Former renter in Greenwich Village, waiting out the turnaround in Manhattan's midtown. Working on a blog-to-book project about my NYC/NJ ancestors. Everyday I'm amazed by what I find with Ancestry and in old newspapers.

May 12, 2019

Ladies who lunch: remembering my mother on Mother's Day

Are you a lady who enjoys the ritual of lunching out?

I am! When I was around five my mother invited me out for our first lunch together, a special trip to Kaufmann's department store in Monroeville, PA. It was a Saturday, and we spent all morning getting ready . . . 
. . . while Dad looked after my younger brother. She gave me a bath, toweled me dry in the cold spring air, then dressed me in my birthday party dress and patent leather shoes and socks. She wore a dress and put on the perfume she always wore when going out to dinner with Dad.

Until then I'd only been to Howard Johnson's rest stops on the Pennsylvania turnpike on daylong drives to New Jersey with my family to see all the grandparents and my mother's many aunts and uncles. But at Kaufmann's, it was a special treat to go out to lunch with my mother in a big dining room with tablecloths and heavy silverware. I ordered my first waffle and had it every time we went back. We didn't have waffles at home. I practiced the table manners my father had drilled into me at home, careful not to talk with food in my mouth despite my excitement. In those days, I ate slowly and neatly. This was before I was a working girl in the city on a lunch hour. I really should remind myself to slow down when I eat now.

New York Exchange for Women's Work restaurant
Growing up in Connecticut, we used to go to the city for Wednesday matinees and lunch at Sardi's. I wanted to be an actress, and we saw four Broadway shows a year. My mother was an artist, and threatened to sneak in a sketch of me on their walls. 

When I started college in New York in the late 70s, we moved to Long Island. On Fridays and during summers when I worked as a floater in music and publishing at Warner Communications, Mom met me for lunch at Stouffer's at 666 Fifth Avenue, and when they closed, the waiters sent us to the Women's Exchange restaurant. It was one of the few places left in New York for ladies who lunch. 

untitled sketch by Barbara Carter
When my parents got their first apartment in the city, a pied-a-terre on Beekman Place, my mother started carrying her sketchbook with her. She has many sketches of diners and coffee shops around the city. This is one of her livelier scenes. I don't know where it's from, but she used to go to Oscar's at the Waldorf and Les Delices patisserie in the East 50s. I don't know why she misspelled coffee. She always got it right on her shopping lists.

The Glass Box, pastel. Barbara Carter
Do any of you remember The Glass Box on First Avenue? They always seemed to bring out the mop while you were eating. This pastel is from a series of watercolors and pastels of Midtown Merchants near Beekman Place that I will be sharing in future posts.

Contact: Debbie Carter, VillagerExpat@aol.com, (212) 925-3721

*Photo permission: New York Exchange for Women's Work, Box 11, Folder 8, MS 446, The New-York Historical Society. Used by permission.

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