Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dumbwaiters: Not Just for Restaurants

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 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 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 the hall. NO heat had to make your own heat...Karo was 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.


downtown chick said...

A completely different world. Downtown there were no dumbwaiters. hahahahaha the thought of it is hysterical. That is so very UPTOWN. Tenements did not have dumbwaiters or janitors for that matter. I think they hired a lady from Newark & Madison (Edna) my God, I remembered her name & can't remember my grandchildren's names at times.
I do remember street sweepers (yes, even downtown) and I do remember the people cleaning the parks usually young high school & college men (city summer job) .
Some of my friends had toilets in the hallway. We were fortunate that our flat had a full bathroom tub, sink, commode. Plus a very large window. So, at 13, when I decided it was "cool" to smoke, I just opened the window & sat on the fire escape.
Interesting that Slezak lived in a nice neighborhood....$35. high rent district and had a toilet in the hall. We paid $20. a month with private facilities.
In 1956, my mother found an apartment on Park Avenue between 1st. & 2nd. She told my father she really wanted this SIX ROOM apartment, no heat or hot water, but everyone lived in cold water flats at that time. But the catch was......$45. rent. OMG, how will we ever be able to do it? That's more than double what we're paying now. She got the apartment and lived there for 45 years.
For anyone interested in tenements and life in them.....there is a wonderful museum (interactive) on Orchard St. just google tenement museum. I took both grandchildren when they were about 10 & 12. Had no idea what a "block" was. Just a few blocks more. What's a block?
Never saw a fire escape. Were revolted at seeing a toilet in the hallway......where would I do my hair???? AND....most of all......where was the pool???
Crappy little suburban kids.
Also, what the toilet in the hall brought to the apartment was a tub in the kitchen. Not a tub tub. But a tub like in the basement of every suburban home. Big, deep, iron divided tub. Took a bath, washed the clothes, did the dishes.
Oh for the good old days....gotta go, the clothes dryer bell is ringing!!!!

slezak said...

Downtown Chick is right on the money with her memories. My dad was the super for our building, that's why we got the rent cheaper. Me and my brother had to mop the hallways once a week and take out the garbage each day. YES our tub was in the kitchen. As kids, we took a bath with the wash, til we could not fit in it any more. After that you had to just cat wash.

Downtown chick lived on the worst block in hoboken. Alley cats and stray dogs did not even want to go there.

Mary Lois said...

Whoa, there! Let's not start a feud here based on where we lived in the distant past.

Best block, worst block. Seems to me that all the kids in Hoboken had a pretty good time, rich and especially poor. Hope I'm right about that.

downtown chick said...

Aw,'re just jealous because I'm prettier than you. As far as good block bad block. Your block was where I always wanted to live. AND I didn't even know you!!! I think it's one of the prettier blocks in Hoboken. 1st. and Madison WAS a crummy block......but the people. oh those Italian people. You didn't have Pop's hot dog cart or Chippy's barber shop. You didn't even go roller skating near Liberty Laundry. You had to make do with playing under the viaduct.
And you STILL live in a better house 50 years later.

slezak said...

Downtown Chick, it would have been an honor to have you live on my block...a lovely girl as you would have been made my block lovelier..and just think, I WOULD HAVE GIVEN YOU A RIDE ON MY DUMBWAITER -- just sit there, hold on tight, keep your knees together and keep your dress down. (Well, if you want to). If you did not want to I WOULD HAVE GIVEN YOU TWO RIDES ...going up, coming down...OH, and about the rats, just scream loud and they will run away. I would even let you climb up my fire escape to the roof too, and let you see the grand view of New York. I'll let you go first so I could catch you if you slipped...hold on to your dress, it does get windy the higher you get...good old hoboken. Oh, them fond memories.

Mary Lois said...

Memories, slezak? More like fantasies, if you ask me. (Call me unromantic if you like.)

slezak said...

Mary Lois, romance is seen in your writing. You are a romantic.

Fantasies have a way of coming true, whether it's a ride in a hansom buggy in Central Park or a ride on a DUMBWAITER.

In the movie PICNIC, that Kim Novak stare can happen anywhere.

FANTASIES are what keep us sane. HOPE to make it come true. Without it WE ARE JUST A DREAM WITH IN A DREAM.

downtown chick said...

Love the fact that you still have romance in your heart.
All that not withstanding, Slezak, I AIN'T goin' in no dumbwaiter!

Mary Lois said...

Can't blame a guy for dreamin', dc.