As I mentioned in my previous post about the ‘Psycko’ City collection of pictures (for want of a better descriptor), I had some serious concerns about sharing it, as it was just like finding an open cardboard box full of photographs without much information. Who owned them? What were they collected for? What purpose might that have been intended to serve? Why were so few credited?
As a contrast, I thought I’d take a moment to cite a comparable resource that is a thousand times more easy to navigate and enjoy, that being the Old New York Tumblr, featuring a broad range of New York images from the turn of the century through to the oft-cited 1980’s. If you’re like me, you’ll lose yourself in its 357 pages (probably more, by the time you read this). Where it can, Old New York is scrupulous in citing the true provenance of each image, noting photographers and original sources. It’s really well done. Go explore.
I’ve set aside several of its entries for possible rumination, but this one really struck me today. Take another look…
Initially harvested from another favorite Tumblr, NYC Nostalgia, this uncredited/undated photo is captioned as…
Talking about the important things in life, Park Avenue 1970s
It’s a great picture, showing an elderly gentleman having a chat with a little boy in overalls. At first, I was going to pose this as another photo quiz, but I’m reasonably positive I’ve nailed it. But, y’know, see if you agree…
In glancing at this picture and its caption, one might assume the Park Avenue tag is a mistake, but don’t forget --- Park Avenue is more than just that storied, wide canyon of imposing affluence. At the border of East 96th Street, the avenue is bisected by the tunnel that feeds trains directly into Grand Central Station sixty-someodd blocks to its south. I’m determining that this spot is only about a half a block north of that very border.
I grew up just about three blocks away from that border, and had a good friend named Spike (immortalized here) who lived on the southeast corner of East 96th and Park Avenue. Back then, that border was regarded as a veritable Checkpoint Charlie. The property value dropped steeply across the fleeting few yards between the southern corners and the northern corners, showcasing one of the starkest divides between the haves and the have-nots to be seen in the city, at the time. Looking at this picture, however, snapped during what would have been one of the neighborhood’s less salubrious eras, it doesn’t look especially forbidding in the slightest.
The big giveaway in identifying the spot in this picture, beyond it obviously being similarly sloped, is the bi-level façade of Hunter College High School in the upper right hand part of the picture (which occupies the entire block between 94th and 95th).
The traffic light pole and red police call box in the background, then, would be on the northeast corner of East 96th.
With this in mind, I’m suggesting that the old man and little boy had their discussion right by this corner (where that blue, wooden platform is resting).
Today, that smiling old gentleman is probably no longer with us. The kid is probably in his late 40’s (like me). I don’t believe my old friend Spike’s mom lives in that corner building anymore.
The red police call box, however, is still there.