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The spring of 1941 was a difficult one for our family. My little brother, Marvin, five years my junior, had been jumping fences and hurt his foot. He was taken to the hospital. In those days there was no health insurance. Health care was paid in cash.

My mom told me she had no money to pay for summer clothes. That’s when I started looking for a job. I applied at Neisner’s Five and Dime and was hired by a Mr. Curtis. I worked at the soda fountain. But first, I had to bring my birth certificate. New York State was strict about hiring minors.

Monday came and I went to work. Several days passed when Mr. Curtis asked for my birth certificate. I said it was in my locker, and I would bring it up as soon as I could. Whenever Mr. Curtis asked, I had an excuse until summer was gone. When school began I worked Saturdays.

When I turned 16 at the end of September, I brought in my birth certificate. Mr. Curtis scolded me because if the state knew he had hired me he would be in big trouble. Then he promoted me to the candy counter. 

I worked there until my senior year when I was hired by the Rochester Public Library. When I graduated I went to Highland Hospital and began my training to become a registered nurse. I graduated in 1946.

Sylvia Barkin-Hahn

Sylvia Barkin-Hahn reports from her Phoenix retirement community.

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