Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian.
“I’m always chasing rainbows,” was often sung by my mother although she always saw colors even where drab was visible to anyone else. And the famous song from “The Wizard of Oz” with “Somewhere over the rainbow” was supposed to be inspirational, although I much preferred “Follow the yellow brick road” with its happy beats. But pots of gold, and wishes were associated with the arc that sometimes appeared after rain. For me, during girlhood, the word was part of place’s name.
Perhaps you’ve a tangible landmark that draws you back in time and evokes past experiences. Maybe it’s a covered bridge in Vermont, train station in downtown Los Angeles, aquarium just over the Ohio River in Kentucky, Ben Franklin’s statue at Penn. Maybe there’s even a song-word that takes you back in time.
I live near Lake Ontario and it is 400 miles from once-familiar so I’m not aware of downstate alterations in property. When a newspaper mentioned New York City’s Rainbow Room re-opened autumn 2014, I recalled its slightly noisy revolving dance floor which, the article noted, had been replaced with one that silently circles. Do memories quietly spin?
Rockefeller Center was for ice skates, dining at either restaurant at each end of the rink while watching twirling blades, and the Rainbow Room. A childhood delight, with my parents, was to take the elevator to the 65th floor. I felt special. Many nightclubs were geared for families; I could “swing and sway with Sammy Kaye” at the Hotel Commodore, and actually was given a baton to lead the band. While that was eventful, there was no sensation of ‘wow’ when I walked into there as I felt when a skyscraper’s windows could capture clouds and rainbows might appear in such a view.
When I was in grad school at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, I actually had to attend a behind-the-scenes television session in the building of Rockefeller Center. The
advanced degree for English majors in the field of Secondary Education also meant understanding media. The feature was “Howdy Doody”. “Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay” was the theme song. Bob Smith wore western clothing as he manipulated puppets, and the atmosphere depicted the innocence of the times. Shows were live. Computers, cell phones, DVD’s were so far into the future that few could have imagined them. Being exposed to what television viewers
didn’t see required little time and effort., but, for me, the majesty of the building changed when it became a classroom.
My commute to Columbia from Flushing was by Long Island Railroad, then a subway. Most grad school courses were at night since many who attended had day jobs. Wednesdays actually had a few daytime classes, and was when I went to the NBC Studio and saw “Howdy Doody” in the making. Did my widow-mother worry when I boarded a subway very late at night, and if I missed the last Port Washington train from Penn Station and had to continue by subway to Flushing Main Street, board a Q-28 bus to 165th Street, then walk to my childhood house? I didn’t realize until I had adult children how difficult it had to be to keep that concern to herself, or why she stayed up until she heard my key in the doorlock.
On performance nights, The Metropolitan Opera’s old theatre near Times Square had to have its sets actually on the sidewalk in full view of pedestrians. The Librettos were books, and no superscripts lit words in translation. It moved to Lincoln Center in 1966 and vanished from its old sidewalks in 1967. The Tavern on the Green restaurant, noted for a garish interior is a new
and subdued place. The Waldorf Astoria Hotel was purchased, October 2014, by a Beijing based insurance group. Protesters in this 21st century are still trying to remove the charming horses and
buggies from Central Park. Rumpelmayer’s ice cream in the Hotel St. Moritz, when my parents offered me an extra-special dessert treat, closed in 1999.
What spots are etched into your recollections? Was a juke box present in the space you enjoyed hot fudge sundaes while sitting on red leather seats? Does a specific tunnel or bridge bring you into a time-period and make you smile? Did you feed pigeons by a statue in a park that evokes thoughts if reading about that area?
Although I still live 400 miles from my growing-up place, and may have physically been transplanted, some special memories are, as the Rainbow Room, still seeing the colored streaks in the sky.
Summer 2017, an in-town granddaughter was going with another college friend to New York. What might I want her to see to snap on her phone and e-mail? My ‘don’t miss’ suggestions, for her, were different from this question. She did pass Atlas’ golden body holding up the world, glanced at an area she’d been told held artificial ice during the season, took an elevator to the 65th floor .... a guard was present. Seems 9-11 affected even taking a peek at the Rainbow Room when not in use. Her “sorry” was whispered into her smartphone.