New York in the ’50s, Part II

I earlier posted some photography by my father who was an amateur shutterbug. I selected images that I thought would be of greatest interest, and they generated enough curiosity that there have been some requests for more. A lot of the rolls of negatives which I scanned were simply not print-worthy, but a few other images, although very mundane, are perhaps deserving of wider exposure, if only for candid glimpses of every day life in the Big Apple in the middle of the 20th Century.

New York ca

Street scene shot through a window, looking west from 1391 Madison Avenue.

New York Sweeper 4

The custodian seen in my previous post poses for a portrait.

NYC - Laundry

Laundry day: Wind and Solar power.

NYC 1953 551 5th Avenue

Another view up 5th Avenue

River View 4

New York Hospital from the East River

Rockefeller Center 1953

Rockefeller Center

St. Pat's Cathedral 1953

In front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral

2 Ladies

Two elegant ladies on a stoop

New York - Ferris Wheel

Ferris wheel at a street carnival

New York - Garden Exhibit 2

Garden sculpture exhibit

New York - Garden Exhibit 3

Garden sculpture exhibit

New York - Garden Exhibit 4

Garden sculpture exhibit

New York - Garden Exhibit

Garden sculpture exhibit

New York - School

School, possibly part of Hunter College

New York - Shy Girl

Shy girl

New York - Statue

Sculpture, possibly something my father may have done.

New York 1950 2

Performance at the New York City Library

New York 1950 3

City Library Lion

New York 1950 4

Passers-by and pigeons

New York 1950 5

Glamor on a stoop

New York 1950 6

Street scene

New York 1950 7

Street Scene

New York ca 1950 3

Garbage men clean up the city

New York ca 1950 5

A back alley with fire escape

The last set of photos were taken inside a camera shop. I suspect dad was just practicing with his camera; I don’t think he knew any of these people, but the faces from the ’50s seen here are full of character. I might clean some of these up a bit if I ever find the time.

Camera Store 1Camera Store 2Camera Store 3Camera Store 4Camera Store 5Camera Store 6Camera Store 7Camera Store 8Camera Store 9

The Old Wolf has spoken.

It’s Yesterday Once More: Cocoa Marsh

I first mentioned this product of the 60s as I was reminiscing about television.

First came Bosco, begun in 1928. Think Hershey’s Syrup, but nowhere near as nasty tasting. It made a lovely chocolate milk. And, interestingly enough, still available.


Of course that commercial, insidious as all the best commercials are, comes rushing back from the depths of my memory every time I hear a Bossa Nova beat:

But Bosco was soon aced out of our household by Cocoa Marsh, as I faithfully watched Claude Kirschner’s Three Ring Circus.

Claude Kirschner and Clowny

An older bottle of Cocoa Marsh.


A later bottle of Cocoa Marsh, the kind I was most familiar with.

cocoamarsh (Small)
Embossed on the bottom.

But what was cool about Cocoa Marsh (some have suggested that it contained marshmallow as a smoothing ingredient, hence the name, but I have not yet been able to verify this) was that you could get a pump. Dang, i gotta get me some of that, and as I recall, we did.

$_57 (1)

Notice above two images also carried the name of Yum-Berry, a berry-flavored variety of Cocoa Marsh, which I recall very fondly as well. It was short lived, and lasted only around a year if I remember correctly.

Cocoa Marsh marketed heavily through a variety of channels. The Soda Fountain below took the pump concept to the next level, and it looks familiar enough to me that I’d swear on a stack of Saturday Evening Posts that I owned one.

$_57 (3)

Marketing to older folks was not forgotten as well; here a Lionel O-gauge rail car with Cocoa Marsh vats.


Sadly, despite a massive advertising machine through children’s shows in New York, the product was unable to compete with Nestlé’s Quik™ and Ovaltine™ (which as a kid, I thought tasted like bat guano – sort of like comparing chocolate to carob, and just as disappointing.)

In passing, there were a couple of other products around at the time that popped up on my radar. One was Yoo-Hoo, an odd-tasting concoction that was pitched incessantly by Yogi Berra, and which is still available.


It was very strange tasting indeed, but somehow one got used to it.

The other was Flav-R-Straws, which first showed up in 1956, and which I remember well. They were wildly popular, and I was thoroughly in favor of them.


If only I had a TARDIS.

Edit: As an afterthought, I’m hardly the only one who remembers these things. A line from Diana Rubino’s recent novel, The End of Camelot:

The entire day had her eating Sugar Pops out of the box, washed down with Cocoa Marsh or Yum Berry.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Garbage Disposer in 1951

Having mentioned the Kiplinger Magazine in my previous post, I happened across this article in the same issue, and found it a fascinating look back to the year of my birth, six years after the end of World War II. An appliance most of us take for granted these days, and even consider when looking at a home to purchase, was at that time still a novelty. The article gives a look back through the chronoscope at what some people were thinking about this new-fangled device. From Changing Times, The Kiplinger Magazine, October 1951.



Almost a million electric garbage disposers are now in use, and they are putting the garbage man out of a job

GARBAGE is a nasty word. When fed to hogs, it was an even nastier name: “swill” or “slops.” The delicate refer to it as “food wastes.” Whatever you call it, it’s a mess when the bottom drops from a soggy paper bag as you rush the stuff to the kitchen door.

You may never face that domestic crisis again. A revolution is going on that may make the garbage can as outmoded as the privy.

Its successor will he the electric garbage dis­poser, that mechanical pig that sits under the kitchen sink, gobbling up your garbage and washing it down with cold water.

If you have a disposer now, you know why housewives love it. It ends a lot of fuss and muss. It eliminates smells and drippings. It speeds getting meals and cleaning up afterward. It’s self-c1eaning, and stray dogs can’t knock it over. It puts flies, roaches, rats and mice on a starvation diet.

If you still stick to the garbage can routine, you’ll probably switch to a disposer sooner or later. This gadget is catching on fast all over the country. In the Los Angeles area alone, 10,000 units are installed monthly. Home build­ers feature them in new houses. A Midwestern city installed them all over town and fired its garbage collector. Last year sales were nearly double those of the year before.

The mechanical pig was almost 20 years old before it began to go to town. General Electric put its Disposall on the market in the early 30’s. But by the time World War II came, only about 100,000 disposers were in use – not many for a nation that buys over 3 million vacuum cleaners a year.

One reason for its slow start was its price­ – well over $100. Housewives were skeptical, too. Could it really chew up their garbage like the ads said? Would it last? Some city officials, fearing ground garbage would clog sewer mains and overburden treatment plants, outlawed disposers.

An answer to the durability question came from Edward J. Zimmer of Chicago’s Plumbing Testing Laboratory. He ran a disposer for a year, cramming in as much waste as a family of eight would have in 25 years. For seasoning he fed in big helpings of ashes, sand, granite, paving blocks, glass, nail, even a few iron fittings. After a year his disposer was still grind­ing away. It was a little slower, but it continued to grind well.

Time has furnished another answer. The earliest disposers have now been in use for 15 years. They still work well. Apparently they will last 20 years, as their makers claim.

The disposer is not a hazard to sewer systems. In Zimmer’s test, the disposer scoured out sewer lines instead of clogging them. Experiments at the University of Texas and e1sewhere proved a reasonably well-built sewer could carry off with ease whatever the disposer sent its way.

Meanwhile, health officers have jumped on the disposer bandwagon. They have long opposed feeding garbage to pigs, because that may lead to trichinosis in people who eat garbage-fed pork. Besides, garbage cans are feeding stations for disease-spreading flies. The disposer can end both threats to health.

Prize exhibit in the disposer showcase is the little Indiana city of Jasper (pop. 6,000). Garbage was a headache there. The city paid farmers to collect it. People complained about the service. It was hard to get bidders for the job. It cost the city $6,000 a year. If Jasper were to set up its own collection and disposal system, the bill would be $13,000.

The city’s engineer-mayor, Herbert Thyen, thought city-wide installation of disposers would make Jasper a garbage-free city and save money, too. The city council agreed. It got the state legislature to pass a law permitting Indiana cities to use home disposer garbage systems and to float a bond issue to pay for them.

But Jasper decided not to force a disposer on anyone who didn’t want one. So it passed up the bond issue idea in favor of asking each householder to buy a disposer for a bargain $75. Local banks made loans to those who needed time to pay. Soon 1,000 families-enough to set the plan going-signed up. The mayor estimates Jasper will save $13,000 a year on garbage collection, plus $6,000 it used to spend spraying garbage cans.

Some authorities question these savings.

Garbage is only 10% of a city’s refuse, they say. The other 90% must still he collected. Also, the extra flow from universal use of disposers would up the cost of sewage treatment by about 60 cents per person per year. Jasper’s new plant is bigger than what would have been needed for garbage-free sewage alone. Nevertheless, 156 cities are considering following Jasper’s lead.

In a few cities, you still can’t have a disposer because local ordinances forbid them. Some bans exist where sewage systems are inadequate, or so close to it that they can’t handle even a small additional load. Others are holdovers from the days when the effect of disposers on sewers was unknown.

But the price of the disposer plus the cost of installation is still the biggest hobble on the mechanical pig. The average unit sold last year cost $135. Some installations cost more than the disposer itself, up to $150. The average is $65. It adds up to an investment most families think about twice.

Even so, the industry is doing nicely. It’s not big time yet, but ifs on its way. In 1949, 175,000 disposers were installed. In 1950 the total was 300,000. At the first of this year 775,000 were in use, 87% of them having been installed in the last four years.

There’s more competition now, too. One manufacturer had almost all the prewar business. Today, 15 makers are in the field, including a healthy proportion of small outfits.

At 300,000 units a year, the disposer business is still in its infancy. When it hits a million a year, it will be grown up. How soon that day comes depends on how much steel can he spared from defense. Right now, shortages are in prospect. But when the million mark is reached, the garbage can will be on its way to the museum.


In the market for a garbage disposer? Follow these steps:

Consider your sewer system. If you use regular city-type sewers, you can probably use a disposer. They’ll work with septic tanks, too, if the tank is big enough. Minimum size is 500 gallons. Larger sizes arc recommended if you have more than two bedrooms. If you use a cesspool, better forget the whole thing.

Check local laws. Before you commit yourself, be sure your town permits disposers. There may be special installation requirements, too. Your dealer will know.

Measure your sink.. If the drain opening is 3 1/2 to 4 inches across, a disposer will fit. An adapter fits some disposers to larger openings. It is possible to enlarge small openings.

Get the Installation costs. It takes both au electrician and a plumber to do the job. It may run you 20% to 150% of the cost of the disposer itself. So find out what it will cost in your particular case.

Pick your disposer. There are just two types. In one, you open the top and put in garbage as it grinds. In the other, you fill the hopper, close the top, and then switch on the unit. With 15 makes on the market, there are price differences. So shop around.

Add up the costs. Price of the disposer plus installation is what you pay. Figure it will last 20 veers and cost about 5 cents a month to operate. Don’t forget you’ll still need trash collection for metal, glass, seafood shells, paper, rubber, large bones. But you may not need a pickup as often as before.

Treat It fairly. Follow directions on what to put in and what to keep out. Learn to tell, by the sound, when the grinding is done. Switch off promptly to save money.

In 1951, if your disposer cost $150 and you were socked $135.00 to install it, that would come to equivalent value today of about $2,600, definitely not chump change. But given some of the problems mentioned in the article, which were pretty endemic to society in those days, it’s easy to see why the idea caught on, especially as prices dropped.

Dave Berg Garbage Communists

From Mad’s Dave Berg Looks at the USA, illustrating another common theme in the 50s and 60s. Some of us are still looking for Bolsheviks under our beds at night…

Of course, as we were reliably told by Hefty, you don’t necessarily need a disposer to handle that problem:

Nowadays you can find a serviceable model at a home-improvement store for about $100.00 and install it yourself. There are more expensive models, of course, but the cheaper ones work well and usually last around 10 years.

But now, the pendulum is beginning to swing the other way. An interesting article over at Remodelista covers pros and cons and gives tips on composting for those who are able to do it. As for us, we are fortunate enough to live in an area that permits backyard hens, which means we put almost nothing down the disposal and virtually nothing compostable into the landfill, and it comes back to us in the form of eggs. (The girls are taking a break at the moment, but if they don’t get with it our garbage will come back to us in the form of chicken enchiladas, which puts me in mind of this cartoon by Adrian Raeside:


Some older homes can’t handle a disposal well, and this should be taken into consideration. We bought a home that was built in 1950, before disposals were a household word. The downstairs kitchen was added later, and the contractor didn’t provide a big enough rise-over-run ratio from the new plumbing to the sewer main, so the long run of pipe would fill up with sludge which had to be rooted out from time to time. New construction should never have that problem.

In the end, the less we put down the pipes the better. it’s convenient and the technology allows for it, but there are increased costs in terms of sewage treatment, and if one can recycle, compost, or reduce waste in any way, then that’s the best way to go if we’re wanting to reduce our impact on island earth.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Memories of the Hayden Planetarium

I grew up in New York City in the 50s. My mother was a Utah girl who had dreams of going to the Big City to become an actress, and by dint of sheer determination she did just that; but while her roots were in the West, she did her best to make sure her offspring (me) was given as much cosmopolitan exposure as possible. This included regular visits to the Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium.

I have posted a couple of the images below before, but I thought I’d get a few thoughts about this wonderful place of education down in one place. Other images have been gathered from various places around the internet; I have tried to give appropriate attribution where available.

The centerpiece of the Planetarium was the Zeiss projector.

1956, Planetarium 1

Publicity shot for “Pepper Young’s Wife”, TV-Radio Mirror, March 1957, showing the Zeiss Mark II projector in use at the planetarium from 1935 to 1960.

Sitting in the auditorium, watching that behemoth rise up out of the floor, and seeing the stars and planets and nebulæ and galaxies swirling around the ceiling long before Heinlein had written Have Space Suit, Will Travel fired my imagination and gave me a longing to know about what was out there. I remember one show where they gave the audience a little controller and asked them to try aligning two objects in freefall, much the same as a space docking maneuver… it was a great lesson in the nature of inertia.


The control booth of the Star Theatre. I loved that flashlight the operator had which would project a little arrow on the dome – a precursor to today’s laser pointers.

Around the planetarium, as with the modern version and others like it around the country, were scattered various exhibits that I would stare at for hours.

1956, Planetarium 2

Here I am mugging for the photographer (“Look excited! Look excited!”), but it wasn’t much of an acting job. I loved looking at that rocket. A color postcard of the same scene is below:


Photo of a planetarium postcard by Andy Porter. Caption reads, “THE VIKING ROCKET. This authentic 45 foot precision instrument is an actual rocket composed in part of sections recovered from the wreckage of Vikings built by the Martin Company of Baltimore and used by the Navy to probe the upper atmosphere. A rocket like this reached an altitude of 158 miles in May 1954.”


Photo above and text from the archives of the Museum of Natural History: In 1955, the “most notable event of the year” at the Hayden Planetarium was the opening of the Viking Rocket exhibition. “One of the pioneer exploratory vehicles of the Space Age,” according to a 1961 Museum publication, the rocket was one of 12 that launched from 1945 to 1955, allowing new research on Earth’s upper atmosphere to be conducted.

The next exhibit that comes to mind was the orrery in the Copernican room; the original theatre was outfitted with folding chairs.


From a postcard. The description on the back reads: “Copernican Room showing solar system. Animated model of the solar system showing the sun in the center, and six of the nine known planets revolving around it. The planets also rotate on their axes as the real planets rotate, moving always at the correct relative speeds. Circling the Earth is a smaller globe, the moon, while Mars has two moons. Jupiter is shown with four of its eleven moons, and Saturn with five of its nine. Around the walls are shown the twelve zodiacal constellations and in the center of the floor a reproduction of the Aztec Calendar Stone.”

This model, while not to scale and not terribly dynamic, was intriguing in that it represented the orbits of the planets in real time. That meant slowly.  The planets would change imperceptibly, with the inner rocky planets changing somewhat between visits, and the outer planets moving hardly at all. The sun glowed a deep orange.


Closeup of Saturn with five of its then-known nine moons, 10/10/1935. From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York.

It is of interest to note that we have since identified 79 moons of Jupiter, and 62 around Saturn. [As of July 17, 2018]


American Museum of Natural History Library, image #327132 March 1960. Later, the room was transformed into a more formal auditorium.


The Aztec Calendar Stone

In another room was a place where you could weigh yourself on a series of scales which would show your weight on the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Each scale glowed a different color, and to the eyes of a five-year-old, these were some of the most wondrous things in existence. Cards were provided with which to record your individual results.


Image from Popular Science, August 1952. Explanation from the Hayden Planetarium at their Facebook page:

“Another innovation, which has proved of great popular interest, was an exhibit illustrating the principles of the force of gravity by means of six specially calibrated scales showing the actual weight of the visitor on different planets. In this undertaking the Planetarium enjoyed the cooperation of the Toledo Scales Company.”
– American Museum of Natural History Annual Report July 1950-June 1951

John Pazmino of NYSkies Astronomy pointed out that the effect of different weights was done just at the level of the display, not internally. In other words, the needle went to the same angle on each scale, and only the numbers in the background varied.

The exhibit was later updated and modernized:


American Museum of Natural History Library image #334305 September 1969

Like any good museum, there were souvenirs to be had.


From the collection of Tom Lesser.  I would swear on a stack of waffles that I had one of these; Heaven only knows what happened to it. I was too young at the time to appreciate much astronomy, but nowadays there are some wonderful planetarium and space-exploration programs available online and offline both.

know I had one of these keychain perpetual calendars, and loved it:


Again, sadly, lost in the mists of time.

The Willamette Meteorite was on display as well:

Willamette Meteorite

That is one huge hunk of extraterrestrial iron.

Many, many more photos can be seen at the Original Hayden Planetarium’s Facebook page. The ones I have gathered here represent my clearest memories, but the original planetarium had much more to offer. It was a place of wonder and delight. On my next trip to New York, I must be sure to visit the modern incarnation and see what has happened in the last 60 years or so.

Edit: The visit was accomplished, and the report is here.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Gordon Parks: Alabama, 1950’s


This beautiful picture by Gordon Parks is one of a series of 40 that will be on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. I had posted another image from this series here without attribution, which has now been rectified.

There is very little to say about this era of our history that has not already been said, and better, by other historians and sociologists. Yet this particular image strikes me with the sheer insanity of the entire proposition. Same restaurant, same server, same product, yet a separate window six feet away from the “White” one. None of it makes any sense, and as I take a long view of our nation, I realize that although superficial progress has been made, there is still far too much bigotry alive and well.

Read more about the exhibit at the Daily Mail.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

New York, 1950s

Some photos of New York City taken by my father, found while scanning his collection of negatives. This is the city I knew as a child. Dad was not a great photographer, but was very enthusiastic, and did his own developing and printing. These pictures were taken between 1950 and around 1959, based on what the cars look like. All black & white photography Copyright 1950-2014 Old Wolf Enterprises.

Below: two views of 35 Carmine Street.

New York - Polichetti's Bakery

New York - Saltzman Tailor

History: No. 35 Carmine Street was constructed in 1877 by Bavarian-born brickmason and prolific tenement builder Peter Schaeffler, at a time when many of Greenwich Village‘s Federal and Greek Revival-style row houses were being replaced by tenements constructed to house the growing working-class and immigrant population. Featuring elements of the popular neo-Grec style in the design of the lintels, sills, and cornice, the building housed stores on the ground story and four families on each floor above. Built just prior to the 1879 tenement house law, the building had only two small square airshafts. Census data for 1880 shows that sixteen families resided at no. 35 Carmine Street, including three native-born families; first-generation immigrant families from Ireland (four), England (three), and Germany (one); and second-generation immigrant families from Ireland (two), England (one), Germany (one), and Scotland, via Canada (one). Residents were employed as a hatter, lawyer, watch case maker, bill collector and laundry worker, among other occupations. 1930 census records indicate that all fifteen families residing there were first-generation immigrant families from Italy. Residents held a variety of occupations, including bakery proprietor, cabinet maker, longshoreman, operator (men‘s clothing), and hat trimmer. By 1935, the number of apartments per floor had been reduced to two. City directories list the following commercial tenants: Experienced Hand Laundry (1950), A. Polichetti, baker, and Irving Saltzman, clothier (1959). The storefront had been occupied by a bakery in the early 1910s as well. In 1938 the western airshaft was enlarged and in 1939 architect Sidney Daub oversaw replacement of the existing storefronts; except for these changes, the building remains largely unchanged since its construction.  (Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II, Designation Report, June 22, 1910)

35 Carmine Street

35 Carmine Street as of June 2011, Google Street View

New York 1950 - Milkman

Milkman for Sheffield Farms Co. with typical New York brownstone in the background.

New York 1950 1

45th Street and 5th Avenue, looking north. The Fred F. French building on the northeast corner.

45th Street North

The same view as of June 2011, Google Street View

New York 1950 1a

5th Avenue and 39th Street, looking north. A New York Public Library lion is visible on the left.

39th Street North

The same view as of June 2011, Google Street View

New York - Church

Our Lady of Pompeii, Carmine Street. This is my family’s parish; many blessed events have taken place here.

New York - Corner Scene\

Our Lady of Pompeii church on the corner of Carmine and Bleecker Street, looking northwest.

241 Bleecker Street

The same view as of 2014, Google Street View

New York - Bocce Court

Common street scene in Greenwich Village – the bocce court

New York - Brownstone

New York Brownstone

New York - Ferris Wheel


Local traveling carnival

New York Sweeper 5


Janitor caring for a small courtyard.

Joe Darkroom


Dad in his “darkroom.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

New York Subway, 1950’s

Those rattan-woven seats… I saw a picture of this subway car and had a flashback – as a child, I always thought they looked like corn on the cob. The fans on the ceiling… in the days before air conditioning, those subways could be stifling. And when the trains went over a dead spot in the 3rd rail and the lights went out, the little emergency lights in the ceiling would come on.

These were everywhere – Chiclets and Dentyne and gum, oh my – a piece for a penny. You’d put in your coin, slide the lever, and press it down to vend your prize, or just put your penny in the appropriate slot and turn the dial.

Two lines only: BMT and IRT. IND came later. When you’d get to 42nd Street, red and green light bulbs in the ceiling of the stations would guide you to the correct line, with blue ones for the cross town shuttle. Hole-in-the wall vendors: The Wizard’s Shop that sold magic; fresh-squeezed orange or papaya juice, all sorts of wonderful things.

Such elegant mosaic work in so many of the stations.

The Old Wolf has spoken.