60 Years Ago Today

Touring College Students See Bright Lights of New York Before Starting Ocean Voyage

Editor’s note:
The following letter has been received from Mrs. George A. Hansen of Provo, who is accompanying a group of 36 college students from Brigham Young University and Weber College on a tour of Europe. This is one of a series of letters in which she is writing her impressions of the trip.

Dear Friends,
The bus load of 36 college students chock-full of excitement, emotion and anticipation as they approached New York City was a classic in human interest. They sang, laughed and talked. They shot questions at the bus driver who was equal to the occasion, but the questions were not always on the college level.

The bus drivers all along the way, with their various personalities, were part of the interest. But the one who took us in to New York City was most appropriate for this part of the trip. He was a ruddy faced Pennsylvania Dutchman who jovially answered the questions as we sped along that marvelous New Jersey Turnpike. Countless times he was asked. “When do we get there, driver?” Each time he would look at his watch and tell them, “Sing some more, it won’t seem so long.” Whereupon, they would burst into another round of folk songs.

The conversation between the students and driver ran something like this.

“Oh, I can smell the city now,” said one student.
“Dats not da city, dats da New Joisy (Jersey) oil refineries.”
“Driver, what’s this bridge ?”
“Dis is no bridge, dis da New Joisy Turnpike yet.”
“Now, I can smell the city.”
“Naw, dats da swamp, see da water over dere.”
“What’s the long row of bright lights over there driver?”
“Dats da air port.”
“Driver, when do we come to the Lincoln Tunnel?”
“In about ten minutes.”
“Oh, is that the tunnel, driver?”
“Dat no tunnel dats da ramp dat leads to da tunnel. See dare’s yer Empire State Building over dere.”
“Oh, that teeny little tower of lights doesn’t look like it 102 stories high.”
“Here’s da tunnel. Its two miles long and goes under da Hudson River. Here we go folks, we’re goin’ under da water.”

The lights came on in the bus and we could feel the pressure in our ears. Seeing the city lights again, the questions resumed their impact upon the driver.

“Now do we start the tall buildings, driver?”
“Well we’re getting’ a good start.”
“What’s that thing over there, driver?”
“Dats da Pennsylvania Tolmenal” (Terminal).
“Gee, but you’re a good driver. Don’t you ever get lost? Are these blocks?”
“It’s easy, you can’t get lost, all da streets is numbered, dis is toity toid (43rd) street, it goies to 96, 128, 200. Dey’s all numbered ya can’t get lost.”
“Driver, where’s the hotel?”
“On Foity second and Broadway, you’ve heard of dat. Dis is da west side, east side is where da United Nations is.”
“Driver, what’s up town and down town?”
“Oh, uptown is = up town, and down town is – down town. Times Square is in da next block.”
“Where’s Broadway driver? Let go to Broadway.”
“Oh no, I don’t go over dere, too much traffic. Here’s da Hotel but it’s across da road. Have to go around da block to get on da other side of da street. Den we have to go to Broadway now.”
The few moments of avid silence was broken with excited expressions about the precipitous buildings, multi-colored lights, and realistic sign boards.
“Look at that ‘Camel’ sign. Its a picture of a man and he’s blowing real smoke rings out of his mouth.”
“There’s a silhouette picture show (moving) on the huge beaded screen advertising television.”
“Look at that news traveling around that building in huge electric lighted letters.” Its the Times Building and the news is the same that we heard first hand in Washington, D.C.
“Oh, driver, you just about didn’t miss that car, you sure are a good driver.”
“Da moment ya get off dis street it’s dark, but don’t worry, yers not alone in dis town.”

After unloading our bags in our rooms, we eagerly surveyed the town until the wee hours. For safety and convenience, we divided the group into smaller units but some got lost anyway.
On the way back to the hotel, Irene Blake and Florence Rogers missed a corner and walked and walked and walked, looking for a landmark. Finally, they saw it, a huge sign of a bottle of Budwieser Beer on sparkling ice. Not too often would a beer bottle serve such a purpose for LDS girls.

Kay Cullimore became separated from the group which she was leading when she stopped to greet an elder newly returned from the British mission fields. After a few anxious moments we found her.

See you later,
Mrs. George A. Hansen

Tuesday, 3 June 1952:

It was sailing day! We were up and at ‘em at 6:30 a.m. with a hearty breakfast and a short visit with Aunt Ellen and Uncle Gus. I was still very much disorganized and made an effort to remedy this. Aunt Ellen gave me two pair of nylons for a going away gift.

Alicia got ready first. After I finished, we were on the street corner looking for a taxi about 9:30 a.m. Another couple was waiting on the same corner. The gentleman finally hailed a taxi, and they let us ride with them. Their destination was the Biltmore.

As we wound through the traffic along Fifth Avenue, they pointed out the new all-glass Lever Brothers Building. After being dropped off at the hotel, some of the crew were just beginning to perk up after wandering the streets of New York until the wee hours of the morning.

Baggage insurance and money changing were on the docket for the morning. Lucile Olsen, Alicia and I decided to see what we could do on our own. We soon found out that we had the wrong money changing address. So after finding American Express on Fifth Avenue for baggage insurance, we found another exchange office on Fifth Avenue for money changing. We dispensed with our business and discovered later that the rates weren’t as good there as the other location. Live and learn.

We stopped in a few Fifth Avenue shops to pick up a few last minute things and then caught a bus to the famous Empire State Building. We took the ride up to the observatory, which was a profitable tourist business at $1.20 per person. It was a big disappointment with a mighty hazy view.

At 12:30 p.m. we were due at the hotel to embark for the pier. After a fast look through the haze of the great city of New York at the observatory, we headed down for another look at New York from a cab window. Traffic jams seemed to be the most common thing with impatient drivers laying on their horns and adding to the hubbub.

Dr. Rogers had arranged for a short sightseeing trip on the bus on our way to the pier. New York, formerly called New Amsterdam, was named after the city of York, England. Highlights were the Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral with its 13th century Gothic architecture, and Waldorf Astoria, New York’s most distinguished hotel. We passed by the last elevated line in the city and the Italian section where there were said to be more Italians than in Rome. Then we continued on to the Irish quarter where once again there were supposedly more Irish than in Ireland.

Next came Manhattan Island with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building. We saw a house, wagon, and East 23rd Street. Then came a new experience for me—The Bowery (area of southern Manhattan). Human beings were sprawled all along the streets—either asleep or sleeping it off, I guess.

At approximately 3 p.m. we arrived at Hoboken Pier Five. In my eagerness to get a picture of our home for the next nine days, I almost missed the rest of the group as they were herded into an elevator. At the top of the elevator or wherever we got off, our bags were put in a little car and the US citizens got in one line and the non U.S. citizens in another. A chatter duck, Joe Meyer, stood in line next to me. He talked so fast I thought he’d run outta something to say.

After a few formalities with the officials, I had my first walk up the gang plank of an ocean liner. There was quite a mob of visitors on both the deck of the ship and shoreline, but no familiar faces except our own. I snapped a few pictures of the crowd and the horizon. Finally, everyone got off who was getting off. Then the gang plank went up and we set sail.

As we left New York we were all taking shots of the Lady, Statue of Liberty. We gradually left the harbor—muchly impressed with her majesty. I watched her as she grew smaller and smaller. I thought of the next time when we would see her again and the things which would befall us in the interim.

After preliminary exploration of the ship, we anxiously looked forward to dinner time. Everyone was famished. Herr Rogers tried to pull strings to try and get us in the first sitting in the fore dining room. While unproductive with his first effort, his second attempt was successful. It was a pleasant experience with seven courses. All the food was delicious and we ate everything in sight. The head waiters or dining room stewards were Dutch and the waiters were Indonesian from the Dutch East Indies.

After dinner, I wandered around, listening to music in the fore lounge and tried to get my diary up to date. At coffee time in the lounge, we asked for milk. Hermine took one taste and exclaimed, “Oh, it’s canned cow.”

The sea had been calm to date, but a lot of the kids were taking pills as a preventive measure for sea sickness. Then we hit the sack about ten at night. The sheets were damp so we slept between the blanket and sheet.

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