Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Working Woman: Part I-- Hats

Fans of PBS Masterpiece shows such as Mr. Selfridge and The Paradise may be interested in these excerpts from local ladies who experienced the ins and outs of being department store employees here in the U.S.

From a transcript of the March 16, 1980 meeting of the Historical Society of Upper St. Clair: Helen and Nellie Currie speaking on "The Working Woman, Then and Now."

Department stores did not pay overtime.  They [stock girls] fixed the counters and the stock after the lights went out at closing time.  In 1927, $16.00 a week was what the stock girl made.
As the department stores grew and they hired many women, the customers complained.  The women said the clerks were more attractive than the customers, so the clerks were forced to wear black and dark blue, and black stockings.  Hornes allowed white collars in 1927.
My mother always wanted to be a milliner, and she thought it would be nice if we would be a milliner...She got us each a job as an apprentice making hats.  We made $3.50 a week.  My first hat sold for $11.95...There were no men buyers in millinery, but we had the women makers and the women trimmers.  Every millinery department had the trimmer and the maker.  The trimmer was the headlady...But in these millinery departments, some of them were so large.  Maybe you didn't realize it, but Rosenbaums at one time had fifty women on one floor selling only hats, and that was only one store in Pittsburgh.

Tune in next time to read about Nellie Currie leading a department store revolt!

Image credits:
Digital id: 20120224-hpicusc-0061.tif
Source id: PC0216
Title: Postcard photograph of an older woman wearing a hat
Creator: Charles I. Davis Photo Studio
Description: Postcard is cut in half and part of the image has been lost. Note the spelling of Pittsburgh as Pittsburg.  Godwin Collection.
Date: Circa 1891/1911
Historical Society of Upper St. Clair Image Collection, 1875-2011, Historical Society of Upper St. Clair Archives

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A trip through Painter's Run before the paved road

Excerpt from an oral history interview with Emma Hoffman recorded in January 1975
By Betty Robinson

Q. Did you ever have trouble getting there [Bridgeville] because of weather?

Emma: Oh yes, Well, you see, at that time Painter’s Run wasn’t paved, of course, and you would have to go through the Run three times from our place before you got to Bridgeville.

Q. You mean through the river.

Emma: You drive through the water and especially in the early Spring or in the wintertime, sometimes the water would be flowing over top of the ice, and the ice would have holes in it, and the horse would step down in the hole, you know.  

I remember one time my sister was teaching school in South Fayette Township, and I went down to Bridgeville.  She came down to Bridgeville on the train, and I was going down to Bridgeville to get her and I had a buggy and horse.  I must have been about 14 or something like that.  It was in the early Spring and the water was deep across the Run, and the first Run was down there by where Stampfol’s Garden Center is now, right on this side of it, was where you had to go through.  Well, the water was so deep, and I was afraid to go through and just as I was waiting there, I stopped the horse and was watching and looking to see whether I should try it or not, Mr. Tidball, who was our mailman, had a sleigh and he was coming home from delivering the mail.  So he came across the Run and the water was so high that it went in to the bottom of the sleigh, of course the sleigh was low, and he says, “Oh, I think you can make it, Emma.” 

So I told the horse to go on, and as I got just about to the middle of the Run the front wheel of the buggy fell down in a hole and the back wheel on the other side fell down, and I was stuck and the horse stopped right in the middle of the water.  Well, I got kind of seasick as the water was rushing so fast and right up above was a trestle which the railroad train went over, and I felt as if I were moving up the stream, you know, from the dizziness from seeing this water.  I guess I would have been there yet, but the horse had sense enough finally to go on, and we got across all-right.  

Well then I still had two more runs to cross before I got to Bridgeville, but we got through them all right.  So then I said to Jean, “I’m not going back that way.”  So we came back the Hill Road, which was the Noblestown McKeesport Road, which is now Cook School Road, and right up about where the old Cook School stands now, there was a great snow drift and we almost upset going through that snow drift, but we finally got home.

Image credits:
Source identifier: PC3322
Title: Margaret Gilfillan driving a horse-drawn carriage
Creator: Unknown
Description: Margaret Gilfillan and a family member drive a horse-drawn vehicle along the carriage drive next to the Gilfillan house on Washington Road, Upper St. Clair, PA.
Date: circa 1905-1910
Historical Society of Upper St. Clair Image Collection, 1875-2011, Historical Society of Upper St. Clair Archives