Tag Archives: 1930s

The Original Entrance To The George Washington Bridge On The New York Side

The George Washington Bridge as seen from 179th Street – 1934

George Washington Bridge from Manhattan 1934

This is the way the George Washington Bridge looked in 1934, three years after opening in 1931 from the New York side. The changes that have occurred in the past 80 years are abundant. This view was photographed from between West 178th and 179th Streets.

Before finding this photograph I had always wondered what the George Washington Bridge looked like before several changes occurred to the original layout. The construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway / Alexander Hamilton Bridge connection; the addition of the lower level to the bridge; and the Port Authority bus depot; all in the early 1960s, changed the original roadway approach and exit configuration.

The light traffic is indicative of the era. A total of 6,148,876 vehicles crossed the bridge in 1934. Today over 114 million vehicles make the crossing.

What else has changed? Continue reading

The Restaurant Fire That Ended The Life Of Tom Stacks: The Most Unique Voice In Jazz -1936

The Tragic End of Tom Stacks, Star Crooner of The 1920’s

Tom StacksOnce you have heard Tom Stacks sing you would recognize his voice anywhere.

Tom Stacks was a tenor and a drummer appearing on hundreds of recordings in the 1920s and 1930s, primarily as a singer with Harry Reser’s band.

Stacks was a small man with an adolescent voice that sounded like he was singing with a perpetual smile.

Best demonstrating Stacks unique ability to turn a song into his own, is his rendition of a tune written by Richard Whiting and Byron Gay, Horses. If there was ever a novelty song with witty lyrics that epitomized the roaring twenties, this is it. (see lyrics at end of article)

Another song, Masculine Women and Feminine Men, a song written by Edgar Leslie and James V. Monaco seems more apropos for today rather than 1926. Continue reading

Rae Samuels & The Last Bottle Of Beer

Vaudeville Star Rae Samuels Tries To “Steal” A Heavily Insured Bottle of Beer

Rae Samuels last bottle of beer Dec 30 1932Will Prohibition Be Finished? – The last bottle of beer that was distilled in the U.S.A. before prohibition and that during several years was a fine attraction of theatres and shows in Chicago – Americans like a good joke, will surely “have lived.” This bottle of beer has been insured against “accidents” for $25,000.

You know, it’s funny how some stories change when you start looking into them.

When I first started to write about this news photograph the focus was on the end of prohibition. But then I wondered who was the unidentified woman in the photograph? It turned out that her story was more interesting than the beer bottle and the end of prohibition.

The woman being “pinched” by the cop is Rae Samuels, for over 20 years one of vaudeville’s biggest stars, earning $2,500 per week. She is so forgotten today that she does not even have a Wikipedia page. Continue reading

Gangster Al Capone Goes To A Baseball Game

Hall-of-Famer Gabby Hartnett Signs Autographs For Al Capone and His Son – 1931

Al Capone sees a Cubs game with son as Gabby Hartnett signs autograph 1931 9 10Associated Press Photo From Chicago

Al Capone takes his son to the ball game surrounded by his watchful lieutenants. Chicago’s gang chief and his 12-year-old son, Al Jr., get Gabby Hartnett of the Cubs to autograph a baseball just before the Cubs defeated the White Sox, 3 to 0, in a charity game before 35,000 spectators at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Sept. 9. Pictures of Capone before the public are not frequent, and a pose with his son is rare. He affectionately calls the boy “Sonny.”

Note the watchfulness of one of his bodyguards directly behind him. A pop-corn vendor evidently rubbed his shoulder and he looks ready to protect his chief. 9-9-31

This photograph made me wonder if Al Capone’s bodyguards were licensed to carry firearms and if they were packing heat when they visited Comiskey Park? It certainly looks like the bodyguard is reaching into his jacket to pull out his “roscoe” or maybe it was his wallet to pay for the popcorn.

One other thing to note: “Sonny,” does not look thrilled to be at the ballpark, much less getting an autograph from Gabby Hartnett.

Classic Hollywood #47

Harold Lloyd Between Takes On The Set of Professor Beware! – 1938

Harold Lloyd on set 1939Noted fun-maker rests during an idle moment on location. Harold Lloyd , now in production on his current comedy “Professor Beware!” is seen here taking it easy between “takes”. This is the first Lloyd picture in almost two years. – photo: Harold Lloyd Productions

In the 1920s Harold Lloyd was one of the top box office stars. By the 1930s he was reduced to making a film every two years. With the completion of Professor Beware!, LLoyd said he was now planning on getting ramped up and start making two films per year.

Instead, Professor Beware! turned out to be Harold Lloyd’s next to last film.

The story for Professor Beware! was written by Colonel Crampton Harris, the former law partner of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black.

Lloyd plays an egyptologist who sees parallels between ancient happenings and his own life that seem like reincarnation and may spell doom for him. Lloyd’s co-star was the unknown Phyllis Welch, but Lloyd had originally offered the female lead to Jean Arthur, who turned it down.

A strange story connected with the film concerns the usually inoffensive Lloyd almost being censored. The Hays office called Lloyd and his staff in for a meeting and wanted a scene cut in which Lloyd’s character is driving in the street, bumps into a fire engine and tells the firemen there is a fire at the pier and yells “fire!” Lloyd was flabbergasted and asked what was wrong with saying “fire”.

Lloyd insisted to the censor that removing the scene would ruin the plot. The Hays office censor said that no actor should ever say the word “fire” on screen. The censor explained that two times previously it had led to  trouble  when a person out on the street buying a ticket at the box office heard the word fire and went to call the fire department.

Lloyd asked the overzealous censor if he had seen the film in a projection booth with no audience and if he had laughed, to which which replied that is where he viewed the movie and  he had not laughed. In a real theater situation, Lloyd explained, the audience would be laughing so hard at that point, that when the word fire was uttered no one would be able to hear it. Believe it or not, the censor agreed with this argument and left the scene intact.

The movie itself did not catch fire and was greeted lukewarmly by the critics and the public. Lloyd then made up his mind to give up acting until “he found the right story.”

After a career appearing in over 200 films, it took another seven years for the highly popular Lloyd to make another film, which ended up being his final movie The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (released 1947).

In 1945 producer-director Preston Sturges convinced Lloyd that he should play the lead character in his new film which was originally slated to star Eddie Bracken as Harold Diddlebock. Considering Sturges’ reputation as a comedic genius, Lloyd agreed.

In an interview with the New York Times after the filming was completed, LLoyd said, “Basically, Preston and I think alike even when our approach is different. I like to go out on the set with a scene mapped out and work from my head; Preston comes on with a blueprint he’s sweated over beforehand to the last detail. He can do his cutting a reel at a time, and stay with it indefinitely; it’s an effort for me to stay in a projection room with an uncut story. After I’ve seen three good ideas go through the chopper, I have to come up for air.”

The strained creative relationship Continue reading

The First Day Of School In New York City 1937

Giving The Teacher An Apple – 1937

New York City school photo giving the teacher an apple 1937

Today, September 9, 2015 marks the first day of school here in New York City.  It might seem like a cliche now, but in the not so distant past, on the first day of school, many children really did present their teachers with an apple, as shown here in this 1937 NYC Schools photo.

The mode of dress may have changed, but the excitement and trepidation of the first day of school hasn’t.

Mel Ott Rare Batting Photos

The Unusual Swing Of New York Giants Star Mel Ott

Mel Ott swing sequence 1

It’s hard to imagine in this era where everyone is recording everything, that there is very little film of the old time great players (pre-1950) actually playing.

Because of this when all-time, all-star lists are drawn up the players, modern ballplayers usually get picked over old-timers because there are few people alive who saw those old-timers play. There are exceptions like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and other greats who have superb stats or reputations that have carried into the 21st century. They get named to those all-time lists. But many of the early 20th century’s great players are mostly forgotten.

A case in point is Mel Ott, the  slugger who played his entire career with the New York Giants from 1926 until 1947. Ott had 2,876 hits, 511 home runs, drove in 1860 runs and hit .304 in his 22 year career.

The left-handed hitting Ott had one of the strangest batting stances in baseball, lifting his right leg high in the air while the pitch was on the way to the plate.

In this rare sequence of photos Continue reading

Marching In New York For Their Socialist Agenda May 1, 1934

May Day Parade 1934

May day parade Madison Ave May 1 1934 photo APWhile this may look like a group of Nazi women dressed like stormtroopers marching up Madison Avenue it is actually just a bunch of American socialists resembling the sieg heiling Nazi’s.

The original caption for this news photo reads as follows:

The Red Flag of Socialism

A general view of the parade of the Socialists up Madison Avenue in New York May 1.  A group of women Socialists carried red flags and sang and shouted as they marched. Parades were held throughout the city by various groups but there was no disorder of any kind. (Associated Press Photo 5-1-34)

In the first half of the 20th century, every May Day in New York would bring thousands of activists out into the streets to march and promulgate their ideas . Many were just plain old Socialists, however there would be smaller parades of Communists, anarchists, Industrial Workers of the World, or other labor groups who had a concern or cause.

In 1932, the Socialist party presidential candidate Norman Thomas received 884,895 votes, a little more than 2% of all ballots cast.

Mostly the May Day marches in New York Continue reading

Lifebuoy Soap Body Odor Ad 1933

My Dear, You Smell of B.O.

Lifebuoy Soap Ad - Schenectady Gazette March 13, 1933

Lifebuoy Soap Ad – Schenectady Gazette March 13, 1933 (click to enlarge)

“What a kill-joy B.O. is!” says this 1933 Lifebuoy comic strip ad.

“Perhaps its your fault,” says Auntie to Mrs. B.O.

Nothing like being direct.

The Lifebuoy ad warns that B.O. make life miserable for its victims. I like that  it is whispered in parenthesis in case you don’t know that B.O. stands for body odor.

And to add a dramatic flair, B.O. “threatens their jobs, social positions – even their homes!”

Fortunately of course there is a Continue reading