Every year on January 18, my thoughts go back to 1952 and the event that made this date always stand out in my memory – it was the day I got my engagement ring. At the time, I was working as a secretary for Procter & Gamble in their corporate offices in the old Gwynne Building in downtown Cincinnati.
In the 1950s amid the post-war propaganda of building homes and families, Procter & Gamble’s secretaries were never more friendly and excited than when one of their group came in to work flashing an engagement ring. The day after Christmas there was a horde of girls putting out their hands for the oohs and aahs of their co-workers.
Frank and I didn’t get engaged at Christmas – I got a nice wristwatch instead. Meanwhile, Frank had gotten his notice to report to the Navy in February, to my great surprise my father didn’t forbid me to get engaged until I was 21 (which I always assumed), and we decided to go ahead with the engagement after three months of courtship.
It wasn’t romantic at all. Frank, his mother and I went on the bus to downtown Cincinnati on Saturday, January 12, to Oskamp-Nolting, a sort of discount jewelry house, and I picked out a solitaire diamond, very small, in platinum with a plain wedding band for a total price of $200. Frank’s mother paid for it at the time and collected from him later. I was disappointed that I couldn’t take the ring home that day, but it had to be sized down to a 5, promised for the following Friday, January 18.
All day that Friday at work, I was nervous, thinking maybe the ring still wouldn’t be ready and I’d have to wait yet another week. The few girls I had told were asking me where the ring was – this was important stuff. After work, as usual, I took the bus from downtown to Frank’s house in Oakley where his mother had fixed chili for supper. He didn’t say anything about the ring, his mother didn’t say anything, and finally after supper as Frank was resting on the couch before his weekly bowling league, I asked if the ring had been picked up. He took the small box and tossed it to me across the room. No, not romantic – but I had the coveted engagement ring and that was important in 1952.
I was so proud to show my ring to all the girls and to my boss, who said, “I’m impressed!” There was no way he could have been impressed with this very tiny stone but I enjoyed the day, being the center of attention, and being one of a select group in P&G’s Advertising Department – somebody’s fiancee.
A week or so later another girl in the department who had announced her engagement but didn’t have a ring told me that she had felt embarrassed about wearing a small stone with all the huge ones most of the girls had, but after seeing I was happy with a small diamond, she and her boyfriend decided to get her one they could afford, too. Maybe we started a trend.