This ‘n That | 1966: The $5 Hot Dog

By Mims Cushing
mail@floridanewsline.com

I was always fascinated with advertisements. Print ads, TV ads … it didn’t matter. While some people use TV ads to take a bathroom break or grab a snack, I used to memorize the jingles.

So when I graduated from college in 1966, I put up with being a bridesmaid in my roommate’s wedding in June. All I wanted was a job! I set my sights on Young and Rubicam which, in the ‘60s, was, I believe, the second biggest ad agency in the world. It was near Grand Central Station — 295 Madison Avenue — so I could easily catch a train to and from Rye, New York, where I would live with my parents. Mother wanted me to hunt for a husband, not a career!

It wasn’t hard to get an interview with personnel, which was not called human resources then. I put on my best Peck and Peck A-line dress, and took a train in. I had to get this job!

Back then college graduates could pretty much only hope for a secretarial job there, which was fine with me. The young, beautiful, slender, blonde personnel lady took me into The Typing Room, and told me to start when the bell dinged and stop when the bell dinged again. Off I went. It was just me and the huge manual typewriter in a lonely, grey, stark room.

When I was done, she glanced over my typing test, and said, “Well, I’m sorry but that really isn’t good enough.” I remember pleading, “Could have another try?”

“I tell you what. Go have lunch, and come back in an hour and try again.”

I was ecstatic and took off to a nearby drug store with a lunch counter — was it Liggett’s? Rexall? Ordering a hot dog, I sat there and practiced on my lap: “ASDF ASDF JKL: JKL:” I bought a Modern Romances magazine and pretended to type pages of words in the articles. I was going to be late getting back for my second test! I fished a $5 bill out of my bag, slapped it on the table and fled. I forgot to wait for the change, leaving the five dollar bill behind — a pretty hefty tip for a $1 hot dog.

The end of the story is that I tried again and did do well enough to work at the company. But the story doesn’t end here. I was told there was a job up in research, so up I traipsed and found myself among stacks of musty books, newspapers, and magazines. Well, heck! It wasn’t glamorous at all! I was looking for glamour! Holding my stomach in, which Mother told me to do 10 times a day, I had the audacity to traipse down to Personnel and say it wasn’t what I had in mind, thereby potentially ruining my chances to work at my dream corporation.

She raised an eyebrow and said, “Well, there IS a job in TV Production.” I’d be working with four other secretaries, each of us helping as many as three TV ad producers. We had four days where our lunch break was two hours, so we could go shopping or go to the movies. The fifth day one of us would stay in to answer the phones. And think of it: I’d get paid $80 a week to do this. A fortune!

Yes, it was my dream job and well worth a $5 hot dog.

Six months later I married one of the fellows I met in my roommate’s wedding (that made mother happy). I only lasted at Young and Rubicam two years because I became pregnant and had all-day morning sickness.