells' husband is ill and must move to Daytona Beach, Florida, so she moves with him and the girls take over the shop. But the girls work hard and make their own business, especially after they hire a bunch of teens to essentially run a child-care center at the shop. The teens care for kids whose moms are being pampered, and in exchange, Susan and Miriam teach the girls about beauty and personal care.

Trauma #3: Mrs. Wells warns the girls about a customer in a shiny station wagon. One day she shows up when Mrs. Wells is gone. Turns out she buys a lot of services and then takes off without paying. She rips Susan off for $50, but gets caught in the end.

Prince Charming: Larry Knight, who works fixing appliances at his radio shop.

What's standing in their way?: Avis, of course. But mostly the idea Larry has that he is too broke to wed.

How does he come to his senses?: He makes more money, enough that he feels comfortable proposing, even though they may have to live in "a trailer or small apartment." He then asks "And what about your career? Will it combine with being Mrs. Larry Knight?"

DUH! This is a Career ROMANCE for Young Moderns! The Mrs. degree outranks any other professional classification in these books!

Signs o' the times:
There's a whole lesson on pin curls. They sound horrible.

Mean ol' Avis calls a deaf student "Dummy," as in "deaf and dumb."

They use a "waving machine" for giving perms.

Larry drives an "Army Jeep painted aluminum." (Was aluminum considered a color in the 1950s?)

A poor woman stops by the beauty shop and randomly sings a song she wrote, "Believe and Trust," so she'll be given a quarter.

Larry freaks out when he sees the milk bill for Susan's brother, sister-in-law, and toddler daughter. "I don't see how a guy ever can afford to get married," he whistles. The milk bill?

Susan thinks "Television, a combination of movies and radio, would offer many opportunities for women. ... Wardrobe mistress, scenic designer, and programs like tonight's. Again she thrilled that she had made up her mind to enter this new beauty field."

Quote that says it all:
"Another thing." Miriam slid the broom about. "The home-permanent craze has hit this town."
"One of Coralee's friends gave herself one while she made an apple pie. Ugh!" Susan made a face at the idea.
"Home perms are no economy. They don't last long in most cases," Miriam pointed out. "You'd need one every few weeks."
"Beauty work should be done in a shop," Alice stated, and the other two agreed."


"Did you girls know that in an emergency you can use cologne instead of water or wave set?It dries fast and leaves the hair fluffy."

Yeah, but I can't think of an emergency where I have COLOGNE at hand and not WATER.


Hostess in the Sky

Hostess in the Sky, by Margaret Hill, 1955

You know that Replacements song, where Paul Westerberg sneers "you ain't nothin' but a waitress in the sky?" Yeah, well, back in 1955, that wasn't an insult, apparently. This book is lively and fun, and I would even go as far as to say it's more entertaining than a typical Silver Wings for Vicki-type book. It comes off as more interested in Beth's career than in her romances, which makes sense, considering Hill also wrote "Goal in the Sky" and "Senior Hostess."

Main character: Beth Dean

Career: Hostess, Sky Lanes Airlines

Gael's grade: A-

Trauma #1: Beth and pals are junior hostesses trying to make senior (apparently that is chronicled in Hill's next book).

Trauma #2: Living in a house with a bunch of other hostesses tries their patience, especially when someone takes Beth's last pair of stockings. She resorts to WW II methods and fakes having nylons on by drawing a seam up the back of her leg with eyebrow pencil. "Ingenious, that's what an airline hostess was supposed to be," she thinks proudly. She's mortified later when she puts on real seamed stockings and forgets to rub off the first seam, and a passenger notices. Horrors!

Trauma #3: Beth is assigned to go to a mental hospital and take a patient on a flight. But she takes the wrong woman. "All right, so I'm the Idiot of the Airlines," gulps Beth.

Trauma #4: Argument with a passenger about why Sky Lanes is still flying DC-3s, which he calls "worn-out old crates." Beth gets super-defensive and lectures him on the history of flying and how much more it would suck to be flying 30 years ago. "You wouldn't get deviled crab and French green beans with chives if this were back in 1925," she scolds. Um, yuck?

Trauma #5: Once, Beth and chums forget to load silverware on the plane! Luckily, a troop of Boy Scouts are on, and they share their knives. And a woman helpfully notes "we can eat the bacon with our hands." Bacon?? With your HANDS?? What is this world coming to?

Prince Charming: Beth finds a kid stowaway, Jimmy (ah, for those pre-TSA days when anyone could sneak on to a plane...). He's escaped from Boys Town, and it turns out the young man who comes to get him, Peter Harcourt, is a heartbreaker.

What's standing in their way?: Beth simply doesn't see much of Peter for most of the book, but then he shows up again at an air show where a plane has crashed into the crowd, praises her medical skills, and they end up getting together. In a very clean-cut, career-oriented, 1950s way, that is.

Signs o' the times: While attending a small-town rodeo (where all men grow beards), the girls are thrown into Kangaroo Court. Which pretty much consists of nothing, except explaining that their uniforms are royal blue, not powder blue. Got it? Good.

When's the last time you quizzed your stewardess about events in Iraq? Apparently Sky Lanes hostesses "were expected to keep well-informed on world affairs, scientific developments, the latest movies and books."

Beth goes on a radio show for teens and talks about her career. You thought "American Idol" had tough requirements? Hostesses must be unmarried, 21-28 years old, 5'2"-5'7", and weigh between 105 and 125. (According to current standards, a 5'7" woman should weigh 135, so underweight hostesses were apparently highly prized. Also, you're weighed every six months to make sure you're not gaining.)

Kids from an "experimental" (read: proto-hippie) school are on one flight. Of couse, they break a passenger's alarm clock and make a dog look rabid, and Beth sneers at their "progressive" education. She later finds out they actually know quite a bit about flight. Possibly more than Beth.

There's quite a to-do when the airline sells one, yes ONE extra ticket on a certain flight, completely by accident. What would Beth do if she knew about our modern "bumping" procedures and how normal it is?

When a flight is grounded, the hostesses are responsible for entertaining the passengers, even "taking them at company expense to the best restaurants and hotels in town." Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...and how hard is it nowadays to even get a Motel 6 voucher when you're grounded? Yes, I have slept on the floor of the Detroit airport, why do you ask? When Beth's plane is grounded, she gets uber-creative and gets the passengers square-dancing at a local theater. Swing your partner, allemande left and do-si-do!

Quote that says it all: (Remember, this is all on an AIRPLANE.) "The lower deck was divided into two rooms: the long lounge where passengers would gather for games, card-playing and other social activities, and the library equipped with desks, tables, typewriters, maps, shelves built into three of the walls and filled with books. The fourth was Plexiglas to furnish an unrestricted view of whatever happened to be flashing past the window."


"The movies, apparently, had been going on for some time. Beth got in on the features about crop dusting and smoke jumping. She would impress Louise with the scientific names of the latest insecticides and the ideal altitudes for dusting certain crops."

Well, how could Louise NOT be impressed?