Friday, 20 February 2009
This Ain't Mink
By Nancy Leitz
In 1949 my brother, Bob and his wife, Tessie (I've told you about Tessie before in Why I Can't Go to the Library Anymore) moved into a second-floor apartment in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philadelphia.
Actually, the name of the area was the nicest thing about it because it had been deserted by the hordes of families who had lived there and who were now running off to live in the suburbs of Levittown.
Now, Strawberry Mansion was an area where only the disadvantaged lived. In fact, we used to say if you lived there, you either grew up to be a priest or you got the "chair" - there was no in-between. But to the young couple and their baby, it was their own place and after living with Tessie's sister, Kate, for a few years, it was heaven to them.
So, Roy and I , who were going together, helped them move in. It was hard work carrying all that furniture up those narrow stairs but, at the end of a grueling day, they were all set up and looking forward to living in their first place together.
The best thing we discovered that day was Berkie's corner store. Mr. and Mrs. Berkowitz ran a typical mom and pop variety store on the corner of 30th and York Streets. They had bread and milk and newspapers, magazines and snacks. That's what we needed that day, snacks!
So while the fellows went to get us Pepsi and chips, Tessie and I had a big decision to make. She had a fur coat that she absolutely loved. I don't think either of us knew the origin of the fur, but I think now it was probably mink-dyed muskrat because that was all the rage in those days.
The decision to be made was where to hang the coat for safekeeping. Heaven forbid someone should steal it. We eventually decided on the far reaches of the bedroom closet behind all the robes and things.
The first cold day of the year, Tessie would be thrilled to be able to go out in her "mink" coat. I used to tell her that I would like to buy her out of the coat and sell her in the coat. What a nice profit I would make. She turned into Mrs. John Jacob Astor when she put it on. She would sling that coat over her shoulder a la Bette Davis and turn and give any gentleman who happened to be nearby a "come hither" glance.
She was, as they used to say in those days, "snazzy.” So, the precious coat was hidden away in the closet just waiting for winter weather.
But now, spring was in the air and one night Mom Mom McGarvey (You met Mom Mom in Menu Please and in The Rag Doll) agreed to take the baby to her house so Bob and Tessie and Roy and I could go into Philadelphia to a night club to see a performer we all liked.
It was such a fun evening and we were all in a great mood as we came home about midnight. Bob went to put his key in the door and it was already ajar! We looked up that long set of steps and were really frightened to go up because they (we assumed there were robbers) might still be there.
We hesitated and then we heard the upstairs window open and we knew they had left that way. We decided it was safe for us to go up now. On the way up the stairs we found the heel of a man's shoe and a button. (Wow! what great clues for the cops. Perry Mason would have had these guys in about an hour, but the Philadelphia police never did find them.)
When we entered the apartment, it had really been ransacked. Bob and Tessie's things were strewn everywhere. It was a real mess. Tables overturned and drawers dumped out all over the floor. I thought Tessie was very calm as she surveyed the place and made mental notes of what was missing.
All of a sudden, as she walked into the kitchen, she let out a scream. She was almost hysterical and it took us a few minutes to calm her down enough to tell us what had upset her to this extent. She couldn't speak; she could only point her finger toward the floor. And then we saw it. Her fur coat!
It had been removed from her closet and carried into the kitchen so the thief could get a good look at it. Well, he looked it over, all right, and REJECTED it. Threw it on the floor. Didn't want it. And that is what upset Tessie the most.
Some low life, slack-jawed, moron with an IQ of about 30 did not like her beautiful, fur coat. The nerve!
Tessie reached down and picked up her beloved coat and holding it close to her chest walked it back to the closet and hung it up. She never mentioned that coat again and I never asked her about it. It was too painful. The coat disappeared and was never seen again.
[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]