Friday, June 29, 2007

Sunday June 29

Another day in Coney Island
with the boys, another dip
in the ocean.

We took a locker for the
season at Hahns at 31 st. sr
and went back to city with
running board of Rothblum's


Matt's Notes

I thought Papa wrote "we took a locker for the season at Hahus at 3rd. st." when I initially transcribed this entry, and I figured it might refer to a street intersection or a public park or something like that. But, thanks to the good people who aided my inquiry into the matter at the message boards, we now know that Papa was talking about Hahn's Baths at West 31st Street. This map from The Coney Island History Project shows that Hahn's was right on the Boardwalk and adjacent to the much larger Roosevelt baths (a housing development now stands in their place).

Interestingly, the Coney Island History Project also features several studio shots of people sitting in prop cars, so I wonder if the photo of Papa below was taken in a Coney Island photo studio:

The real car he rode in was, as we discussed during the first appearance of "Rothblum's auto" back in March, was probably a Model T sedan like the one below:

I asked my friend Sixto, who earns a fat salary as the Director of Automotive Research for Papa's Diary Project and is no stranger to New York City history, what it would have been like for Papa to ride the running board of a car all the way from Coney Island to the Lower East Side. Wouldn't the roads have been less congested and faster-moving than they are today, even with slower cars? Was Papa some kind of crazed daredevil to attempt such a trip? No, says Sixto:

Many cars had running boards (and they were very
sturdy, I've stood on several although not while

By the mid 20's the city could be quite congested with
traffic at times so it could have taken a long time. I
wouldn't be surprised if they sat in a traffic jam or
two leaving the very popular Coney Island area. June
29th was a Sunday, there could have been half a
million people there easily and probably more, and
while most took the subway, I'm sure there were also a
lot of autos on the street.
Good to know. Meanwhile, a world away in midtown Manhattan, the Democratic Convention took a Sunday break from its contentious proceedings. This allowed pundits time to speculate on how damaging the fight over anti-Klan language in the Democratic platform would be (as Will Rogers noted in a New York Times article, "It is a they can't do anything. If you can keep a Democrat from doing anything, you can save him from making a mistake. ")

I'm sure Papa was distressed, as were many other Democrats, over the convention's ongoing troubles. By now it was clear to most realistic observers that neither William McAdoo nor Al Smith, the frontrunners who stood on opposite sides of the Klan debate, would be able to muster enough votes to secure the nomination in an early ballot, if at all (as a Herald Tribune editorial pointed out, the whole debate was "portentous of disintegration.") By contrast, the Zionist Organization of America had just held its twenty-seventh annual convention in Pittsburgh and, without much ado, reelected Louis Lipsky as its chairman. Perhaps, as Papa sat at home that night glowing with sunburn and reading the evening papers, he was happy to know that at least one of the organizations he cared about had managed to behave itself.



Here are a bunch of cars in the real world (this is a detail from a 1923 photo of Coney Island's Dreamland parking lot). Check out the groovy motorcycle at left, too:


1 comment:

  1. Ah, you've never ridden on a running board. My dad used to point out that Secret Service agents routinely rode the running boards of the president's car. He said that the loss of running boards made the riders less safe.

    When we were little kids, we'd meet Daddy at the walk as he returned from work. My brother or I would climb onto the running board and, with Dad securing us with one arm, we'd ride up to the garage. It was fun; I had forgotten...