BACK IN THE DAY
A friend of mine came to the United States from Greece back in the ‘50s, around the same time my parents came. And they saw the United States in its fat heyday as truly the promised land. Eisenhower was in the White House, cars were huge, food was plentiful, the milk was full-fat and still delivered to your doorstep by the milkman and most of it was reassuringly Borden’s, with the happy cow. Just like the standard of face creams was Jergens (although my yiayia used to use it in her eyes), and the car you aspired to was a Cadillac or Lincoln or Imperial, while you drove your Chevy or Ford or Dodge, and your camera was a Kodak, and your movie camera was a Bell & Howell, and your ultimate TV for the living room was a Zenith or Magnavox stereo console where you could store all your LP records of Johnny Mathis and Bing Crosby—remember records?– that you stacked on your player and you had to change the little widget on the turntable when you switched from LPs to 45—and remember the felt on the turntable?
Anyway, my friend came to America from Greece around the same time as my parents came and he started working in a restaurant in the city about the same time my mother started working at a sweatshop in Brooklyn assembling dolls and my father took the subway every day to Columbia where he was studying. My friend went on to become buddies with Audie Murphy and Frank Sinatra and Anthony Quinn as maître d’ at one of the legendary nightclubs of the city around the same time my father was finishing his stint as principal of Plato School in Chicago (after also working in Montreal) and starting yet another principal’s job in New York and my mother was finished with the dolls and was raising me and marrying off my sister.
My friend talks about the old days at the legendary nightclub endlessly and all the people he met there and those days when he used to pile into his Chevy convertible and drive into the city every night to start work just when everybody else was leaving the city. My father talked many times about the old days when he and my mother and my sister lived off Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn in a flat with donated furniture which saw friends and relatives and chorianous crashing the place or visiting and spending endless nights telling endless stories and having endless laughs: like the time the phone rang and Uncle Bill told my father to answer the phone and tell them nobody was home.
My friend still lives in the house that he left every day to drive into the city for the club and the walls of his house are full of photographs of him with the rich and famous. My father has died and my mother is frail and can’t remember many things, but she remembers in detail the old days when the bus fare was 25 cents for her to go to the doll factory and how much it cost for that bottle of Borden’s milk (the one with the cream on top).