New York is different that the rest of the United States. I can’t imagine there is a part of country where a higher percentage of the population lives in apartments. And, because of New York City’s rent control and stabilization laws, many people stay in those apartments forever.
My parents lived at 6543 Parsons Boulevard, Apartment 5E, from the early 50s to the late 80s. Our next door neighbors are still in the building, having moved in in 1953.
I’m not sure how long Uncle Murray has lived in his apartment, but it has to go back to the early 50s as well.
Before cable they had the worst TV reception I had ever seen. I remember trying to watch baseball games with my dad, Uncle Murray, Cousin Michael and some other family members. Every time a plane approached La Guardia Airport, the signal would go nuts. I seem to remember the TV sporting rabbit ears with tin foil for good measure – as if you could fool the signal into being watchable.
This from an apartment with a line-of-sight view to the Empire State Building where the TV transmitting antennas used to be… and are again, since 9/11.
The apartment is on the ground floor, facing out onto a busy street. It is in Queens, a short walk from the Flushing el, so not far from Manhattan by public transportation.
In that apartment you are never far from the noise of the neighborhood. If a car alarm goes off – if the bus goes by – if a horn is honked (and all of those seem to happen continuously) – you will witness it from inside the apartment, even with the windows closed.
But it is quiet in comparison to my grandparents’ 23rd floor apartment in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. From their windows they could see two elevated trains lines and the biggest yard in the New York City Subway system. The building was right at a curve which caused the heavy metal wheels on the train to squeal a little around the clock. It squealed as each set of wheels in the 8 or 10 car trains passed by.
I have been told Uncle Murray is leaving his apartment, moving closer to my Cousin Judy and her family in Maryland. It will be good for Murray to be closer to people who love him.
It will be the end of an era, as the last of the Fox family leaves New York City.
Uncle Murray will also end another, more universal, era. He is the last person I know whose telephone number is still remembered as a word and 5 digits. Uncle Murray is the last of the TWining-8’s for me.
Until he closed his store, it was the only other number I remembered non-digitally. That was STillwell-6 (I think).
When I was growing up, our home number was JAmacia-6-4308 and then AXtel-1-9790. At some point, the phone companies of America decided that wouldn’t do. I remember hearing some sort of propaganda about how all digit dialing would be easier to remember. I don’t think they were running out of numbers because you can make an exchange combination out of every number combo… though you’d need to use XYlophone for ’99.’
Later, AXtel-1-9790 became 291-9790 and then got changed to 591-0434 when we get our first area code – 212.
I never quite understood why there were exchanges like AXtel. What is an AXtel? Even Google asks, “Did you mean: axtell ?” ‘291’ could have been AWning-1 or AWful-1 or CYrus-1.
New York Telephone made some bad choices other than AXtel. On Staten Island there was an exchange, Saint George. Was that SA or ST?
Today, I know my number should be CEntral… though it’s a ’23.’
Back to Uncle Murray.
I can’t imagine how he’ll pick up and pack fifty years worth of memories? What will be found that had been lost? What will be found that should have been lost? Does he still have the Playboy Magazines I found under his bed forty some odd years ago?
I’ll have to call Uncle Murray this weekend. I want one last chance to dial that number.