Vanity Fair.....My Story inspired by Carole Magaha Barnes story of working for this company.
I got married at 17 to a 19 year old "Swabbie" stationed at Whiting Field. I still remember telling Daddy that I was going to get married. His face turned ashen as he heard me say those words and he said to me, " you ain't going to marry no "ferigner" are you?" He thought that anyone not born in Jay or Flomaton was a Foreigner. I saw the hurt in his eyes as he told me that he would not sign for me to be married. I broke his heart when I said that to him " If you won't, Mama will." He had such hopes for me to be the first one in the family to go to college, but I saw an escape in marriage and I was going to take it. Daddy cried as he walked me all the way down the aisle and I started married life as a child.
I was not fully prepared to be a wife but I had been taking care of a home since I was 8, so it did not seem much different. Daddy let us live with him in my room for 6 months as we planned our next step. This gave us a chance to save some money so that we could buy a mobile home. We needed to move to Milton to be closer to the Naval Station and my husbands work. I had been working for A&W drive in as a skating car hop but I needed something with reliable hours and a fixed amount of pay, so I applied to Vanity Fair. I was so young that I did not think I would be hired but I was. I started on the line that sewed the stripes at the top of the robe. It was fun work for me and soon I was one of the fastest sewers on the line. I could fill a bundle and send it on down the line so quickly that the next station would have to catch up, as I waited for them. There were rewards for sewing faster and I wanted to make the list of people that could do that.
We also received a large discount on some of the things in the Vanity Fair factory shop. There were seconds in there that would not make the final cut past inspection to be sold to the public. I loved going in there and thinking about getting myself a robe or a silky gown to sleep in, but we were a Military family and we did not have money for extras.
I learned to do all aspects of putting the robe together including the "point" which were really hard to do and I was proud of how well I could sew. I worked my way up to inspector and then my husband was transferred to California and I had to leave the job.
I loved working there and for the first time, I had marriage type friends. Other young married couples working like we were for very little to give ourselves a good life. Marsha Cunningham and I became good friends. She was not from the area and seemed so "Worldly" compared to my life. We lived next door to each other at the trailer park. She was the first person to make me a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup that was made with milk. I had never tasted it before because we did not eat much food from a can and we did not make grilled cheese sandwiches. We did not eat many sandwiches. We ate greens and cornbread, gopher and dumplings, squirrel and beans. Sometimes we had poke salad if we could find it in the woods so the tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich was new to me.
She sewed on the line with me and also learned to do most of the other jobs in the plant, like I did. She could sew the labels, do the points, make the bras and inspect the final product for distribution, like I could. We were so young but we were competent. I am sure that there are 17 or 18 years old that could have the responsibility we had today, but I don't see that when I go into stores today. A lot of them can barely make change. I think of that kid that worked so hard at 17 to make a living and where that kind of work ethic took me and marvel at the many places that I have been and the many people I have seen.
I have been the minority, I have learned what a work ethic looks like in other countries, and sometimes when I look at the pair of scissors that I used back then, I am 17 again, sewing for Vanity Fair.