Cover image for It happened in Manhattan : an oral history of life in the city during the mid-twentieth century
It happened in Manhattan : an oral history of life in the city during the mid-twentieth century
Frommer, Myrna.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Berkley Books, [2001]

Physical Description:
xxi, 312 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F128.5 .I85 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



It's just a narrow island, only 22 square miles. But it's so much bigger than that. Now, in this album of period photos and first-person reminiscences, you can experience the mosaic of midcentury Manhattan from Altman's to Zabar's -East Side, West Side, and all around the town. Ranging from the early post-World War II years to the mid-1970s when the city nearly went bust -and featuring interviews with such New York luminaries as Jimmy Breslin, Bill Gallo, Monte Irvin, Robert Merrill, Herman Badillo, Elaine Kaufman, Jerry Della Femmina, and Pauline Trigere, plus the everyday people who form the hustle and bustle of the city's daily life -this book will bring you back to a glorious era when the great ocean liners still docked in the Hudson River ports; when Checker cabs hurtled across a two-way Fifth Avenue; when eleven daily newspapers covered the city beat; when young women hurried to their Katharine Gibbs classes in pumps and white gloves; when the Third Avenue el cast long shadows on the street. It will take you to Soho before it had a name, and the Brill Building when it was home to Tin Pan Alley songwriters. It will recreate the experience of childhood in Harlem and the Lower East Side, visit the Garden, the garment district, and Greenwich Village, and bring to mind the throbbing music of 52nd Street jazz joints and the Fillmore East, the taste of a Ratner's onion roll and a chocolate egg cream; the aroma wafting from Little Italy's trattorias and the rumble of the subway from beneath the sidewalk grates. For anyone who grew up in or near "the city" -or fell in love with New York as an adult -this unique history, filled with vintage photos, is a compelling read…and a powerful testament to the indescribable mystique of magical, memorable Manhattan.

Author Notes

Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer, coauthors of four critically acclaimed oral histories are cultural/oral historians who concentrate on New York City. Their work has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, Newsday, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, and Redbook. They are professors in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Dartmouth College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Cast of Charactersp. xv
Prologuep. xix
Part 1
Chapter 1 On the Sidewalks of New Yorkp. 3
Childhood reminiscences from the Upper West Side
Times Square
The Lower East Side
Chapter 2 I Want to Be a Part of Itp. 33
Winning auditions for the Philharmonic and the Met
Landing a job at the New York Times
Coming to MoMA from Portland, Oregon, and to Barnard from Brooklyn
Running the streets for the Mercury Messenger Service
Wearing "the uniform" at Katie Gibbs
Chapter 3 If I Can Make It Here ...p. 55
Reaching for the stars: Stories of Zabar's, Russ and Daughters, and Balducci's
Making a name on Madison Avenue
Bringing the Beatles to Carnegie Hall
Discovering a calling in SoHo
Part 2
Chapter 4 Puttin' on the Ritzp. 83
Food: Le Pavillon launches a gastronomic revolution
From the Colony to Le Cirque
Fashion: Inside Harper's Bazaar
New York steals the crown from Paris
From Sophie's Salon at Saks Fifth Avenue to sewing skins in the fur district
Chapter 5 Sanctuaries in the Cityp. 117
The glorious choirs of Harlem churches
Getting the call to the priesthood
The Brotherhood Synagogue and the Jewish motor of New York
Chapter 6 High Culture or "Who the Hell Is de Kooning?"p. 129
The art and music scene in the postwar years: from the abstract expressionists to Andy Warhol and pop art
Memories of the great conductors
Summer serenades at Lewisohn Stadium
The move from Carnegie Hall and the Met to Lincoln Center
Chapter 7 Making Musicp. 153
Memories of Tin Pan Alley
Atlantic Records and the record industry
Working as an usher at the Fillmore East
Chapter 8 East Side, West Sidep. 175
Stories from the neighborhoods
The Upper West Side
Greenwich Village
Chapter 9 All Around the Townp. 213
When New York had eleven-plus dailies
The life of a reporter
Walter Winchell and Ed Sullivan
Gangsters and the sporting life at the old Madison Square Garden
Nightlife from Toots Shor's to Elaine's to Irish pubs to nightclubs to theater
Part 3
Chapter 10 Politics As Usualp. 247
New York mayors from Wagner to Beame
Changing demographics
The financial crisis of '75
Urban renewal
Roosevelt Island
Chapter 11 Looking at New York Through Its Buildingsp. 267
The changing look of New York
The Third Avenue el comes down, the white apartment houses go up
Preservation movements: the saving of the Jefferson Market Courthouse in Greenwich Village
The creation of SoHo
Reprise: If You Live Long Enough ...p. 289
P.S.p. 303
Photo Creditsp. 304
Indexp. 306