May 29, 2008
Slezak has been sending me emails regularly since he discovered this blog. He likes to remember what Hoboken was like in the late 1940's and through the 1950's, and he describes it vividly. Here's a sample:
"My wife’s dad – what a nice guy he was...played with the big bands during the war. (His dad was an opera singer from Dublin who toured Europe with the Carl Rosa opera company ..he came to America in 1900...and started his own opera company, Joseph Sheehan Opera Company ...you can look him up on the computer. In them days he was the greatest tenor English opera singer in the world. After he retired from that he worked for RKO Radio studios in NYC...and later it became NBC studios...he lived on Garden Street just across the street from me) My wife’s both grandmothers lived across the street from me when I was a kid. I have a picture of me and my wife in the same picture – she was 5. I was 9, not knowing I would marry her some day and spend the rest of my life with her. I got lucky and always had good luck...with every thing I did in life. On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando...well that’s another story – filmed in Hoboken. You must see it...some of my friends were in it, I was not. (I could have been a contender.)
"I’ve been looking for a picture or pictures of ABLE’S ice cream parlor that was across the street from the Acadamy of Sacred Heart on 7th and Washington Street, my wife’s old all girl school…plaid skirts, white blouses, and vest and beanies they had to wear. Only the rich girls went there. My old hangout in the 50s, the early rock and roll days ...BUT with no luck in looking for the pictures...to add to my large photo album collection that I have . I call them albums The Adventures of Maureen and Bob. We all can’t live forever, BUT the photos will.
"I think in the early days of television, Dumont was the king of the tv airwaves. In the late 40s we had only three stations and an Emerson 7-inch tv. My mom said if you watch it too close YOU WILL GO BLIND.
"On Washington Street a store had a tv in their window...people would bring their folding chairs...and sit watching tv...a sight to behold...I must say."
Can't you just picture that? Another reader, planning a documentary on the old Grand Hotel, wrote me to ask if Slezak had any memories or pictures of that to share, and this is what he wrote back:
A grand hotel it was...I remember it as only as a place for the rich...to dine and stay...although my sister worked there for a few years, I was only in there once to visit her for a forgotten reason ...that's all the memory I have of the hotel ...Hoboken had another hotel called THE GLOBE...it was next to the old FABIAN theater on Washington Street too. A flop house it was, 50 cents a nite. You slept with your shoes under your pillow, it was that kind of a place. The YMCA and a place on 14th street was the only hotels or places to stay in Hoboken. The unfortunate slept on the park benches or under the viaduct.....in the HOBO camp they had there. I know I'm not much help with the GRAND HOTEL.
So he emailed a friend from Hoboken who now lives in California. This was the reply:
"The Grand was on Hudson Street and Marlon Brando plus the other actors stayed there when they made the picture On the Waterfront. Directly across the street was another hotel, but not as nice as the Grand. The Grand had outside tables in the summer and they served meals there. It also had a canopy to protect people from the sun.
"The one on 14th Street is still in business and I forget its name. The son that inherited it ran it. He was a oddball who tried to get involved in politics. I think he was a little before his time. He saw Hoboken for what it could be, and people laughed at him all the time. He helped out the less fortunate people such as the homeless.
"The bar part was a huge place and the beer was rotten most of the time. They
served the crappiest whiskey, such as Old Crow, which is a poor man's whiskey. He got caught one time trying to fill the bottles up with Shoprite whiskey."
There is something very delightful about these two and their memories. Hope nobody is offended by being called an "oddball," since he comes over as a very good guy in spite of the term. I'm sure no offense was meant, if the friend is anything like Slezak. Just keep an eye on that bartender.