Familiarity Breeds Love For Miss Minnie and Miss Mamie By Lisa Mastny / Editorial Intern Mamie Brown remembers the tennis courts that used to stand between Remsen and Gilman halls. She can vividly recall the smell of the blossoming cherry trees that once thickly embraced Levering Hall. Minnie Hargrove remembers the unobstructed view she had of Gilman Hall--that grand, imposing building at the top of the hill--from the intersection of 34th and Charles streets. Both women remember Detlev Bronk, the eminent biophysicist who became the sixth president of the university in 1949. They've been at Hopkins that long. This year, Mamie, or "Miss Mamie" as she is known around campus, is celebrating 50 years of service to the university. Miss Minnie is celebrating 47. But who's counting? "At our age it doesn't really matter anymore how long we've been here, so long as we're still working," said Miss Mamie, who came to the Hopkins Homewood campus in 1945 as a part-time bus girl at Levering cafeteria. A few years later, she was transferred to the dining room of what was then the only dormitory on campus, AMR 1, to assist with the very formal daily dining of the time. "Every day, we would set the table up with the linens, and about 500 to 600 students would come in their shirts and ties and order what they wanted from the menu," she said. "Of course, it was all men then, and the food was better. We had to peel the potatoes for every meal. Nothing was frozen like it is today." While Miss Mamie was busy feeding the approximately 2,000 students attending Hopkins in the post-WWII years, Miss Minnie worked in the food service at Levering Hall, catering to faculty, staff and administration for 34 years following her arrival at the university in 1948. The two women only really got to know each other in 1970, when Miss Mamie was transferred back to her old cafeteria in Levering. She has worked there ever since and has done just about every job conceivable, from dishwasher to cashier to working in the steam lines. "She has done it all," Miss Minnie said about her friend, who now works only four hours a day part-time. "She can set up a dessert table quicker and prettier than anyone I've ever seen, and she always got along with everybody. People are always praising her for what she can do." Miss Minnie, too, has gotten her share of recognition around campus. In 1981, she was asked by Ed Warfield, then employment manager, now retired, if she knew anyone who could maintain confidentiality and be trustworthy enough to work in then-Hopkins president Steven Muller's office. "Yeah--me," she told him, and was hired two hours later to handle Muller's personal mail, some meetings and lunches. After various stints in the Hopkins Club, at the Barn and about six other places around campus, she now holds her job at the president's office full time, working alongside her daughter, receptionist Brenda Brockman. "It's nice having your family so nearby," Minnie said. "And it doesn't get in the way because she knows her job and I know mine. She's just glad I'm not her boss, because I'll always remind her to do her work." Miss Minnie has consistently earned praise from the deans and administration for her hard work. The president's office even arranged a surprise "Miss Minnie Day" five years ago in conjunction with WJZ-TV to recognize her contributions to the university. Two years ago, she received a Martin Luther King citation for her dedication to Homewood. "Miss Minnie has been really instrumental in helping promote the Hopkins United Way campaign," said Judy Peregoff, manager of the Office of Faculty, Staff and Retiree Programs. "Just yesterday, someone was saying that we could meet our annual goal easily if we could just bottle her smile and sell it." Although the two friends have collectively been at Hopkins for almost a century and have worked under six of the university's 11 presidents, they are full of energy and show no signs of slowing down. Both sleep only four hours a night and are tired only if they go to bed too early. "We're not quitting until God stops us," Miss Minnie said. "Both of us are doing something all the time. That's why we don't get tired." After she leaves Homewood in the late afternoon five days a week, Miss Minnie prepares food for the Meals on Wheels program for senior citizens and works as a part-time travel agent from her home--a job which, over the years, has taken her on 20 cruises to such places as Rome, London and Jerusalem. "I just save up my vacation time over the years," she said. "In June, I'm taking a senior citizens group to Florida, and hopefully I'm going to Alaska on a cruise later this year. I just love to travel." When Miss Mamie leaves Hopkins on workdays, she doesn't go directly home either, but instead attends church meetings or walks around downtown Baltimore for up to four hours at a time. "I'm not a sitter," she said. "I can't stand to sit down. I love to go." Miss Mamie is thankful for the opportunity to still work at her age, especially at a time when senior citizens are encouraged to retire and are often not treated well on the job, she said. "We are blessed because people don't usually let you keep on working for 50 years," she said. "But here they've always treated us with good respect, with love and honor." That might be because Miss Minnie and Miss Mamie treat each other that way. In 25 years, they have never had a single argument, Miss Mamie said. "Do you want to know the real secret of why we stay here so long?" Miss Minnie said. "We do our work and enjoy it. Just know your job and do your job, that's all."
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