a grand outing

My grandfather’s cousin, Florence, was a tremendous lady. She lived and died in Ohio, never married, and even in her 90s towered near six-feet tall. I remember our rare visits to the one-story house she shared with Marie (candy! they let us eat candy!), but despite the distance, Florence was a pro at keeping in touch. Like clockwork, she sent birthday cards. Inside, you could count on a crisp bill and pages of her tiny, slanted handwriting, sending news of relatives whose connections I could never keep straight.

In June 1936, while in her early 20s, Florence and her friend, Chris, traveled to New York City, where they boarded the steamer, Ile de France. With “five bags, a hatbox, armloads of junk,” and a convertible, they set sail for Europe. Over the summer, they visited Great Britain, France, Italy, and that year's summer Olympic games in Berlin. Florence, always the faithful correspondent, documented their trip in letters home to her parents and family.

Thursday 11:30 P.M.
Greetings. Can you hear my dogs barking? We’ve been seeing N.Y. And how! Got up at eleven, ate breakfast, then started for the AAA office in Rockefeller Center. We walked from there to the Grand Central Terminal and watched the mobs of people coming and going. It’s a mammoth building, but not so new as the Cleveland Terminal. There is a door there that opens when you cross a beam of light.

Our next stop was to visit some of the model homes in the Fifth Avenue shops. Whew!! It’s hard to believe, but in Saks, on 5th Ave., one pair of fuzzy anklets cost $3.50!! You should see the gorgeous promenade from 5th Ave. to Rockefeller Center. St. Patrick’s Cathedral was next. It’s difficult to realize that such a quiet sanctuary exists right in the heart of the exclusive shopping district.

Eating came next. There are so many different and clever places to eat that you could find a different place every day of the year and all of them would be novelties. Rockefeller Building (where N.B.C. Studios are located) was as interesting as a carnival. The window decorations could amuse one for days. We hurried on our way to the Battery. We rode our first “L”, or elevated R.R., to the Battery (lakefront section), where we visited the aquarium. You would have enjoyed that, Mom. Penguins, turtles, seals, pelicans, and every kind of fish imaginable.

Next came a boat trip across the harbor to Bedloe Island to see the Statue of Liberty. Not to be outdone by anyone else, we hiked up a spiral staircase, and I mean spiral (about 1 ft. wide) to the top of the crown where we had a good view of the harbor. Our legs were trembling so we could scarcely stand when we got back on ground level.

We’re going to make grand sailors, cause we nearly spilled the beans getting to Bedloe Island. We saw the largest yacht in the world anchor right off the island. Such luxuriousness! All white and carrying four beautiful launches.

Back to the Battery, up to Wall Street and Child’s Restaurant, all via the latest stream-line model car, “Two Legs.” From there it goes on endlessly—subway to 42nd St., bus trip through Chinatown (Have to tell you about that later.), and back to the Hotel Astor Bar Room. I’m so tired I can’t make sense in this letter, so I’ll call a halt until tomorrow night.

Love to all,
Florence and Chris

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