What a place that one block along 57th Street in New York City used to be! It was wide and long and not only did it have Carnegie Hall, it had the Automat! I can still taste the white bread sandwiches and remember the sound when the woman pushed the lever that released all those nickels for you to put into the slanted slots next to each food item. Nickel in, the door would open and you could reach in for your soup, sandwich or dessert — all by yourself, importantly looking around for the table your aunt or grandma was holding.
The Automat was in the middle of this fabulous block between 6th & 7th Aves. It was so close to Central Park that as you ambled along you could smell the pine leaves. Adding to the romance at Christmas time, you could walk briskly down to Rockefeller Center to see the skaters, or to Radio City Music Hall too see the Rockettes and a Walt Disney movie. A child’s heaven. And the Russian Tea Room for dessert!!
Imagine the excitement of two such children, about 8 & 12, being taken by their grandmother to a recording studio on that same block to make a real wax record! I still see the small room we stood in. Earphones on, I sang Jolly Old Saint Nicholas and only got two words wrong. My sister sang White Christmas and only swallowed part of the word “children,” which became “ch–ldren.” In those days you didn’t get a do-over included in the price, which I think was about $25 for 15 minutes.
For years we would listen to it – me singing on one side, my sister on the other. Then one day it simply disappeared, as such things will do. In the years that followed my sister went on to have a real-life career as a classical singer. I can be heard on certain mornings, singing show tunes in the shower.