First week of January 1950's visiting the Empire State Building - An excerpt from "Back in the Day" by RG Bud Phelps
Now that I was back in my room, I could reflect on the day. “I’m really blessed to have this opportunity to spend some special in-depth trips to New York City. Today was an enjoyable day, from seeing the inside (and outside) of the Statue of Liberty and to learn more about the Vanzetti family history. Tomorrow should be another interesting adventure, going on a tour of the Empire State Building (including a trip up to the observation deck). Tom should be here Friday night and we can plan something special for the weekend (probably another play on Broadway), since both of us will have to return for duty on the 12th.”
The next morning when the phone rang and I jumped up like a shot, quickly saying “Hello!”
“Good morning, Bud, I’m fixing breakfast for Tom, Sr. and me, so why don’t you to join us. It is 7:30 right now and we plan on eating around 8:30. Do you think you can make it?”
“Of course I can make it, Mrs. Vanzetti! Thanks for the invitation. I was planning on getting up about this time anyway but I failed to set my alarm. I’ll be going back over to the city today, and plan on visiting the Empire State building. It’s number one on the list.”
“You just come to our living quarters first and I’ll make sure you start the day with a good breakfast.”
“Okay, Mrs. Vanzetti, I’ll be there shortly.”
“Wow, what neat people! I think I have been adopted into another family here on the east coast.” There I go again talking to myself!
Mrs. V. laid out quite a spread for breakfast, starting with orange juice and coffee. She had pancakes, eggs, bacon, and several different kinds of cereals. In addition to that, she had sweet rolls and toast, complimented with strawberry jam. She was certainly telling the truth when she said there would be a good breakfast waiting for me.
“I can’t thank the two of you enough for making me feel at home. It’s as if I had gone home! I guess I could say I went to my New Jersey home!”
Tom Sr. responded, “I like that, Bud. You can consider our home your home-away-from-home’”
After stuffing myself with a delicious breakfast supplied by Mrs. V., and enjoying the conversations with the two of them, I thanked them for their generosity. I told them I was catching a bus to the city for my continued tour.
I arrived in Manhattan around 11:00, which gave me plenty of time to do all of the things I wanted to accomplish today in the city. The Empire State Building could be seen long before arriving at the entrance on Fifth Street and 34th Avenue, as it towers over the skyline of the city. Walking into the lobby I headed for the tour signs, and asked the first guide, “Can you tell me about your tour schedule, and when I should arrive ahead of the tours?”
“The next tour is at 1:00 P.M., and you can register now. Please arrive for the tour about 15 minutes early to receive the tour guide book covering the Empire State Building tour.”
“Great! I’ll register now.”
After registering, I went to the deli in the lobby of the Empire State Building to grab a quick lunch. The hustle and bustle found in most venues in New York City didn’t bother me but it seemed that everyone was in a hurry to get someplace! I found it was best to just go with the flow as the public seemed to accept me as part of the action. While eating lunch, I read the informational guide about the Empire State Building given to me when I registered.
Interesting trivia about the Empire State Building:
The building has starred in 90 movies, and it remains one of New York City’s most popular tourist attractions.
The excavation for the project began on January 22, 1930 and took only one year and 45 days to complete, or 7 million hours.
The masonry for the structure was completed on May 1, 1931, significantly ahead of schedule. On that date President Herbert Hoover pressed a button in Washington, D.C. to officially open the building (by turning on the Empire State Building’s lights).
The total height of the building is 1,454 feet. The 86th floor observatory, where visitors can overlook the Chrysler Building, Harlem River, and other scenes of New York City, is 1,050 feet above ground.
In 1945, at the end of WWII, an Army Air Corps bomber plane crashed into the 79th floor in a dense fog. The impact of the plane created an 18 x 20 foot hole in the side of the tower. Only 14 people would perish in this incident and another 25 would suffer severe wounds. One of the engines hit the door leading into an elevator shaft and fell 80 stories cutting cables on many of the elevators. A woman riding one of these elevators was sent plummeting downward, but the elevator braking system prevented a basement crash and the woman survived.
I joined the tour group at 12:45 for the 1:00 tour and received a more detailed brochure about the Empire State Building. The guide addressed the group, “We will be touring the areas of the building that have been selected, starting with a short movie in the auditorium across the lobby. After the movie, I will be taking you up to the 86th floor observatory deck, where you will be allowed 30 minutes to circle the deck for views from all sides of the building. Take your time! You are permitted to take pictures if you so desire. Afterwards, you will have the opportunity to purchase picture postcards of the same views off of the observatory deck from the Empire State Building gift shop. We will also allow you to see how a typical office is set up, as most offices leased will have the same typical layout. After the tour, we will return to the auditorium off of the lobby, and I will be available to answer your questions.”
I managed to stay close to the tour guide. So that I could get a better understanding of what was being explained to the group as a whole. We finished the tour at 2:30, just ahead of the last tour of the day.
As I walked over to Times Square I was thinking about how exciting it would have been there last week, on New Year’s Eve. I think that I liked it this way better, rather than fighting the mass of humanity that would have been there that night. I was doing my share of people-watching, and noticed that very few of them were taking their sweet time looking at the sights. It was just that “hustle and bustle” I had talked about earlier.
The afternoon was slipping away, when I happened to spot the corner where I had caught the bus back over to New Jersey yesterday. I decided to amble over and catch the next one back across the river. I didn’t want to get caught in the middle of the rush-hour traffic, and had been running around enough for one day anyway. When I arrived back in New Jersey, I walked back to the Hotel Vanzetti and headed for the bar, and of course the “free lunch.” There they were, the same group of characters at the bar, so I said my “hellos” and joined them.
I spent the next two days running around New York City like a native. I rode the subways, seeking out interesting areas to see and different restaurants to try. Friday afternoon came sooner than I thought it would, and I was ready to stop early, knowing that Tom would be arriving soon.
I thought to myself, “What a great week, I have really enjoyed my time spent in this wonderful city. But, I am looking forward to having someone to run with that knows the city, like Tom, who knows it like the back of his hand.” http://www.budsbooks.com/historical-fiction/historical-fiction/