July 26, 2007
Looking with a realtor at one of my favorite buildings (pictured in the previous post), I was shown the dumbwaiter in what is now the master bedroom. "I don't know if you know about the dumbwaiters in Hoboken," the realtor said. "But this was one of them. They are now great for storage, and sometimes provide a little closet."
As a matter of fact, I had been told about the ubiquitous dumbwaiters by my blog correspondent Jim B, whose parents were both teachers in the Hoboken school system of the 1950's.
"I don't know if there are still dumbwaiters in Hoboken," Jim wrote, "but in the apartments we lived in, each night the buzzer would go off at 6 pm, and you would put your garbage in the dumbwaiter, and the janitor would take it to the curb. Garbage was picked up each day (except Sunday) early in the morning. There were usually lots of cans outside, and included were the cinders from any coal furnaces.
"There were also street sweepers who had a garbage can on a cart, and a broom and a shovel. They would walk up and around the street picking up things. I think these were jobs for people who could not get other jobs. There were also attendants at the parks, they kept up basic cleaning there and did the occasional fixing up of things."
I casually mentioned dumbwaiters to Slezak, who had this to offer: THE DUMBWAITERS ...in my building 924 garden,we had one...they were great fun to ride in as kids. We took turns riding in them. You pulled on a rope...one rope you go up, the other you go down. Not a safe thing to do. You had to look out for the rats too...that's where they lived.
Climbing closeline poles was not safe either. We even had working gas lamps in the halls. NO bathroom, you shared a toilet with the people next door to you...in the hall. NO heat either...you had to make your own heat...Karo was used...it smelled and smoked up the rooms, BUT THAT WAS HOME...tappin' on the pipes was our intercoms back then, something like MORSE CODE. An interesting boyhood I had...but that's the way it was...not to mention the cockroaches...BUT THE RENT WAS CHEAP...all that fun for $35.00 a month...and you got 6 rooms...WOW.
Like he says, wow. So many of the situations he mentions make me, a 21st Century, uptown chick from somewhere else, absolutely marvel at life as it was in Hoboken not all that long ago. When I list my needs for my new apartment, a dumbwaiter would be a plus for its historical and amusement value -- and maybe for storage. But I draw the line at a toilet in the hall, shared with the neighbors, even for $35 a month. Would you believe for my demands I'm going to have to spend at least $2,000 per month? I'm getting used to the idea, but I will insist that the rodent problem has been addressed.