Bailey’s of Boston
December, 1958. With all the campus offered and demanded, this California-raised, sweetly sheltered, 17-year-old Tech tool had had very little commercial contact with Boston. But now the first snow was dusting the grime, and it was time to venture forth. Christmas was coming; I was flying home, and the folks back there would expect me to bear thither something more Bostonian than my greenhorn self.

So, I trudged across the bridge and down to the Common. Windowshopped, bashfully, for a while. Saw something promising; entered the establishment; sought assistance and quickly formed a distressing generalization that Boston retail people think very highly of themselves and of the value of their time. Not sure anybody said, “And don’t steal anything, either!”, but they might as well have. Very different, culturally, from the almost-gushingly-friendly store clerks I’d grown up with on the edge of the Mojave Desert.

Pretty soon, I was in tears. Or maybe it was just sticky snow crystals. Felt the same, either way. Wandered, disconsolate, up West Street from Tremont and the Common toward Washington, and stopped at the bright front window of Bailey’s of Boston. Through which I could see a display of classy hand-dipped chocolates. Thought I, I can at least take Pappy some of those. Entered. Stood by the chocolates. Very quietly. Then a voice: “Wassamadda, kid?” Looked up. Didn’t see anybody. The voice repeated the question. This time I discerned, so help me, standing beside the display (I couldn’t have seen her over it), Flora! See the gray hair, tied up? the round face and twinkly eyes? Fauna and Meriwether didn’t show themselves.

Actually, as I soon learned, it was Brownie, not Fairy. More formally, Louise Larkin, of Dorchester (pronounced “DAAAAHch’stuh). She worked at Bailey’s, but I believe she was on duty that evening mainly to rescue my pathetic young keister. Quoth she, “Y’look like y’lost y’last friend!” At which I did indeed blubber.

Once Brownie figured out what was eating me, she took charge. Named four or five nice retail places. For each, said something like, “At Brooks Bruthahs, tell ’em ya wanna talk ta Henry; then tell Henry, Brownie sentcha. He’ll find ya a very Baast’n tie fa y’dad.”

At each establishment, people just like the ones I’d met earlier now treated me with respect, consideration, and all the friendliness one could have desired. Blessings upon Brownie, in whose name and for whose sake I was, however callow, Californian, and doubtless visibly impecunious, suddenly somebody of worth.

I won’t bother to get explicit about the theological parallel I’ve come to cherish here. Too obvious.
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