Sunday, March 30, 2014

An Incident on March 7, 1903

This article is from the New York Tribune, March 8, 1903. I think it's interesting on its own, but the thing I find especially fascinating is that the performance and incident took place March 7, 1903, the day my father—Harry Luckstone's first child—was born. I hope he made it home for the birth.


Flies from Sheath and Hits Musician and Actress.

At the matinee performance of “Nancy Brown,” at the Bijou Theatre, yesterday, John C. Reitzel, one of the musicians in the orchestra, and Miss Anna Buckley, an actress, who was sitting in the front row, were injured by the fall of a heavy dagger from the stage. Reitzel was seriously hurt, but the woman escaped with a scratch or two and a nervous shock.

At the end of the first act Harry Luckstone, who plays the part of the Prince, is called on to engage in an encounter with two others in the cast, one of them being thrown to the stage. Luckstone wears a heavy Oriental dagger in his belt, and in the scuffle yesterday the handle of this weapon caught in the lace of the sleeve. The weapon was pulled violently out of its sheath.

It flew into the orchestra, striking Reitzel heavily between the eyes and then bounded off and struck Miss Buckley in the breast, falling to the floor across her wrist. The bridge of the musician’s nose was crushed in so that he will be disfigured for life, and it was feared last night that his brain might be injured.

The sight of the blood from his wound caused a stir in the audience. Miss Buckley and two or three women who had not been hurt at all fainted. The performance went on, however, which restored the audience to quietness. Reitzel was carried home.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Times Change (boy, do they ever!)

I recently acquired my high school's 1965 yearbook. That's not the year I graduated; in fact, I got married in 1965. But it's close, and in any case it doesn't matter. I bring part of it to my blog as another sort of time capsule: the way high schoolers (at least those who attended William Cullen Bryant High School in Queens, NY) expressed themselves almost 50 years ago.

The text was written by the students. If anyone has a recent high school yearbook, I'd be interested in comparing the styles. Here's a quote taken from the beginning of the 1965 yearbook:

We have acquired the incentive to try to meet all surprises and disappointments with imperturbable calm . . . 

All this is basically due to the gay atmosphere that surrounds us. The pleasant atmosphere lends itself to all those who wish to make use of it for beneficial social purposes. It is not uncommon for young love to have blossomed in the few moments that we have had between classes. Love at first sight has happened in the corridors as well as on the stairways where fortunate people leaving the cafeteria gracefully charged up the stairs to the fourth floor.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Looking at My 1970 Checkbook

I came across this 44-year-old checkbook yesterday. It looks ancient, and it reads like a time capsule.

It starts with a balance of only $218.26, and it never goes much higher than $400. We didn't have children yet, but we lived a fairly civilized life in a Dutch Colonial house in Bergen County, NJ, and spent our weekends at our little house in Pennsylvania. I've never been what you'd call a conspicuous consumer, but I'm sure I did a normal amount of spending. So here's what was normal, or close to it, in 1970.

My telephone bills, including lots of "long distance" calls to my parents in Florida, ran around $40. The electric bill was under $20 for Pennsylvania, and around $10 for New Jersey.  Four months of garbage pickup for $20. Propane for my gas range, 5 bucks. Four dollars to renew my driver's license. Five dollars to the liquor store. A whopping $26 to Bamberger's department store.

So many of the checks are startlingly small. Fifty cents for a Maid of Scandinavia catalog. A guy who made picture frames got $2. Ordering a part for my pressure cooker ran me $2.36. (I guess they didn't charge for shipping.) Someone sold me flowers for $1.60. One year subscription to the local paper for $4. Fifteen months of McCall's magazine for $2.88. (No wonder they went out of business.) Even Bloomingdale's got only $6 and change.

Then there are the mysteries, of course:

A check for $1.98 to Libner Grains. I have no idea who Libner was, and no clue why I'd need grains. Tiffany & Co., $7.36. What could one possibly buy at Tiffany's for $7.36? A check for 50 cents to New Haven Vital Statistics.

But some things never change. In 1970 I donated to animal charities and environmental causes. And almost every page of the checkbook records purchases of books and music, music and books.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Navy SEALs (sort of)

I was watching a 60 Minutes segment on the rescue of Jessica Buchanan by a group of Navy SEALs, and I thought of my Navy SEALs. Well, mine weren't really Navy Seals; as far as I know, they weren't even in the military. And my situation wasn't really like Jessica Buchanan's. In fact, it bore no resemblance whatsoever to hers.

Jessica, an American, was working for a Danish aid organization in Somalia in 2011 when she was kidnapped by land pirates and held hostage for 93 days. Jessica suffered mentally and physically during that time, forced to sleep out in the open in the desert. She lost a lot of weight and developed a serious kidney infection. Then one night the Navy's SEAL Team 6 came out of nowhere and rescued her.

When they'd gotten away from the pirates' camp, one of the SEALs asked if she'd left anything behind. She said, "I can't believe I did this, but I had a small little powder bag that they had let me keep, and inside I had re-stolen from them a ring that my mom had made, and I thought, 'I can't leave it here in the desert.' [Her mother had recently died.] And so I ask him to go back and get the bag for me. And, I mean, these men are just, they're incredible. He goes back out, into a war zone basically, to go get my ring. And then he comes back with the bag."

So. About my "Navy SEALs" . . . I was 19 years old, and commuting to work from Queens to Rockefeller Center. Rush hour on the NYC subways is not for the claustrophobic or overly sensitive. Getting a seat was never an option for me. We had our choice of holding onto one of the handles above the seats or grabbing a pole. Envision multiple hands holding onto the same shiny white pole. I guess we chose our spot on the pole depending on our height. Like a lot of riders, I always had a book with me. One hand holding the book, the other clutching the pole.

Our "space" was simply what our bodies displaced. We couldn't claim any of the area surrounding us; that was taken up with other bodies. You can see why no one makes eye contact in a place like New York. We are intent on walling up our very limited territory.

Subway commuters discover that a remarkable number of people eat garlic for breakfast. They also learn that the daily shower doesn't appear to be in widespread use. You don't think about that sort of thing very much; it just goes with the territory. You can't exactly minimize contact with the other riders, but you do what you can not to maximize it.

Which was why it came as a surprise—more like a shock—that morning when a guy in back of me pushed me into the pole and yelled that I was leaning on him. Leaning on him? I turned around and he kept yelling, in Spanish now (I recognized puta). And then he ripped the pearls from my neck.

My dad had bought me that single strand of cultured pearls. Half of the strand dangled from my neck. A section of it lay on the floor of the subway car, and some of the other pearls rolled away between people's feet.

I was a city kid, but a sheltered one. I had no tough response to this attack. I felt violated and scared. I wanted to pick up the piece of my necklace, but was afraid of what the crazy man would do next. Then it magically appeared in my hand, given to me by a tall young black man in sweatshirt and jeans who gently led me away from the ranting attacker. He took me to the other side of the car, where his friends, four of them, surrounded me while he went back in search of the loose pearls.

If it happened today, I would go online to find out who they were and thank them, privately and publicly. Were they part of a college basketball team? Or maybe they were never as tall as I see them today, standing like a stockade fence between me and anything that had the power to hurt me.

But this was more than 50 years ago, long before the advent of the Internet. So they stayed with me until we reached my stop, and then, with most of the pearls retrieved, I exited, leaving them behind to disappear from my life forever. But not from my memory. My Navy SEALs. My saviors. If I were ever asked to recall a time when I felt safe, I would go there first.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

January 8, 1974

Minor domestic annoyances:

1.  Washing machine won't work.

2.  Oxtail soup (a project) turned out tasting like tomato soup a la Campbell's. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013