Thanksgiving in 821 Sixth Avenue

Last year at this time JLP Research Associate Dan Partridge did a quick sort through our database of Smith’s tapes looking for Thanksgiving related material.  I wrote a blog entry about it. Yesterday Dan did the same thing and found some new material (we estimate 700-900 hours of Smith’s tapes remain that Dan hasn’t heard, yet, out of roughly 4000 hours – he’s still listening every day).

Among the items Dan found this year were lots of radio and TV coverage of JFK’s assassination on November 22, 1963 and the funeral on November 25.  LBJ gave what appears to be his first speech as President on November 27 and Smith taped it.

Thanksgiving was on November 28 that year.  There was a high of 55 degrees in Central Park that day.  What a somber holiday it must have been.

There’s also some material that Smith recorded earlier in November 1963 that is haunting to hear today.  You know what is looming, but nobody on the tapes does.  On November 7 there were some feel-good pre-Thanksgiving cultural stories Smith taped from the radio.  There were typically elated, jingly advertisements for things like the new 1964 line of Ford automobiles.  There’s an unspectacular jam session with musicians we still haven’t identified other than a “Jimmy” and a “Ronnie” (probably Jimmy Stevenson, not Ronnie Free).

Navy’s Roger Staubach won the Heisman Trophy the week after JFK’s funeral and there’s radio coverage of the award on Smith’s tapes.

There are additional things recorded from the Thanksgiving periods of other years.  On November 13, 1960 Smith’s fifteen year-old daughter Juanita showed up at the loft (from the family home in Croton-on-Hudson) with her boyfriend “Johnny” and they talked about eloping after she turned sixteen three weeks later, with Smith’s tape machine rolling.

On November 28, 1961 Smith had a conversation in the loft with Eleanor Bach about astrology.  We wonder if she knew she was being taped.

Sixth Avenue, NYC.  October 2010.  Photograph by Dan Partridge.

Sixth Avenue, NYC. Fall 2010. Photograph by Dan Partridge.

All in all, it’s a pretty melancholy selection of clips.  To lighten this blog post I inserted the photograph above that Dan made from his iPhone in NYC recently.  He was standing near the front of 821 Sixth Avenue looking over at Superior Florist.  These pumpkins are huge.  It’s a good thing Superior delivers.

Superior, and this same sign, can be seen clearly in many of Smith’s window photographs from 1957-1965. Sam Rosenberg still owns Superior and runs it with his son Steve.  They’ve been extremely nice to us over the years, telling us stories about the seedy side of the Flower District back in the day, letting us up on their roof to make pictures, etc.  One day five or six years ago I was in Superior and there was a bouquet of flowers larger than any I’d ever seen, the size of a two-person love seat or bigger.  I walked over in awe.  I noticed an envelope clipped to a dowell inside it.  Jotted on the front was the word “Streisand.”

-Sam Stephenson

1 Comment

  1. Frank Amoss Said,

    November 24, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

    Regarding the unspectacular jam session mentioned above: If it includes a baritone saxophone my best estimate is it’s Ronnie Cuber.