It was a slow process to convince my parents that I was old enough to take a trip to New York City with friends. Surprisingly, they finally agreed, but it was with the stipulation that my older sister Lois accompany us. (I might have known there would be strings attached, but as Lois and I were currently speaking, I thought, what the heck?)
The trip was actually a gift from mom and dad upon my recent high school graduation. So us tourists started off in a station wagon, with Lois having hung an entire wardrobe on the rod above our rear seats. “They really DRESS in New York!” she said, apologetically. (I think she may also have included a picture hat or two in her initialed hat boxes.) So, with suits, coats and dresses swinging overhead in our faces, we began the coveted journey.
The first night was spent in the sulfur-laden air in a West Virginia hill town. Our motel was located in front of a radio station, which was playing the hits of the day. (Unfortunately, I had just met “Mr. Right” the weekend before and, knowing he would be back in town while I was away, put a definite damper on the entire trip. Did they really have to play, “Miss You,” “Ghost of a Chance” and “Till the End of Time?”)
The next day, we rode to Washington D.C. and toured the historical sites of that beautiful city. We had dinner that evening in a fancy Italian restaurant with a young, strolling violinist. He seemed to linger near our table and my glamorous sister (but I whispered to her, “He doesn’t want to date you; he only wants a tip.”) She smiled at him.
Then, it was on to The Big Apple. To reach it, we had to go through the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River. Ordinarily, I would have been let out of the car rather than be trapped in a tunnel, but New York lay at the end of it and I was not about to let my claustrophobia get in the way.
We were booked into the Hotel Empire, Broadway at 63rd Street and went there at once. Lois and I were shown a room on the seventh floor that overlooked a brick wall. She demanded a room with a better view, so the poor over-worked bellman once again had to lug her gigantic wardrobe to another room. I tried to tell her it would be the same thing all over again. (Tourist hotels had the reputation of offering undesirable views.)
The next day, we were slated to visit two television shows: “Strike it Rich,” (the “show with a heart”) and “The Garry Moore Show.” Both audiences were filled with people from Brooklyn and their accents were almost as much fun to listen to as the shows.
In the evenings, we attended stage shows, seeing Tony Bennett, comedian Jan Murray and new hit singer Toni Arden. We also attended Radio City Music Hall and thrilled to the precision dancing of the famous “Rockettes.”
In the daytime, we toured the city in a glass-topped bus, with a bored college student doing the commentary. We stopped at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and later, at a temple in Chinatown. The priest invited us to strike the big gong there, once, for health, twice for wealth and three times for love. One girl in our party couldn’t tear herself away from the attraction and couldn’t stop from seeking it all.
Another evening, we were walking toward the Paramount Theater and noticed the entrance was roped off. Klieg lights were flashing to announce the world premiere of the movie, “A Place in the Sun,” starring Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift and Shelley Winters. It was thrilling to see the stars arrive in their limousines. They appeared even more glamorous in person than they did in films.
We started home the next day but there was a terrible storm as we headed down the Pennsylvania Turnpike and we decided we must spend the night somewhere en-route home. We pulled into an ancient village that must surely have been warned by Paul Revere, “The British are coming!” (No doubt he had first tried to reach them via Alexander Graham Bell’s new invention but the line was busy.)
The early 19th century ambience of the old hotel didn’t excite us but we were too tired to care. At least the beds were clean…
Lois and I shared a second floor bedroom and she was immediately asleep. Soon I followed. I was abruptly awakened by some “entity” that kept trying to push me out of bed. I awoke with a start, turned on the light and nobody was there. So, thinking I had dreamed the incident, I went back to sleep. The same thing happened again! I switched the light once more and again…nothing. By this time I was angry! “Go haunt somebody else!” I shouted and went back to sleep.
Our travel funds were depleted due to the unexpected overnight stay so we were forced to survive the next day on crackers and cheese from a country store. The little, old man who ran the store seemed happy we stopped in.
It was a great trip and six decades later, I still enjoy reminiscing about it.