I was a fairly new school librarian when I got a position at the newly opened Harry S Truman HS in the Bronx. We were a library staff of three – Dorothy was head librarian, and Ann and I were the young newbies – but it didn’t take us long to bond. Dolly, as Dorothy was called by family and friends, was a petite lady with the sweetest of dispositions. She soon realized our individual strengths and preferences, and wisely divided the library tasks – teaching, book ordering, budgeting, and technical duties among us, and soon we had established a well-stocked, well-run, student-friendly library.
Although we were very happy working together at Truman, eventually – staggered over a few years and interrupted by maternity leaves for me and Ann – we each left for positions in other schools. Dolly transferred to a school closer to home – her drive to the Bronx had been over an hour – and Ann and I left for head librarian jobs elsewhere.
But we three had forged a deep friendship at Truman, and we stayed in close touch and met as often as we could. Then a few years ago we got the sad news that Dolly had died – just short of her 100th birthday – and Ann and I were left with many wonderful and funny memories of the woman we called Boss.
Exactly my mother’s age, Dolly was always ready to dispense her wise, maternal advice, and to share her favorite recipes – many of them involving a chicken and a can of soup.
And she and I had discovered we both shunned showers preferring long baths, and we both read in the tub. In fact Dolly told me she once took a four-hour bath and read a whole novel as she kept topping up the hot water!
At the time I was newly married and my husband was a young businessman. Dolly’s late husband Arthur had been in business as well, and she warned me that a life in business can have its ups and downs . She then told me this story.
Arthur had invested in many ventures over the years and was once approached by a young man who was looking for backers for a new business. But Arthur thought the idea of opening a chain of drive-thru hamburger restaurants was too risky and so he said no to Ray Kroc!
Dolly told us many more funny family stories, and we soon learned that her mild demeanor belied a wild streak. She loved fast cars, and colleagues seeing her pull into the teachers’ parking lot in her red Mercedes Benz convertible called her Mario Andretti. Once, her daughter Rena told me, her mother happened to spot a new model she liked through a Cadillac showroom window, and although she wasn’t in the market for a new car, she went in and bought it on the spot.
One day it happened Dolly and I both had to go to the DMV, I had to renew my driver’s license and she had to turn in some license plates. After school we went together and got on one of those long DMV lines, Dolly standing behind me.
When it was my turn the guy behind the counter pointed to the eye chart on the wall behind him and asked me to read it.
“E”, I said, then paused, squinting at the blurry letters on the next line. And then I heard Dolly’s voice behind me.
My boss – a law-abiding citizen, a grandmother of six, the responsible head librarian at a large New York City high school – was actually whispering in my ear, “ F P, T O Z.”
– Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!