Thursday, August 27, 2015

Continuing down memory lane …1958

My husband had lived in New York City most of his life so he was adept at finding bargains there. It was a good thing because we were definitely living on a shoe string and had little, or no, extra money to throw around. One of our favorite eating spots was the Horn & Hardart Automat on 42nd Street. 
As you can see from the picture of the front entrance the ambience was Art Deco. It was a fun place and although the prices had increased it was still a great bargain in 1958 and most entrees were under a dollar. Nickels were the only coins accepted and the clientele was eclectic. The “haves” and the “have-nots” all assembled to partake of the excellent food...prepared fresh every day.

We would often meet our friends there and it’s nostalgic to realize that we will probably never again see a time when a handful of nickels and the twist of a wrist is all that was needed to buy a good square meal.

Another favorite of ours was the Staten Island Ferry.
The subway that we took to get there actually cost more than the ferry ride… 10 cents for the subway and just 5 cents for the ferry. It took about a half hour for the steam generated ferry to reach the destination and we had plenty of time to enjoy spectacular views of Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty on the way. We would often take that trip and spend a few hours touring the town and visiting the local zoo before returning.

That nickel fee for the Staten Island Ferry lasted for many years but it increased slowly until it hit a high of 50 cents per ride in the ‘90‘s. Then, in 1997, the city of New York decided to suspend all charges. The same trip that I had enjoyed for 5 cents is now FREE … amazingly making it an even greater bargain than it was 40 years earlier !

One bargain gone, one remaining …but, of course there is always the age old FREEBY…just plain people watching, which, in New York City, can be priceless !

Saturday, August 22, 2015

August 23, 1958

57 years ago I married this sweet man, Dick, and, although he only lived to be 59, we enjoyed a myriad of experiences that I still can’t quite believe. Of course, living in New York City in the 50’s was a good part of it and here is a fun example:

My husband had many odd-ball acquaintances and one of them was Popsy, a big Greek man who had been the band boy for Benny Goodman. When the “Big Band Era” came to an end Benny set him up in the photography business. Popsy would be the first to tell you that he was no artist when it came to taking pictures but he had the basics and his studio was conveniently located near the theater district.

Dick was working as a “Life” photographer in 1956 and he and Popsy became fast friends. When Dick started to free lance he would use his studio and darkroom when needed and, as payment, he taught Popsy some of the finer points of photography. When Dick and I married in 1958 he had left “Life” and was free lancing full time. We would often meet Popsy in his studio and enjoyed many a take-out meal with him.

Early in 1959 we received a call from Popsy. He was very agitated and asked us to hurry over. It seemed that Benny Goodman was on his way to New York with his 10-piece ensemble that had been touring Europe. He was booked at “Basin Street East” for a three night gig and was offering Popsy the chance to take all the publicity shots.

Popsy was fit to be tied. He didn’t want to let Benny down but he had no idea how to handle the lighting for candid shots of this sort. I knew why he had called Dick, because this was his expertise. The two of them formulated a plan and on opening night we arrived early and Dick set up his big strobe lights. We were seated at a large table in front of the stage and Popsy met us there.

When Benny came on stage with his ensemble the crowd went wild, the strobe lights came on and Dick and Popsy rushed around the room taking pictures from all angles. When the night was over we couldn’t wait to get back to the studio and process the film.

The pictures were wonderful, Benny was very happy with the results, Popsy was vindicated … and me? … I was just thrilled to be part of it all … especially when Benny and his 10 musicians sat at our table between sets !


Monday, August 17, 2015

Ah…those 1960’s hairdos !!

I’m sure you recognize Barbra Streisand and that’s me in the other picture. The year was 1961 and my husband and I were living in New York City. We had two small children and were in an aparment on the eleventh floor of an old building on West 94 St.

Television was just coming in to it’s own and we were avid Jack Paar fans. For those of you who are too young to remember him he had the night show that Johnny Carson took over when he retired. This particular night I don’t think Jack was even hosting but his guest was a singer with the strange name of Barbra and I was sure that a cast member was responsible for the misspelling.

Anyway, the host explained that this was her TV debut and that she would be singing her interpretation of the old Tin Pan Alley standard “Happy Days are Here Again”. I thought it was a strange choice but the minute Barbra started singing I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She sang this normally upbeat song very, very slowly and each note was pure as a bell. My husband and I were entranced, as was the audience. She ended on a single note that seemed to go on forever and then there was a moment of dead silence before the audience exploded with thunderous applause and whistles.

I have never experienced another pop singer who impressed me as much as Barbra did that night. I was not at all surprised to read that “The Barbra Streisand Album”, released early in 1963 and including her rendition of “Happy Days” was voted Album of the Year and won three Grammy awards.

As for our hairdos?    What can I say ... it was the 60's !







Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Portraits of Hope …

Look at this amazing picture.  A bunch of huge balloons being colorfully painted by a diversified group of people in Los Angeles.  What’s going on?  I first saw this on a TV segment and was intrigued. I wanted to know more so I did some research.

It turned out to be just one more imaginative project sponsored by Portraits of Hope.  This is a group that was originally formed to provide seriously ill and physically disabled children with creative therapy.  They would think up ways to display the many colored flower which is the symbol of Portraits of Hope, and then see it come to fruition through their efforts.  Cars, buses and walls came alive and it was a colorful way to advertise their needs and to give them a sense of achievement.
Although those projects are still going strong the group has progressed to  large civic challenges. Their interests are: “the environment, education, senior care, national security, ethnic relations, healthcare, women's equality, medical research, foreign aid, poverty, and animal rights”, and their projects colorfully attack these areas. 
Kudos to the City of Los Angeles that gave approval for the balloon project. It was a civic activity that involved more than 6500 children and adults and was an amazing visual makeover of MacArthur Park. 
Portraits of Hope … a concept becomes a reality. 

Friday, August 07, 2015

This train bound for...

I had a moment of nostalgia today.  A train was chugging down the track in our small town and it reminded me of the blog entry that I posted in 2009.  My friend Max who I mention in that article has passed on since then but the memory is sweet and I think you will enjoy it.
Max and his wife ran the combination hardware and “5 & Dime” store across the street from the single train track that cuts through our town. I guess the trains have to be scheduled very carefully since there is only one track. Basically we get 3 or 4 freight trains per day and a passenger one that whips through late at night.
As I recall I was down at the Hardware store picking up some potting soil and Max and I were outside chatting when an old CSX freight train chugged into sight. I thought it was going slower than normal but never expected it to actually stop as it did.
“What’s going on?” I asked Max, as we watched the conductor hop down from the train and scale the small hill that led to the street. “Oh, I reckon its lunch time”, said Max.  Sure enough, the train conductor was jogging across the street and soon disappeared around the corner. According to Max he was on his way to the “Subway” eatery located in the BP Service Station one street away. “He does this once or twice a week”, said Max  … “been going on for years.”
I was still trying to take this all in when the man reappeared carrying a large bag with the “Subway” logo on it. He had a big grin on his face and was thoroughly enjoying himself. “Top of the morning to you, Max” he called. He then disappeared over the edge of the bank and a few seconds later we saw him board the train. As the idling engine gained speed he stuck his head out and gave us a last wave. “Now there goes a man who loves his job” I thought and the sheer audacity of his actions made me laugh.
Now Max is gone and it’s been years since I’ve seen that train come to a stop here.  I wonder if the two are connected  ?

Sunday, August 02, 2015

ITZHAK PERLMAN at Wolf Trap, Va. 1987

To say that I was thrilled to hear Itzhak Pearlman in person is a vast understatement. His performance was the culmination of a wonderful two days that my husband and I spent at Wolf Trap, the National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia in 1987.

I had saved for a long time to make this trip possible and the 8th row, center seats in the orchestra were our reward. The excitement was palpable when the lights dimmed and Itzhak Pearlman made his entrance. Although Polio has greatly diminished his ability to walk and he gets by with the aid of short metal crutches attached to his arms, he exuded such charm and joy that the audience was hardly aware of his infirmities.

Once he was seated and the performance began I realized that I was truly in the presence of a superstar. It was not just his superb violin playing … it was also his irrepressible joy of making music. That transferred to the audience and, although his technique was flawless, he made it seem easy.

I will always remember that evening with Itzhak Pearlman, a man with incredible talent and warmth for his audience.