THE AUTOMAT

From the hall of ersatz messages, we walked around the corner to the authentic original temple of modern dining, the Automat.

Long before McDonald’s and Burger King moved from strip mall paradises out on Highway 50 in Orlando to urban centers near Grand Central, Horn & Hardart had reigned supreme as America’s original fast food restaurant. Like the post office, the walls were covered with tiny glass windows displaying Salisbury steak, sandwiches, macaroni & cheese, pudding, or slices of cherry pie, all fed by kitchen staff behind the wall. After inserting either coin or token into the slot and turning the handle, you could raise the window and take out the delicacy.

There was also a cafeteria line if you had more time to wait.

84TH STREET STATION, 3RD AVE EL

With great sadness, I regret to inform my readers of the passing on September 29, 2016 of Kit Davidson, Director and Producer of “3RD AVE EL.”  I find myself fortunate to have interviewed him for this blog a few months before his death.  Please see my post above for a review of his film; I compared it to Roshomon!  This news was sent along to me by Mr. Joseph Frank, former police officer, who found my stories about THE LOST LINE.

You see, Joe grew up by the 3rd Avenue El and recently found my web site due to his interest in elevated trains.  Specifically, he is from the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan — where I live — which is an old German and Hungarian enclave from the 20th century.

“3rd AVE. EL”

(This post is also known as “THE LOST LINE, PART 2.” Next week, Part 3!)

The Third Avenue El in New York City was dismantled in 1955, so… it’s gone.  Forever.  It only today exists in our memories, collective consciousness, photographs, moving pictures, and really strange blogs (know any?).

Cosmologists explain that, from a multi-dimensional point of view, time can exist as a distinct physical address.  So, if you were to be a sentient being that exists in, say, 5, 6, or more dimensions, you could easily wander to the following spatial coordinates as if you walked from one house to another:

  1. Longitude: Third Avenue,
  2. Latitude: 53rd Street,
  3. Altitude: street-level, and
  4. Time (CE): 12 Noon, August 22, 1943 (the date of Bernard Olcott’s mother passing).

Just go to that location right now and look up!  You’ll be looking at the 53rd Street Elevated Station!

Given such liberty, it would be possible go anywhere in time, forwards and backwards, as if these were all reachable places.  Logically, all times past and future exist NOW; it’s just that they are inaccessible to us mortals.¹

The Bernard Olcott Story blog, unfortunately, cannot literally take the dear reader to the past (or future).  But what it can do is to present a brilliant short art house film that brings the Third Avenue El back to life, in sight and sound (complete with a harpsichord accompaniment).  It’s about eleven minutes long and follows four passengers as they journey uptown and downtown.  Click the Read More link right here to see the film:

THE LOST WEEKEND

The Bernard Olcott Story starts off 2016 with a rewrite of my post “THE LOST WEEKEND” (the original of which I have just removed from this site).  When I wrote “THE LOST WEEKEND” last June, I reminisced about a picture of my Dad hamming it up with several friends in a photo booth heavy laden with cultural significance – see above picture.  All of which was lost to me since I did not grow up in the 1940s.  I shrugged off that photo booth picture, effectively asking if anyone recognized anything about it.  Nobody did.

That photo, it turns out, is a window into the New York City of yesteryear. This essay, and the next three will use the above image as a departure point into a black and white world.  I’ll take you back to New York City of the 1940s, my Father’s formative years as a newly minted Cooper Union graduate, and you’ll:

  • Read about the biggest movie of 1945,
  • Ride the El,
  • Hear old style New Yorkers interact,
  • Learn a valuable lesson at Cooper Union (a venerable institution dating back to the Lincoln Administration),
  • Review a mysterious death in 1943 with what little facts are available, and
  • Come back to a colorfilled present with a shared activity across time.

Why should you care?  Well, somehow you found this blog.  Perhaps in riding the El with my Dad, you may see some of yours in him.  Maybe you like nostalgic stories about Gotham City which was, in some ways, a completely different city from today’s Big Apple.

It could be that you are intrigued with the backstory of the founding of a business or how the tremendous loss of a parent could leave so little trace behind.  I still haven’t been able to figure out what happened to my paternal Grandmother, who passed away during this era.

Welcome back!