Oh, did I not want to post this one. It’s not the content, it’s the fact that this is the last picture in the “Dubin at Work” series. What a pleasure it has been to share Harry and Ron Dubin’s amazing creativity. What a gift they’ve left us with. If you are new to this series of color photos of old New York, click here for the first post and story. Click on the tag to the right for the rest of the pictures. I have two treats to accompany the post. The first is a copy of Harry’s notes that were included with the photos when they were put on exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. Click on the page to enlarge it.
This morning, I spoke to Ron Dubin on the phone. To hear Â what he had to say about the series, click here.
So here’s the last one. Think of it as Harry waving goodbye. So long, Harry, we’ll miss you.
I don’t know what Harry is actually pretending to do in this shot. Is he squeezing Â a very small cantaloupe, or is he just bragging to his assistant, ‘Look, Melvin, I can palm a grapefruit.”
I do know he’s behind the wheel of his own delivery truck, and what a great truck it is. Check out where they put the rearview mirror in those days.
The photo, as always, is clickable.
At first glance this might seem like a pedestrian entry in the series, but I think it paints a vivid picture of Upper East Side life back then, maybe elsewhere as well. In those days a customer had a very personal relationship with the grocer who knew all his/her customers’ food preferences. My guess is here the woman is placing her order which will be delivered some time that afternoon. It might be the weekly groceries or the food needed for a dinner party that night.Â That was the way it was done for decades up through the 1950s when supermarkets began to make inroads and quickly dominated the business. I’m sure the jacket and bowtie Harry is wearing are his own. The photo below is clickable, and for those new to this amazing series, click on the Harry Dubin tag for the previous photos and the original stories about Harry.
I thought I’d drop another Harry Dubin shot here. This one isn’t hard to date. Home Sweet Homicide came out in 1947. It’s also not hard to place the street where Harry is standing. I do wonder though who sold balloons on the street in a suit and fancy overcoat. Something tells me in this case Harry didn’t change clothes with the peddler.
I did get a little laugh when I looked up the movie my guide and saw that it co-starred Peggy Ann Garner. When I was researching The Box, my book about early TV, I interviewed a former DuMont director who told me that Garner did a lot of live TV in those days, and she had a bit of a reputation â€” but not for her acting chops Â â€” so much so that around the station she was known as Peggy Ann Gornisht.
Of course, her reputation was nothing compared to Judy Tyler‘s, who as Princess Summerfall Winterspring on Howdy Doody made the show curiously exciting for thousands of adolescents around the country. They certainly never saw a Native American woman depicted like that in their textbooks. Tyler made Daisy Mae look like Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies. Dominick Dunne delighted in telling me about her immense sexual appetite and then called me every name in the book for quoting him accurately. Somewhere I have that letter. The backstage folks on Howdy Doody were riotously funny. I could barely transcribe my tape of Dayton Allen because I couldn’t hear his voice over my shrieks of laughter. Allen was the one most responsible for the wild atmosphere behind the scenes. The rehearsals were so filthy that the staffers at NBC waited in line to get in so they could watch Flubadub humping Mr. Bluster.
Not everyone was so delightful though. Now I can tell the story about how I was told if I wanted to interview Buffalo Bob I shouldn’t try to do so after five because chances were he’d already be wasted by then. Me being me, I called him at six. He picked up the phone and said hello in such a bleary voice I swore I could smell the alcohol on his breath through the phone line. Remember Otis on Andy of Mayberry? That’s what he sounded like.
“Yeah, who is this?”
“My name is Jeff Kisseloff. I’m writing a book about early television, and I’ve been interviewing the cast of Howdy Doody. I’d love to include you.”
“Who else did you interview?”
“Well, today I saw your old director, Howard Davis.”
“Howard Davis? Stay away from that faggy old asshole.”
“[Me, in a kid's voice] Gee, thanks, Buffalo Bob. Maybe I should talk to you another time.”
I don’t know how I got from Harry to Buffalo Bob. That’s the fun of not having either an editor or a space limit. Here’s the picture. Click on the photo to supersize it, and for those who are new to this amazing series of photos, click here for the first post in the series to read how it came about. It’s a great story. Even Buffalo Bob would enjoy it. Then there was my interview with Captain Kangaroo. Another day. Here’s Harry:
Except this isn’t a sandwich sign. I have no idea what you would call it, but it’s essentially the same thing. Actually, it looks like one of those stocks that people got locked into in a New England town for the crime of adultery, cursing or parking your horse in front of someone else’s house.
Either way, four bits for a haircut sounds pretty good too me, although you have to be a kid to qualify for that one. That doesn’t make sense to me. My grandfather had about eight hairs on his head when he got into his thirties. Why should he have had to pay the extra dime? As usual, click on the photo to supersize it and if you’re unfamiliar with the series click on the tag to the right.
First, thanks to one of our aceÂ detective readers, Jack, you can now see the cover of the Life magazine that Harry Dubin was selling the day he was posing as a newspaper vendor in June 1957. Here it is:
Now the following long predates Harry, but I thought if any of you wanted to impress your friends by convincing them you were once a diehard Communist, here’s your chance. Below is the front and back of a blank membership card in the Workers’ Party of America, which was actually the above-ground unit of the Communist Party USA formed after its leadership was forced underground in the 1920s by the the goon squad, also known as the Justice Department â€” ironically.
Here’s the card:
If I were a better detective (and if I had actual time on my hands), I could probably figure out the date of this photograph from the issue of Life magazine that Harry is selling. By clicking on the photo, you can make out the “I Am” hed on the magazine cover, but “I am” what? “a zombie”? “a Communist for the FBI”? “Spartacus”? I suppose thumbing through the Life covers on Google might turn up the correct answer.
This is probably the grainiest photo of the bunch but it’s clear enough to pick up what must have been the sharpest pair of trousers ever seen on a street corner vendor. Those are what people used to call “slacks,” and I’m sure they were a dead giveaway. How come people don’t call them “slacks” anymore? Probably for the same reason why people no longer buy newspapers. Things change.
I guess the only real question is whether the actual lifeguard let Harry wear his bathing suit. Either way, you can see all too well why lifeguards were popular with beachgoers. As always, click on the picture to supersize it, and click on the tag to the right for information about his great series, which is approaching its end.
If you lived in Manhattan in the ’70s and ’80s, or if you commuted to the area around 57th Street and Broadway, you’re apt to remember the guy who used to station himself by Lee’s arts supply store, and, canteen in one hand, a cup in the other, would belt out ‘O Sole Mio and other operatic classics in a voice so strained and off-key that it would peel the remaining paint off the sides of the nearby buildings. Really, he’d be screeching out those songs, and my vocal chords would hurt. Nonetheless, he would be out there day after day for years before he disappeared. Then, at some point in the mid-90s, I was walking down the block, and there he was singing again, and suddenly it was like old times: The Upper West Side was no longer gentrified (My favorite line about that neighborhood, “I remember Columbus Avenue when it was on the West Side”), Tom Seaver was on the mound for the Mets and Richard Nixon was still thought of as a national disgrace. Alas, the poor fellow’s voice was even worse than it was before. Barely, a whisper, he could hardly even screech. Even the pigeons took pity on him and refrained from shitting on his head. Homeless people dropped quarters into his cap.
Anyway, he’s no longer there, and neither am I. Manhattan is now a playground for tourists and the wealthy, and there are actually two or three hundred people who think that Richard Nixon was a great guy.
All this bloviation is an introduction to the photo below of Harry doing another great acting job, singing his own version of ‘O Sole Mio (I’m sure much better than the poor guy on 57th Street) in a borrowed green sport jacket and pants that are either his rolled-up or the other fellow’s that are too short. I think I recognize his loafers though. The only thing missing is the monkey. Harry told me he was very proud of this shoot, because several people did put coins in his cap. They probably felt sorry for him, he admitted. Click on the photo to supersize it. For those new to this series of photos of New York in the 1940s and 1950s, click on the tag at the right to read all about it and follow it from the beginning.
Unless they were employing some kind of winch back then that isn’t currently in use, it would be hard to distinguish Harry, the 1940s-1950s firefighter in this picture, from a current member of Engine 13, a downtown New York house when this was shot. I do think though this is one of Harry’s greatest acting jobs, or maybe his red face is just the result ofÂ exertion. But clearly he’s watching the flames, waving gawkers out of harm’s way, and, most importantly, not wearing his fancy brown loafers.
As always, click on the photo to supersize it and on the Harry Dubin tag at the right for background on this great series.