Tag Archives: raymond enders

The Diaries: January 1914

In 2005, I came across three diaries belonging to Raymond Enders, a resident of New York City. In these diaries (from 1914, 1921, & 1923) he meticulously recorded his daily life. In 2011, I will retrace his steps and share some of the highlights.

January, 1914

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Saturday, January 3rd: Cloudy. Rain.

“To business. To Wanamaker’s …

Wanamaker’s was a department store located on Broadway between 9th, 10th streets and 4th avenue. The building has withstood the test of time and a fire that resulted in near ruin to the interior and the subway beneath it. Today, 770 Broadway itself doesn’t look much different, though the street itself is crammed end-to-end with buildings. Wanamaker’s is now home to my local Kmart. Pretty fancy exterior for a discount store.

——

Wednesday, January 21st

Cloudy in the Am. Then Clear & cold Pm. To office, then to courthouse. NY State supreme Court. Pt. 1 J. Davis. To Serve on Hans Schmidt Trial. Examined by Di– Att Whit–yan* & excused by council for Schmidt. Saw Schmidt…

Hans Schmidt was a priest who was affiliated with St. Joseph’s Church on W. 125th street. He confessed to killing Anna Aumuller, dismembering her body, and sinking it in the North River. The NY Times has the story.

* — used whenever I cannot make out the handwriting

—–

Saturday, January 24th: Rain. Mild

To office – to Home – to Harlem. Had dinner at Hotel Theresa with Billie…


The Hotel Theresa was built at 125th street and 7th avenue in 1913. First opened as an “apartment hotel,” it boasted 300 rooms and a style that the NY Times noted could look Islamic or Art Deco. Ironically, the “Wonder of Harlem,” was only open to white people until 1940. By 1941, it was the the place for African-American athletes, musicians, writers, and the likes of Malcolm X. (and even Fidel Castro), passed through the hotel.

—–

Sunday, January 25th: Clear. Cold.

To Criterion theatre. Show charming …

Located at 1514-16 Broadway, the Criterion was an entertainment complex opened by Oscar Hammerstein. From the Internet Broadway Database:

“In 1895, Oscar Hammerstein opened an entertainment complex for which one fifty-cent ticket admitted you to two main auditoriums (Lyric, Music Hall), two small theatres (Concert Hall, Roof Garden), an Oriental cafe, bowling, and billiards. On June 29, 1898, the debt-laden Olympia was auctioned. Charles Frohman leased the Lyric and renamed it the Criterion. In 1914, it showed movies as the Vitagraph, but soon returned to live theatre.”

On January 25th, the show Raymond would have seen is was a comedy called “Young Wisdom” by the playwright Rachel Crothers, who was one of the few female playwrights whose plays were running on Broadway. In her lifetime, she had 37 plays produced, most of which revolved around the themes of women, society and gender politics. All were comedies. The NY Times gave “Young Wisdom” a highly favorable review.

Despite the daily records of Raymond’s life, there are many details I’m missing. The general information either leads me in too many different directions or down a dead-end. Passing references to restaurants that have been lost with time. The addresses of buildings no longer in existence. I sense I’ll be left with many questions. I might never find out if Raymond gets married to one of the many women he consistently spends his evenings with or what becomes of him after 1923, but the journey is part of the fun.  I never knew about the Hotel Theresa in Harlem; or the fantastic entertainment complexes that populated the Times Square neighborhood. It was also a pleasant surprise to discover the existence of a prolific female playwright — one who seemed to be writing about what she wanted and was successful at it to boot. I’m learning a lot, but mostly I’m learning to be patient; to deal with not knowing every detail and being ok with that. It’s the happy accidents and little gems of old New York , a glimpse of what it once was, that thrill me the most.






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Monday’s Watch, Listen, Read

An ongoing series where I share what I’m watching, listening to, and reading. Here are this Monday’s picks:

Watch

Prior to this evening’s workshop performance, the only time I had seen Sarah Jones perform live was in 2004, when I snagged a ticket to her off-Broadway show, Bridge & Tunnel. I was completely blown away. It was improv, it was art; it was like watching someone act as both the architect and builder of a character right before my eyes.

Here’s Sarah’s TED talk from 2009. Watch the entire “talk.” You won’t regret spending 21 minutes experiencing cultures intersect and characters emerge through the vessel of one extraordinary human being.

Also, if you’re in New York, get over to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe to see Sarah workshop her new show. In the words of Gloria Steinem (the featured guest at tonight’s show), “Sarah carries the world inside her.” Improv and art intersect with humanity and politics in beautiful, smart, funny, and fascinating ways. I cannot say enough about Sarah and this show except, GO, go go!

Listen

I’m a sucker for string instruments, cellos, violins, violas, basses, harps, and the banjo. I was first introduced to banjo music by the father of my childhood best friend. My friend would go on to play the banjo herself (and amazingly, I might add) when she grew up. Because of that early exposure, banjo music has always held a special, warm little place in my heart. More recently, I was working on a movie where one of our actors was quite the banjo player. He played a few songs off his new album one day. This track, Banana Banjo, is my favorite from his album entitled The Crow: New Songs For the Five-String Banjo. He also plays a mean Foggy Mountain Breakdown:

Four banjo songs in one post! Awesome!

Read

I’m in the middle of reading musician (and fellow Chelsea resident) Rosanne Cash‘s memoir, Composed.

I first read Rosanne Cash’s words in the NY TimesMeasure For Measure blog, before I had heard any of her or her family’s music. It’s an odd thing to read a singer/songwriter and not hear them first, but something in her words and the way she talked about the act of composing a song made me know, instinctively, I would like her work. I’ve always been fascinated by the songwriting and composition process, but I had found it hard to understand or connect with the explanations some musicians gave in interviews. It either seemed to be too general or too insider-y. Cash’s posts on Measure changed that. She was eloquent and insightful and demystified the process for the layperson — without talking down to them. It was the first time I felt as if I was inside the mind of a musician. It was a transporting experience. When the NY Times retired Measure For Measure, Cash’s music helped fill the void — and following her on Twitter helps, too — but it has been great to read her words again. Her beautiful prose and descriptions are, at times, reminiscent of Victorian poetry. I can’t wait to turn the page, but I also don’t want it to end.

If Rosanne Cash’s next book is written in Austen-ian dialogue and features pictures of vintage teacups, I think my book life would be complete.

P.S. For those of you waiting to read about my efforts to retrace the steps of Raymond Enders’ 1914-1924 diaries, I’ll be posting an update on Thursday. Stay tuned!

Life List #43

If you check out my life list, you’ll see it’s a work (life) in-progress. This year, my goal is to cross five big things off my list. #43, Follow the Diaries, has been 93 years in the making. Here is the story.

In 2005, I was wandering through an antique store in Nyack, New York when I came cross three diaries …

One is from 1914, then 1921, and lastly, 1923. The diaries belonged to Raymond Enders of 27177 Washington Ave, Bronx, New York (and later of 254 East 184th Street). He was an employed by the Italian Discount & Trust Company, a bank, located at 399 Broadway, New York City. The New York Times announced the bank’s establishment in July of 1918. Further history on the bank can be found here and here.

When I opened the well-worn diaries, I found every page filled with tiny, black-inked handwritting. It’s cramped and sometimes hard to read, but every day is carefully accounted for, right down to the weather report.

I purchased the three diaries for $20, took them home and began to read. Raymond’s life was ordinary. He went to work, he went home, he sometimes went out on dates or to the theater or bowling. I never finished reading the diaries, but they’ve always sat on a shelf in my secretary desk waiting for me to open them.

This past November I began looking through them again. New details caught my eye. Buildings in Manhattan I never knew existed (and are no longer around today), walks through Central Park on the same date I had walked through it, 92 years later. The ghosts of Raymond’s footsteps mingling with my solid, present ones.

I began to wonder more about Raymond Enders and the New York in which he lived — so very different and yet similar to the one I inhabit today. Where did he come from? How did he get to where he was? Did he ever fall in love? Get married? Move out of New York? I also wondered about our shared city. New York is filled with beautiful old buildings, most of which managed to stand the test of time and prime real estate, but other brick and mortar structures weren’t so lucky. I began to Google some of the places Raymond wrote about and discovered a New York I never knew, one that only exists in books, the archives of the New York Times or in the memories of the city’s oldest residents.

Just as Raymond spent time documenting his life on paper, I spend mine typing words into the ether of the internet. Both methods of our documentation might eventually disintegrate, but for now, I want to breathe some new, virtual life into Raymond’s words. I want to see New York through his eyes and his footsteps.

Every two weeks (or one month, depending on how active he was), I’ll document two weeks (or a month) in the life of Raymond Enders, either by visiting specific locations he mentions in his diaries or researching the ones that no longer exist, and writing about them. I’m hoping some friends or New York experts might be able to assist me with filling in the blanks … or at least help me read his handwriting. Whatever happens, the journey will be fun and a life will be relived, as I live out my own.