Hominy & Hash
SERENDIPITY IN CYBERSPACE
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- This weekend I discovered that one man's common knowledge is often another man's quest - in a letter from a stranger. Well, let me put it here:
"Constance, I stumbled across your article on Joan Ganz Cooney on the Web and was just taken with your vivid description of 71 Broadway in the '50s. During my last two years living in New York (we live in the S= an Francisco Bay Area now), my wife and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the 11th floor of 71 Broadway, the old U.S. Steel building. The building was converted to apartments and opened as a residence in November of 1998.=
Our little bedroom had a small balcony off the window which overlooked the spire of Trinity Church. Some of the northeast corner apartments had a mesmerizing view through curved window alcoves up Broadway with the Chrysler building in view. We often wondered whatthe building was like in the past, what boardroom dramas took place there, and how people felt about working there. You illustrated that forus in a few short paragraphs. Thanks!"
First published in the American Reporter two years ago <http://darientel.net/~infinity/sesame.html> the article concerned JoanGanz, later to found The Children's Television Network, and the day sheapplied for her first job in New York City.
Where I thought I was writing about a person, this reader found more. He wanted to know about that time and place; obviously, he already knew about that person and exactly whom she had become in the intervening year.
Nostalgia has a magnetic pull and not long ago I took a daughter to New York, stopping for a picture on the steps of that same 71 Broadway -- still there and where not one stone has changed from thesteps my husband and I skipped down to run for the subway on Wall Street. It was all the same to me and all new to her.
Still facing the steps, I pointed right: "There's Trinity Church, Wendy, and the brass plate on the landing is where Queen Elizabeth stood during her first trip to America after becoming Queen. It's an Anglican church, called Episcopal here, and the Queen is head ofthat church; thus, her visit.
"That was a long time before her 'annus horribilus' speech," Wendy said.
"Yes it was, it certainly was. When she stood there she was Queen of England, Mistress of all she surveyed at home and half wayaround the world." I asked of no one in particular, "How could she know then, after her sister gave up the love of her life, a divorced man, out of loyalty to the Crown, that later in her reign Elizabeth II would see the breakup of two family marriages, one divorce and a devastating fire at Windsor Castle all in one horrible year?"
Except for the brass plate, the tercentenary church is the same, but the monarchy, unchanged for centuries, cannot say the same.
"Turn around, Wendy, and look down Wall Street." We just spin our necks, not even a full-figure turn, and when I indicate the steps less than a block away where George Washington took his oath of office, she looks at me incredulously.
"Right there?" she asks.
"Yes, right there."
As I climb the steps in front of me for the picture taking, I pointed to the large, white marble, sepulcher containing the remains ofAlexander Hamilton.
"We used to sit there with our take-out lunches and spend an hour in the sun," I told her. "We also tried grave rubbings on parchment paper but the engraving is so old the letters would just smudge."
"There is so much history, and in such a small area," says Wendy.
With very few exceptions, then and now, the streets are crowded with the young, up and coming. The wheelers and dealers from all over the world congregate on Wall Street between Broadway and Broad Street. Further down Broadway toward South Ferry and New York's ancient seaport, Merrill Lynch has placed a larger-than-life-size bronze bull right in the middle of the street. Frankly, I didn't "get it," until Wendy suggested the "bull market."
Little else has changed on the outside. But for the young man writing to me, I might not have given thought to what might be new and different behind closed doors.
"Little House on the Prairie" author, Laura Ingalls Wilder said" I was writing about my childhood, I didn't know I was writing history."
And, had she lived, surely Anne Frank would have said, "I wasjust keeping a diary; I didn't know I was writing history.
And, now, so also do I say, "I was just writing a brief anecdoteabout a celebrity; I didn't know I was writing history."