Dorothy Gilman Butters
1958, Macrae Smith
There it was again, the great dividing line, as intangible but as firm as the
Seventeen-year-old Kitty Boscz is bitter as she graduates from a high school she was always too busy to enjoy. She lives in a slum neighborhood in a small
Kitty's shorthand for all that is wrong with her life is the name of the street she lives on, the street she'd much prefer cute Dean never see.
Factory work. She had sworn she would never work in a factory.
My father didn't die when I was a baby, my mother didn't work long hours in a diner and we didn't live in a slum. But I know exactly why Kitty swore she'd never work in a factory. If you live close to people who work all their lives in factories and you want something else and you're overly sensitive, the idea of working in that world is terrifying, even if it's just for a summer; there's no guarantee you'll ever get out again. It takes so much effort to do something different, and it's so easy to just keep going in every day. Kitty, whose need is so desperate, does it. She gets well-paid work in the press room of a plastics factory.
Kitty's job is described in detail, which pleases me. Far too many writers ignore their characters' jobs as unimportant, but all work is important - it takes up so much of your time and how you do it, how you think of it, is tremendously revealing. Kitty's factory job is essentially to place plastic objects into a set of machines that bake them into various shapes, based on molds. She makes parts for compacts, knobs for televisions, and various objects she can't quite figure out, and is paid by the finished article. As with most blue-collar jobs, it sounds simple. As with most blue-collar jobs, it's not. The machines are red-hot and it's unsafe to wear gloves so burns and blisters are part of the job. Each product has some requirement; a screw to be inserted properly, for instance. And when you've just about mastered one product, the quota's filled and the factory switches molds to make a new product with a whole new set of requirements. The work is repetitive and boring, but if you get careless you could lose a hand or an arm. All this in a confined space with massive ovens during a brutal summer, with temperatures reaching into the hundreds. No wonder Kitty is nonplussed when her secret crush, Dean, reveals his very middle-class fear of being 'a second-rate man' like his father, who lost out on the big promotion to president of his bank. Poor Dean never quite recovers his luster in Kitty's eyes; she was attracted to his safe, good-looking affluence but she's a natural fighter and the struggle to become president instead of vice president is so alien to her that it doesn't register as a worthy fight. Cy's attempts to change Pearl Street and help Tomas become a doctor, and the dreams of Dean's pal PeeWee (and anyone who's ever watched an old movie knows who gets the girl once they see that name) to make it as an actor in New York are more in her line.
Dorothy Gilman Butters was born in
Ten Leagues To