14 – 20 Nov 64 : Leaving Saks : New York 

Saturday 14th of November

YMCA – New York

Dear Mum, Dad, Nigel and Carolyn.

This morning we had have another nice letter from Herbie in which he confirms that he will be picking us up next Sunday to take us and all our gear and ship us down to Philadelphia. <Note: Tony’s relative, Vi, had emigrated to America. Herbie was her boyfriend.>

Also in his letter he informed us that he is driving down to Florida to spend Christmas with his sister, and suggested we might like to go with him. Apparently he always goes south to spend the winter in the sun and hasn’t experienced a cold winter for ages. We haven’t finally decided if we want to go with him, but we are certainly interested and probably will.

We have been told that the work situation down there is not too good and this is what’s putting us off. But to spend the winter in the sun would be terrific. We are both longing to get away and really start travelling and see a bit of real America.

Today, Saturday, went down to the bus station and made a few enquiries and finally bought a bus ticket to Bear Mountain. It was fantastic value for money. A beautiful bus, air conditioned, and a toilet, and a long journey of about two hours through some really beautiful country and on some fantastic roads. We passed some points where is seemed as though about 10 motorways were all crossing at the same time.

All the leaves have fallen but the weather is still extremely warm and is up in the 70s every day. It is a real Indian summer which doesn’t seem to want to end. Apparently at this time of the year it has often started to snow, and is quite cold, but we are lucky that this year is an exception as it means we can get around easily and see what we want to see. Anyway as I was saying, the drive was very nice, we passed through lots of picturesque little towns which was so typically American it just didn’t seem true.

All the houses are made of wood, as are the churches and the banks etc, and all painted white and also pastel shades. We were travelling all the way up the side of the Hudson River and the view across the river (it’s about half a mile wide) was great. It’s really blue too.

At one point, a place called Tomkins Cove which is a little riverside town, we passed the American Naval Reserve Fleet which is anchored in the river. This consisted of about 200 warships all anchored in rows of 10.

US Naval-Reserve-Fleet

<Image from this website>

At this point in the distance we saw smoke and learnt that it was a forest fire which has been raging for days. Aeroplanes were circling overhead giving instructions to the firefighters below. There has been no rain here for months and everything is bone dry. There are water shortages in many parts of the States and water is being rationed. We passed a dried up lake, which gives you some idea of the situation.

Eventually we arrived at the Bear Mountain Inn, had a snack and a look around. Bear Mountain is a sports resort. There is a ski jump (the National Ski Jump Championships are being held there later), an open-air ice skating rink, a baseball pitch, swimming pool and many other different sports facilities.

There is also a zoo. When we went into the reptile house we saw loads of huge snakes all of which were labelled ‘as found locally’ so we have had second thoughts about camping. Everything is free, as are the zoos all over America, and the scenery very nice.

We were up high and overlooking the River Hudson just as the sun was setting and making the forests over the other side of the river change to a deep red. The journey back on the bus was pleasant, and as we approached and crossed the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey State to New York State we had a wonderful view of Manhattan at night. There has been a breeze for the last few days which has blown away all the fog and haze and the air tonight was crystal clear, and we could see for miles.

We arrived home, made a meal, and then went out to go to the cinema and see a film, as we haven’t yet been to an American cinema. We finally decided to see Cleopatra and paid our $1.20 and went in. The behaviour of people whilst in a cinema is much the same as elsewhere. Lots of arguing and shouting, and the man next to me kept spitting on the floor. The men here seem very fond of spitting, and seem to do it all the time.

We didn’t enjoy the film much as it dragged on for about three hours and became very boring.

Sunday the 15th

Well this morning I had a tremendous surprise. At 10 am I was fast asleep when I was awakened by a knocking at the door, and on opening it there was Tony K from Birmingham. I was absolutely flabbergasted as I hadn’t heard from him. He explained how he has written to you, and showed me your letter to him. It was a terrific thrill to actually seeing an old friend so soon, and we have a good old chat. He told us all about the various increases in England, new things which we didn’t know about, like the National Insurance and Import Tax etc. and generally put us in the picture.

We then got up and had some breakfast. He is staying at the YMCA not far from us and he is supposed to be meeting Geoff (another friend of mine from Birmingham and the fellow who took my place in the flat), at the airline terminal here in New York. Geoff is flying in from Nassau where he has been for a week. Geoff is a manager for Alitalia the Italian airline company and was able to get Tony a free trip to the States. He’s already been to Turkey, Spain, Morocco, France and Greece this year already, so it’s nothing new to him, although he does seem a bit dazed by what he has seen so far.

We felt very good showing Tony around and explaining everything to him. We walked down Broadway (it was a very hot morning well into the 70s) – and one of the first things we saw was a big fire. As usual all hell was let loose as dozens of fire appliances came screaming to the scene.

We have now realised why they are terribly fire conscious here. It’s because of all the skyscrapers. Think of that – 16,000 people work in the Empire State Building every day, so if that went up in smoke it would be a major disaster. Every fire no matter how small is treated as a major threat. The whole area was jam-packed with police and firemen, but the fire soon seemed to be under control.

We strolled around until lunchtime and introduced Tony to an American steak lunch, and then decided to go on to the World Fair site in the hope that we would be able to look around the site. The World Fair finished the week before we arrived in New York, and doesn’t open again until next April. We have now decided that as Colin will be coming back to see his parents when they are here, we will now both come and combine the trip with a visit to the fair. I am keen to go as SKF have a Pavilion there and I would very much like to see this. <note: Tony had worked for SKF in the UK.> 

Anyhow, the site was closed and we were only able to look through the gates and see the various buildings at the front nearest the gates. It looks a fantastic place, and we are both very keen to come back and see it.

As we couldn’t get in we decided to take Tony to the Staten Island Ferry, so we jumped on another tube and charged down there and got on a boat and soon we were seeing the famous skyline again. This is the third time I have seen it now and each time is as impressive as the last. This time we spent more time looking at the new Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Verrazano-Narrows_Bridge_1964

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge under construction in 1964. Credit:  Luther Z Hayes https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20074035

It is the longest single span suspension bridge in the world, and is just nearing completion, and is due to be opened this month. It crosses the gap which forms the entrance to New York Harbour and as all the ships, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, etc will pass under it, you can imagine how high it is. It is all lit up with chain lights at night, and will now be the first thing to be seen from ships at sea, and will become quite a famous landmark. We hope to be able to cross it before we leave here, but as we leave next Sunday the 22nd this is doubtful.

We didn’t stay at the other side but came back on the same ferry, just as dusk was falling. I’m sure this is the best time to see the skyline, as it turns an orangey-red colour and looks very nice. We then walked uptown to take Tony to the folk singers in Washington Square. He is a great jazz fan and was very impressed by the various groups of folk singers. We had been there before but nevertheless it was very enjoyable.

There was one huge group of Italians listening to an Italian fellow singing to a mandolin. He was singing Italian folk songs and the pleasure he was giving to his fellow countrymen was a joy to see. Fro the expressions on their faces you would imagine they were back in Italy.

We then went in and had a snack of ‘Pizza Pie,’ I have become quite addicted to it. It is an Italian thing, really I suppose it is like cheese and tomato on toast. You can have a huge triangular shaped slice for 20 cents which really fills you up. We eat mostly at home these days as a it is cheaper and because we can make the sort of meals we are used to. We eat very well with lots of fruit – apples, bananas, grapes, apples and lots of salads. So we are having lots of fresh food and not too much tinned stuff.

We both came out in terrible spots and pimples soon after we arrived, it was probably due to the change of water and diet, I’m happy to say we have both got rid of them now and I’m feeling very healthy.

At 7 o’clock we arrived at the airline terminal in New York to meet Geoff who was due to arrive there at about 7:15, to be told that the plane from the Bahamas had been delayed for 3 hours due to technical troubles, so we decided not to wait and came home. We were to have gone around to the girls’ place to watch TV (the Beatles were on for an hour tonight) but one of the girls was ill and was in bed, so we didn’t go. She had to call the doctor and one visit and some tablets cost her £8 so think yourselves lucky having the good old National Health Service even if it is costing you a few more bob per week.

Two of the girls had gone to Washington today on a coach and had to get up at 5 a.m., so will be dead beat in the store tomorrow. One works on the perfume counter (she collapsed with exhaustion last Thursday afternoon), and one on patterns, and one on a ‘cart’ which is a mobile trolley, from which she sells scarves. Last week she was ‘top of the carts’ which tickled her to death. All three have university degrees!!! The girl who is ill is a typist, and is ill, it is thought, through overwork. See how we work here, you limeys don’t know how lucky you are.

Well I must have a shower and go to bed now, to store up some energy for another week at Saks 34th.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day and the public holiday with pay. We thought we had better not tell them we’re leaving on Friday as they would sack us before Thursday to prevent giving us a day’s pay for nothing. The rule is that you get paid for it if you work the day before and the day after. So we will tell them on Friday that we are leaving that night and see what happens. Schultz will throw a fit I’m sure, but I shan’t care in fact I shall enjoy it. On Tuesday

——

Cancel that last bit. Thanksgiving is next Thursday not this Thursday, so I have an extra day to work at Saks. Last night (Monday) Tony K turned up as planned with Geoff who had arrived from Nassau on Sunday night after having been delayed three hours due to engine trouble. He had a fantastic tan having been on the beach and in the sea for the last few days.

Believe it or not he went to Nassau with 15 other airline managers from Birmingham for their annual lunch. They all stayed for four days free at a fabulous hotel. He is now staying at the YMCA with Tony and not far from us.

We went out last night and showed Tony Broadway at night and ended up in the famous Metropole Bar where all the famous jazz people appear. Tony lives, eats and sleeps jazz, and he nearly went mad when he saw Henry ‘Red’ Allen up on the bar playing. He saw him recently at the Festival Hall in London. It was a good evening and the music as before was great.

Tony and Geoff are flying on to San Francisco today and will be back in New York on Friday and Saturday, so we shall see them again. It seemed most odd to be out with old friends in New York, and really enjoyable too, although I have lost my original craving for English people.

The girls went to Washington on Sunday by Greyhound coach. Greyhound is the biggest coach operator in US and run deluxe coaches all over the country at very cheap rates and very high speeds. They went to Washington which is 230 miles in four hours, and the return trip (460 miles) only cost $15 (about £5) which over here is nothing. They were very impressed with Washington and found it very clean and quiet (it was very hot there as it was here). As we are going south soon we didn’t go as we shall see it later. It’s only about 100 miles from Philadelphia and easy to reach by car.

I had a letter from Dad yesterday (Monday), one from Tony K (telling me he was arriving the Saturday before, typical of him), one from Herbie telling us some documents of ours had arrived at Vi’s, and today a letter from Mum. Mail seems to be arriving very well now and the initial delays were due to the YMCA which I think is shocking.

We shall inform Mr Riviera, our landlord, of our new address as soon as we know it, so don’t worry about the mail. It will get to us somehow. If you want to you can write to Vi’s until I give you our new address, It is Mrs V Morgan …….. Conshohocken, PA, USA. But I will let you have our own address as soon as we have one.

I forgot to tell you we had another bust up with the landlord last weekend. We went to pay the rent one Saturday morning and he wouldn’t accept it. He said we had to move. When we asked when, he said ‘now’!! After another blazing row (with his wife yelling things in Spanish), we finally agreed to close the windows for the sake of peace and quiet. He still is convinced that we’re mad for wanting fresh air and repeats that we are the only people he has ever met like it.

I was delighted to hear that the garage has been officially passed as “solid” (as if it could be anything else)!! Just as well they didn’t want it pulled down. I’m also glad to hear that Kipper <the family dog> is in fine form too. I miss him as much as anyone, you know. I haven’t got a picture of him so if you could take any of him and send me one please.

Don’t be surprised if you receive a large envelope from me posted in England. It won’t mean that I am home, it will mean that Tony K has posted it for me as I asked him to bring it over and post it there, as it is such a lot cheaper.

We have just had our first American haircuts which cost about ten shillings!!! It was a real effort to prevent having a typical American short back and sides but finally he did agree to leave some on.. Colin’s was done by a woman.

I hope Nigel does well at his interview in London, I expect you are too, aren’t you!!! Tell him I think of him all the time (thinking how nice it will be so far away I mean).

Thursday

Well one more day to go at Saks and we have already told the landlord we are leaving, and as you can imagine he wasn’t very heartbroken.

Something terrible happened today at work. I was pulling a trolley around the very crowded area where I work, and suddenly I felt it stick so I pulled, and pulled, and pulled and suddenly there was an almighty crash as a very expensive electric ticketing and printing machine fell to the floor. The trolley had somehow got caught up in it, and I had pulled it off the table. It was all bent and mangled with bits and pieces everywhere. I put it back on the table and tried to make it look as normal as possible, and left it. If Schultz had seen it, I would have been fired on the spot. They are sure to notice it so it’s a jolly good job I’m leaving tomorrow.

It has been pouring with rain all day here today and it has become much colder, so it seems as though this fantastic weather has finally come to an end at last.

There are special streets all over America which cannot be used for parking after November 15th, as they are then officially called ‘Snow Emergency Streets’ and are used for heaping snow into to keep the main street free. All the shops sell skis and ice skates and people charge up to Bear Mountain and Lake Placid which are local Sports Resorts.

A woman in the store who I work with has said we can stay at her place for a week free, when we come back to New York in August to see Mr and Mrs H <Colin’s parents>, and as she lives within easy walking distance of the World Fair Site. This will be ideal and very cheap, so I have accepted of course.

The new Verrazano Bridge opens on Saturday, so we are planning to go out and cross it if we can and be one of the first to do so. Also on Saturday we are going in to put the deposit on our New Zealand trip. This will be about $80 but is fully returnable should we have to cancel it for any reason i.e. lack of money.

Last night we had planned to go and see a Broadway show, but after a lot of humming and harring, we decided not to go as the cost was a bit high and instead go and see a good film which would be much cheaper. So we charged home and had a meal, lay down on our beds for a moment, and woke up at 9:20pm!!! So instead we wandered around but as it was so cold we went into a bar for a drink (one of course).

We got chatting to the barman who calmly told us that he had been held up and robbed at gunpoint six times, and only last Saturday night someone had tried to knife him. Another customer sitting next to us stated that he had been held up too, but only twice!!  So we have now decided to carry only about $5 at the most should this happen to us. Apparently all they want is all the money you have on you, and are quite happy to take whatever you have and go quietly on their way.

So we are determined they won’t get much from us!! The majority of our money is in traveller’s cheques which are completely safe.

Tony K and Geoff should be back from California tomorrow, so it should be interesting to hear all about California first hand from them. Although I would rather do it our way. You don’t get to know a place in a day or two. Geoff has been to New York about 40 times in the past, but I think we know more about New York in our month here than he does – and he admits this too.

It is 5 weeks today since we left England but quite honestly to me it seems like 5 months. So much has happened.

Please don’t worry about your mail reaching me as it is arriving steadily now. I seem to have alarmed Mum, as nearly all her letters are about how many letters she has written (Tony showed me your letter to him.)

Friday

Well we have finally finished at Saks. Old Schultz was quite nice when we left, and asked us to send him a postcard now and then.

Tonight we saw a good film ‘The Unsinkable Molly Brown’ and a lot of it was filmed in Colorado which is where we are going to stay with Mrs Smith. It’s a good film and some of the shots of Colorado are so terrific that we can’t wait to get there.

It’s funny to be unemployed again so soon, although I am leaving New York with more than I arrived with, so I’m not to badly off financially. The snag is we never know what’s going to happen next. I could walk into a job at SKF right away, on the other hand I may be walking the street for weeks. Still it all goes to make life very interesting. I can’t say I have been bored for a single moment since I left home.

There is a tremendous amount of begging in New York, especially on the tubes. Lots of blind people walk the length of the train sometimes singing, and holding a cup. It’s very pathetic, but there are so many of them that nobody seems to give at all. You can also see a lot of deaf people in the street ringing bells all day long (to prove they are deaf I suppose). They make such a noise that if they weren’t deaf before, they certainly would be afterwards.

All the big stores are beginning to put up their Christmas decorations this week, and everyone says that New York at Christmas is very pretty. We shall almost certainly come back for a few weekends to see the lights and a show. We want to see the show at the Radio City. Everyone says the Christmas Show is pretty fantastic.

We are very easily labelled as foreigners, the moment we start eating with a knife and a fork. The Yanks seem to have a dread of using a knife and will go to all sorts of lengths to prevent using it. It’s crazy, they push their food all over the place with their fork – and end up leaving a half of it!! I can’t understand it.

Today I was talking to one of the girls in their store, and a woman standing next to me turned and said “Oh that was lovely – just like The Beatles,” and walked away – funny people.

One of the girls came to dinner last night. We can only invite one at a time as we don’t have enough equipment (as it was, I had to eat my meal out of a frying pan!!) but nevertheless she enjoyed it. They don’t seem to get on very well in their flat so she was glad to get away for a change.

Snow is creeping in towards New York and has reached the neighbouring State of New Jersey, so we should have some fairly soon. Certainly cold enough tonight. There is a place not far from here which is a favourite skiing resort for New Yorkers and where you can hire all the gear and clothes. It’s called ‘Bel-Air’ and sounds fantastic. I would love to have a go but what we are worried about is the consequences should we break a leg or something – it could cost us a fortune. Anyhow we probably will end up by having a go.

Well I think I have run out of news for this week so I will end now. I hope you are all well and having a good time. Look after yourselves and don’t you worry about me I am fine.

Writing once a week will do fine,

All my love,

Tone xxxx 

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