The Manhattan El

June 18th, 2012 § 0 comments

Elevated trains still rumble through The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. None in Manhattan. This wasn’t the case when little HG was growing up and the ELs (as they were called) ran along Second Avenue, Third Avenue, Sixth Avenue and Ninth Avenue. Noisy. The El made Second Avenue a low end street, furtive with shadows and subway grime. Sixth Avenue was devoted to middle class shopping and the train took you directly to Macy’s on Herald Square. Ninth Avenue was a manufacturing street. Third Avenue was lively. Many restaurants and scores of Irish bars. Loved the various stations on the Third Avenue line with their little cupolas for the change giver (the comedian Jackie Gleason’s mother was one of these ladies) and the pot bellied stoves where you could keep warm while waiting for the train. HG and his late beloved sister, Beulah K., would take the El at Fordham Road in The Bronx (fare was five cents) and take a downtown trip. Exciting. We looked into countless tenement windows (witnessed some entertaining scenes), backyard gardens of brownstones and, best of all, the huge copper pots of the Jacob Ruppert Brewery in the 90’s. We exited at Chatham Square. Chinatown. A big lunch. Wonton soup. Roast pork (or barbecued spare ribs). Shrimp chow mein. Almond cookies. Lots of tea. Lavish lunch for 25 cents. Strolled to Union Square Park on 14th to hear Communists, Anarchists, Socialists, Trotskyites harangue crowds from soapboxes. No Fascists or Capitalists. Free speech, yes. But, there were limits.

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