Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yorkville to Macy's Down Fifth Avenue in 1959

I remember the Friday after Thanksgiving when I was in kindergarten in 1959. My mother left Rory off at my grandparents on 85th Street right after breakfast and took me with her on the 86th Street cross-town bus. She got a transfer at Fifth Avenue. I didn’t need one. I was still “little enough to ride for free, little enough to ride a knee." At least age-wise. When I was 5, Mom had a better chance at being elected Pope than keeping me on her knee once we were on a bus. We switched to the Fifth Avenue bus and headed south, I watched Central Park through the window like it was a Disney movie and Mom watched the “hoity toities” walk along the mansions on the east side of the avenue. 

When we neared 34th Street, Mom pulled the cord to signal a stop, we got off and walked towards Macy’s.  I’d been with Mom shopping a bunch of times but she usually did her best to solo when doing off reservation / non 86th Street excursions unless she slipped Rory and me by carriage down to Bloomingdales on 59th Street. A doable stroll from Yorkville with kids in tow. 

But here’s Mom and me for the first time alone in the world’s biggest department store. I got nosey.

“Mom why we here, somebody’s birthday?”
“Aunt Barbara.”
“OK.” I was fine with that. Barbara’s birthday was coming up in December. But after Mom bought two blouses, a skirt, a pocketbook, three powder compacts and a fancy umbrella, I started thinking how generous Mom was buying Barbara all these gifts and started feeling guilty because I got Rory nothing for his birthday.
“You’re a good sister!”
“You’re a good sister, buying Barbara all these great gifts.”
“No, I’m also buying gifts for Joanie and Nan.”
“Joanie and Nan.”
Their birthdays are March and July?”
Mom looked at me funny, it was taking her time to figure out I smelled a rat. She recovered.
“Yes, their birthdays are far off but since we’re here I figured I’d get it out of the way, more time for us.”

At 5, that was a good enough explanation to settle me down.  I thought no further about this excessive gift buying so near Christmas.  To seal the deal Mom took me to Horn and Hardart’s when we arrived back on 86th Street off the Madison Avenue bus. I ate Mac and Cheese in a crock. Santa Claus was still safe in my mind.

Our next City Stories: Stoops to Nuts show is a beaut.  Our artists are Claudia Chopek,Joe McGintyJohn NewellRick PatrickThomas Pryor, Rivka Widerman & Ward White. Giving away ten drinks.  Getting my Irish up, it's my birthday week, bring your best game. $7 and saying "hoity toity" gets you in the door with a free drink.

Here are pictures I took of 34th Street yesterday. Most of what you see looked the same in 1959 when Eisenhower was still President.

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