A Letter from New York

MERCHANT SEAMEN’S BRANCH
of the
YOUNG MEN’S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION
525 West 23rd Street
New York
——
Telephone, WATKINS 10297

                                                                                                                                Jan 3 1930

Dear Edith and Charlie-

To wish you a Very Happy New Year. This has been to us a joyful Christmas time. First – to thank you for the presents. The tie pleased me very much. I like your taste. The cigars were O.K. I will have to put on my thinking cap to tell just where we have been although your mother may have told you. Christmas Eve we went to Midnight service at St. James. A good attendance – 4 Clergy. We went up to Alice’s from there – got there at 1:30. Georgie was up at 6:30. Well he had quite a time riding his Bicycle around the house. Alice had everything very nice. George took us over to Phillip’s for two o/c [o’clock] Dinner & they went to Mr. Collins’. Phillip had some friends in. We went Bowling & then back for supper. The baby is just lovely. Good natured –  goes to anybody. Saturday Afternoon your Mother & I went to the Camp Reunion at the Plaza Hotel. Quite a nice time – 55 children & parents. Put your Mother on a bus for New Rochelle at 6 pm so then I had the town to myself. Had a little supper and then to a show, out at 10 pm, then went to Arthur’s party & carve his turkey for him. Who should be there but Bill, Katie, & Annie. We all stayed until 3 am. Took a taxi home. Sunday I got the bus at 51st & 8th Ave 11:30 – got to Cyril’s 12:45 for Dinner. Plenty of everything as usual. Talked a while and a game of Pinochle. Cyril got into his head to get down to Bill Reese’s – they had a party, so Arthur got Mildred on the  phone. So she came up with the car & took us down to play Pinochle, your Mother staying at Cyril’s over night.  We left Reese’s at 2 am New Year’s Eve. We went up to Cyril’s to play Pinochle. Alice & George had been to our place for Supper, so George, after leaving Alice at her home, took us up, leaving your Mother at Weyers Mount Vernon. Phillip, Fred, two Reeses, Mr. Weyers, myself, George & Cyril. We played until 2:30 am. I went to Mr. Weyers for New Years Dinner – 18 altold [sic]. Left there at 10:30 after having a pretty good time. I phoned Elsie this morning to have them come down Sunday – the baby Birthday – for Dinner but she said Cyril & Clara was coming over for a late Dinner 5 pm for us to come up. By your letter you also have had a pretty good time. My work at the Y is pretty easy just now as we have put a lots of these fellow out that don’t belong here. Must be a seaman to come here. We had a Dinner for 100 but had a caterer in to do it so I sat down as one of the guest – some class. Hope Charlie had a successful Christmas in his work & a happy one home with the Boys well love to you all.

                                                                                                                       Affectionately
                                                                                                                                   Father

In 1929:
Mother Teresa arrives in Calcutta in January. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre happens in Chicago on February 14th. In March, Herbert Hoover is inaugurated as the 31st US President, and the first telephone is installed in the White House.  In August, Babe Ruth becomes the first to hit 500 home runs, and Anne Morrow Lindbergh makes her first solo flight. The Wall Street Crash of 1929—Black Tuesday on October 29th marks the beginning of the Great Depression. And on November 7th, the Museum of Modern Art opens in New York City.

In 1929, Sophie and Algernon Newman were living at 315 West 24th in Manhattan, and Algernon was working for the Merchants Seamen’s Branch of the YMCA a few blocks west at 525 West 23rd Street. On the 1930 US census, their youngest son Arthur was living with them, working as an electrician for a clock company.

Map marking route from NYC residence to workTo the North is Penn Station and Herald Square;to the East is Madison Square Garden.

Midnight services at St. James Episcopal Church would have been a major affair. The church is located at 865 Madison Avenue at 71st Street on the Upper East Side, a block from Central Park. The first church was built in 1809-10 as a chapel for residents who had summer homes along the East River, and was a simple clapboard building located at what is now East 69th Street and Lexington Avenue. The present church was begun in 1884, was completely redesigned in the 1920s, and was formally reopened on Christmas Eve 1924. When Algernon and Sophie attended services in 1929, it was fairly “new.”

There’s more about St. James here.

After the service, they probably took the elevated train (known as the El) to daughter Alice’s home at 3087 Decatur in the Bronx. (My uncle remembers visiting there in 1942.) Alice and her husband George Collins had only one child, George (Georgie) who was born on Christmas day in 1925. Not only did he get to celebrate Christmas with his new bicycle, but his fourth birthday as well.

From there they went to son Phillip’s apartment at 235 Naples Terrace, also in the Bronx. The baby in the letter is Phillip Algernon Jr., who turned 86 this past January 5th. Elsie was his mother.

Saturday afternoon, December 28th at the Plaza. I wish I knew what the Camp Reunion was! The Plaza Hotel, then as it is now, was a first class luxury hotel and residence. Some of you may remember the Plaza’s most famous (fictional) resident, Eloise.

Plaza Hotel New York City early 1900sPlaza Hotel NYC
Then                                                             and now

Sophie and Algernon’s oldest child, Cyril, lived at 37 Howard Parkway in New Rochelle, in Westchester County. He and his wife, Clara, had two daughters, Gloria and Dorothy. Gloria and my father were a year apart in age, and they were good friends growing up, despite the geographical distance between them. When my parents took my sister and me to New York City in 1960, we visited the family at this same address.

…Arthur’s party & carve his turkey for him. Who should be there but Bill, Katie & Annie—Katie and Annie were Algernon’s sisters, and Bill Baxter was Katie’s husband. Algernon also had a brother Arthur, but I have not been able to trace his locations. It’s possible that this Arthur is his brother, which would make sense with his two sisters being there, but it could also be his son.

Arthur and Emilie Weyers and their daughter Mildred were friends of the Newman family. Both families lived in the Bronx in 1910. When I see Mount Vernon, I immediately think of Virginia and George Washington, but the Mount Vernon that Algernon refers to is a community in Westchester County, not far from New Rochelle.

Charlie, my grandfather, would have preached a Christmas sermon at the First Presbyterian Church in Conway, Arkansas, and spent time at home with the two boys, seven year old Robert and four year old John, my father and my uncle. Edith, my grandmother, would be spending Christmas with her husband and her sons, but away from her parents Algernon and Sophie, and her siblings Cyril, Alice, Phillip, and Arthur.

For my sibs: Algernon George Newman and Sophie Amelia (Larson) Newman were our great-grandparents on our father’s side. Their children Cyril, Alice, Phillip, and Arthur were our great-uncles and great-aunt. Their daughter Edith Harriet (Newman) Campbell was our grandmother, and Charles Milton Campbell was our grandfather.

(Photo credits: Old photo of Plaza Hotel: Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. New view: ‘Plaza Hotel’ by Flickr user cliff1066™. Used under Creative Commons Attribution License.)