Capt. Dan, part 4: Long Island Gentry, Speakeasies, and the Stock Market Crash

The continuing autobiography of Capt. Dan.

In those days, the great wealthy families had estates on the major points of land projecting into Long Island Sound. A mile to the west of us was the Harrison William’s estate; J.P Morgan’s was off Glen Cove, Tommy Mansville, and the asbestos family across the sound at Greenwich, Vanderbilt’s out at Huntington, etc. All of them had high-speed 50′ to 60′ express cruisers that could make 50 mph. They were beautiful mahogany custom jobs. They ran like clockwork, so much so that we kids could tell what time it was in late afternoon when they were returning from Wall Street to their Long Island estates
In 1929, we did not go to Bayville. My father teamed up with a Tom Lynch, and they opened the Press Club on 45th St., between 3rd and Lexington on the north side. They had the entire 4-story tenement building. The bar, which was a speakeasy, was in the basement area. The first and second floors were dining rooms. The third floor was for gambling while his maitre de, Mario, lived on the top floor. They also had a beautiful patio setup in the backyard for the summers. The advertising, sports, and news media people hung out there. All the great comic strip artists had a small mural around the wall of the barroom depicting various characters that came there. I remember Tom Mix and Texas Guinan coming to our house on Ithaca St one time. I remember my math teacher, Mr. Young, from PS 89. I made my confirmation at St Bartholomew’s a few blocks away. We use to pick wild strawberries and apples nearby. Jackson Heights, on the other side of Roosevelt Avenue, was mostly vacant lots. We use to play baseball and football in them. Later they were filled up with apartment houses. I had a crush on a Grace Wainright. One time at a birthday party in her home, I pulled her chair aside as she sat down causing her to fell on her butt. Her mother chased me home. Later on I brought her an artificial Easter bunny filled with jellybeans, and all was forgiven. My freshman year at Newtown was in the Annex, which was the top floor of my grade school, PS 89. After that, it was in the main building located over past Corona Ave. The school had a 10,000 enrollment. Some of the classes we had to sit two to a seat. We had split sessions. I averaged B-plus. I even got 100 on State Regents exam in trigonometry. I liked school and didn’t mind homework. During the summer of ’29 1 went to Bayville with the Guide’s a few times Oh yes, getting back to 1927. I broke my collarbone playing football. My mother took me to Bellevue where they put a wrap-around cast on my chest and left arm. After a few weeks, I told my mother it hurt and still felt funny. My father got Doc Woods, who was team doctor for the Yankees to look at it. My Dad knew Doc from the Press Club. I went to St Francis Hospital where he reset it. Apparently, it was healing with one part of the bone over the other. He wired it together and it came out ok. While there, Babe Ruth came down and gave me a ball signed by the entire Yankee team. The next spring my brother Tommy took the ball, which was shellacked, out and played baseball with it, scuffing it so badly that it was destroyed. I could have killed him at the time.
In ’29, the stock market collapsed. My father’s partner, Tom Lynch, was wiped out. My father did not play the market. His money went on horses and cards. We had a new ’29 4DR Chrysler sedan. I believe we moved to 74th Street just off Woodside Ave about this time. We had a fold up pool table that my father and some of Costello’s crowd use to play on. We lived on the top floor of the two family units. A family named Rockefeller, who lived bellow us, owned the place. St Mary’s became our new parish. We would take the train up to Westchester County near White Plains to visit my sister Margaret, who was in a Catholic girl’s school. We also use to drive up once in awhile and visit Aunt Bessie who had moved to a fancy house in Scarsdale. Aunt Bessie lived with her daughter Betty and husband Louie Crone.

to be continued…

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