Greetings from New York

Picture Don Draper’s New York.

That’s  how it was the first time I went in 1955.

Awe-inspiring. That’s the term I would use.

For a little 6 year old girl, living in Pennsylvania, it was magic!

Having breakfast on the train ,

watching the skyline appear as we approached the city.

There was so much awe and excitement about making those special trips.

My grandfather was my tour guide.

He owned a Textile Mill in Pennsylvania ,but did a lot of business in the city.

He had an office in the Empire State Building on the 80th or 88th floor.

I can’t remember anymore.

 He liked showing me his New York,

which also became my New York.

He was a self -made man, a self- educated man and

an entrepreneur.

 Experiences  were valued, above all else.

He lived in an unassuming home in a very modest neighborhood,

but had a room devoted just to his books that would have rivaled the local library-

Edmund Burke, Samuel Johnson, Socrates,

all the great philosophers & classic writers.

He didn’t want to just buy me things.

He wanted me to see things and learn .

We had inexplicable bond.

 He loved spending time with me as I did with him.

 These were our special trips- every month- just the two of us.

I remember going to a movie called ” Windjammer”, around 42nd St in some big theater.

There was new technology called “cinemiracle”- which simulated a large Windjammer  cutting through the rough sea..

It was so realistic- I actually got sea sick. He felt really badly about that!

I was fascinated by the silliest things.

One of my favorite places was a Horn & Hardart Cafeteria.

Where else could you put coins in a slot and have a piece of pie magically appear.

It was thrilling.

Of course, I was only 8!

There were trips to The Rodeo and the Circus,  boating in Central Park, exploring the museums, skating at Rockefeller Center,

Window shopping on Fifth Avenue at Christmas.

Poppop was a die- hard Phillies fan- but I was absolutely devoted to Mickey Mantle and the Yankees, so

every season, we would go to a Yankees game, if I agreed to go to a Phillies game too.

He taught me so much, and showed me such wonderful things.

On the train ride home he would ask me questions

and we would talk about all we had seen during the day and what I had learned

And then he always asked me the same question….

“What is the most important lesson of all, Janice?”

“That life is a great adventure, Poppop.”

That’s right.

He died very suddenly at 65 years old.

 I was 10 and it shattered me in ways no one ever understood.

To this day- he is the person I miss the most .

That wonderful, exciting part of my life with him was over.

But, time passed and I grew and

I went on to create my own relationship with New York in my teens.

This New York included my parents and it was fun.

I started going to Broadway Plays and Restaurants

Everything seemed possible in New York in the 50’s and 60’s.

It was so glamorous!

I felt different just being in the city.

When I was  about 12 years old-

I remember eating at Danny’s Hideaway with my Mom & Dad.

Danny Stradella, the owner,was my Dad’s friend.

Apparently, it was a very “hot spot” for Celebrities- which I knew nothing about.

One night,  Danny brought a gentlemen over to our table and introduced him to my Dad and Mom.

It was Frank Sinatra..

There was a short conversation: polite chit- chat.

Frank’s parting words to my father were were :

” Love the wife”

My Dad responded : ” Me too”.

That was it.

I didn’t even really know who he was and didn’t care much.

But my mother was all atwitter.

Frank Sinatra thought she was a “babe”!

She was….

I’ve had a long and very satisfying love affair with New York.

From going there so many years, I know the city like the back of my hand.

Except for Soho. I always get confused in Soho!

Of course, when I was growing up,

  Greenwich Village was where civilization ended!

It’s changed so much.

I was there this past weekend and it’s clear to me

the New York of my childhood is long gone.

The only thing that remains

is the magic I feel every time I’m there.

                                                      That will never leave me.

 

Now, I seem to wander down memory lane quite a bit.

 I like it there.

It’s comforting, quiet and golden- hued.

All those events and experiences are etched into my memory

and I can travel there any time I want.

                                                           Frequently, I do.

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4 thoughts on “Greetings from New York

  1. Dear Jan,

    While researching Danny’s Hideaway, I came across your post, “Greetings from New York”. As a child of the ’60s, your NYC memories resonated very deeply, as I share many of the same magical memories about that era of NYC…to this day, I still love watching old movies set in NYC from that era.

    Incidentally, my dear grandfather worked for Danny Stradella as a waiter at Danny’s Hideaway in the early-to-mid-1950s. After my grandfather retired, he always had lots of stories to share about the famous celebrity customers, like comedian Sid Caesar and his writing staff who would eat there after their weekly show, Sid, once so exhausted, he fell asleep, his face landing in his dinner plate; having to, yet again, pour Mickey Mantle into a taxi after another night of too much celebrating; a young Merv Griffin begging for a free meal (before his song “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Cocoanuts” became his breakout hit, launching him onto his talk show success).

    Actor, Gabby Hayes, who was also good friends with Danny, had a room in the restaurant named after him and it housed a lot of his memorabilia – I believe the photo above, possibly from one of the restaurant’s postcards, shows that room. My grandfather was especially fond of Mr. Hayes, a true genteman.

    As a young child, I often didn’t really understand who my grandfather was talking about, much as meeting Frank Sinatra wasn’t that big a deal to you. Sure wish I could sit and talk with my grandfather, now long gone, just once more…

    What a wonderful grandfather you had and what a wonderful lesson: “Life is a great adventure”.

    Thanks so much for sharing your memories…

    Like

    • Thanks so much for the comments on my “Greetings from New York” blog post. I loved New York in those days. It was so magical! Happy to know of someone else who shares a passion for that era and had so many wonderful experiences as well. Thanks for sharing your memories with me!
      Jan

      Like

      • Bonjour Jan,

        I had a little time to delve back into your blog posts, so beautifully written, because they’re from the heart…I think it’s safe to say that you and I are just a couple of old souls and probably always were.

        Jan, are you familiar with an artist/cookbook author named Susan Branch? I really think you would like her blog (just Google her name to find it). Likewise, I think you might really enjoy the whimsical work of Canadian painter Janet Hill (again, just Google her name for her website).

        Jan, you mentioned in one of your blog entries that you would like to spend time in Paris (for me, I’ve always longed to see London, so that’s what I am slooowly saving up for). Have you seen the film “Paris Can Wait” starring Diane Lane? If not, you should look for a dvd copy, maybe at your local library – tout de suite! A very good film with a message I think you might enjoy hearing right now – your life is just beginning a new chapter, the best is still to come. This “tiny life” may be short, but it is wide, my dear.

        Cheers, Phyl D

        Like

      • Thank you so much for your comments. I have been to Paris many times but I would love to live there for a few months. I think you will love London. No language barrier and yet quite different from the States. Thanks for your recommendations on blogs and movies. Will check them out.
        Best,
        Jan

        Like

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