Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from The Sailor and The Songbird: A Timeless American Historical Romance. THIS WEEK .99 KINDLE.
February 2, 1944
How is my little Sis? Valentine’s Day is coming up. I bet you’re looking forward to the school dance. Do you have a date? With your pretty long blonde hair and bright smile, you probably have boys asking you all the time. They will probably decorate the gymnasium with red and pink balloons and streamers, just like always. I really wish I was there to see it. Make sure to write and tell me everything.
I’m doing a lot of dancing these days, too. Don’t tell Mommy and Daddy, but Kate, Janie and I are dancing with men for a dime a dance. I told them we were waiting tables. I didn’t think they would approve of us dancing with men for money.
It’s not too bad. My feet get stepped on a lot. Sometimes we get some servicemen, but they are almost all at the USO. We get a lot of older men. Some men are smelly and some don’t even speak English. That’s difficult. And they’re all sweaty, even though it’s cold and snowing outside. It’s hot in there with all the people. It’s so unpleasant. I have to take a shower every night and scrub just to get the odor of smoke and sweat out of my hair. Thank goodness there’s a bouncer named Bruce who makes sure they don’t get fresh.
Well, got to go—almost time to go to work. I dread it. I hate wearing this heavy blue eye makeup, mascara and extra rouge. You wouldn’t even recognize me. But Eddie says it makes us look older and prettier, like sophisticated city women and not Midwestern farm girls. We told him we’re not farm girls—we don’t live on farms. But if you’re a New Yorker, you think everyone from the Midwest is a farm girl.
At least we get to sing a song or two each night before the main act goes on. That is, when anyone can hear us. The sound in the steakhouse is horrible and people are eating and making a lot of clatter with the plates and silverware. It’s not like the concerts we saw at the ice cream socials at home where everyone appreciated the singers. They don’t even listen to us most of the time. I keep hoping one day someone will come in who will recognize our talent.
Please tell Mommy and Daddy I love them and you too. Just keep these things between us girls. I don’t want Mommy and Daddy to worry. I’m fine.
Luv, your big Sis
For Valentine’s Day, they tried to transform the steakhouse into a palace for Cupid and his arrow to draw in lonely men without sweethearts. They hung red streamers and big red and silver glitter hearts and banners all over the room that said “Be My Valentine.”
“Come on, girls, we’re going to have a big crowd of men for Valentine’s Day,” Eddie said. “Let’s get this place looking cute. I want to see hearts and a lot of red.”
“Yes, red rouge, red dresses, red lips and red feet from getting stepped on by these oafs,” Kate chided, while they decorated the steakhouse. “This is like putting red lipstick on a pig. This place is still a sty.”
“It’s not all bad,” Janie added. “We’re making some lonely sad guys happy today by being their Valentine,” she laughed and put her head through one of the big paper hearts.
“Your face is going to stick that way, Janie, and then no boys will want to dance with you,” Kate joked.
“There’s hope,” Suzy said. “Maybe we’ll get a great crowd for our set today.”
A few hours later, the room went from laughing girls to billows of cigar smoke with sweaty hacking and cackling men. The place was full of men looking for solace and company on the saddest holiday of the year for someone who’s alone.
“The lonelier they are, the homelier they seem to look,” Janie said. “Looking out from our set, they seemed dazed. The pickings are slim today, girls.”
“Get out there and mingle, girls…” Eddie barked. “There are men out there waiting to have their Valentine dream come and dance with them.”
“Dream or nightmare… you be the judge.” Suzy smiled. “Depends on where you’re standing.”
The girls danced for hours with many men, who were all having a good time, but at the end of the evening, the crowd was a little drunk on the Valentine’s Day champagne special and got rowdy.
“That’s it.” Kate slapped a tall, dark man and stormed into the employee room at the back of the steakhouse. “I’ve had it with this stuff. I’m not going to take it anymore.”
Bruce, the bouncer, saw the guy grab Kate’s backside and hurried the guy outside. Eddie didn’t want anyone to harm or manhandle the girls, but he didn’t want anyone to disrupt the paying customers, either.
Bruce was good at his job. He was very large, very Italian and very nice. The rumor was that he worked for the mob, but who knew. They were all glad he was there to watch over them.
The girls tried to calm Kate down, but couldn’t stop her from confronting Eddie. “We’re singers, not pin cushions for every pinching Tom, Dick and Harry. You know we’re better than your main act. We packed the place. We want at least three songs a night or we walk.”
“Are you crazy?” Janie and Suzy asked when she came back into the room. “This is our only way to pay Mrs. Arnold for our room and board. We need this job, no matter what.”
(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2021
One thought on “Valentine’s Day in Wartime”
The letter from sister to sister at the beginning is a perfect tone-setter, taking the reader back to a long-gone time. Nicely done!
LikeLiked by 1 person