Prune Princess, Betty Presell pinched herself trying to believe her fortune. At nineteen with raised hopes she wouldn’t have to take a job as a shop girl or taking in laundry like her mother. Betty had no suitable suitors to help matters. Now, the headline in her right hand looked fabulous, Persell Wins Prune Princess. The prize money folded into her palm melted into her left hand. It was enough for a new outfit and enrollment at the community college in dramatics and art. She possessed a flair, as her mother put it, and it wasn’t a compliment; she suggested more practicality. Betty was more than pretty, but not a beauty, instead she carried herself with a presence, making her appear to be of wealthier stock. She was also unflappable, smooth and confident, skills to carry her through many years. 1941, war flared in Europe; mean while in Vancouver, Washington, thousands of miles away, it was a segment on a newsreel during the movie.
Her mother had struggled; Dorothy Pursell was a widow and mother of two, Betty and Barkley. A terrible and sudden accident at the vulcanizing operations left her independent. She was fortunate to have had a husband who took a chance, investing in a life insurance policy with Woodmen of the World. No fortune, but it made their high school years comfortable. Still, untrusting, she took in laundry and ironed for some of the town’s wealthier women. Dorothy swallowed pride for stability, it seemed what she should do; it embarrassed her daughter. Betty liked it when she was noticed but not with that poor girl sentiment.
Her mother had coddled Betty’s whim and attitude in high school but made warnings after graduation. Dorothy wondered why her own example hadn’t penetrated Betty’s character. Dorothy was a meticulous seamstress and she’d dressed them well, but Betty thought the garments were out of style and longed for store bought. Dorothy chastised her waste of the prize money, she’d didn’t see the quality in ready-to-wear. She’d scoffed when Betty told her about dramatics and art at Clark College. The war was going to make such a career obsolete, buy bonds and go to work, contracts were coming for Kaiser and ship building. Dorothy had every intent of taking on her part in the war effort, it seemed eminent.
Betty invested in a smart suit of the latest style with broadened shoulders. Hendrick’s on Main also sold her a trim pair of tasseled pumps, stockings and a broach to compliment the look of the ensemble. The prize shrunk; immediately Betty boarded the 34 north bound bus and exited at Clark College. She walked with purpose but became weary with packages when she couldn’t find the registrar’s office. Arthur, tall, slim and attractively dressed stopped and asked if he could assist the small framed girl. “Oh thank you,” she sighed with relief as he took the boxes. ” i should have picked a different order of my errands and shopped last. How silly of me.”
“Where are you headed?” Arthur asked.
“The registrar’s office, I’m enrolling in dramatics and arts.”
“How commendable, I’ll show you the way. I just came from there, a bit confusing. I’m taking a business course.”
“Swell.” Betty loved his chivalry and followed.
“Take my arm,” Arthur poked his elbow out and she put her hand on it, not in and around, just touching. “You look familiar.”
“You may have seen me in the papers, Persell Wins Prune Princess.”
“Well, I am a lucky man today; I have a princess on my arm. I wish all of my friends could spy on me. How would that headline look, Jeweler Rescues Princess? I rather like it.”
“I think it is appropriate.”
“I remember, Betty Persell. Nice to make your acquaintance. I am Arthur Reynolds.”
“Delightful,” Betty said, feeling like she’d won all over again.