I was so excited. The skyscrapers and department stores felt like sheltering arms to me. I felt like we belonged there. When the bus reached Michigan Avenue, we pulled the cord to signal our stop and got off.
To save our cash we had decided to walk the rest of the way. A chilly wind off Lake Michigan blew our hair and made our noses runny and red. We huddled close together and hugged the lovely shops and offices that lined Michigan Avenue to keep away the cold. Finally we reached campaign headquarters. Banners decorated the storefront windows. Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson smiled down at us—their newest campaign volunteers.
We presented ourselves to the receptionist at the front desk. I told the young woman in the bouffant hairdo and pink A-line dress, “We support Senator Kennedy and we want to help.” The young woman smiled and asked us to take a seat. We looked around the big open campaign war room filled with mismatched industrial metal desks and chairs of various shapes and sizes. Phones were ringing and young volunteers were staffing the phones or kibitzing in corners. She called someone and, in a few minutes, an older woman greeted us. She asked us to accompany her to a small office for an interview.
“Hello girls and welcome.”
“What are your names?”
“Anita and Barbara Solick”
“Our mother’s maiden name is McMahon and my grandma’s name was FitzGerald.”
The woman smiled.
“So you want to volunteer?”
“How old are you girls?”
“Eleven, almost twelve, and nine almost ten.”
“Where do you go to school?”
“St. Mel–Holy Ghost School”
“Did you come here by yourself?”
“Yes, we took the bus.”
I thought her eyebrow rose a bit, but she recovered.
“That is a good school.”
“Well, girls, we’ve got plenty for you to do.”
We passed. We were in! And to their credit the campaign staffers never patronized us or laughed at us, although their young volunteers probably cut comical figures. They took us seriously, treating us with the same respect they gave to the adult volunteers. We were installed at one of the industrial desks just like the adults. Armed with office supplies including an amazing invention—a wet sponge to help with sealing envelopes, we got busy addressing envelopes and stamping mailings. The office manager even let us file and look up addresses in the telephone book. She would check on us periodically and tell us when to take breaks, but pretty soon we were trusted to just do the work. When we ran out of things to do we would ask for more. Eventually, I would answer the telephone if the adults were really busy. In the evening, when we finished our work, we would ask someone for campaign materials to take home and trudged back to catch the Madison Street bus with our arms full.
And, we continued our efforts in the Madison Crawford Business District. Barb and I leafleted the entire neighborhood. We stuck the materials on street lights and in the abandoned newsstands. We handed them to shoppers. When we ran out of posters, we made our own on construction paper. I created the slogans and Barb did the artwork. We used my little rubber printing press letters to set the type. We went to all the stores in the neighborhood and I badgered the merchants to put Kennedy posters in the windows. We hit them all, store after store along Madison Street—the bakery, the Greek grocers, the pawn shop, the funeral parlors, the fortune teller, Personnel Liquors, the butcher shop, and the A & P. Most of the smaller merchants agreed to put the posters in the window, but I considered it a real coup when the Market Basket manager agreed. After school, we walked Madison Street carrying posters and chanting the Kennedy cheer.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish