Christmas Restaurant Nostalgia The Finale: Bickford’s & The Automat

December 22nd, 2013 § 0 comments

Some 60 years ago, HG was a New York journalist. There was a pleasant custom at International News Service/International News Photos (where HG was employed). Jewish journalists would volunteer to replace their non-Jewish colleagues on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so the non-Jews could enjoy these holidays with their family. And, that’s why HG worked at the news desk on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Where to have dinner? HG’s favorite dining places were closed. The shot-and-beer-chaser bars were open but populated by maudlin or surly drunks. HG’s workplace was on E. 45th, just east of Third Avenue ( at the time, the El was still rumbling overhead). Nearby Lexington Avenue had a Bickford’s Restaurant on the northeast corner of 45th and a Horn and Hardart Automat on the southeast. So, Christmas Eve HG dined (with good appetite) at Bickford’s. The special of turkey with all the fixings (and extra gravy upon HG’s request) was tasty. Dessert was pumpkin pie a la mode and HG “corrected” his coffee with cognac from HG’s concealed flask. Christmas Day found HG at the Automat. Three hot casseroles were lined up before HG (plucked from the Automat’s windowed wall of savories): Beef Pie, Macaroni and Cheese, Baked Beans (topped with a strip of bacon). Coconut custard pie for dessert. “Corrected” coffee. Well meaning friends expressed concern that these meals might prove depressing. They were not. Yes, HG’s fellow diners were not a jolly group. But, the lonely folk were quiet and unobtrusive, allowing HG the peace in which to read a bundle of newspapers while sipping brandy-laced coffee.


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