Posts Tagged ‘Times Square in the 1940s’

1940s Beat writer hangout: Hector’s cafeteria

June 16, 2010

There were actually four Hector’s cafeterias in Times Square, according to a 1970 New York Times article chronicling the closing of the last one on 44th Street and Broadway.

I don’t know which one is in this 1952 photo—nor is it clear which Hector’s was chronicled in the opening pages of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road:

“Dean had arrived the night before, the first time in New York, with his beautiful little sharp chick Marylou; they got off the Greyhound bus at 50th Street and cut around the corner looking for a place to eat and went right to Hector’s, and since then Hector’s Cafeteria has always been a big symbol of New York for Dean.

“They spent money on beautiful big glazed cakes and creampuffs.”

Desserts seemed to be Hector’s specialty. “The dessert counter, 12 feet long and three feet high, was a gourmond’s dream,” the Times article says.

Hubert’s: freaks and fleas in Times Square

November 30, 2009

Coney Island wasn’t the only place New Yorkers could go to ogle side-show exhibits. From 1925 to 1969, Hubert’s Museum in Times Square—next door to the Amsterdam Theater on West 42nd Street—housed freaks of all stripes.

For 25 cents, you could catch a glimpse of Olga, the bearded lady, whose facial hair measured more than 13 inches. And the Man From World War Zero, who had a terribly deformed face.

There was also Susie the Elephant Skin Girl, Lady Estelline the sword swallower, voodoo jungle snake dancer Princess Sahloo, Prince Randion, human caterpiller, and a man who could blow up balloons and smoke pipes through his tear duct.

Tiny Tim started out singing at Hubert’s. Famous freak Zip the Pinhead did time there as well.

Hubert’s had something else going for it: the city’s last flea circus. Professor Heckler’s Flea Circus operated in the basement. There, real fleas attached to very thin wires raced miniature chariots on a teeny tiny track.

Hubert’s is long gone, but you can still see it on film: A scene from 1969’s Midnight Cowboy has John Voight strolling past.

“Good Food” at Toffenetti in Times Square

April 7, 2009

I love this 1940s postcard and its, um, poetic description of Broadway—”where glamour sparkles forever.” But I get the feeling Toffenetti was one of those massive establishments with a ton of tables yet not such good food, as the sign above the door promises.

toffenettirestaurant

Opened in 1940, Toffenetti served up big plates of mid-century American staples; think ham, roast beef, strawberry shortcake, lots of pies. It shut its doors in 1968.

A New York Times article announcing the closing said Toffenetti had recently begun advertising an all-you-can-eat menu for just $3.95. Must have been a popular deal; the article goes on to say that they served 3,000 meals a day.