I gasped for breath as I typed away at my trusty typewriter, continuing to fill the cream-colored piece of paper before me with words enveloped in black ink. I was in a time crunch. With only a few hours to complete a column assigned to me by the chief editor, my hands, enveloped with sweat, turned red. It was quite unfortunate that the chief editor, Ebenezer Brown, otherwise known as Mr. Baw humbug, was in a nasty mood that fateful day. Come to think of it, he was always sore about something, though he never cared to mention why or what. He stormed into his office that morning, barking orders to everyone as usual, his pudgy face grimacing in dissatisfaction as he haughtily glanced at the lazily stooped journalists. Swelling his pot belly and swinging his golden nugget with an old pocket watch at its end, he, by some strange circumstance, gave me the job of completing an article on “Carnation: The Most Delicious Milk in the Market.”
At first glance, I felt as though I would quit or die of boredom. Naturally, I was always given the cheesy assignment…all the time. For years, a line was drawn between men and ladies, which placed women at an unjust position, which meant my assignments were awfully bizarre as a result. Being a female in 1941 and a writer for the St. Louis Chronicle wasn’t exactly what you would call fun or easy. Topics like “Top 10 Things That Housewives Must Have in the Kitchen,” “How to Make Your Child Behave,” or “Choose to Wear Matt Lipstick” were no surprising projects to receive. Other subjects such as the excitement of politics or the thrills of massive events were tragically infrequently covered by female journalists, especially me.
Many people asked me why become a writer if I wasn’t allowed to compose anything other than themes of no interest? Becoming a secretary or waitress had not been on my agenda. I decided to take a different route, and that path landed me smack in the middle of the Chronicle’s advertising department… wasn’t I just elated to become the author of that unavailing junk.
I began my work at 8:30 and completed the vulgar article a hour and a half later. As soon as I handed Mr. Ebenezer Brown my assignment, he sat enamored at his breakfast while he swallowed an enormous piece of a frosting plastered donut he contained in his hand. Yep, this is what I came to work for every day; another hot-tempered, donut-consuming Ebenezer Brown who always kept every bit of his attention not on me, but on his sumptuous meals. Subconsciously observing his figure, I began to notice his appearance was like the donut he treasured in his plump hand at that moment. He was round, fat from top to bottom, and yes, he did have a hole—he was the only individual I had ever known to attain no soul whatsoever. Of course, that emptiness spilled over into his attitude, which was quite hollow because he was a donut in character as well as appearance.
With disgusted scorn on his face, he finished the last chunk of his beloved snack and finally acknowledged my presence by slamming a thick stack of documents onto his tabletop without even looking at me. Although disturbed, I was learning to be accustomed to the dull fact that I was not the “teacher’s pet” type. I dipped down towards his desk, picked up the papers, and left his room scurrying across the black and white tile floors. Moving as fast as I could through the storm of papers, I swept through his office door again to receive another round of essays to read and edit for next Sunday’s newspaper. After a whole day’s work, that stack of paper grew higher and higher by the hour.
I sat at my desk in agony as I watched the sun crawl into its bed below the horizon. Unfortunately, I still wasn’t finished by Friday evening. I had to be home before nine to put my little girl, Lucy, to bed. After indulging a minute of rest, I awoke suddenly by the booming of a friend’s voice, Ebenezer Brown’s private secretary, Katherine.
Katherine Wither was undoubtedly beautiful. She could’ve almost been Betty Grable’s twin sister, a popular glamour girl, with her youthful smile and straight, pearl-white teeth. Her eyes were a crystal blue, and her striking blonde hair was accented with picture perfect, victory curls.
“Ruth, my dear old friend, you’ve been keeping your nose to the grindstone for the whole week. You need a break,” chirped Katherine while strutting across the room towards my desk.
Tossing her bright hair across her shoulder, she beamed, “Well, it’s Friday night, and I’m heading over to the fairgrounds.”
Puzzled, I gazed at Kat questioning why exactly she would go. Just then, I remembered seeing a flyer outside the office mentioning something about a rodeo going on that weekend.
“Ruth, what’s wrong?” provoked Kat.
“Oh, nothing,” I stuttered.
“Come on, out with it!” pleaded Katherine with that innocent stare you couldn’t overlook.
“Listen, I know very well what you’re trying to make me do.”
“Make you do what?” shouted Kat in surprise.
“Katherine, I realize you’re going to try to persuade me to go to that rodeo at the fairgrounds tonight. But I really can’t because I have to finish editing these articles Mr. Scrooge has given me to complete on short notice. So, I’m sorry, but I can’t go,” I sputtered.
“You know, that’s a great idea. Why didn’t I think of that because, well, I have an extra ticket and you need to have time off and…that would be so much fun!” cheered Kat in ecstatic joy.
With a groan, I rolled my head towards the ceiling. How could I bring what I was trying to get out of upon myself?
“Kat, seriously, I can’t go. In fact, I’ve already bought tickets for Lucy and I,” I managed to say.
That was true, but Katherine didn’t buy it. I soon gave up and didn’t even try to fight Katherine as she dragged me out the door like a pup on a leash. She clung to my hand as she raced down the stairs, her heels clicking with every step she made. The bright lights of the city hit my eyes as Katherine’s hair wisped in the soft breeze. We climbed into a taxi, and I didn’t even try talking her out of the situation. I still had the weekend to complete reading those columns, but before I recognized that, the smoke-filled cab led us to the rodeo—a much bigger disaster.
This photo was posted on OldTimeFriend and was taken by Yawn c. 1950 via National Photography Collection