Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Babysitter Memories and a Walk Down Memory Lane

Funny how two seemingly disparate events come together to evoke a memory.  Last Saturday afternoon Turner Classic Movies aired The Long Long Trailer,  the madcap adventure of newlyweds, played by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez, riding around in an oversized house trailer pulled by their convertible. The 1954 comedy was among the first films I saw in a movie theater. 

My brother, sister and I were probably taken there by our babysitter Maddie who lived next door to our family on Avenue W in Brooklyn. Maddie would often take us to the movies. I seem to recall her also taking us to see The Trouble with Harry, a 1955 Alfred Hitchcock humorous mystery starring Shirley MacLaine and John Forsythe. 

A few weeks ago one of Gilda’s patients said he knew her in-laws, my parents. With a family name like Forseter he easily figured out who her in-laws were. He wasn’t from Brooklyn but he was Maddie’s cousin and used to visit her all the time, and, by extension, our family as well. I don’t recall him at all. 

His reminiscences about those 1950s years ended with some sad news. Maddie passed away a few years ago. I remember how sad I was, how sad my sister and brother were, when Maddie went away to college and was no longer available to babysit. I can’t remember having any other sitter. 

When our kids were little, a babysitter of theirs was Leah. The daughter of one of our friends, Leah highlighted her long brown hair with blue dye. Ellie couldn’t resist asking her why. Because, she explained, she wanted to be different. Good babysitters leave indelible impressions on their charges. Leah didn’t need blue dye to be a good babysitter, but, like Maddie, she will always be remembered.

Memory Lane: I walked up Park Avenue two Fridays ago, starting at East 45th Street, through Helmsley Walk East to my old office at 425 Park between 55th and 56th Streets. I retraced the path I took nearly 7,000 times during my 32-year career at Lebhar-Friedman, almost all on Chain Store Age. 

This walk was different. It probably would be the last of its kind as L-F must vacate its home of 38 years. All tenants must be out by May 1, 2015. The building is coming down, to be replaced by a 60-story or so office tower, nearly double the size of the current structure, but still dwarfed by the 90-story, pencil thin, residential skyscraper going up diagonally across East 56th Street.

Park Avenue has not changed much since I began my daily treks to and from Grand Central Terminal in March 1977. For sure, there are more banks along the divided esplanade. But it’s still an oasis of refined elegance compared to the hurly-burly of most major avenues in Manhattan. 

I stopped off at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. For old time’s sake I used the bathroom. The attendant who proffers a towel to dry your hands has changed. Younger. Hispanic, not Armenian (at least I think he was Armenian). I tipped him a dollar. 

I made another stop at the main Citibank branch at 53rd Street. The lobby has been mostly transformed into self-service ATMs. I had a teller cash a check, the same way I did 37 years ago when I opened a checking account at that branch the day I started working at Lebhar-Friedman.

I couldn’t believe the Walter Steiger shoe store at East 55th Street had installed two outdoor red neon signs proclaiming its name. I always thought it was one of the classier shoe stores. No more.

After a warm visit with my friends still at L-F, I walked back down Park Avenue to a luncheon of some 25 L-F alumni. We get together every December, to update our status and reminisce about our days (make that years, often decades) at not the biggest family-owned publisher but surely one of the most impressionable companies any of us ever worked for. 

1 comment:

  1. Murray, I just walked down memory lane with you, I'm sad. In fact, I am on the phone with Barbara Hagan while I was reading your blog. Hope all is well with you and your family. Happy Chanukah!