New York City 1951

Mary Jane and John B. Campbell traveled to New York City in May 1951.  They had been married just under one year.  In another year, they would be expecting their first daughter.  There are nine photos from the trip, in addition to four scrapbook pages.  It's nice to be able to unite the photos and the scrapbook pages in this story, as they were stored separately all these years.

I think of scrapbooking as something that women gravitate to, but I know our father created these scrapbook pages.  I can tell by the misspelling of words.  My father just was not the best speller, and the mistakes are not ones that my mother would have made.  No harm done; they are part of the memory.

Why New York City?

My parents' honeymoon was in Chicago, Illinois.  My father traveled there occasionally for work; he was an accountant with Youngstown Sheet & Tube.  I imagine NYC was another large city to visit in the post-war years.  Youngstown, Ohio, where my parents lived, is equidistant from Chicago and NYC (400 miles to each).  The Mahoning Valley took pride in this location:  "halfway between Chicago and New York."

Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans provided a description of New York City in this timeframe that helped me to appreciate its draw for my parents' generation.  Susan Greenough writes, inResisting Intelligence: Zurich to New York (1924-1954):  "Booming, brash, and even arrogantly self-confident, the United States had moved quickly in the months after the end of the war [WW II] to assert itself as the world’s superpower, and fast-paced New York City had positioned itself just as rapidly to steal the mantle from Paris, London, Berlin, or Vienna as its cultural and financial epicenter."


I am grateful for the detailed itinerary documented by my father.  I saw reference to the Doering's in my sister's baby book, and they are mentioned on May 20 in this itinerary.  My parents visited them in New Jersey during this 1951 trip, but the Doering's must have been in the Youngstown, Ohio, area in 1955 when Sandi was born.  Nancy and George Doering are listed among Sandi's "First Visitors."

I chuckled at the spelling of Devine on the itinerary, given that the bottom of the second page has a piece of memorabilia from The Cathedral of St. John the Divine.  It is the Cathedral church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York and dates to 1892.

The Hotel President bill has several charges of $0.15 for Phone.  As of 2020, the Hotel President is The Gallivant Times Square; it went through foreclosure in 2018 and returned to that state in fall 2020.  It's not as bad as it sounds; on the website for the hotel, it appears to be in nice condition.

The typed address at the top left of the bill is for my parent's first residence, an apartment above a home on Florida Avenue in Youngstown.

I wondered about the reference to Queen Elizabeth - was she also in NYC in May 1951?  Her travels are well documented, and I could not find any indication that she had traveled to the U.S. that month.  Then I remembered my father's service in World War II.  He traveled to Europe on the Queen Elizabeth in January and February 1945.  So his itinerary reference must be to seeing the ship, not the person.

Monday, May 21, 1951

On May 21, my parents would have taken this photo of the Prometheus sculpture (1934) at Rockefeller Center, lower plaza.  I love the table umbrellas in this photo. Flags are blowing in the wind, and no people are about.  I wondered if it was raining?  As I examine the photo, I see the arched areas around each table on the right, where the rain hasn't darkened the pavement because of the umbrellas.  Yes, a rainy day.  

They toured NBC Studios on this date as well.  I got a kick out of the NBC tours brochure.  I wonder if my parents had a television in their apartment or not?  I don't know when they acquired their first TV.

The itinerary indicates a visit to Radio City Music Hall the evening of May 21.  My nephew noted that six decades later, in 2012, their grandson would walk across that stage at his graduation ceremony for Pratt Institute.

Tuesday, May 22, 1951

The itinerary indicates my parents enjoyed a boat tour on this date.  They evidently viewed the Statue of Liberty (1886) and Brooklyn Bridge (1883).  This is the same tour where they saw the Queen Elizabeth.

In the evening, they attended Kiss Me, Kate at the Shubert Theatre.  The itinerary mentions they saw movies and shows most nights.  At first this surprised me, but then I remembered my father's connection to stage shows.  He worked shows in Youngstown, Ohio, as a second job for years while my sisters were growing up.  His own father's profession was a stagehand.   Enjoying shows as a New York City tourist would have been a real treat.

Wednesday, May 23, 1951

Two images in a park required some research on my part.  Even before consulting the itinerary, I suspected they were from Central Park.  The itinerary confirmed that my parents visited it on May 23.  I was hopeful that a tall building in the background and an arched bridge would help me to identify the location.  

I began by searching for arches in Central Park.  Hovering over each one, in a relatively short amount of time, I found a setting that looked similar to the one my parents had selected for their photos.

Untitled photo

My research on the two Central Park photos yielded the following:

-- the bridge is the Gapstow Bridge (1896)

--the tall building in the background is the Pierre Hotel (1930)

--the body of water is The Pond (reconstructed 2001)

The skyline beyond the bridge has changed considerably, but the combination of the Pierre Hotel and the Gapstow Bridge is instantly recognizable, even today.

The photo of my father on the bench shows a lot of loose dirt, and the bench looks quite new.  I wonder if this section of the Park was undergoing construction or improvements.  This spot has become famous for photography and movie shots, but given the limited skyline and the loose dirt in these images, I suspect it was not yet iconic.

Thursday, May 24, 1951

I expect this photo was taken from the Rockefeller Center Observatory.  One scrapbook page had memorabilia from that venue.  

The Empire State Building (1931) and the NYC skyline, viewed from rooftop of RCA Building (1933) at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

Exact date unknown (May 20 - 25), 1951

I always enjoy seeing my Dad's block capitals, documenting date and location.

My mother poses in front of Patience (the lion) and the New York Public Library (both 1911).  I like her headscarf a lot!

View of the Flatiron Building (1902).

The twin spires of St. Patrick's Cathedral (1879).

John B. Campbell, age 25

Mary Jane Campbell, age 24

I believe that my parents took my sisters to New York City, probably in the 1960s.  I went with them in the 1980s.  We don't have any photos of a 1960s trip, but I know there are some from the 1980s trip.  I look forward to revisiting them.

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