RESOURCEFUL: The 1950’s Way

Getting ever-increasing orders from bookstores and department stories for our Handy Aid books was one of the most exciting things that ever happened to me. We had a business. People were actually buying what we were creating, and in big numbers. Every entrepreneur knows the feeling: your baby is growing. But this is a baby that needs a lot of feeding and caring. As the orders were starting to fly in we had to find a way to keep up with demand. We had to pack and ship the cookbooks according to very rigorous specifications mandated by the various accounts. The trouble is we didn’t have enough capital to really fund all the things we needed. One of those things were the custom shipping cartons to the weight specifications. We had to have clean, strong, sturdy boxes to get the books to our customers in good shape.

We found a solution, fifties style. We did have a car, a beautiful white Chevrolet convertible. So evenings we would go out and scrounge boxes from supermarkets that they had received that day from product deliveries. After stocking their shelves they would put these cartons outside on designated days for garbage collection. We loaded our car to the brim and even above the brim with these empty cartons and brought them late at night to our offices. What a sight we were! Fortunately we were just able to keep enough ahead of the orders we received to fulfill of our needs. Doing so meant finding out the pickup days when the boxes were available and spending several evenings a week rounding up the used boxes. My husband would come from his day job and we would take a spin around the neighborhood. You can’t imagine how much fun it was to discover a horde of clean strong cartons. You would have thought we had discovered El Dorado.

The outgoing shipping collection points were specified in our orders.These truck depots were located at specific areas of Manhattan. Trucks offloading merchandise would line up with their outgoing merchandise. I would load up my car with our cartons with the help of my one-man collator/puncher/packer/loader/shipper/helper. Our beautiful Chevrolet was always piled high. I drove to the collection point and got in line with the other trucks. I was taught in elementary school to be friendly to one and all, so on my first day of doing this I said “hi” in Midwestern fashion to the trucker in front of me as we waited. I also noted when it was his turn to unload that he had a dolly, which certainly made it easier to be able to move his goods from his truck to the loading platform. He looked at my conventional “truck” and asked how I planned to transfer my boxes to the platform.

My response was probably a look of pure panic since that was a step I had not contemplated when the instructions from the vendor directed me to the shipping site. Again my luck and my obvious role as a novice trucker appealed to him. He gallantly offered to lend me his dolly. His fellow truckers who had some sort of camaraderie going from previous visits to this site observed and followed suit so that whenever I appeared at the site, some experienced trucker offered me his indispensable dolly. I so became one of the boys that once, when I was with my husband and some of his fancy friends going to the theatre in my best outfit, a trucker rolled down his window and shouted a big friendly and familiar “Hi, Ruth.” Our friends–mouths agape–were scandalized, but Dick was heartily amused. Many a time in those years I would get hails of “Hi Ruth!” from my friendly trucker buddies as I went about my normal business.

I have to say that seven decades later I miss that friendly greeting that made me feel like a member of a special fraternity. So while being a trucker wasn’t what I expected of my post college career, it did have its own special appeal. My being a one-woman band continued for 6 years. We had an office, typewriter, invoices, sales representatives, ads, all the apparatus needed to get into the mainstream of book stores, gift shops, and department stores. These books became very popular and when the volume finally got big enough the time had come for my husband join the business full-time. He rejoined me full-time on May 1, 1953. I can never forget that date because it is still the combination on all our luggage locks—5153.
Having A Ball
It wasn’t that I hadn’t noticed that we had no children. I simply wouldn’t have been able to start-up a business if I had. My office was on east 22nd street near our apartment at that time. It was an office building with many photography studios. In early spring I came out of my office coatless and obviously pregnant. A young photographer, with whom I had regularly exchanged greetings came out of his studio, looked at me exclaimed, “Mrs. Rosen,what did you DO to yourself?!” I replied, “THIS I did not do to myself.” Later, as the birth date came nearer, the elevator operator of the building continued to beseech me ever more fervently, “Please, Mrs. Rosen, Stay Home! I wouldn’t know how to deliver a baby.” I assured him that it wasn’t going to happen so soon. On August 26, 1953, Richard Andrew Rosen was born at Mt. Sinai Hospital. That opened a whole new chapter in my life as a WORKING MOTHER.

When thinking back at the stress of a new business and a new baby, I remember being very aware of the dangers of All Work and No Play. I knew that to avoid burn-out and a feeling of being in an endless grind it was necessary to have a change of pace and make time for celebrating. Nothing was more fun than inviting friends over in the midst of our busiest times, and HAVING A BALL. This Chicken Breasts Amandine recipe was an easy, elegant dish that everyone enjoyed. Even Helen Gurley Brown–one of the original Working Women and then Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine–sent me a fan letter about her success with it at her parties. Please try and let me know what you think!

The Cookbook: Having a Ball: Party Menus & Recipes for Every Occasion

SHARED RECIPE: Chicken Breasts Amandine

Click this card for the Shared Recipe post

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