I was ready to leave my parent’s home in Beverly Hills to test myself as an independent, 22-year-old woman. My friend Myra Cohn told me about a college friend of hers in New York looking for a roommate; this provided an opportunity to lessen my parents’ worries about my living alone. After a few letter exchanges with Jeannie Rubinstein, I left home for good. She remained my best friend until her death a few years ago.
We lived in one room in a somewhat seedy apartment building with only a screen separating our beds. As I was going to sleep my first night in New York, Jeannie called out for me to meet her boyfriend. I met him in my flannel pajamas thinking how no man had ever seen me in night clothes, feeling embarrassed and awkward while trying to look cool.
There was something odd about that apartment building on West 58th Street — there were always a lot of men going up and down the elevators, stopping at various floors. It turned out that many of the rooms were rented by the hour. We did not have a clue that we were living in an apartment building of ill repute.
I was paying $50 a month rent, splitting the rent in half with Jeannie. It was common knowledge that rent should equal a quarter of your earnings, therefore, I needed a job that would pay at least $200 a month. I answered ads and sent letters, but only received two job offers. One of them was at the headquarters of Encyclopedia Americana where I would be doing research, an ideal job. At the end of my interview, the manager said I could have the job, but first he would like to take me cruising on his yacht moored in Long Island. I refused and did not get the job. I also had an interview with Flexalum Venetian Blinds for a position as a girl Friday and was hired. It was a real 9-to-5 job paying $200 a month in the Wall Street district with a subway stop nearby. I had achieved my goal of being a self-supporting, working woman in New York. I often took the bus, not the Fifth Avenue one which cost a dime, but the Madison Avenue one for only a nickel, even though it stopped a block further away.
Though my work at Flexalum consisted of mostly filing and running errands, I was ecstatic to be part of the working world. I only had one bad experience. When one of the owners’ sons invited me for dinner, I was thrilled. Afterwards, we drove a distance to a spot overlooking a panorama of New York City. It was pitch black in the middle of nowhere. As I gazed in awe at the city lights off in the distance, the young man tried to kiss me, which I resisted. He tried to unbutton my blouse and became quite aggressive. We had a pr0longed battle, but I managed to fight him off. There was no way to leave the car since I hadn’t a clue where we were. We drove back in silence. The next day at work, we found ourselves in the same elevator; we politely nodded to each other. I never said a word about it to anyone until now.
I loved New York: just walking down Fifth Avenue looking at store windows was exciting. My shoes were worn down, but I didn’t have the money to resole them. As neither Jeannie nor I cooked, I often ate at the Horn & Hardart automat, where whole walls were lined with various foods in glass enclosures. Putting a quarter in one of the slots would open a little door so the dish could be taken out. I was barely scraping by, but didn’t mind. It was all part of a wonderful adventure.
My parents’ friends, Lydia and George Gregory, had a nephew, Sam Josefowitz; they arranged for us to meet. Sam was interesting and well-read, had gone to high school in Switzerland, and graduated with an engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He took it upon himself to educate me by taking me to theaters, museums, and out to dinner. I found him fascinating. We enjoyed each other’s company. After a year of dating, I accepted Sam’s proposal of marriage. As Sam’s father had just passed away, the wedding had to be minimal. We got married in Beverly Hills by a justice of the peace accompanied by my parents, aunt and uncle, and my younger brother, Alec, who was still in boarding school.
The next day we flew back to New York to start our new life together.
Natasha Josefowitz is the author of more than 20 books. She currently resides at White Sands Retirement Community in La Jolla. Copyright © 2019. Natasha Josefowitz. All rights reserved.