A little side track for the season

by The Boatswain | December 11th, 2005

This is NOT about my Navy career, but what I was doing before I joined up. As a teenager in the 1930’s I was living in the Bronx (a New York City burrough) and, as did many kids in those days, I attended High School and also had a part-time job. I was VERY lucky and (thanks to the employment office at the Catholic School across from our apartment) was given a job at the Radio City Music Hall as an usher.

Radio City Music Hall

What a deal! The pay was good, I was given a neat uniform and I got to see all the latest “block-busters” from Hollywood! (Although seeing the same movies 20 or 30 times was NOT too great!) After school let out for the day, I’d ride the subway (only 5¢ in those days!!!!) and go to work, changing into the uniform in the locker room.

Shortly before Christmas in 1938 I was sent backstage to run the passenger elevators. This was wonderful, as I didn’t see the screen from there and got to meet many of the cast of the theaters big stage shows. Although I transported the Rockettes up and down from their dressing rooms, my favorites were the girls in the Corps de Ballet! They were not as famous and were not as snooty either! Once in a while I’d have to switch off and do a tour back inside, escorting people to their seats. I was doing this when I joined the Navy and can still remember the movie that was showing when I left! It was “Lady Hamilton”, (later renamed “That Hamilton Woman”) with Vivian Leigh and Laurence Olivier. I must have seen it 30 times. Myself and another usher up on our Second Balcony could recite the dialog BEFORE the characters on screen did!

After the war started, the Music Hall flew a flag in their lobby, with stars on it for each member of their staff in service, and mine was number one!

Near the end of the War, every time my wife and I could visit New York, we would go the Music Hall’s Stage Door and they’d let us in free! THOSE DAYS ARE GONE FOREVER!

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The United States Navy rating of Boatswain's Mate is a designation given to enlisted members who are rated as a deck seaman. The colloquial form of address for a boatswain's mate is 'Boats'.

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