Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B Is for Brooklyn, 1963

Theme ~ My 50 Years in America

My dad is the young child in this picture from around 1906, featuring my grandmother, grandfather, her parents and a few of her siblings. One of my grandmother's brothers emigrated to America in 1911 and was living in Brooklyn when I arrived in New Jersey in 1962. In the early spring of 1963, I went to visit great-uncle Nils and aunt Lilly in Brooklyn. 

 Port Authority Bus Terminal, 1963

Getting around without a car in these United States has never been easy, but it can be done. That day, so long ago, I took a bus from Princeton to Port Authority, the large bus terminal in midtown Manhattan, and caught a subway to Brooklyn from there. 

The borough of Brooklyn consists of many ethnic neighborhoods. Back then, there was still a Scandinavian section where my great-uncle lived. Their street was lovely, lined with old brick rowhouses with stoops separated by wrought iron railings, street lamps from a bygone era, and trees still bare in early spring. 

Federal style row houses in Brooklyn

My great-uncle's apartment did not disappoint, it was decorated in an old-fashioned style with antimacassars on velvet wing-chairs, a large sideboard upon which sat cut crystal bowls and bottles, and a silver coffee service. My great-uncle, who looked exactly like my grandmother, something that I found a bit disconcerting, why I don't know, served me a glass of sherry. 

After we got acquainted, they took me to a neighborhood restaurant for dinner. And that's where it happened! 

Manhattan cocktail ingredients. ~ No wonder!

For younger readers: 1963 was a time of cigarettes and cocktails, Mad Men style. So when they ordered Manhattans, I said I wanted one too. I had never tasted this drink of rye or Canadian whiskey, mixed with sweet red Vermouth, and, as it turned out, it was way too potent for me. Of course, the sherry I had earlier didn't help any. I soon realized that my elderly relatives were far more experienced than I; that they were, in fact, serious tipplers. While I was quite the novice and should have been more careful.

No matter how much food or how many cups of coffee I consumed, by the time the visit was over I was still really tipsy. The way back was long, through a New York City that, at the time, was anything but safe. Somehow I made it back to Port Authority, somehow I caught the correct bus, and somehow I managed to make it home to Princeton. 

My dad and I at the Washington Memorial, 1964

A year later, my dad came to visit and, after being properly warned about the Manhattan cocktail, went off on buses and subways to see his uncle in Brooklyn. On his way back to Princeton, he got lost in the New York City subway system. My roommate, Christina, and I were terribly worried before he finally showed up, full of tales to tell about his evening under that great city. 

While I have such clear memories of the first part of my visit with my great-uncle and aunt, the latter part, after the Manhattan cocktail, is completely gone in a fog of whiskey and Vermouth. 

Source: Wikipedia ~ For photos other than mine.


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