Madison.TheDarkSide.Wisconsin.Chapter7.TheHealingProfession

Chapter Seven.

 

The Healing Profession.

 

The Wisconsin State Journal.

Thursday, July 8, 1920

“Scientists at University of Wisconsin express concern over the practices of so called physicians who are practicing medicine without all of benefits of a formal education in this profession. “

 

              After Emil had left for the Madison Buick Dealership business that he owned, Rosie and Nadia sat down with cups of steaming coffee on the porch.  Across the street, and down a few houses, the banker came out of his house, trailed by the twin girls who were quickly approaching marrying age.  He kissed them both fatherly kisses on the cheeks, and entered his Packard Sedan.  A closed car, it even had a heater, at that point in time, a rare option on an automobile.  He backed into the street, and was soon gone.  The twins noticed the two women on the porch, waved at them, and reentered the house. 

 

              Rosie addressed Nadia.  “I’ve never had help in keeping my household, but when I was younger I did help out at the Priest’s Rectory for the good Fathers at Saint Patrick’s Church.  There isn’t a lot of work here, just the usual that a household demands.  The sweeper on the carpets, the laundry.  We have a gasoline powered Maytag in the garage we bring outside in good weather, and there isn’t much use in doing laundry when you can’t dry it outside.  We can run lines in the basement in the cooler weather, but the smell of laundry dried in the sunshine is so much better.  Other than that, I will do my own cooking, but you are always welcome in the kitchen.  We can both make short work of the dishes, and Jerry will probably want to join us, for she is soon of the age where she will want to join the women, and leave the children.  Otherwise, just watching little Artie, making sure he is secure when the trains come through, for he does love watching those steam engines puff through.  The fence with the gate help keep him here, but, always know where he is at 814 am and 334 pm, every day.”

 

              Nadia nodded, and took a sip of the hot beverage. 

 

              Continuing, Rosie said.  “Jerry is old enough to be on her own.  You can answer any questions she may ask, and on Saturdays you can take her and Artie to the motion picture shows downtown.  I will have Emil take you for a ride downtown and show you where the important places are, so you are efficient when you take the children downtown.  We discussed things, and you will have Sunday off, as well as Wednesday.  This will leave 5 days for work.  You are expected to let us know if you are leaving to go to the grocery or any other of the merchants up on Monroe Street.”

 

              At this, Rosie was silent, for she hadn’t talked this much at home during the day since they had moved to the house on Keyes Avenue.  Nadia remained quiet, then spoke.

 

              “This is good.  I like my sleeping place.  Your food is tasty, and much better in quality than it was, even in the Tsars household in Russian in recent years.  I love Artie, and he is clearly fond of me.  But, I do have one question.  And that is of money.  What will I be paid, how much, and when will it be good for you to pay me.  And, once again, thank you, you saved me from difficult decisions.”

 

              “Emil and I have discussed this,” said Rosie, “and we decided, based on your previous experiences, that a salary of $5 per week is good, keeping in mind you are getting room and board.  Will this be satisfactory for you?  Just so you know, I was paid $4 per week for keeping the house of the priests, and had to live with my parents, and that was about 11 years ago.  We think that is fair.”

 

              Nadia was pleasantly surprised.  In the Tsars household, there had been no pay.  That you lived in a warm place, was fed, pretty much as much as you wanted, unless you made the cook angry, was considered a fine career compensation.  Outside, there was hunger, cold, and the men pretty much had their way with a single girl.  Inside, well, inside was the Cossacks, but they were decent, in that they would not hurt the girl, because it was passed down from old to young, that sooner or later, you had to sleep, and they could borrow the cooks sharpest, and cut your throat.  Best to not anger a woman who would be under your roof when you slept.  The Cossacks were a good people to be with, if a woman didn’t mind being a woman with soldiers who were men’s men. 

 

              Nadia said. “This is good.  And may I come with you and Emil and the children to church on Sunday.  For I have much to thank God for.  My life is good, and I still have it, and for that, I am eternally thankful.”

 

              “That is good, Mass is at 8 am on Sunday.  After the Mass, I will introduce you to Father Gerhardt, he is from Germany, and is a good man.  Ordained just a few years ago, he has been in America since he was about 4, certainly before his school years.  I will leave you about 10, I have an appointment downtown, and will return about 1230 for a late lunch.  This should be fine with the children.  Emil has a small library, if you read English, you may find some of the selections interesting.  It is there in the dining room in the built in shelves.”

 

              Nadia nodded.  She has noticed the books, about 2 dozen or so.  Some scientific, in chemistry and physics, some of the Mark Twain books, and some of the Jack London books, including one that the Tsar had not had in his library, called “The Star Rover”.  Nadia had heard of this, read about it in the London magazine “Punch” that the Tsar had delivered from the embassy in London along with the papers.  Punch had said that the story would be seen by some as evil, and witchcraft might be involved.  Nadia was curious. 

 

              Rosie excused herself, and went upstairs to the bathroom, and ran a bath.  The warm water was good, and helped wash away the remnants of the fog from the night.  Her body was still something that she was proud of, even after two births.  Her legs and thighs were firm, with skin soft, her hips unpadded, her rump was firm.  Her breasts had not suffered from the two sets of lips and tiny teeth, and they were just a bit lower on her chest than they had been 10 years before when she was a new bride.  Bath completed, she went to the bedroom, and selected her best foundations.  Today was to be a warm day, so a dress of light material was in order, and sensible shoes, for there would be some walking. 

 

              Nadia was on the porch, with a fresh cup of coffee.  Rosie said, “Well, I’m off, the streetcars are up on Monroe Street, and I will be off to downtown.”  Nadia nodded, and silently wished her good luck.

 

              On Monroe Street, the streetcar had just gone past, on its journey to the cemeteries, a few blocks to the west.  Once there, the motorman would walk to the other end of the streetcar, and in just a few minutes, he would be back.  She waited for the streetcar in front of the new building, with the Pharmacy in the front, and the offices in the rear which stories said would have the banker’s son, the physician setup in and taking patients in the near future. 

 

              She saw the approaching streetcar, and watched it trundle up to her stop.  She walked the few steps to the car, and entered.  The motorman’s coin box, transferred from one end of the car to the other when it changed directions, took her coin, and she took her seat.  Down Monroe Street, then taking the turn by where the boys at the University played their games, and the Union Army had bivouacked in the Civil War.  The trip down Regent Street past the many businesses was always interesting, seeing what was new, who the people were on the front porches, and the streets.  As they approached the Italian quarter, known at the Green Bush, the people started to show more Mediterranean lineage.  Long, black hair, shorter skirts, and dresses, looks that could kill, and, it seemed to this woman, that they had more shapely figures than the other heritages could brag of. 

              The turn onto Park Street and the slowing down as the trolley made its way up the hill under the new railroad trestle was negotiated with no need for comment.  At State Street, in front of the new Historical Society Building, the first stop was made.  Stops up State Street were every block.  Merchants lined this street, and some of Emil’s relatives were shop owners.   One had what had been a tavern in the 400 block, and in the next block up, was a furniture store.  That had had to be relocated when the owners had sold the land to the developers of the new Capital Theater.  Gosh, what a palace that was.  They had done all right, making many time over what their father had paid for the land when it was cheap.  The building, not much more than a frame house with no inside walls, was useful for firewood for the winter stove, and that was part of the deal, so Emil had told her, and she remembered the weekends spent with his family demolishing the old store.  The beer flowed, and by mid-afternoon, several of the men were relieved of the hammers and saws, and spent the rest of the day throwing wood pieces on the horse drawn wagons to be taken to the homes with the wood burners, both for cooking and heating the homes. 

 

              Rosie saw the Capital, new, and shiny, still fresh from the rebuilding just completed, at least on the outside.  Arisen like the Phoenix from the ashes of the old Capital.  She remember the horror of the night it burned, the smell, the ashes, the men yelling, the eyes of the horses of the fire brigade.  Her heart quickened, for the Doctors office was just ahead.  The building, new and just finished by the Gay brothers, was a showpiece of modern construction.  A full ten stories, with professionals on each floor.  Doctors, dentists, attorneys, real estate men, stock brokers, and others, the floors were full.  With modern electric elevators, there was ease in moving up to the highest floors, and with such a display of professions in the directory on first floor, right by the elevators, a person could enter the building with no hope of an observer guessing the destination.

 

              That morning, Rosie had no need of the dentists, the attorneys, real estate men, stock brokers, or the others.  Her destination was that office of Doctor Shapiro, a woman’s doctor.  While some physicians were generalists, or children’s doctors, pediatricians by title, or any of a number of other specialties,   Dr. Shapiro was a woman’s doctor.  His practice, while including the care of pregnant women, included the treatment of “hysterical women.”  This was a curious title, for these women were rarely hysterical, or bothered by any particular disease.  Doctor Shapiro’s trade involved the stimulation of the woman’s personal private parts in order to supply the orgasm that perhaps was missing in the marital bed.  This specialty had been explained to him by another practitioner he had met while taking the waters in Upstate New York, when he was fresh out of Medical School in New York City.  The veteran practitioner had explained the fine arts of the trade with the express guarantee that Dr. Shapiro would not take up practice on the island of Manhattan.  Any of the other boroughs was ok, just not Manhattan.   Dr. Shapiro had volunteered to take instruction at the other physician’s office in Manhattan for a period not to exceed one month, and had learned both the techniques of the trade, and the tools.  The wonders of electricity had brought about a wonderful appliance that saved the physicians fingers and wrists from destruction, and prevented the need to use of ice between patients that was a standard in a busy practice.  This vibrating massager was a godsend, and allowed the doctors to fill the day with patients, thus insuring a fat bank account.

 

              Doctor Shapiro’s office was on the seventh floor, and took up the entire rear of the building, which was about 40 feet wide and 100 feet long.  His office was 30 feet from the front door to the rear, with three treatment rooms at the rear, about 12 by 16 feet, a four foot hallway connecting them, and providing a sound barrier between the treatment rooms and the front reception area, split into an area with chairs for the incoming patients, and a separate hallway for the exiting patients.  Mrs. Murphy, the receptionist, was a typical Irish colleen, long red hair, green eyes the color of the heath in the old country.  Her husband had been lost in the Great War, not as a combatant, but as a stoker on the steamship Lusitania.  After the war, Mrs. Murphy, widowed at the age of 24, with not even a chance to start a family before she lost her love, made her way to Madison.  Her uncle, on her mother’s side, had been a tavern man in Madison, and he said that he would employ his niece as a barmaid.  That work was ok, and one of the regulars, one of Doctor Shapiro’s regulars, had put in a good work with the good Doctor, that a receptionist to herd the patients would be a good addition.

 

              Mrs. Murphy had met the good Doctor, only about 10 years older than she, and was retained after a short interview, and a demonstration of the Doctors handicraft.  She decided that this work, paying slightly better than the tavern, with its tips, but, in a Tuesday through Saturday work week, 8am to 5 pm, was far superior to the smoky, stinky tavern, open to all hours, with unwashed hands making attempts to become familiar.  

Promptly, at 11 am, the door opened, and Rosie entered.  Smiling, she approached the window with the every smiling, ever happy Mrs. Murphy behind the window.  She slid the single $1.00 bill across the counter, and after being thanked by Mrs. Murphy, she was escorted to room three.  As she passed room one, she heard the unmistakable sounds of Dr. Shapiro’s success as a healer.  Blushing slightly, with the thoughts of her upcoming treatment, she entered the door. 

 

As was the good Doctors suggestion, his patients were given the option of just removing undergarments and keeping the outer garments in place, or using one of the gowns, or receiving treatment in the manner of Eve, the original woman.  Rosie had tried all three, and preferred that of Eve, as apparently, did the doctor.  Disrobing, she took a seat on the leather table, with the adjustable backrest, and closed her eyes to relax.

 

Moments later, the door open, and Doctor Shapiro entered, with his apprentice in tow.  The banker’s son, newly minted from the University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine was proving to be a worthy understudy.  Doctor Shapiro had his hands full, literally, with the trade in the Gay Building, and had talked with the banker about expanding.  As a good father, with a son in the medical profession, he suggested that the trade of Doctor Shapiro would be best improved with another office.  To start, the West side of Madison was expanding, and there would be women who would be interested in not having to travel a great distance.  He suggested that the Doctor rent space in a new building the banker has having built on Monroe Street.

 

Staffing that new office would be best handled by his son, William.  The two doctors had a 50/50 split, with the share of the senior doctor paying the rent and the help out front, and the working doctor taking the rest as his professional fee.  Although this left Dr. William Michaels with a handsome some of 50 cents per visit, with the wonder of electricity, he was capable of three treatments per hour, and with eight hours in a day, left him with a potential of $12 per day, or $60 per week, generating $3000 per year, which was a handsome sum for a new physician in the year of our Lord, 1920.  Of course, he would also be treating the other women’s aliments, and helping the pregnant with their ordeals. 

 

Rosie opened her eyes, and those eyes opened wide when they noticed the two figures.  Dr. Shapiro greeted her.

“Good morning Miss Rosie.”  He had found that the women he treated liked not having their last names used during the treatments, and this was the way he addressed them.  “This is Dr. Michaels, recently of the University of Wisconsin,  School of Medicine.  He has joined my practice, and will be staffing my new office in the Monroe Street Business District.” 

She nodded, somewhat shocked at seeing the son of her neighbor, a strapping young man only a few years younger than she, a man who she had admired at the beaches of Lake Wingra.

 

“Dr. Michaels, I am pleased to make your acquaintance.  I recognize you from your visits to your father’s house, which is just across the street and down a short ways from my own residence.”

 

Although the young woman, just a few years older than the good Dr. Michaels, was totally as Eve was in the Garden of Eden, she appeared at ease, which was somewhat of a surprise.  In the barely post Victorian age that was the early 20th century, nudity was totally frowned upon, definitely discouraged, and outside of marriage, or brothels, not something that a young man, even a man of medicine would encounter during the course of a work day, even as a physician.  Later, Mr. Michaels would learn from Dr. Shapiro,  that the lovely Rosie was an aficionado of the charms of Laudanum.  As was the reaction of many users of narcotics, the users of the Laudanum were without inhibition, and shame was not restrictive.

 

Dr. Michaels had noticed the charms of Rosie during the summer visits to his father’s home on Keyes Avenue.  As her home was to the southwest of his father’s, on warm summer eves, when thin garments were wise to wear due to the summer heat, the setting sun, low in the horizon would silhouette the woman within the garment.  Even from across the street, the silhouette was striking, showing her figure as if there were one clothing draped over her.  And now, presented in the manner of Eve, he was expected, no, required to treat her for the aliment of the female hysteria.  

 

Dr. Shapiro explained,   Dr. Matthews has observed and performed many of these procedures and is as proficient as I.  I am confident that he will provide you with treatment equal to the best I have been able to perform as your physician.  You will be able to decide if you wish to travel uptown to keep appointments at this office, or, if you prefer, to visit Dr. Matthews at our new west side office.  Your choice.  And now, I will take this chair, and observe, while Dr. Matthews treats you.”

 

With that, the medical procedure began.  The medical appliance was plugged into the wall outlet, and the proper protocols were initiated.

 

At the end of the procedure, Dr. Shapiro mentioned.  “This has been successful.  You can make your appointment with Mrs. Murphy as you exit.  You may choose as you wish,  the new office will be seeing patients starting next Monday.   For now, you may get dressed and we look forward to seeing you soon.”

 

The two men left the room, and went to treatment room 2, where one of the working girls from the business two blocks down State Street that was a laundry worked.  An eighteen year old farm girl from New Glarus, a farming community about 30 miles to the southwest, she had come to the city to learn a trade.  Because she was not paid a lot, the physicians were generous with their discounted service. 

 

Rosie, now fully garbed, went to the front desk to see Mrs. Murphy.  The prescription bottle of her friend was there, and she gave Mrs. Murphy another dollar for the new bottle, leaving her last bottle, now empty, for refilling and reuse.   She told Mrs. Murphy.

 

“I like Dr. Matthews.  His hands are warm, and he seems to understand both his profession and his tool.  I trust he will be the physician in attendance at Monroe Street?”

 

Mrs. Murphy nodded and said.  “Yes,   he will be seeing patients there on Monday.  I agree, his hands are good, both in warmth, and softness.  I have seen him, and he is a good Doctor of these aliments.”  The two women smiled, knowingly at each other.  “And Rosie, he is appreciative of attentions also.”  With that, Rosie’s eyebrow raised, and the two women nodded at each other.  For both knew what those attentions could include.  Rosie was now looking forward to next week, Thursday was her standard appointment, and with Nadia off on Wednesdays, this would work for her.  Still smiling, she took her leave. 

 

That day, at noon, was a wonderful day.  With erect posture, Rose was noticed by every male she walked past.  Also, as she made her way down   State Street, to the University district, by several of the females students who were there for the summer school.   A few blocks down State Street was the ice cream store, and a chocolate cone was just the ticket.  The soda jerk inside, Jeffrey, was taken aback by the young woman with eyes that could make a mountain melt.  She ordered her cone, and he forgot to charge her.  She dug a nickel out of her purse and slid it across the counter to the young man.  Still speechless, he rang the register and recorded the sale. 

 

With cone in hand, her journey continued.  The new Montgomery Wards was on the left side, across the street.  With a cone, melting as fast as she could lick it, there was no way she would be able to wander inside, plus, with $2 gone out of the household budget, she was a little short for the time being.

 

The trolley picked her up about half-way down State Street, just after noon.  About 12:25 pm she was deposited across the street from the new offices of the doctors.  With a smile, she walked the few blocks home, arriving just a few minutes after she had guessed.

 

On the porch, with a glass of ice tea on the table next to her chair, Nadia was over half way through the Jack London novel, “The Star Rover.”  The concepts within, reminded of the mind over matter discussions that were once the rage in the Tsars household.  One of the best of the talkers in the Tsar’s house was a man of the cloth.  That bastard monk Rasputin was an expert in getting his own way, using logic that sounded good at the time, but in retrospective either made one laugh, or cry.  This novel was engaging, and she vowed to finish it that day. 

 

Climbing the steps, Rosie greeted Nadia, and Nadia noticed the bounce in her step which she hadn’t seen before.  The kids had seen their mom walking up from her trip downtown and lunch was in order.  Afterward, quiet time, perhaps a nap, and then preparation for supper.

 

About this time, in the offices of Dr.  Swenson, a proprietor of a combination steam bath house, and practitioner of the Swedish massage, the good doctor was preparing for the afternoon appointments.  Somewhat upset by the morning papers article on doctors who practiced without formal training, he felt that his years of experience far outweighed the benefits of a physician who had been to school.  You were in school for 8 to 10 years after high school, and for what?  If you were not a surgeon, a lay practitioner was just as good a healer as a college boy.  Maybe more. 

 

That afternoon, he had scheduled the foreman from the foundry, and a couple of the women from the offices of the factory over on East Washington.  Sitting in front of the typewriters and comptometers machines all day made for stiff backs and shoulders, and their bosses let them take short lunches during the week so they could have a long lunch for their appointments on Thursday afternoon.  Today, he would take Mrs. Martin at 1 pm, and Miss Devine at 2pm.  His assistant was preferred by the foreman, Mr. Jenson, a large Englishman, recently imported from the casting trades in London, where he was a man of some renown.  His assistant, a small Chinese woman of about 19 years, weighed barely 100 pounds, but her hands were hands of steel, and he could vouch himself, that those hands could work magic.  She had been delivering the sheets from the family laundry, way across town on Park Street, and one day, she had asked if she could show him her massage work.  Laughing inside, he said sure.  Treat me like a valued customer of Dr. Swenson, not as Dr. Swenson.  Following him to the treatment room, which was originally on the blue prints of the building as an office, she had informed him that he could disrobe to where he would be comfortable receiving a massage.  Deciding to test the teenager, after she had left the room, closing the door on her way out, he had disrobed completely.  Dr. Swenson was a good sized man, just slightly over 6 feet in height, and about 190 pounds.  He was a health enthusiast, and he had weights he had fabricated himself in the basement of the steam bath.  Another Scandinavian of note in the Madison area, a Norwegian called the Swede, himself a metal man had expressed interest in those weights, in different weights, with different weights that could be fastened on a metal pipe so the user would be able to vary the lifting weights.  Dr. Swenson then laid face down on the table, he intentionally did not cover himself with a towel. 

 

A few minutes later, a faint knock on the door announced the return of Mai.  The door opened and a clear, voice asked if he was ready.

 

“Yes, remember, I am a valued client of Dr. Swenson.  Treat me as such.”

 

As she entered, he heard her draw in her breath sharply. 

 

“I will start your treatment today with your shoulders.  Relax your muscles, and put your arms at your side.” 

 

He did so. 

“Can you relax your shoulders?”

 

“I am relaxed, ma’am.  I just use weights so my muscles are larger than normal.”

 

Starting the massage, she acknowledged.  “Yes, I see now.”  No comment was made of his full nudity, and she was impressed by the shapeliness of his back muscles, and his gluts.  Never before had she seen such a large man, and his physique was that of the gods sculpted in marble that she had seen in the large museums when she visited relatives in both Chicago, and San Francisco.  Standing next to the table May realized that unlike the Asian men she had worked on before, she could not reach all the way across this man’s back. 

 

“Sir, with your permission, I will get on the table so that I can massage all of your back at one time.  You are such a magnificent man that my small arms cannot reach the other side of you.” 

“As you wish, girl. Make this the best you know how to.”

 

With that, Mai climbed up the table after removing the slipper like clogs that she wore daily.  She was wearing traditional working woman Asian garb, a white cotton shirt with three buttons, and long sleeves, loose fitting cotton pants, which were worn by both sexes at the laundry and at home.  They were kept up by a small piece of rope, tied like a shoe, cotton woven.  In the heat of the summer, in a room with drapes, but with open windows, the hard work was rough on a 100 pound woman.  She could feel her skin start to moisten with the natural sweat resulting from strong work on a hot day.  She completed his shoulders, thinking that this man has shoulders like an ox.  Moving down his back meant that she had to move from straddling his lower back to perching on top of his gluts.      

Dr. Swenson was somewhat shocked when the young girl climbed up on the table and took position on his back, not unlike Annie Oakley on her horse when that show had come to town.  Now that she was moving down, he felt her thighs tight against his hips, not at all an unpleasant experience.  Unknown to him, she had unbuttoned two of the buttons on her blouse to let the heat out.  Thinking to herself, she was planning to borrow a sleeveless shirt from her father’s laundry, the better to let the heat of the work escape.

 

Work on the lower back now completed, she slid further toward his feet.  Now resting on his thighs, she put more of the vegetable oil on her hands and prepared to attack his gluts.  Never before in her life had she seen such muscles. 

 

They were strong as steel, some hair, of course, for he was a man, but the size, the firmness, she was almost outside of her ability to comprehend.  However, an Asian woman needed to quickly adapt to the unknown, for that is way of survival.  When she moved his legs, she dismounted.  She was covered with sweat from the workout she had experienced on top of the large man.  She started with his feet, and discovered he was a little ticklish.  Somewhat amused at the power a 100 pound woman had to make a huge ox of a man wiggle like a puppy, she moved up to his lower calves.  They were also firm, and she used both a firm touch, then a lighter touch, in a circular motion, such as her mother had taught her on her father.  The thigh muscles were next, and she silently worked each side, not getting too close to the juncture of those magnificent legs. 

 

Finished on the back, she announced, “Sir, your back is complete, if you would like me to massage your arms, chest, and stomach, as well as the tops of your legs, you may role over, if you would like a towel to cover yourself, one is available.”

 

Dr. Swenson was pleased that Mai had offered the client a choice.  He chose to test her, and rolled over without benefit of cover.  He saw her in the light of the incandescent bulb in the lamp by the window.  Barely five feet tall, as previously mentioned, a scale set at 100 pounds would have wavered in indecision.  A smile on her lips, she knew that she had done good work.  The big man also had a smile on his face, and they were eye to eye. 

 

Dr. Swenson took note that Mai was drenched in sweat.  Her shirt, not unlike the summer pajamas his late wife had worn, were of only three buttons, and the top and bottom were loosened, just the one between her breasts and her navel kept the shirt modest. 

 

“Mai, you look warm, you should take some water.  There is a pitcher of water from the faucet, and glasses on the table by the door.  I could use some too.”   He watched as she walked the few paces from her station at the side of the table to the small table in back of where the door opened.  Her pants were showing off her physique, for they were dampened with the sweat of her labors, and adhered to her outline.  His guess was that she did not wear bloomers, or anything else underneath those cotton pants.    He could see, even in the dim light, for in the treatment room, the bulbs were not strong, the outline of her backside, and the slenderness of her hips was apparent, even with the tails of the shirt overhanging her waist. 

 

Dr. Swenson lifted up on his elbows, and taking the water from the young girl, drank strongly from the glass.  Mai also took a drink, and with the water still in her mouth, her eyes left his, and travelled down his physique.  His chest was strong, his stomach was flat, and then….

 

Mai’s water left her mouth, that which was still left.  She avoided spitting it on her soon to be employer, but there was a distinct fountain of youth when she saw what was below the line where his belt would have been, if he was wearing pants, which, of course, he wasn’t.  She was familiar with the male organ, having seen that of her father, and her brothers, who were younger.  That was the reality of living in the back of the laundry, where the only privacy was in the basement where the big boiler for the hot water lived, like a dragon, eating coal by the ton.  But this, this was a dragon by itself.  Never before had she imagined such a magnificent thing could exist, and it was not even prepared for battle. 

 

“Excuse me, I am terribly sorry!”  She pleaded.

 

“That is alright, no harm was done.  Sometimes the water goes down the wrong pipe.”  Inside, Dr. Swenson was laughing, for he knew the damage he had done.  He had treated her father when he had lifted equipment he was installing in the laundry that was way too heavy for a man of 120 pounds.  He had seen her father in his entirety, and he was properly sized for a man of that weight, an Asian to boot, but the doctor was almost twice the weight of her father, and was properly sized for his weight.

 

“Let us continue, my afternoon appointments will be here in thirty minutes.”

Mai knew her work, and continued the massage in proper manner.  Except for his face, proper attention was paid to his shoulders, chest, abdomen, feet, lower legs, and thighs.  Mai was watching the clock, and with the 30 minutes almost up, asked the good doctor.

“I think I have given you the best massage I know how to.  Is there any place else you would like me to work on?”

“No, Mai, your massage is tops.  It is perfect.  We need to talk to your father to see if he wants you to work outside of the laundry.  I would start you paid by the appointment, with you receiving forty cents of the dollar I charge.  You would be expected to wash the windows, and sweep the floors, and other duties as I see fit.  If this is ok with you, check with your father, and let me know tomorrow, on Friday.”

 

Mai nodded.  “I will do that.  We will have more sheets and towels for you tomorrow, and I will deliver them at the usual time.”

 

Inside, Mai was both relieved, and somewhat curious about the path the massage would have taken if there was more time.  She had noticed the man’s breath quicken when she massaged his chest, wisely standing next to the massage table.  Her work on his legs had also effected a physical reaction that also piqued her curiosity. 

Exiting the building, at the back, the service entrance, she entered the Model TT panel truck.  The Swede, the giant man, whose metal shop was just across the cross street from the Lee Laundry had reworked the cab of the truck for the smaller Asian drivers at the laundry.  For his own truck he had moved the back of the cab rearward a full twelve inches so his tall, bulky body could get behind the wheel.  The bed of his flatbed truck had had to be fully reworked to allow for the relocation of the back of the cab, but for the Lee truck, which was fully enclosed, only the seat had had to be relocated, forward and down.

 

In the truck, Mai Lee now could work the pedals that controlled the planetary transmission that cleaver Mr. Ford has designed.  She took off. Driving through town, down through the business district of Williamson Street, to the railroad station where Wilson Street joined, she made several stops at the taverns and workshops that lined the street.  There were also two stops at houses, one next door to the tavern of the grandson whose grandfather had built most of the block.  That house, with its fancy ladies, generated a lot of sheets each day, and also more than a few towels.  Luckily, the laundry was packed in large bags, almost as tall as Lee at four feet long.  Weighing almost half that of the young girl, she was strong enough to carry the bags out and load them in the back of the truck. 

 

Never, during her drive, did May see other women driving cars, much less large commercial vehicles.  She was known by the draymen in the town.  At first, they laughed and pointed at the tiny woman doing their work.  After they saw her back the truck up to loading docks, and surprisingly, maneuver the truck into a parallel parking required spot on the street, they talked among themselves in the taverns, and on the loading docks, and even the most manly of them had to agree that the young woman half their size had mastered the chores of driving, backing, and manipulating a truck.  Gaining their respect was something that had to be earned by performance, not any other way.  Sometimes, she would see the women of Mansion Hill in their limousines, driver by men in formal black suits.  She knew these suits, for she pressed most of the black suits in the city. 

 

On that day, two months before, Mai planned her explanation and pleading to get permission for the new job. Back at the laundry, unloading the truck was done quickly, with the helping hands of her siblings.  First she talked to her mother, in Japanese, of course, because the older woman had no need of English.  The woman saw the wisdom of her daughter escaping the laundry, and it would cement the work they had with the steam bath and massage business even more.  Plus, the woman realized, with two massage rooms in operation, there would be twice as many sheets and towels in the work for the laundry.

 

Telling Mai to start at the pressing, the next youngest girl was sent to watch, and apprentice at the ironing machine.  Hot, and steamy, the machine was sometimes dangerous to the person who had no experience with it.  While Mai tutored the younger sister, Mrs. Lee went to Mr. Lee, and explained in terms that sounded like a battle between Ronin warriors.  Mr. Lee soon saw the wisdom of letting his eldest daughter work outside the laundry, and the cash she brought in would be helpful.  He went to see his daughter, and nodded silently.  In the shorthand of a noisy laundry, Mai understood fully that her father had given permission for her to work for Dr. Swenson.  She smiled, and continued the training of her replacement at the laundry.

 

Back at the steam bath and massage works of Dr. Swenson, the afternoon’s work went well.  He had explained to the English foreman that he had explored the taking on of an assistant, so that different modalities of the art of massage could be offered.  Nodding, the Englishman, Eric, entered into a discussion of the massage establishments in London, in particular, those of the SoHo district.

 

The next day, Mai agreed to the terms of Dr. Swenson, and started immediately.  The word had gotten out quickly, and her calendar was soon booked.  She worked from 11 am, allowing those who could get an early lunch, to about 8 pm at night.  There was a quiet time, generally, in the midafternoon, when she would pick up and deliver laundry between the business district that Dr. Swenson was in and the Lee Laundry on Park Street, but within a month, the afternoon was busy also.  May was given the job of teaching her sister, Aki, the intricacies of the Ford Model TT truck, which she picked up quickly.  Aki was a quick learner, and having watched her sister at the ironing machine, the water extracting machine properly called the mangle, and in the art of massage, she was almost every bit as useful as her older sister.  Putting her sister to work outside the family business was far more advantageous to the family coffers because the money she brought in was new money, and the work she had performed at the family business was quickly picked up by the bright, and also attractive Aki.  Mai took her around to the customers, who had all appreciated the quick smile, and gentle voice of Mai, and Aki picked up the greetings and salutations that are all of a successful delivery.  Dressing almost as Mai had, Aki talked her mother in short sleeves on the shirt, and shorter legs on the trousers, because of the heat of the day, and the heat in the laundry. 

Thus, the transmission of responsibilities at the laundry was complete, and May became the employee of Dr. Swenson at the steam baths and massage therapy service.  Businesses in the year of the lord, 1920, grew in the progress and prosperity of the day. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seven.

 

The Healing Profession.

 

The Wisconsin State Journal.

Thursday, July 8, 1920

“Scientists at University of Wisconsin express concern over the practices of so called physicians who are practicing medicine without all of benefits of a formal education in this profession. “

 

              After Emil had left for the Madison Buick Dealership business that he owned, Rosie and Nadia sat down with cups of steaming coffee on the porch.  Across the street, and down a few houses, the banker came out of his house, trailed by the twin girls who were quickly approaching marrying age.  He kissed them both fatherly kisses on the cheeks, and entered his Packard Sedan.  A closed car, it even had a heater, at that point in time, a rare option on an automobile.  He backed into the street, and was soon gone.  The twins noticed the two women on the porch, waved at them, and reentered the house. 

 

              Rosie addressed Nadia.  “I’ve never had help in keeping my household, but when I was younger I did help out at the Priest’s Rectory for the good Fathers at Saint Patrick’s Church.  There isn’t a lot of work here, just the usual that a household demands.  The sweeper on the carpets, the laundry.  We have a gasoline powered Maytag in the garage we bring outside in good weather, and there isn’t much use in doing laundry when you can’t dry it outside.  We can run lines in the basement in the cooler weather, but the smell of laundry dried in the sunshine is so much better.  Other than that, I will do my own cooking, but you are always welcome in the kitchen.  We can both make short work of the dishes, and Jerry will probably want to join us, for she is soon of the age where she will want to join the women, and leave the children.  Otherwise, just watching little Artie, making sure he is secure when the trains come through, for he does love watching those steam engines puff through.  The fence with the gate help keep him here, but, always know where he is at 814 am and 334 pm, every day.”

 

              Nadia nodded, and took a sip of the hot beverage. 

 

              Continuing, Rosie said.  “Jerry is old enough to be on her own.  You can answer any questions she may ask, and on Saturdays you can take her and Artie to the motion picture shows downtown.  I will have Emil take you for a ride downtown and show you where the important places are, so you are efficient when you take the children downtown.  We discussed things, and you will have Sunday off, as well as Wednesday.  This will leave 5 days for work.  You are expected to let us know if you are leaving to go to the grocery or any other of the merchants up on Monroe Street.”

 

              At this, Rosie was silent, for she hadn’t talked this much at home during the day since they had moved to the house on Keyes Avenue.  Nadia remained quiet, then spoke.

 

              “This is good.  I like my sleeping place.  Your food is tasty, and much better in quality than it was, even in the Tsars household in Russian in recent years.  I love Artie, and he is clearly fond of me.  But, I do have one question.  And that is of money.  What will I be paid, how much, and when will it be good for you to pay me.  And, once again, thank you, you saved me from difficult decisions.”

 

              “Emil and I have discussed this,” said Rosie, “and we decided, based on your previous experiences, that a salary of $5 per week is good, keeping in mind you are getting room and board.  Will this be satisfactory for you?  Just so you know, I was paid $4 per week for keeping the house of the priests, and had to live with my parents, and that was about 11 years ago.  We think that is fair.”

 

              Nadia was pleasantly surprised.  In the Tsars household, there had been no pay.  That you lived in a warm place, was fed, pretty much as much as you wanted, unless you made the cook angry, was considered a fine career compensation.  Outside, there was hunger, cold, and the men pretty much had their way with a single girl.  Inside, well, inside was the Cossacks, but they were decent, in that they would not hurt the girl, because it was passed down from old to young, that sooner or later, you had to sleep, and they could borrow the cooks sharpest, and cut your throat.  Best to not anger a woman who would be under your roof when you slept.  The Cossacks were a good people to be with, if a woman didn’t mind being a woman with soldiers who were men’s men. 

 

              Nadia said. “This is good.  And may I come with you and Emil and the children to church on Sunday.  For I have much to thank God for.  My life is good, and I still have it, and for that, I am eternally thankful.”

 

              “That is good, Mass is at 8 am on Sunday.  After the Mass, I will introduce you to Father Gerhardt, he is from Germany, and is a good man.  Ordained just a few years ago, he has been in America since he was about 4, certainly before his school years.  I will leave you about 10, I have an appointment downtown, and will return about 1230 for a late lunch.  This should be fine with the children.  Emil has a small library, if you read English, you may find some of the selections interesting.  It is there in the dining room in the built in shelves.”

 

              Nadia nodded.  She has noticed the books, about 2 dozen or so.  Some scientific, in chemistry and physics, some of the Mark Twain books, and some of the Jack London books, including one that the Tsar had not had in his library, called “The Star Rover”.  Nadia had heard of this, read about it in the London magazine “Punch” that the Tsar had delivered from the embassy in London along with the papers.  Punch had said that the story would be seen by some as evil, and witchcraft might be involved.  Nadia was curious. 

 

              Rosie excused herself, and went upstairs to the bathroom, and ran a bath.  The warm water was good, and helped wash away the remnants of the fog from the night.  Her body was still something that she was proud of, even after two births.  Her legs and thighs were firm, with skin soft, her hips unpadded, her rump was firm.  Her breasts had not suffered from the two sets of lips and tiny teeth, and they were just a bit lower on her chest than they had been 10 years before when she was a new bride.  Bath completed, she went to the bedroom, and selected her best foundations.  Today was to be a warm day, so a dress of light material was in order, and sensible shoes, for there would be some walking. 

 

              Nadia was on the porch, with a fresh cup of coffee.  Rosie said, “Well, I’m off, the streetcars are up on Monroe Street, and I will be off to downtown.”  Nadia nodded, and silently wished her good luck.

 

              On Monroe Street, the streetcar had just gone past, on its journey to the cemeteries, a few blocks to the west.  Once there, the motorman would walk to the other end of the streetcar, and in just a few minutes, he would be back.  She waited for the streetcar in front of the new building, with the Pharmacy in the front, and the offices in the rear which stories said would have the banker’s son, the physician setup in and taking patients in the near future. 

 

              She saw the approaching streetcar, and watched it trundle up to her stop.  She walked the few steps to the car, and entered.  The motorman’s coin box, transferred from one end of the car to the other when it changed directions, took her coin, and she took her seat.  Down Monroe Street, then taking the turn by where the boys at the University played their games, and the Union Army had bivouacked in the Civil War.  The trip down Regent Street past the many businesses was always interesting, seeing what was new, who the people were on the front porches, and the streets.  As they approached the Italian quarter, known at the Green Bush, the people started to show more Mediterranean lineage.  Long, black hair, shorter skirts, and dresses, looks that could kill, and, it seemed to this woman, that they had more shapely figures than the other heritages could brag of. 

              The turn onto Park Street and the slowing down as the trolley made its way up the hill under the new railroad trestle was negotiated with no need for comment.  At State Street, in front of the new Historical Society Building, the first stop was made.  Stops up State Street were every block.  Merchants lined this street, and some of Emil’s relatives were shop owners.   One had what had been a tavern in the 400 block, and in the next block up, was a furniture store.  That had had to be relocated when the owners had sold the land to the developers of the new Capital Theater.  Gosh, what a palace that was.  They had done all right, making many time over what their father had paid for the land when it was cheap.  The building, not much more than a frame house with no inside walls, was useful for firewood for the winter stove, and that was part of the deal, so Emil had told her, and she remembered the weekends spent with his family demolishing the old store.  The beer flowed, and by mid-afternoon, several of the men were relieved of the hammers and saws, and spent the rest of the day throwing wood pieces on the horse drawn wagons to be taken to the homes with the wood burners, both for cooking and heating the homes. 

 

              Rosie saw the Capital, new, and shiny, still fresh from the rebuilding just completed, at least on the outside.  Arisen like the Phoenix from the ashes of the old Capital.  She remember the horror of the night it burned, the smell, the ashes, the men yelling, the eyes of the horses of the fire brigade.  Her heart quickened, for the Doctors office was just ahead.  The building, new and just finished by the Gay brothers, was a showpiece of modern construction.  A full ten stories, with professionals on each floor.  Doctors, dentists, attorneys, real estate men, stock brokers, and others, the floors were full.  With modern electric elevators, there was ease in moving up to the highest floors, and with such a display of professions in the directory on first floor, right by the elevators, a person could enter the building with no hope of an observer guessing the destination.

 

              That morning, Rosie had no need of the dentists, the attorneys, real estate men, stock brokers, or the others.  Her destination was that office of Doctor Shapiro, a woman’s doctor.  While some physicians were generalists, or children’s doctors, pediatricians by title, or any of a number of other specialties,   Dr. Shapiro was a woman’s doctor.  His practice, while including the care of pregnant women, included the treatment of “hysterical women.”  This was a curious title, for these women were rarely hysterical, or bothered by any particular disease.  Doctor Shapiro’s trade involved the stimulation of the woman’s personal private parts in order to supply the orgasm that perhaps was missing in the marital bed.  This specialty had been explained to him by another practitioner he had met while taking the waters in Upstate New York, when he was fresh out of Medical School in New York City.  The veteran practitioner had explained the fine arts of the trade with the express guarantee that Dr. Shapiro would not take up practice on the island of Manhattan.  Any of the other boroughs was ok, just not Manhattan.   Dr. Shapiro had volunteered to take instruction at the other physician’s office in Manhattan for a period not to exceed one month, and had learned both the techniques of the trade, and the tools.  The wonders of electricity had brought about a wonderful appliance that saved the physicians fingers and wrists from destruction, and prevented the need to use of ice between patients that was a standard in a busy practice.  This vibrating massager was a godsend, and allowed the doctors to fill the day with patients, thus insuring a fat bank account.

 

              Doctor Shapiro’s office was on the seventh floor, and took up the entire rear of the building, which was about 40 feet wide and 100 feet long.  His office was 30 feet from the front door to the rear, with three treatment rooms at the rear, about 12 by 16 feet, a four foot hallway connecting them, and providing a sound barrier between the treatment rooms and the front reception area, split into an area with chairs for the incoming patients, and a separate hallway for the exiting patients.  Mrs. Murphy, the receptionist, was a typical Irish colleen, long red hair, green eyes the color of the heath in the old country.  Her husband had been lost in the Great War, not as a combatant, but as a stoker on the steamship Lusitania.  After the war, Mrs. Murphy, widowed at the age of 24, with not even a chance to start a family before she lost her love, made her way to Madison.  Her uncle, on her mother’s side, had been a tavern man in Madison, and he said that he would employ his niece as a barmaid.  That work was ok, and one of the regulars, one of Doctor Shapiro’s regulars, had put in a good work with the good Doctor, that a receptionist to herd the patients would be a good addition.

 

              Mrs. Murphy had met the good Doctor, only about 10 years older than she, and was retained after a short interview, and a demonstration of the Doctors handicraft.  She decided that this work, paying slightly better than the tavern, with its tips, but, in a Tuesday through Saturday work week, 8am to 5 pm, was far superior to the smoky, stinky tavern, open to all hours, with unwashed hands making attempts to become familiar.  

Promptly, at 11 am, the door opened, and Rosie entered.  Smiling, she approached the window with the every smiling, ever happy Mrs. Murphy behind the window.  She slid the single $1.00 bill across the counter, and after being thanked by Mrs. Murphy, she was escorted to room three.  As she passed room one, she heard the unmistakable sounds of Dr. Shapiro’s success as a healer.  Blushing slightly, with the thoughts of her upcoming treatment, she entered the door. 

 

As was the good Doctors suggestion, his patients were given the option of just removing undergarments and keeping the outer garments in place, or using one of the gowns, or receiving treatment in the manner of Eve, the original woman.  Rosie had tried all three, and preferred that of Eve, as apparently, did the doctor.  Disrobing, she took a seat on the leather table, with the adjustable backrest, and closed her eyes to relax.

 

Moments later, the door open, and Doctor Shapiro entered, with his apprentice in tow.  The banker’s son, newly minted from the University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine was proving to be a worthy understudy.  Doctor Shapiro had his hands full, literally, with the trade in the Gay Building, and had talked with the banker about expanding.  As a good father, with a son in the medical profession, he suggested that the trade of Doctor Shapiro would be best improved with another office.  To start, the West side of Madison was expanding, and there would be women who would be interested in not having to travel a great distance.  He suggested that the Doctor rent space in a new building the banker has having built on Monroe Street.

 

Staffing that new office would be best handled by his son, William.  The two doctors had a 50/50 split, with the share of the senior doctor paying the rent and the help out front, and the working doctor taking the rest as his professional fee.  Although this left Dr. William Michaels with a handsome some of 50 cents per visit, with the wonder of electricity, he was capable of three treatments per hour, and with eight hours in a day, left him with a potential of $12 per day, or $60 per week, generating $3000 per year, which was a handsome sum for a new physician in the year of our Lord, 1920.  Of course, he would also be treating the other women’s aliments, and helping the pregnant with their ordeals. 

 

Rosie opened her eyes, and those eyes opened wide when they noticed the two figures.  Dr. Shapiro greeted her.

“Good morning Miss Rosie.”  He had found that the women he treated liked not having their last names used during the treatments, and this was the way he addressed them.  “This is Dr. Michaels, recently of the University of Wisconsin,  School of Medicine.  He has joined my practice, and will be staffing my new office in the Monroe Street Business District.” 

She nodded, somewhat shocked at seeing the son of her neighbor, a strapping young man only a few years younger than she, a man who she had admired at the beaches of Lake Wingra.

 

“Dr. Michaels, I am pleased to make your acquaintance.  I recognize you from your visits to your father’s house, which is just across the street and down a short ways from my own residence.”

 

Although the young woman, just a few years older than the good Dr. Michaels, was totally as Eve was in the Garden of Eden, she appeared at ease, which was somewhat of a surprise.  In the barely post Victorian age that was the early 20th century, nudity was totally frowned upon, definitely discouraged, and outside of marriage, or brothels, not something that a young man, even a man of medicine would encounter during the course of a work day, even as a physician.  Later, Mr. Michaels would learn from Dr. Shapiro,  that the lovely Rosie was an aficionado of the charms of Laudanum.  As was the reaction of many users of narcotics, the users of the Laudanum were without inhibition, and shame was not restrictive.

 

Dr. Michaels had noticed the charms of Rosie during the summer visits to his father’s home on Keyes Avenue.  As her home was to the southwest of his father’s, on warm summer eves, when thin garments were wise to wear due to the summer heat, the setting sun, low in the horizon would silhouette the woman within the garment.  Even from across the street, the silhouette was striking, showing her figure as if there were one clothing draped over her.  And now, presented in the manner of Eve, he was expected, no, required to treat her for the aliment of the female hysteria.  

 

Dr. Shapiro explained,   Dr. Matthews has observed and performed many of these procedures and is as proficient as I.  I am confident that he will provide you with treatment equal to the best I have been able to perform as your physician.  You will be able to decide if you wish to travel uptown to keep appointments at this office, or, if you prefer, to visit Dr. Matthews at our new west side office.  Your choice.  And now, I will take this chair, and observe, while Dr. Matthews treats you.”

 

With that, the medical procedure began.  The medical appliance was plugged into the wall outlet, and the proper protocols were initiated.

 

At the end of the procedure, Dr. Shapiro mentioned.  “This has been successful.  You can make your appointment with Mrs. Murphy as you exit.  You may choose as you wish,  the new office will be seeing patients starting next Monday.   For now, you may get dressed and we look forward to seeing you soon.”

 

The two men left the room, and went to treatment room 2, where one of the working girls from the business two blocks down State Street that was a laundry worked.  An eighteen year old farm girl from New Glarus, a farming community about 30 miles to the southwest, she had come to the city to learn a trade.  Because she was not paid a lot, the physicians were generous with their discounted service. 

 

Rosie, now fully garbed, went to the front desk to see Mrs. Murphy.  The prescription bottle of her friend was there, and she gave Mrs. Murphy another dollar for the new bottle, leaving her last bottle, now empty, for refilling and reuse.   She told Mrs. Murphy.

 

“I like Dr. Matthews.  His hands are warm, and he seems to understand both his profession and his tool.  I trust he will be the physician in attendance at Monroe Street?”

 

Mrs. Murphy nodded and said.  “Yes,   he will be seeing patients there on Monday.  I agree, his hands are good, both in warmth, and softness.  I have seen him, and he is a good Doctor of these aliments.”  The two women smiled, knowingly at each other.  “And Rosie, he is appreciative of attentions also.”  With that, Rosie’s eyebrow raised, and the two women nodded at each other.  For both knew what those attentions could include.  Rosie was now looking forward to next week, Thursday was her standard appointment, and with Nadia off on Wednesdays, this would work for her.  Still smiling, she took her leave. 

 

That day, at noon, was a wonderful day.  With erect posture, Rose was noticed by every male she walked past.  Also, as she made her way down   State Street, to the University district, by several of the females students who were there for the summer school.   A few blocks down State Street was the ice cream store, and a chocolate cone was just the ticket.  The soda jerk inside, Jeffrey, was taken aback by the young woman with eyes that could make a mountain melt.  She ordered her cone, and he forgot to charge her.  She dug a nickel out of her purse and slid it across the counter to the young man.  Still speechless, he rang the register and recorded the sale. 

 

With cone in hand, her journey continued.  The new Montgomery Wards was on the left side, across the street.  With a cone, melting as fast as she could lick it, there was no way she would be able to wander inside, plus, with $2 gone out of the household budget, she was a little short for the time being.

 

The trolley picked her up about half-way down State Street, just after noon.  About 12:25 pm she was deposited across the street from the new offices of the doctors.  With a smile, she walked the few blocks home, arriving just a few minutes after she had guessed.

 

On the porch, with a glass of ice tea on the table next to her chair, Nadia was over half way through the Jack London novel, “The Star Rover.”  The concepts within, reminded of the mind over matter discussions that were once the rage in the Tsars household.  One of the best of the talkers in the Tsar’s house was a man of the cloth.  That bastard monk Rasputin was an expert in getting his own way, using logic that sounded good at the time, but in retrospective either made one laugh, or cry.  This novel was engaging, and she vowed to finish it that day. 

 

Climbing the steps, Rosie greeted Nadia, and Nadia noticed the bounce in her step which she hadn’t seen before.  The kids had seen their mom walking up from her trip downtown and lunch was in order.  Afterward, quiet time, perhaps a nap, and then preparation for supper.

 

About this time, in the offices of Dr.  Swenson, a proprietor of a combination steam bath house, and practitioner of the Swedish massage, the good doctor was preparing for the afternoon appointments.  Somewhat upset by the morning papers article on doctors who practiced without formal training, he felt that his years of experience far outweighed the benefits of a physician who had been to school.  You were in school for 8 to 10 years after high school, and for what?  If you were not a surgeon, a lay practitioner was just as good a healer as a college boy.  Maybe more. 

 

That afternoon, he had scheduled the foreman from the foundry, and a couple of the women from the offices of the factory over on East Washington.  Sitting in front of the typewriters and comptometers machines all day made for stiff backs and shoulders, and their bosses let them take short lunches during the week so they could have a long lunch for their appointments on Thursday afternoon.  Today, he would take Mrs. Martin at 1 pm, and Miss Devine at 2pm.  His assistant was preferred by the foreman, Mr. Jenson, a large Englishman, recently imported from the casting trades in London, where he was a man of some renown.  His assistant, a small Chinese woman of about 19 years, weighed barely 100 pounds, but her hands were hands of steel, and he could vouch himself, that those hands could work magic.  She had been delivering the sheets from the family laundry, way across town on Park Street, and one day, she had asked if she could show him her massage work.  Laughing inside, he said sure.  Treat me like a valued customer of Dr. Swenson, not as Dr. Swenson.  Following him to the treatment room, which was originally on the blue prints of the building as an office, she had informed him that he could disrobe to where he would be comfortable receiving a massage.  Deciding to test the teenager, after she had left the room, closing the door on her way out, he had disrobed completely.  Dr. Swenson was a good sized man, just slightly over 6 feet in height, and about 190 pounds.  He was a health enthusiast, and he had weights he had fabricated himself in the basement of the steam bath.  Another Scandinavian of note in the Madison area, a Norwegian called the Swede, himself a metal man had expressed interest in those weights, in different weights, with different weights that could be fastened on a metal pipe so the user would be able to vary the lifting weights.  Dr. Swenson then laid face down on the table, he intentionally did not cover himself with a towel. 

 

A few minutes later, a faint knock on the door announced the return of Mai.  The door opened and a clear, voice asked if he was ready.

 

“Yes, remember, I am a valued client of Dr. Swenson.  Treat me as such.”

 

As she entered, he heard her draw in her breath sharply. 

 

“I will start your treatment today with your shoulders.  Relax your muscles, and put your arms at your side.” 

 

He did so. 

“Can you relax your shoulders?”

 

“I am relaxed, ma’am.  I just use weights so my muscles are larger than normal.”

 

Starting the massage, she acknowledged.  “Yes, I see now.”  No comment was made of his full nudity, and she was impressed by the shapeliness of his back muscles, and his gluts.  Never before had she seen such a large man, and his physique was that of the gods sculpted in marble that she had seen in the large museums when she visited relatives in both Chicago, and San Francisco.  Standing next to the table May realized that unlike the Asian men she had worked on before, she could not reach all the way across this man’s back. 

 

“Sir, with your permission, I will get on the table so that I can massage all of your back at one time.  You are such a magnificent man that my small arms cannot reach the other side of you.” 

“As you wish, girl. Make this the best you know how to.”

 

With that, Mai climbed up the table after removing the slipper like clogs that she wore daily.  She was wearing traditional working woman Asian garb, a white cotton shirt with three buttons, and long sleeves, loose fitting cotton pants, which were worn by both sexes at the laundry and at home.  They were kept up by a small piece of rope, tied like a shoe, cotton woven.  In the heat of the summer, in a room with drapes, but with open windows, the hard work was rough on a 100 pound woman.  She could feel her skin start to moisten with the natural sweat resulting from strong work on a hot day.  She completed his shoulders, thinking that this man has shoulders like an ox.  Moving down his back meant that she had to move from straddling his lower back to perching on top of his gluts.      

Dr. Swenson was somewhat shocked when the young girl climbed up on the table and took position on his back, not unlike Annie Oakley on her horse when that show had come to town.  Now that she was moving down, he felt her thighs tight against his hips, not at all an unpleasant experience.  Unknown to him, she had unbuttoned two of the buttons on her blouse to let the heat out.  Thinking to herself, she was planning to borrow a sleeveless shirt from her father’s laundry, the better to let the heat of the work escape.

 

Work on the lower back now completed, she slid further toward his feet.  Now resting on his thighs, she put more of the vegetable oil on her hands and prepared to attack his gluts.  Never before in her life had she seen such muscles. 

 

They were strong as steel, some hair, of course, for he was a man, but the size, the firmness, she was almost outside of her ability to comprehend.  However, an Asian woman needed to quickly adapt to the unknown, for that is way of survival.  When she moved his legs, she dismounted.  She was covered with sweat from the workout she had experienced on top of the large man.  She started with his feet, and discovered he was a little ticklish.  Somewhat amused at the power a 100 pound woman had to make a huge ox of a man wiggle like a puppy, she moved up to his lower calves.  They were also firm, and she used both a firm touch, then a lighter touch, in a circular motion, such as her mother had taught her on her father.  The thigh muscles were next, and she silently worked each side, not getting too close to the juncture of those magnificent legs. 

 

Finished on the back, she announced, “Sir, your back is complete, if you would like me to massage your arms, chest, and stomach, as well as the tops of your legs, you may role over, if you would like a towel to cover yourself, one is available.”

 

Dr. Swenson was pleased that Mai had offered the client a choice.  He chose to test her, and rolled over without benefit of cover.  He saw her in the light of the incandescent bulb in the lamp by the window.  Barely five feet tall, as previously mentioned, a scale set at 100 pounds would have wavered in indecision.  A smile on her lips, she knew that she had done good work.  The big man also had a smile on his face, and they were eye to eye. 

 

Dr. Swenson took note that Mai was drenched in sweat.  Her shirt, not unlike the summer pajamas his late wife had worn, were of only three buttons, and the top and bottom were loosened, just the one between her breasts and her navel kept the shirt modest. 

 

“Mai, you look warm, you should take some water.  There is a pitcher of water from the faucet, and glasses on the table by the door.  I could use some too.”   He watched as she walked the few paces from her station at the side of the table to the small table in back of where the door opened.  Her pants were showing off her physique, for they were dampened with the sweat of her labors, and adhered to her outline.  His guess was that she did not wear bloomers, or anything else underneath those cotton pants.    He could see, even in the dim light, for in the treatment room, the bulbs were not strong, the outline of her backside, and the slenderness of her hips was apparent, even with the tails of the shirt overhanging her waist. 

 

Dr. Swenson lifted up on his elbows, and taking the water from the young girl, drank strongly from the glass.  Mai also took a drink, and with the water still in her mouth, her eyes left his, and travelled down his physique.  His chest was strong, his stomach was flat, and then….

 

Mai’s water left her mouth, that which was still left.  She avoided spitting it on her soon to be employer, but there was a distinct fountain of youth when she saw what was below the line where his belt would have been, if he was wearing pants, which, of course, he wasn’t.  She was familiar with the male organ, having seen that of her father, and her brothers, who were younger.  That was the reality of living in the back of the laundry, where the only privacy was in the basement where the big boiler for the hot water lived, like a dragon, eating coal by the ton.  But this, this was a dragon by itself.  Never before had she imagined such a magnificent thing could exist, and it was not even prepared for battle. 

 

“Excuse me, I am terribly sorry!”  She pleaded.

 

“That is alright, no harm was done.  Sometimes the water goes down the wrong pipe.”  Inside, Dr. Swenson was laughing, for he knew the damage he had done.  He had treated her father when he had lifted equipment he was installing in the laundry that was way too heavy for a man of 120 pounds.  He had seen her father in his entirety, and he was properly sized for a man of that weight, an Asian to boot, but the doctor was almost twice the weight of her father, and was properly sized for his weight.

 

“Let us continue, my afternoon appointments will be here in thirty minutes.”

Mai knew her work, and continued the massage in proper manner.  Except for his face, proper attention was paid to his shoulders, chest, abdomen, feet, lower legs, and thighs.  Mai was watching the clock, and with the 30 minutes almost up, asked the good doctor.

“I think I have given you the best massage I know how to.  Is there any place else you would like me to work on?”

“No, Mai, your massage is tops.  It is perfect.  We need to talk to your father to see if he wants you to work outside of the laundry.  I would start you paid by the appointment, with you receiving forty cents of the dollar I charge.  You would be expected to wash the windows, and sweep the floors, and other duties as I see fit.  If this is ok with you, check with your father, and let me know tomorrow, on Friday.”

 

Mai nodded.  “I will do that.  We will have more sheets and towels for you tomorrow, and I will deliver them at the usual time.”

 

Inside, Mai was both relieved, and somewhat curious about the path the massage would have taken if there was more time.  She had noticed the man’s breath quicken when she massaged his chest, wisely standing next to the massage table.  Her work on his legs had also effected a physical reaction that also piqued her curiosity. 

Exiting the building, at the back, the service entrance, she entered the Model TT panel truck.  The Swede, the giant man, whose metal shop was just across the cross street from the Lee Laundry had reworked the cab of the truck for the smaller Asian drivers at the laundry.  For his own truck he had moved the back of the cab rearward a full twelve inches so his tall, bulky body could get behind the wheel.  The bed of his flatbed truck had had to be fully reworked to allow for the relocation of the back of the cab, but for the Lee truck, which was fully enclosed, only the seat had had to be relocated, forward and down.

 

In the truck, Mai Lee now could work the pedals that controlled the planetary transmission that cleaver Mr. Ford has designed.  She took off. Driving through town, down through the business district of Williamson Street, to the railroad station where Wilson Street joined, she made several stops at the taverns and workshops that lined the street.  There were also two stops at houses, one next door to the tavern of the grandson whose grandfather had built most of the block.  That house, with its fancy ladies, generated a lot of sheets each day, and also more than a few towels.  Luckily, the laundry was packed in large bags, almost as tall as Lee at four feet long.  Weighing almost half that of the young girl, she was strong enough to carry the bags out and load them in the back of the truck. 

 

Never, during her drive, did May see other women driving cars, much less large commercial vehicles.  She was known by the draymen in the town.  At first, they laughed and pointed at the tiny woman doing their work.  After they saw her back the truck up to loading docks, and surprisingly, maneuver the truck into a parallel parking required spot on the street, they talked among themselves in the taverns, and on the loading docks, and even the most manly of them had to agree that the young woman half their size had mastered the chores of driving, backing, and manipulating a truck.  Gaining their respect was something that had to be earned by performance, not any other way.  Sometimes, she would see the women of Mansion Hill in their limousines, driver by men in formal black suits.  She knew these suits, for she pressed most of the black suits in the city. 

 

On that day, two months before, Mai planned her explanation and pleading to get permission for the new job. Back at the laundry, unloading the truck was done quickly, with the helping hands of her siblings.  First she talked to her mother, in Japanese, of course, because the older woman had no need of English.  The woman saw the wisdom of her daughter escaping the laundry, and it would cement the work they had with the steam bath and massage business even more.  Plus, the woman realized, with two massage rooms in operation, there would be twice as many sheets and towels in the work for the laundry.

 

Telling Mai to start at the pressing, the next youngest girl was sent to watch, and apprentice at the ironing machine.  Hot, and steamy, the machine was sometimes dangerous to the person who had no experience with it.  While Mai tutored the younger sister, Mrs. Lee went to Mr. Lee, and explained in terms that sounded like a battle between Ronin warriors.  Mr. Lee soon saw the wisdom of letting his eldest daughter work outside the laundry, and the cash she brought in would be helpful.  He went to see his daughter, and nodded silently.  In the shorthand of a noisy laundry, Mai understood fully that her father had given permission for her to work for Dr. Swenson.  She smiled, and continued the training of her replacement at the laundry.

 

Back at the steam bath and massage works of Dr. Swenson, the afternoon’s work went well.  He had explained to the English foreman that he had explored the taking on of an assistant, so that different modalities of the art of massage could be offered.  Nodding, the Englishman, Eric, entered into a discussion of the massage establishments in London, in particular, those of the SoHo district.

 

The next day, Mai agreed to the terms of Dr. Swenson, and started immediately.  The word had gotten out quickly, and her calendar was soon booked.  She worked from 11 am, allowing those who could get an early lunch, to about 8 pm at night.  There was a quiet time, generally, in the midafternoon, when she would pick up and deliver laundry between the business district that Dr. Swenson was in and the Lee Laundry on Park Street, but within a month, the afternoon was busy also.  May was given the job of teaching her sister, Aki, the intricacies of the Ford Model TT truck, which she picked up quickly.  Aki was a quick learner, and having watched her sister at the ironing machine, the water extracting machine properly called the mangle, and in the art of massage, she was almost every bit as useful as her older sister.  Putting her sister to work outside the family business was far more advantageous to the family coffers because the money she brought in was new money, and the work she had performed at the family business was quickly picked up by the bright, and also attractive Aki.  Mai took her around to the customers, who had all appreciated the quick smile, and gentle voice of Mai, and Aki picked up the greetings and salutations that are all of a successful delivery.  Dressing almost as Mai had, Aki talked her mother in short sleeves on the shirt, and shorter legs on the trousers, because of the heat of the day, and the heat in the laundry. 

Thus, the transmission of responsibilities at the laundry was complete, and May became the employee of Dr. Swenson at the steam baths and massage therapy service.  Businesses in the year of the lord, 1920, grew in the progress and prosperity of the day. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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