Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren shakes hands with 92-year-old Rose Syracuse Richardone at her party on Sept. 5, 2012. …When Rose Syracuse Richardone started working at Macy's, women's wool cardigans cost $2.14 each. Cotton gabardine raincoats for girls were $2.98, old ads show; twin-size sheets were $1.11 and stainless steel flatware was just 16 cents per piece, on sale.
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A lot has changed since then, and Richardone -- who retired on Wednesday at the age of 92, after a record-breaking 73 years of service in the N.Y. flagship store -- has seen it all.
"Rose is an hourly worker. She clocked in every day," Robin Hall, Senior VP of the Macy's Parade and Entertainment Group, told Yahoo! Shine in an interview. "It's just a passion of hers to be here. She's not a person who seeks attention. She just loves to work."
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Born in Pennsylvania, Rose Syracuse and her family moved to New York when she was just a child, so that her brothers wouldn't have to end up working in the coal mines. The family settled down in Brooklyn, where they watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade every year.
She started working for Macy's in 1939, as an authorizer in the Deposit of Accounts department of the flagship store on 34th Street in New York City. She was a 17-year-old girl fresh out of high school, and had never worked anywhere else before.
"There was actually a bank on the fourth floor of the store," she told the New York Daily News in 2008. "At that time, there were no credit cards. People set aside money with us to use in the store. They would send up the sales receipt in the pneumatic tubes, which would suck them up and we would authorize purchases."
In 1939, Macy's was "a one-stop store," Richardone said. "You could get meat, straight pins, really anything," she said in 2008. "We had an apothecary, liquor store, and even a butcher shop. We have obviously evolved since then."
She didn't shop at Macy's before she started working there ("I couldn't afford Macy's at that time!" she exclaimed), though when she married Carmine Richardone in 1944 they bought their furniture there. And in 1947, she and other employees watched as "Miracle on 34th Street" was filmed inside the store.
"I came on the floor and all the machines were up, cameras," she remembered. "It was wonderful. We all got tickets."
The hours were long, but the work -- and the friendships she forged -- were rewarding.
Before unionization, "We worked 48 hours a week, including Saturdays, and we earned $14 a week. Everyone worked because everyone needed a job, but we knew things could be better," Richardone told the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union in 2009. At a farewell party in her honor on Wednesday, she quipped to the New York Daily News: "The bosses now are nicer. Then, they watched us like hawks!"
Over the years, as computers replaced adding machines and credit cards replaced personal deposit accounts, Richardone became a customer service representative, helping with telephone and mail orders. When that department merged with online sales a few years ago, she started working for the Macy's Parade and Entertainment Group. In 2009, in honor of her 70th year of service with the company, Senior Vice President Robin Hall arranged for her cut the red ribbon that launched the iconic Thanksgiving parade, an event she and her family have watched every year.
"There's just something really special about the people here, and the energy of this place," Hall told Yahoo! Shine. "She's worked all her life. This is what her routine is," he added. "It's amazing to me how much history she's seen."
During her going-away party on Wednesday, Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren dropped to one knee to present her with a bouquet of roses and shake her hand. Even though breaking her hip six months ago forced her to retire earlier than she'd planned ("It breaks my heart," she told her coworkers at the party), Richardone says that she'll always be a faithful Macy's customer.
"Life is good. You go on each day, you're happy where you're at. And people -- bosses, supervisors, they appreciate you. And you stay," she said during her going away party. "That's the way it is. Thank God. It's been good."
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