Baby Boomer echoes

by Teresa R. Zaverl

“ A Bustling Corner,” Part 2<BR><BR>Everyone living in Ely, or remembering the years you were around this neck of the woods, will certainly recall the northwest wind whipping across 3rd Avenue East and Sheridan Street. It’s got to be one of the coldest and nastiest places to inhabit during the throes of winter weather. <BR><BR>Ask anyone shopping or working at the old Zup’s store. Remember the iced-up front windows and doors? Even the automatic door openers gave out.<BR><BR>Constant swinging doors gave way to a gusty, icy cold, way below zero breezes, lowering the temp within and cashiers donning the old blue uniform dress knew how cold, cold really was. <BR><BR>The old time Zup’s cashiers wore the faithful uniform topped with a cardigan sweater, encased their bodies in snuggies (short length women’s long johns), nylons, socks and boots. Now that’s northwood’s women’s’ wear!<BR><BR>I got the gist of this the first winter I spent working at Zup’s. Dress the part, but still deal with that gap between the end of the dress hem and the top of your shoe boots - remember this was before mukluks.<BR><BR>I spent Saturdays working the end till. It was the one furthest west and closest to the ever swinging doors. By 3 p.m. my right leg (the one facing west, catching the door draft) started numbing. Nothing to keep you from the job at hand, but enough to warn all feeling might leave by closing time.<BR><BR>That was an accurate guess. At 10 minutes to five the last cashier of the day, usually me, had the task of removing the “specials of the week” signs from the inside front window (already frosted and frozen - signs unreadable). That meant stepping onto the window ledge. Not anything an 18 year old spring chicken should have difficulty with. But if one leg was completely numb, the act became one of more concentration. Dragging the frozen, numb leg over the ledge became an aerial act. You strove for balance, not wanting to look stupid falling off the ledge, especially when half the town was walking or riding by and the guys over at the old Chevy garage might be passing the time viewing that Saturday closing-time routine. Remember skirts were shorter during the early ’70s. <BR><BR>Now you get the clue as to why uniform dresses were out, and smocks and slacks for cashiers were on the negotiating table.<BR><BR>And to present the Zup’s cashiers, undaunted in dressing in slacks, jeans and smocks, I’ll give you a little history on how your work attire evolved.<BR><BR>The proposed idea of gals clad in slacks and smocks, cashiers without the American Linen blue button-front dress, didn’t fly easily. The powers that be scoffed at the idea but reached a compromise. How about ordering some smocks? Wear them over the uniform dress. That was a start, but not the full plan. We were halfway there. A smock over the uniform dress provided a little warmth, extra pockets and less soil lines across the front - usually the ones given as the cash drawer hit across one’s midsection. OK, but not fully OK. <BR><BR>One could adapt during the winter, adding a little protection by sticking a turtleneck under the uniform and throwing the smock over it all. That way, the added bulk of the turtleneck under the darted, form-fitting dress was hidden under the smock - in case any dress buttons pulled across unwanted places.<BR><BR>Satisfaction over those get-ups was short-lived and the battle of slacks for all was still on. <BR><BR>Finally, a few months down the road, and I still don’t know how or who made it come about, the announcement of consent, giving emancipated Zup’s female cashiers the freedom to wear slacks. A victory for the sisters! Women’s Lib was a reality - even in Ely. <BR><BR>Remember slacks meant slacks, and not jeans. Jeans were something you wore out of the work place. Slacks, back then, denoted regulatory black or dark navy blue polyester types.<BR><BR>We younger gals eagerly responded, touting our new look. Not so easy for the older gals. <BR><BR>Convincing Fannie Slabodnik to don a pair of slacks took some encouragement and convincing. I don’t believe Fannie ever imagined wearing them, especially to work. <BR><BR>But one day Fannie appeared, neat as a pin (as usual) sporting a pair of black polyester slacks, her blue smock and a white turtleneck to boot. We cheered her on for joining the club. She didn’t like the way her legs looked, said they were too bowed. We said, “None the worse for wear.” <BR><BR>It didn’t take Fannie long to enjoy wearing slacks. She was warmer, more comfortable and guess what? After retiring shortly thereafter, Fannie wore slacks every day of her long-lived life. Cool.<BR><BR>So, gals currently working at Zup’s store, this is the story concerning your workday attire. The sisters of the past bucked a few heads, but kept at it. <BR><BR>Think of us on those cold winter days when the drafts still filter into the new store and just picture yourself in one of those American Linen blue, button-front dresses. Keep warm!