In your memories some things stick out and you wonder why. Here is one of mine.
Did you have an Aunt Peg ? I did, and I’d like to tell you about her. A month before graduating from high school in June of 1952, I got a call from my Aunt Peg who lived in New York City. She invited me to town for a week with her and Uncle Ron, who was my mother’s oldest brother. She would send plane tickets and make all the arrangements. This sounded exciting. I checked with my parents and they said OK.
Aunt Peg picked me up at Idlewild, now JFK Airport. On the way to her apartment in Jackson Heights Long Island she said “ Gene, do you drive?” My answer was yes. I was 17 and had been driving since my 16th birthday.
I understood her question when she said she was the proud owner of a new Chevrolet convertible and we would be touring with me at the wheel.
The next day, with Aunt Peg directing, we drove over the Queensborough Bridge, found Central Park, and wended our way down 5th Ave., Broadway and Times Square, Greenwich Village, the financial district and more. I don’t remember leaving the car. Aunt Peg described what we were passing by. No museums, not the top of the Empire State building, or Madame Tussauds. I saw a lot but never got to “be there”. Then it happened.
We parked on 53rd St just off 5th Ave. and walked under a green awning that said STORK CLUB. We entered a plain-fronted building. It was early afternoon. Inside we saw a bar on the left with a few patrons on stools. Ahead was a large room with tables and a bandstand but no people.
A dapper man greeted us and after some small talk with Aunt Peg invited us to sit with him at a small table.
Aunt Peg and he carried on as though they were old friends though they had never met. She introduced me as her nephew visiting from Detroit.
When we finished our drinks, the man presented me with a pair of wide red suspenders. On the back was a small leather patch that said STORK CLUB.
Returning to the car, Aunt Peg told me the man was Sherman Billingsley. The Stork Club he owned was the most famous nightclub in the world. She said he entertained celebrities like Frank Sinatra, JFK and Jackie, Joe DiMaggio, J. Edgar Hoover, Ernest Hemmingway, and more.
It was said that Mr. Billingsley treated everybody like they were a king or queen and was famous for giving presents to patrons. I guess he proved that point with me.
I attended a Brooklyn Dodgers baseball game with Uncle Ron and watched fireworks from a yacht on Manhasset Bay on July 4th. Those were fun, but I have done things like that many times since. The meeting with Sherman Billingsley at the Stork Club was a once in a lifetime for me, and I expect for Aunt Peg, too.
Or should I call her my “Auntie Mame”?
By Savvy Senior
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