Posts Tagged ‘New York in 1961’

A little girl goes missing in 1960s Chelsea

July 14, 2014

EdithkiecoriusphotoIt was February 1961, Washington’s birthday. Four-year-old Edith Kiecorius had taken the subway from her Brooklyn home with her widowed mother and brother to visit her uncle in Manhattan.

Her uncle’s apartment was on Eighth Avenue near 18th Street, in the “deteriorating” neighborhood of Chelsea, as one newspaper described it at the time.

Edith spent the afternoon playing outside on the sidewalk. Her uncle left her alone for a few minutes to buy cigarettes, and by the time he came back around 4 pm, the little girl in a purple snowsuit had vanished.

In an era without Amber Alerts or even 911, police seemed to pull out all the stops to find her. Over the next week, they set up special hotlines for anyone who may have seen her; they searched rooftops, sewers, and the bottom of the Hudson.

Edithkiecoriuspolicegetty

“Detectives leafed through records of mental hospitals for women recently released and checked death lists,” reported the New York Times, as the police felt the person who took her might have “a frustrated mother instinct.”

Edithk307west20thstOn February 27, Edith’s body was found on a bed in a one-room flat at 307 West 20th Street (at left today), a “dingy Chelsea rooming house,” as a front-page Times piece put it. She’d been sexually assaulted and beaten to death.

The killer was captured a few days later. Fred Thompson, a 59-year-old drifter who had just rented the room in the West 20th Street house. He admitted to cops that while in a drunken stupor, he lured Edith to his room by telling her that he had his “own little girl” she could play with.

He assaulted and beat her, then left her in the room while he spent days drinking on the Bowery. When he learned that police had found Edith’s body and that he was the prime suspect, he fled to Philadelphia and then to a New Jersey chicken farm.

Edithkfredthompsonnyt“Assistant Chief Inspector James J. Walsh of the New York City police said after questioning Thompson he had said, ‘I know I deserve my full punishment for what I did,'” the Times wrote.

“Asked what he meant by ‘full punishment,’ Thompson was quoted as saying ‘life imprisonment or the electric chair.'”

Thompson was tried and found guilty later that year; the verdict carried a mandatory death sentence.

But according to one source, Thompson, above, was instead institutionalized for the rest of his life.

[Second photo: Getty Images; Fourth photo: NYTimes]

So many ways to kick back in 1960s Central Park

April 24, 2014

If the skyscrapers and hotels in the background were cropped out, you might not even know these images were taken in Central Park.

Dancersincentralpark

But they were. In the summer of 1961, Life =photographer Leonard McCombe documented New Yorkers enjoying pastimes and pleasures in the park, about a century old at the time.

Fishingincentralpark

His photographs came together in an essay in the magazine. All 26 published photos are available in the Life archive.

Horsecarriageincentralpark

These five really capture the joys of a lazy warm New York afternoon, and all the ways to enjoy the 800 or so acres of the world’s most famous park.

[No more carriage rides in the park if our current mayor gets his way…]

Dogsinfountaincentralpark

In 1961, you could have taken a dip in the waters of Bethesda Fountain (well, dogs could, apparently), fish in Harlem Meer (or is that the pond?), or kick a soccer ball around the lawn.

Coolingfeetincentralpark

Or kick off your shoes, sit back on a boulder, and dip your toes in cold water while having a smoke.

Of course, these women would be hauled off the jail today; ex–Mayor Bloomberg banned smoking in all city parks in 2011!

[Photos: Leonard McCombe—Time & Life Picture/Getty Images]

Bob Dylan’s “muffled and mysterious” 1960s city

December 1, 2011

“New York City was cold, muffled, and mysterious, the capital of the world,” recalled Bob Dylan in his 2004 memoir, Chronicles: Volume One.

It’s the New York he encountered upon moving here in 1961 at age 20.

Broke but hungry for success and experiences, his observations of the winter he arrived—”the cold was brutal and every artery of the city was snowpacked”—will resonate with anyone who remembers their first magical months in New York.

“The city was like some uncarved block without any name or shape and it showed no favoritism. Everything was always new, always changing. It was never the same old crowd upon the streets,” wrote Dylan.

“I crossed over from Hudson to Spring, passed a garbage can loaded with bricks and stopped into a coffee shop. The waitress at the lunch counter wore a close-fitting suede blouse. It outlined the well-rounded lines of her body. She had blue-black hair covered with a kerchief and piercing blue eyes, clear stenciled eyebrows. I was wishing she’d pin a rose on me.”

“She poured the steaming coffee and I turned back towards the street window. The whole city was dangling in front of my nose. I had a vivid idea of where everything was. the future was nothing to worry about. It was awfully close.”