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I Love Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

22 Nov

To me Thanksgiving always means staying in my pajamas and watching the Macy’s Day Parade. Yes the Macy’s Day Parade! That is what I called it as a child and that is what I still call it in my mind.

Growing up in the New York City metropolitan area meant that the Parade was an important part of our life. We lived close to Hoboken. And as ‘everyone’ knows the floats are built in Jersey, the giant balloons are stored in Jersey and the participants practice in Jersey.

As a child I remember my Dad driving us to Hoboken in order to drive up and down the streets of warehouses and peek in. You probably cannot do it anymore, but when I was a child it was possible.

I remember seeing the color guards and bands practicing in the street.

It was part of the annual build up to the great event itself! The parade.

I loved watching the parade on television. But most exciting was actually seeing the parade in person. My Grandma Esther was the executive secretary for shoe company’s whose headquarters were across the street from Macy’s!

The best year of my life was the time we all went into NYC to her office. We watched the parade in the warmth of her office through the giant windows overlooking the Avenue. It was tremendously exciting! I remember the balloons flying right past the windows. Wow. I had such joy. Did I say I love the giant ballooons. Many people make an annual trek just to see the balloons filled with helium!

I will admit getting there was a hassle and getting home was the worst. But seeing the parade in person was worth it. I still get a thrill just remembering.

Watching the parade on television November 23, 2017.

When my children were little, we would lie in bed together and watch the parade. To be honest, they were not excited as me. It did not matter. Thanksgiving morning the television stayed on the Parade channel.

Eventually my children moved out. But it does not matter to me. I need no excuses to watch the parade. When the Rockettes make their annual appearance I smile. When the bands play and the color guard twirl their flags I feel satisfaction. Each broadway show tune makes me want to see a play. And then their are my favorite floats like Sesamee Street!

When Thanksgiving morning arrives I will still stay in my pajamas. Get a mug of coffee. Cuddle with my cats. And spend three hours watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I cannot imagine a better way to spend a Thursday morning!

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House Seats Started My Love of Theater

6 Nov

This weekend my husband and I attended a benefit concert at our synagogue. It was great. A four-piece band led by Neal Berg and five fantastic Broadway singers. They were focusing on the top 100 songs from Hollywood, with much overlap to Broadway musicals.   I knew every song. I was “in heaven.”

Why do I know so many Broadway melodies?   I could say it was because I was raised in New Jersey, giving me the opportunity to see shows. But I have to be more specific I think.   We have the fortunate luck of having an Uncle who was involved with the Broadway theaters. It made it much easier for us to get tickets in the time before on-line purchases.

I am sure my parents got our show tickets from him, as we went as a family to see “Fiddler,” “Man of La Mancha,” The Rothschilds,” “Pippin,” among other shows.  My Dad loved going to shows. And thanks to my Uncle, we often had house seats. In fact, it never occurred to me as a child that you did not sit in house seats. These were seats reserved in the front center. My Uncle could get us the best seats. And if we were not in the center, we were always in the Orchestra section.

I remember the awe of watching the actors and actresses on stage, listening to the live music and hearing the lovely voices. It was magic. I still get that feeling when I see a play.

My Uncle also provided all of his nieces and nephews, as well as his own children, tickets for a Broadway show each Hanukkah. That was truly wonderful. We almost always had the best seats. Except one time, when we were in the top balcony. I remember as we kept walking up and up and up, I turned to my cousin and complained, “What happened?” We found out later that our grandmother did not want us too close to the stage….It was “Hair” and the actors disrobed.   Maybe she thought we would race to the stage.

My original Playbill from Hair as well as the flyer I picked up at the theater.


This memory came back to me on Saturday night when the musicians ended their performance with a rousing rendition of “Aquarius” and “Let the Sun Shine.”   I was moved back in time. It was December 1971. I was 16, a junior in high school,  and I was in the Biltmore Theater seeing “HAIR!” “Aquarius” was my lucky song growing up.   I was born under this astrological sign. So I believed whenever this song played, something good was about to happen. And yes, something I was hoping for did occur the next day.

When I met my husband, he had never been to a Broadway show. Makes sense, he was born and raised in the Midwest. But the first time he came East, when we were engaged, I changed his world.   I called my Uncle and asked if he could get us seats for “They’re Playing Our Song,” with Lucie Arnez and Robert Klein, at the Imperial Theater. It was the hottest show. My Uncle did it. I took Jay. But for the first time, I actually paid for the house seats. Ouch!!! But it was worth every penny! My husband loved it as well.

I am glad he caught the ‘bug.’ I love shows. We have season tickets for three different production companies. I used to have four, but gave up a summer series this year after 32 years, as we travel too much in the summers.   There are many shows I have seen a number of times. But I don’t care.   Most shows I don’t mind seeing several times.   There are just a few I am done with seeing. And only two that I never want to see again. I still try to see a show on Broadway at least once a year! 
Seeing a show takes you away from the world for a few hours. Just like a book, it moves you across time and location into someone else’s world. I thank my parents and my Uncle for giving me the gift of musicals and drama.   I was glad that my husband and I passed this gift on to our children. The memory of sitting in House Seats with be with me forever.

 

New York City Excitement With My Grandma

29 Nov

Whenever I watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, known in my mind as the Macy’s Day Parade, I always think of my Grandma Esther. The first time I went to Radio City Music Hall was with my siblings and my Grandma to see “That Darn Cat” and the Rockettes for the annual Christmas extravaganza. It did not matter that we were Jewish. What was important was seeing the show.

I remember that the line went around the block, but we had tickets. On the main floor! I still remember the first time I saw the Grand Staircase. I remember the thrill of sitting in those seats. I have never forgotten the movie that starred Hayley Mills, or the moment the Rockettes came on to the stage.

The parade brings back this wonderful memory, as well as others that Grandma arranged. I remember the year she arranged for us to watch the parade from her office. Grandma was the executive secretary for a shoe company that had their office opposite Macy’s! Yes right opposite the main store. One year we had the opportunity to watch the parade and all the shows from the company’s warm office and excellent viewing site. I still get chills thinking about how excited I was to be there. This was so much nicer than standing outside in the cold.

Grandma, worked until she was 77, treated me to special dates in the city . They must have been birthday celebrations. I loved going to Horn and Hardart. The Automat’s vast choices of cakes and foods were amazing. Grandma would let me get her food and my food. It was fun opening the doors and removing exactly what we wanted. Such joy!

My favorite date, to be honest, was to Schraftt’s Ice Cream Palour on Fifth Avenue. I remember wearing my dirndl dress and white gloves…to go eat ice cream!!! I had a chocolate sundae, of course. The gloves came off when it was time to eat. I still see the beauty of the restaurant. And I still can remember leaving with Grandma, and skipping as we left. I was so excited.

I know it was in the spring because after ice cream we went to the Barton’s store to purchase lots of candy and treats for Grandma’s annual Passover seder. I see, in my mind’s eye, the boxes of Barton’s Almond Kisses, chocolate covered matzah and other sweets.   I remember that we each had two shopping bags to carry.

Then it was back to her office. I would sit and wait for my Dad to come and get me after work. Grandma would give me some busy work to do while I waiting. And I did get to speak to the president, Mr. Pearlstein. But I knew I had to be quiet while Grandma was working.

It is not surprising that to this day I love watching the Macy’s Parade each Thanksgiving. Even though I now live in the Midwest, on Thanksgiving morning I get a cup of coffee and sit contently for three hours watching as the parade marches on and my memories linger.

Trouble with the Office: An American Bialystoker Story

21 Mar

The following is a report my Great Grandfather, Louis Goldman, made in a 1937 issue of the Bialystoker Stimme. It explains the reason why the Bialystoker Bikur Cholim decided that the organization needed its own offices. It seems asking for help from the community was just not working out. It gives the history of the decision to rent its own office. I think this might have be the precursor of the Bialystoker Home for the Aged, which was built over two years in 1929-1931.

Here is his article, as translated by my friend Blumah and edited a bit by me for clarity.

“The Bialystoker landsman in that time mostly lived in the East side (of New York City). The Bikur Cholim decided to put in that neighborhood a place for the sick people to receive help without difficulty. So they would be close to their neighborhood.

They arranged for a doctor and arranged for a pharmacist to get them medicine.

It was decided to give to the poor sick people a free pass to see the doctor and also pay for the medicine.

A certain landsman, who had a hot dog /salami store on Essex Street, gave his store for the sick people to come to receive these passes and papers. This became the office where they could get the papers. But there was a problem: The store keeper would give out these free passes like a prize to his own customers who would buy meat from him. (This was not what was intended so,) It was decided to rent a place somewhere else.

Next they found a butcher store from one of the landsman, Philip T. However there was not very convenient for several reasons.

They moved the office again to a new place. To “Fisher” who had a printing shop on Clinton Street. But Fisher started asking every month for new ‘additions’. (Not sure if he wanted more money or what he is wanting. Probably more money.)

So the Bikur Cholim decided once and for all to rent a permanent office for themselves. It was decided that this office could also act as a club for the active members. Also there would always be a secretary who would be paid and who would take care all of the cases for the Bikur Cholim.”

As my great grandfather, or the editor of the Bialystoker Stimme, entitled the article, “Trouble with the Office,” I think that was a fine assessment.  Personally I loved how the store owner gave out free medical passes to his customers.  One way to build a clientele, even though it was not ‘kosher.’  I know that they were trying their best to help their landsmen in need, without using the money needlessly.  Building an office might have seemed that way to them.  But eventually, having a paid secretary made more sense.

The history of the Bialystoker Home For the Aged and the Bialysotker landsmanshaft, immigrant organization, can be found in the NY Landmarks Preservation Commission Report of May 21, 2012. See link below:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/reports/2529.pdf

The part of this story that impacts my great grandfather’s article, is this small section from the report:

“In its first year of existence the Bialystoker Center was located in an old building at 228 East Broadway just few houses down from the basement location of the Bikur Cholim. In 1922-23 it replaced the aging structure with a new five-story headquarters, which included office space not just for its own use but also provided meeting rooms for affiliated associations.”

So I assume the offices that my great grandfather is writing about was this office on 228 East Broadway. Eventually, definitely by 1937 when his article was written, the Bikur Cholim offices were included in the beautiful building that was finished in 1931.

As I have said in earlier articles about my great grandfather,  I am so proud to be his descendant.  Each of these articles brings him to life.

 

Joyous Occasions in Discovered In Yiddish

14 Mar
IMG_6556

My Uncle Bernie and part of the article about his bar mitzvah.

 

Besides articles about my Great Grandfather Louis Goldman/Baruch Lev Litwack, there were also announcements of family events in the Bialystoker Stimme magazines under the title “Simcha by Landslight,”   or “Joyous Events by our community members.”   I found three events in Yiddish about my extended family members, which my friend, Blumah, translated for me as well.

The first was about my Uncle Bernie, or Bernard, about his bar mitzvah:

“A nice bar mitzvah party took place on Shabbat. The 11 of June by Mr. Bernard.  A nice, accomplished young man, the son Mr. and Mrs. H Rosenberg and the grandson of our dear friends and active community members Louis and Ray Goldman from the Bronx.

A nice private group of close family celebrated by the simcha. They wished much nachas to the parents from this bar mitzvah boy.

As is well known, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Goldman, the grandfather and grandmother, are actively in the Bialystoker Center and the Ladies Auxiliary.

Mr. Goldman is now the president of the Bialystoke charity organization that was the Bialystoke Free loan society: Bialystoke Somech Noflim, (It was started in 1886 in the USA.) This is he oldest charity association that the Bialystoke started.

We wish the zayde and bubie, and the parents to live to have much nachas and much joy from Bernard and the other children.”

I loved that even in an announcement of my uncle’s bar mitzvah, it was important to the writer to list my great grandfather and great grandmother’s accomplishments in the Bialystoke societies.   I am thinking it is to give them even more ‘kovod,’ honor. Or perhaps it is to encourage others to volunteer?

In later years, when the Bialystoker Stimme had more English, there is another Bar Mitzvah announcement for my father. But it is much shorter and written in English.

One of my father’s cousin’s is also mentioned in “Joyous Occasions.” My Dad’s first cousin David M. made the Yiddish paper, in a shorter and less flowery article.

“The Goldman’s talented grandson, David M., graduates with honors. The 16 year old grandson of our active members, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Goldman, of the Bronx. He just graduated from Townsend Harris High School. He was immediately accepted in City College. We wish the parents Mr. and Mrs. Eli Marks and the grandparents of David much nachas from their very capable David.”

The final “Joyous Occasion” in Yiddish was my great Uncle Sam’s wedding announcement, for his first marriage. I never knew the woman mentioned in this announcement. But I do know that they had one daughter. I honestly only remember meeting her when I was a young child. I think the family lost touch with her.

“Sunday Dec. 11, our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Goldman brought their youngest child to the Huppah: Samuel with the beautiful, intelligent Miss Otta Schmuckler. The wedding was private, and the supper was afterwards celebrated in Central Plaza, where many friends from both sides were part of the joyous occasion.

We wish Mr. and Mrs. Louis Goldman and the young couple much nachas.”

The only thing I can say about this announcement is that I always thought his first wife’s name was Yetta. And that might have been the name she used in English.

Every one of these little Yiddish articles is like a jewel for me. I find out tiny bits about my family’s life in the 1920 – 1940s. I see pieces of my Dad’s childhood. He probably was at all these simchas: his brother’s bar mitzvah, his cousin’s graduation party, his uncle’s wedding. We do have a few photos from this time. But I have never seen the photos of my uncle and my Dad’s cousin that shown in these articles.

The Bialystoker Stimme continues to be a treasure for me and I hope for my family.

 

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/louis-of-the-blessed-heart/

 

Finding The Nina’s Starts A Perfect New York City Day

3 Jan

image

My Al Hirschfeld Collection, including the article that appeared in the NY Times a few days after his death.

Like many who grew up in the New Jersey/New York City area in the 50s, 60s and 70s, my Sunday morning routine included one important item, I had to open the New York Times and find the Nina’s in the newest Al Hirschfeld drawing!

My Dad started me on the search for Nina’s. Little did he know what would happen to me. I became obsessed.   I loved looking at the newest entertainment stars Hirschfeld had rendered in ink. They often were stars of Broadway musicals, another passion I developed. I especially loved when he did a complicated drawing that had more than one Nina! Heaven!

Thus it is not surprising that over the years, I purchased books of Hirschfeld’s drawings so that I could look for Nina’s even when I was not getting the “New York Times.” Especially when he passed away at age 99 and his long run of drawings for the paper and the world ended. I was saddened when he passed away close to my birthday in January of 2003.

I even saved the article that appeared in the New York Times on January 26, 2003, six days after his death. He was that important to me.

When I was older and moved to the Midwest, I was glad he was born in St. Louis, the same city where my husband was born.  Another connection!

There is something about his drawings that are so free and moving. He captured the essence of each person with such simple lines; it is deceiving. And so many of his drawings are just joyful.

I have been to the Al Hirschfeld Theater in NYC, (last time to see Kinky Boots) where a permanent display of replicas his works adorn the second floor walls. I made my daughter look at each drawing with me to find the Nina’s. A tradition she had to share!

This past summer, in July 2015, when I visited my family, I enticed my sister to go with me to the New York Historical Society to see the exhibition: “The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld.”

To be honest, it did not take too much enticing the get my sister to leave New Jersey with me to see the exhibition. She knew how much I loved his drawings. In fact she and her husband purchased the book, Hirschfeld on Hirschfeld for me as a gift many years ago!

And, of course, she also grew up looking for the Nina’s. We might have had one or two arguments over his drawings through the years. Who would find the Nina’s first was a big deal!

The exhibit was wonderful. My sister and I went from drawing to drawing, checking the number by his name to see how many Nina’s we needed to find. And then the search was on.   We looked at every sketch, drawing and film.  It was delightful.

I wanted to take a photo at the art table that was set up. But the guard would not let me. Sigh.   I could almost imagine myself as Hirschfeld, but no such luck. I am not a good artist. But I was disappointed not to have the photo at the replica of his desk.

The gift shop lured us in. Luckily they would ship my purchases home! A book, a mug, a t-shirt and some gift cards went to the Midwest. My sister’s purchases spent the rest of the day in Manhattan with us, even attending a show with our Aunt and cousin.

It was a glorious New York City type of day: subway ride, taxi, show, lunch, ice tea at Bryant Park, dinner at the Bryant Park Grill in the City, hanging out with family, and Finding the Nina’s!

The Lighthouses That Made Me Feel Safe

22 Nov

When I was a little girl, my family drove every weekend from North Bergen, New Jersey, into New York City to have dinner with my paternal grandparents and my father’s family. We had to drive over the George Washington Bridge and into the Bronx.

My favorite part of this drive was usually on the way home. Then sometimes my Dad would drive in a round about way so we came to a point where we could see the little red lighthouse under the bridge. We did not always see it, but when we did it made me happy!

We had often read the book by Hildegarde Swift, “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.” It was one of my favorites. I loved the story about the lighthouse being happy till the bridge was built, and then had to realize it was still important. I loved that little lighthouse that lives in Washington Park. So those little excursions to see it filled me with joy.

Rainbow and bridge

Near the bottom of the rainbow stands the little red lighthouse. View from my parents apartment.

Even now, whenever I am back east, I try to get a glimpse of the lighthouse. But it is much harder to see from the roads with all the barriers up, unlike the 60s when it was more open.

When my siblings and I were married, my parents moved into an apartment in Cliffside Park. Their view overlooked the Hudson River. From my parent’s apartment we could look north and see the George Washington Bridge and the New York City skyline. Whenever I was there I would try, perhaps through the trees, with binoculars, to see the little red lighthouse.

I really not see it. But I would imagine it sitting across the river just under the bridge, at the end of a rainbow.   In my mind it was always saving people, even though it had not be used in decades. The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

I know it is more than just the book and the adorableness of this little red beacon that made me love lighthouses. Our family had its own attachment to the security a lighthouse provides. My maternal grandparents had a lighthouse nightlight that kept us safe at night in the Catskills.

Lighthouse in the Catskills

The lighthouse nightlight in the Catskills house.

Night in Kauneonga Lake is extremely dark. There are no street lights. And when the night comes and the lights go out…it can be scary for children. Well for adults too, if you do not like the dark. And I do not like the dark!

It was this little lighthouse nightlight that made me feel safe.   It was not the usual nightlight. This heavy brass sculpture has a tiny light bulb in the top that can be switched on and off. Throughout my life, well since about 1964, it sat on a table at the bottom of the stairs. And every night that I spent at my grandparents’ and then my parent’s Catskill home, this lighthouse’s small beacon illuminated the scary dark nights. It was a beacon that kept use all safe. I loved that little lighthouse, as did my siblings and all the grandchildren.

The watchtower nightlight

My watchtower nightlight.

So when my children were little, I also bought a ceramic lighthouse/tower/nightlight that I kept it at the bottom of my stairs, in deference and in honor of the lighthouse I so remembered and loved. My nightlight was not really a lighthouse. It is more of watch tower with a dragon guarding it. But it was the idea of it that made me want to own it and use it in my house. It reminded of my grandparent’s nightlight.

Lighthouse

The Catskills lighthouse in my house.

I now have both nightlights.   After my parents passed away, and we divided some of the belongings, I took the lighthouse back to Kansas with me. I have it sitting on a small half table, just as it sat on a small half table in the Catskills. I have it near the bottom of the stairs. But it is not plugged in anymore. The cord is frayed and I am concerned about the chances of sparks. But I see daily, and I remember the glow of its light.

Across from it is the newer nightlight watch tower. The watch tower is plugged in, but with no children at home, I no longer turn it on. Both lights are out now. But in this troubled time, I still l feel a sense of security when I see a lighthouse and my lighthouse night lights.  I imagine sometimes that they nod to each other and whisper, “we kept them safe.”

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Red_Lighthouse