An anecdote from my father, who was born in 1926. I have asked him to write some of these stories down for me, and I wanted to share it here on a Saturday night.
Dad grew up poor in Boston during the Great Depression, the son of Jewish Lithuanian immigrants. He kept a journal from 1939 to 1944, when he went into the navy. But there are a lot of stories he tells that are not in that. He is a great storyteller.
In 1939 he made his first trip to New York, still one of his favourite cities. This experience was the highlight of the trip.
From my Dad's email (I do have his permission to put it on Daily Kos):
The first time I visited New York, I was thirteen years old and traveling on my own. My uncle, who lived in the Bronx, was kind enough to take me in for the few days needed to see something of the World’s Fair, which was enjoying huge daily attendance its first year, 1939. Nobody in my uncle’s family wanted to go to the Fair, and they were, come to think of it, rather blasé about the fact of its existence. (I think none of them had gone to the trouble of taking the subway ride that was necessary if they wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, but whether or not I am right in this recollection, it is faithful to the degree of their curiosity about life beyond the Bronx).
Anyhow, as part of my awe-struck wanderings in Manhattan before I travelled on the special subway extension that went directly to Flushing, I somehow or other found the time to enter the lobby of the Chrysler Building, and immediately knew that nothing in Boston could compare with the gold-leaf decorations of the lobby. I took the elevators that rose silently and swiftly to the top floor (not a viewing balcony, as I remember, because I was saving that experience for the Empire State Building, which I would visit later in the day). But there was a door that opened into the heart of a radio-station, a genuine beehive of activity. (In later years I would learn --- from an item in the New Yorker’s Talk of the Town -- that occupancy of this space fluctuated with something like a dozen different companies finding it useful for relatively short periods of time.). I was astonished to discover that my entering the radio station provided a little excitement, perhaps because not enough was happening there to occupy their minds fully. At any rate several of them crowded around me, and wanted to show me around the room, explaining how they put together a program, how they broadcast it, etc. At that very moment they were on the air, which I found thrilling in itself.
As I recall, the light flooding the room came from slanted windows, and the view of the city was, of course, spectacular. “You have my permission,” said one of my guides, “to tell anyone you see that we have as good a view of New York as any other building in the city!” Someone working for the Chamber of Commerce could not have said it with greater pride. To this day I remember the way he said it, believing it to be true, and I believed him then, and do to this day.