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West Side Stories

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One day I went down to Halsted Street with my mother and Marge and our neighbor Mrs. McLaughlin. We were looking for two winter coats, for Marge and me. Our winter coats were always alike. We were 13 months apart in age, and we always thought my mother dressed us as twins. But I think it was more a matter of getting the same quality for both of us. She wanted us well dressed. And if she found a bargain for one, she'd see if she could get the same bargain for the other.

On the streetcar Marge said to me, "I don't want to get a coat like yours. I don't think we should have coats alike anymore." I was probably around 21. Marge was 22. So we agreed we'd get different coats. We went through the racks, and I found a beautiful brown coat. It had a little fur collar and wooden buttons all the way down the front. It was a long coat, midcalf. Beautiful satin lining and well padded. I think the material was boucle. It's a French word. It was a beautiful, beautiful coat.

And then Marge was looking for a coat. She said, "Do you mind if I get a coat like yours?" I said, "You're the one who wanted different coats." She said, "But I found one just like yours, and it fits me." She brought the coat over. These were beautiful, beautiful coats. The only difference was hers had square buttons.

So we agreed that it was OK that we had coats alike. Then my mother started on the salesman. And from $35 each, which would have been $70, they kept arguing back and forth--and before you know it she got him down to $35 for both.

Mrs. McLaughlin said to her, "Mrs. Ryan, don't rob the man." So she stopped there. And we came out with these two gorgeous coats for $35.

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