Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, June 27, 2016

New York, New York

In August Lois and I managed to get our two-week vacation at the same time. She had been complaining about cabin fever a few weeks into summer and said we needed to get away for a while. I arranged for a three-day excursion to New York City. She was still writing me some of her notes at work, which showed her tendency toward anxiety, especially if we couldn’t hook up for lunch together, such as happened on August 1.
Hi Sweetheart:
Boy did I ever miss you at lunch. I thought I was going to burst into tears when hatchet-face told or rather commanded me to stay until one o’clock. Oh honey, I love you so much. Today was so miserable not having lunch with you.
Well daring I have to close. Only 68 hours till we leave for New York.
I love you, Lois

Sixty-eight hours to go before we would leave for New York. On the 3rd of August we went to my parents for dinner, but more importantly, to leave our car there for servicing. My parents took us up home and at 7:30 the next day we called a taxi to take us to the Paoli train station.  We were off to New York.
We transferred trains at 30th Street Station, a stop before our normal work-a-day stop and  kept hauling North until we pulled into Grand Central Station. we were a bit overwhelmed by the size of that station, but we quickly hailed a cab out front and soon checked in at the Waldorf-Astoria (left in the 1960s).
The Waldorf-Astoria was one of the top ranked hotels anywhere back then. (I think it still is a Five-Star establishment.)  It was at that time also the tallest hotel in the world. (That it isn’t any more.) During our stay President Herbert Hoover was still in residence. He would die two years later at age 90. We never caught so much as a glimpse of him. On the right is Lois on the day we checked in.

The address was 301 Park Avenue, which is between 49th and 50th Streets. Thankfully, the city wasn’t festooned with garish Trump signs yet. It was the Waldorf-Astoria, not the Trump-Astoria and over by Central Park was just plain The Plaza.
Our two-bed room was $20 a night. It must have been one of their bargain rates for we lower-class types. In today’s dollars that would be the equivalent of about $160 a night, really a modest sum for such a lavish address. There is a photo of Lois sitting on one of the beds in our room to the left. That price was a good deal anyway you look at it. You can book through Expedia at a special rate at the Waldorf today for a mere $319 a night. Low-rate room or not, we lived it up during our stay. 
We did the usual tourist things, I suppose. We took a Gray Line Bus Tour to all the highlights. The ones I remember best were a walking tour in the Bowery, especially along what they called Skid Row (pictured right, a certain contrast to Park Avenue) and the elevator ride to the top of the Empire State Building. The down trip takes your breath away. With my fear of height, I sort of hung back away from the outer wall of the observation deck.

Probably the most romantic thing we did was take a carriage ride through Central Park in the late evening. No one had fed this horse on Beefaroni, so there was none of that resulting unpleasantness (a little Seinfeld reference there). Walking from the carriage to the hotel so late at night did not bother us. You felt safe trotting through downtown Manhattan even in the wee hours because of the ever-present crowds.
We did not go to a Broadway Show this time, but we did eat well. We searched out several of the well-known eateries such as Mama Leone’s. Back then, if you were a tourist to New York, you had to go to Mama Leone’s.
Mama Leone’s was a mecca, sitting on 44th Street in the heart of the theater district. We entered into an entryway more like a corridor that was crowded with people waiting and the hustle and bustle of passing waiters. All the wait staff was male, dressed better than myself, except for an ankle-length white apron tied about their waists. It took something close to an hour, but we did finally get a table. It was a nice table, I felt, I mean what did I know, it wasn’t anywhere near the kitchen door. It was located pretty much in the center of this fancy dining room. There was a lot of crystal about and statues on pedestals, mostly naked I believe. Three strolling violinist maneuvered between the tables all evening playing Italian love songs, stopping briefly by the tables to serenade each guest.

Our waiter appeared and Lois ordered from the somewhat outsized menu (pictured left). Probably some kind of seafood dish, for she does like her seafood. I don’t. I am a red meat guy. I looked the menu over and decided this one dish sounded good, so I ordered it. I asked for the Chateaubriand. This is a slab of tenderloin cut from the thickest part.
“But, sir,” said the waiter, looking somewhat stricken and perplexed, “that is for two.”
No wonder it was twice as much as anything else.
Feeling just a little bit stupid, I settled for the filet mignon. It was not my final stupid gesture.
When dinner was done the waiter brought the chit. It was for $12.00. Those were lush days, my friend, and I was use to $12 dinners. That was what we often paid at The Black Angus and other restaurants we frequented around Philadelphia. Remember, I already told you that $20 in 1962 had the buying power of $160 today. And without so much as a moment’s hesitation I tossed down a twenty-dollar bill and said, “Keep the change.”
The waiter scooped it up and started to walk away. Lois and I headed for the exit. Suddenly the waiter was trailing behind me bowing and scraping, going, “Oh, thank you, sir, thank you, thank you.” I thought he was going to throw himself down and kiss my feet. I expected the violinists to traipse behind playing, “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow!”   My gosh, we hurried our pace to escape this.
In 1962 10% was the expected gratuity. A dollar twenty would have been considered a fair tip. I gave him a 67% tip. I decided it was quite as embarrassing to over tip as to under tip.

We were up reasonably early on August 5. Back then Lois was still working and used to being up and out with the birds, although on days off she tended to sleep late. But that morning we were dressed and exited the Waldorf around 9:30. We went walking along looking for a place we could buy breakfast. Suddenly something caught my eye and I pulled Lois to a stop and pointed. There on the curb was a small newsstand and on the front was a large photograph with one headline beneath the Daily News banner, Marilyn Dead. There was no need for a last name. In the early ‘sixties Marilyn could only mean Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn’s death garnered world-wide coverage, but nothing such events bring about today. Of course, 1962 could be considered as still the early years of Television and there was no so-called social media beyond the telephone; no internet, no Facebook and no Cable TV with its 500 channels of mediocracy. Details of her body being found were given. In the first stages it was reported by some paper as a suicide. She was known as a troubled woman. Other reports gave the cause as an overdose of sleeping pills. No fowl play whatsoever was suspected. Conspiracy theories weren’t as rampant in the early ‘sixties, there were no rash of murder  rumors or sexual liaisons with the Kennedy brothers for the length of a  decade, except some sparsely dissimulated ones from less than credible sources: 1964, The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe by Frank A. Capelli, who claimed it was part of a Communist Plot; 1966, Who Killed Marilyn Monroe by Charles Hamblett and 1968, The Mysterious Death of Marilyn Monroe by James A. Hudson.
Photographs of the death scene or of her body in the morgue were not quickly and readily available to the public until long after her passing.

It was a different time.

We went to breakfast and probably talked briefly about Monroe, but then we had a trip to New York to finish.

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