Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hoboken: Back to the Past

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 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 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 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 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 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.


Anonymous said...

There is a post on Hoboken Now about this post -- with a picture from On The Waterfront.

Eva Marie Saint and Marlon (Bud) Brando (BUD was the name his friends called him)..that photo was taken on what is now called Sinatra Park, right on the waterfront...maybe 100 feet from the Hudson River’s edge. In the blurry background was the MAXWELL HOUSE COFFEE PLANT (I should know, I was there when that photo was taken.) I was maybe only 30 feet away...YES, I skipped school that day along with my friends who did the same, to watch them film parts of that movie. ON THE WATERFRONT was named best American movie ever made.

The film crew was very nice to us. They just said to us, be quiet and just stand back. That was 1954... I was age 15. That part of the movie took about 15 takes, and all day to do it. She did a lot of running in that scene. Brando had the easy part – he just stood there.

Looking at Miss Eva Marie Saint in that picture ..and seeing her now. BOY DID SHE GET OLD. Let’s see, I was 15 and she was maybe 20 if that. HUUMM? That makes me old too.

Your blog posted today...very nice...its going to make you a star ...stand back while the replys come in. Stay well.

Anonymous said...

It's really funny to think of it as "Sinatra Park"....hehehehe it was River Street and just one saloon after another for the sailors who came in off the large ships that docked in the Hoboken Piers.
I took a friend to the Madoona dei Martieri feast and she thought I was "priviledged" to have grown up in such lovely surroundings!!!
I still laugh out loud at the mere thought of a young girl going anywhere NEAR "Sinatra Park".
Hey Bobby, you didn't tell them about the song you wrote for Pat Boone.

Anonymous said...

Bobby write a song for Pat Boone!!! Ya gotta be kiddin me!
Personally, I think all that toughness of Bobby's is a real softie. Yeah, we might miss some of the stuff we did as teenagers, but I would NOT want to go back there again! Funny, how we think of all the good times and skip over the bad times. I don't think any of us want to think about those. Hoboken was NOT the typical TV city.

Dennis said...

Haven't written in quite a while.
I think about the sounds and smells of Hoboken quite a bit, being that I live close to the Bay here and you do not hear those sounds anymore.
When there is fog you used to hear the fog horns all the time from the Hudson River. Sit in the Ferry Building and you can hear the clanking of the chains as they used to tie the ferries in. I actuall miss the sound of the buses as they passed my house. In the winter you could hear the chains on the tires of the buses. The buses has a kind os swish to their tires when it rained. You could hear the railroad train horns and if you lived downtown you heard the click, click, click of the railcars at night. The bus doors also had a particular sound to them when they opened or closed. The sound of a ship being docked at the Holland American line by the tugboats. In the summer the sound of the Peddler selling fruit from his truck. Once a week the fish monger.
On Saturdays the smell of the hallways and stoops being washed. You never walked in a wet hallway or walked on a wet stoop!!!!!
Hoboken also had it's smells, but that might come later due to me running out of room here.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to clear things up and I have just cone upon this blog. Regarding the comments about Joseph Sheehan the opera singer. The Joseph Sheehan being referred to is not the Joseph Sheehan in our family. There were 2 Joseph Sheehans who were both opera singers. My grandfather was the brother of Mr. Slezak's father-in-law. Their father was Joseph Nicholas Sheehan but he did not start the Sheehan Opera House. He originally came to the US in the mid 1890s and did sing in a number of opera houses. However, when he and my gr-grandmother married, he curtailed is singing career and took a position as a store manager in NYC. While I was working on my family history and spoke with Bob (Mr. Slezak) and I sent him the supporting information I had gathered.