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How I Spent My Sweet Sixteenth Summer Vacation

by Eva PascoEva Pasco 

Mr. L, one of the finest and certainly most inspiring English teachers I had at Lincoln Senior High, assigned his sophomores a theme composition on the first day of school--the better to break the ice, become acquainted with us, and to assess our writing skills, or lack thereof.  Though I  should have written about my first summer factory job I didn't.  Instead,  I opted to embellish on those lazy, hazy days spent at the beach, more in line with the generic generalities spouted by fellow suburban classmates who flanked me on all sides.... 
In 1967, I took my first job under the umbrella of summer temp. Capitol Heel Lining occupied a large part of the old Wanskuk Mill complex on Branch Avenue, Providence. Battered and glass-shattered, the Wanskuk stood its weed-littered ground on Rhode Island turf from a bygone era when its machinery was powered by raging water in this eminently manufacturing state.  Like an aging sage, the mill's wisdom trickled through those walls to teach me lessons in life I've never forgotten. 
No. 1 -  Education is priceless.  Beyond the prevailing stench of glue and the 9 -5 noise of the machinery, not to mention the tedious repetitiveness of menial tasks--the workers hammered this into me.  Coffee breaks and lunchtime afforded me the opporunity to socialize with women semmingly straight out of the moive Goodfellas. They were a motley assortment of disillusioned and burdened Maries, aged before their time. Hair ratted beyond natural boundaries and fried by peroxide, they dissed their less than stellar husbands and lamented the wrong turns taken in life.  They most always ended these tales of woe by admonishing me to stay in school if I knew what was good for me. 
No. 2 - Respect others and embrace differences.  Punching my time card each morning before taking my place at the bench alongside the other girls, I chucked my myopic vision of humanity nurtured by a sheltered life.   I began to crawl out of my introverted shell to mingle and pal around with a prima donna whose mom was divorced and had a boyfriend...whoa!  Another girl whom I deemed tough with the hard knocks to punch my lights out became one of my closest friends that summer, and we enjoyed shopping downtown.  
No. 3 - Live and let live, shunning authority for authority's sake.   Under my timidity, the Sixties Chick within brewed that summer and thankfully still flourishes.   Quietly and subversively, on the sly of the floor lady who checked our work piled at the end of our bench, I glued the plastic eyes on a pair of lion slippers Clarence "crosseyed."  My faux pas escaped the floor lady's hawk eye during inspection round while each of us bit our lower lip and lowered our eyes to stifle a good laugh. 
The summer of '68 found me at the Wanskuk assembling pamphlets and booklets at Sidney-Higgins Bookbinding, dominated by sweet old ladies who taught me how to play a mean hand of gin when work was slow.  I would go on to have other summer factory jobs, some leaving me grimy at the end of the day while coming up against the least savory bullies society puts in charge of women.  Since I'd been a proficient typist at the age of nine, I could have written my own ticket to land a cushy office job, but I refused to wear nylons all summer.  In retrospect, working inside these sweat shops taught me the finest lessons in life--the biggest one-- Don't get too full of yourself.  

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Underlying Notes by Eva Pasco  An E. Quiche by Eva Pasco



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