New Year’s Eve 1937: My grandparents in Times Square

I hold a special place in my heart for my ancestors who have spent some time in New York City — my chosen home town — either as residents or visitors. So imagine my delight to discover that my paternal grandparents spent New Year’s Eve 1937 amid throngs of revelers in Times Square.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2006677804/
Times Square north at night. (1934) My paternal grandparents, Molly and Ray Charboneau, were among the throngs of revelers who gathered here on New Year’s Eve 1937. Photo: Library of Congress

This bit of family news came from entries in the diary of my paternal grandmother — Mary (Owen) Charboneau — describing her 1937-38 holiday trip to New York City with my grandfather Ray.

Throughout the year, my paternal grandparents lived way upstate in sparsely populated Otter Lake, Oneida County, New York.

They operated the Otter Lake Hotel, which bustled with tourists during the warmer months. My grandfather also drove the local school bus during the school year to help make ends meet.

But when winter arrived in the Adirondack foothills, and schools were on break, Ray and Molly (as she was known) had a chance to get away — which is just what they did 79 years ago this week.

A 1937 holiday journey

According to my grandmother’s diary, she and my grandfather left Otter Lake for New York City on 29 Dec. 1937 — which meant they arrived in the city just one week after the Lincoln Tunnel opened to traffic.

Dec. 29, 1937: Left Otter lake for N.Y. Drove to Utica and then took train. Nice weather. No snow. Arrived N.Y. 6:30 pm.

They likely stayed with my grandmother’s sister, Katherine (Owen) Negri — known in our family as Aunt Kate. She always rolled out the welcome mat for relatives, according to various family members who had stayed at her West 78th Street apartment.

I’m sure Aunt Kate, a long-time Manhattan resident, advised my grandparents on what sights to see — because my grandmother cataloged a busy itinerary.

Dec. 30, 1937: Went to Radio City & Music Hall. Very beautiful. N.B.C. very interesting. I like New York.

Dec. 31, 1937: Down-town to see the stores in N.Y. Times Square at night to see Old Year out. What a mob! Never again.

I had to laugh at her mixed review of the huge metropolis, because New York City is exactly that way — much to love and a sparkling jewel at holiday time, but be prepared for the crowds!

A museum, a show and dinner with friends

Nevertheless, my grandparents continued undaunted through two more days of touring  — jamming as much as they could into their brief time in the city before returning to their routines back home.

Jan. 2, 1938: Took in Museum of Natural History. Show at Lowe’s State Theatre. Went to Ed and Kay Unser’s for dinner. Nice time. Rainy.

Jan. 3, 1938: Home again. Very tired, but had a grand time. Hope we can go again soon.

Jan. 4, 1938: School again. Very open winter so far.

In the end, my grandmother gave New York City a good review. And why not? The city undoubtedly gave her great stories to share with friends and family back home — and with the hotel delivery people she liked to sit and chat with over a cup of tea during the long, snowy winter afternoons.

Happy New Year to you and yours from Molly’s Canopy!

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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2 thoughts on “New Year’s Eve 1937: My grandparents in Times Square”

  1. Thank you for publishing this. It makes it feel like I was there too. I love New York and the busyness. As I sit at home in rural Ireland, I am transported to the lights and people and hustle and bustle of the City that Never Sleeps. Roll on my next visit!
    Looking forward to more stories!
    All the best
    Lorraine

    1. Thanks for your comment, Lorraine. I am so pleased that my grandmother’s short diary entries captured the hustle-bustle of the city. She would have done great on Twitter — chronicling her life and experiences in 140-character bits. There will be more from her in future posts.

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