It was the most exciting time to be young, alive and driving across the country. America was younger then and so was I. I left my small farm town to live in Hollywood and to see the stars. I got a job working as a “go-for” at the big studios and made friends with actors, directors, and producers. I was lucky enough to have met some of the greats like Bette Davis, James Dean, and Natalie Wood. It was a great time. Then my buddy, Mark, was offered a part in a Broadway play. When he left Hollywood, he asked me to go along to help with the long drive to New York.
It was late 1957 and once again we were on the road driving to connect with Route 66 as we headed to New York City. The weather was beautiful without a cloud in the sky. The autumn colors were amazing! It made me think about what folks miss by living in a big City. We hit the Turner Turnpike in Oklahoma and headed North East. We passed through parts of Indiana, Illinois, into Pennsylvania, through Pittsburgh, and on to Philadelphia.
I was taking in every site and sound along the way as I had never been this far from home before. The rolling hills were the most beautiful colors of greens, golds, and browns with glorious farms along the way. When we got to Philly we decided to stay the night and get some rest before heading on to New York City. Morning found us on the road heading east toward New Jersey, then New York. From a few miles out we could see the towers that make up the City of New York and I could feel my heart beating faster as we got closer. Never had I seen such tall buildings as these and I could see why people referred to the streets of New York as being just like driving through canyons. You could only see the sky if you looked straight up and one was constantly in the shadows except when the sun was directly overhead.
Traffic, mostly yellow cabs, and people were everywhere moving along like cattle being herded to whatever their destination happened to be. Already I longed to be back in Hollywood. Then I spotted Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building and The Empire State Building; icons I had known about most of my life but never seen in person. Here they were, all around me, and I was in awe of them. One thing I knew I wanted to do was take an elevator ride to the observation deck on the Empire State building.
The first thing we did was find a cheap hotel to stay in for a few days. We ended up at the Mayfair Hotel just a couple of blocks west of Columbus Circle. Not the greatest or grandest hotel, but it was clean and a reasonable price. While Mark was at rehearsals, I started looking for a short term apartment for us to share for the run of the play. I also decided that I wanted to find temporary work while I was here. At that time in my life, work was so easy to find if you really wanted it.
My first job in NYC was at a Cafeteria situated across from Rockefeller Center and the theater where the famous Rockettes perform. I got the job of cashier and what a great job it was. Every afternoon, the Rockettes would come in for lunch. At least 12 to 15 of them and what a beautiful bunch of young ladies as I had never seen before! But I have left that part of the story for another day.