Every summer I think about the seasonal jobs I held as a teen-ager. I began working as soon as I was old enough to obtain working papers - fourteen in New York Sate. Up to that point my summers had been spent with friends at Main Beach, but from that year on I worked hard, making money and learning life lessons.
My first job was at a small women's clothing store on Main Street. I think it was called the "Simplicity Shop" but everyone around town knew it as "Jenny Goldstein's". Mrs Goldstein was an elderly lady who'd been in retail her entire life and knew it well. She was an excellent buyer and had a good business mind. However, she was not particularly friendly and many people avoided her shop when she was behind the counter. But the year I walked in the door in answer to a newspaper ad looking for a "summer girl" was a good year for me. Because Jenny Goldstein had recently hired a woman by the name of Vera Riley to run her shop for her.
Vera Riley was a middle-aged woman who was an expert salesperson and she'd worked for many years at Mark, Fore & Strike, the only "high-end" shop in the Village at the time. For whatever reason she'd had a falling out with the management there and left her long-time position to take up this one in a small, local store. It was surely a loss for Mark Fore because all summer long people would wander in, discover her there and with great joy and lots of hugs proceed to spend lots of money while Mrs. Riley ran dresses back and forth to the dressing room, regaling her customers with her great humor and witty patter. She was a master salesperson and I learned lessons that summer I've never forgotten. She taught me how to be a valuable employee and how to interact with people, which were important things for a shy young girl to learn.
That was my first job and the one I think was my most valuable. The very thought of Vera Riley makes me smile. She gave me an all important dose of self-esteem and made me realize I could do more than I thought I could. She helped me see that we get as much as we want to out of life and that even working hard can be fun. She and her husband moved to Florida a few years later and I cried when she left. Eventually we lost touch and I'm sorry about that because I wish I'd had the opportunity to tell her how important she was and what an impact she had on this life.
It's amazing what a profound effect we can have on another person and never even know it...