Autobiographical Essays

Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD (1910 - 1995)

My First Day In New York

The morning after our arrival in New York my husband wanted to show me the city. We lived with my parents-in-law in the East Bronx, which now resembles a battle field with burned out houses, but at that time it was a Jewish lower--middleclass and workers neighborhood with four or five story apartment buildings interspersed with one or two family dwellings with small front lawns. This was new to me, for in Berlin there were no private houses on the streets where apartment buildings existed. We walked to the subway which was elevated and took the express train to 42nd street. Berlin also had an extensive subway system, but no express trains; the German trains were quiet and  sedate, moving smoothly from one well kept station to the next. The New York subway scared me. The train lurched and shook and made terrible noises so that I thought that at any moment it would collide, but everyone sat quietly and I realized that they were used to this. still I was glad when we reached 42nd street and disembarked. I saw my first skyscraper, which impressed me. We crossed Fifth Avenue, which I had heard and read about, and looked at the large public library guarded by two lions. Berlin had no public libraries to speak of and the large library building situated at “Unter den Linden” [a Berlin avenue] was connected with the Berlin university. Walking further west on 42nd street, we reached Times Square, which disappointed me. Broadway looked dirty and down, which it was, and when George explained that it was the famous theater section I could hardly believe it. Comparing it with Berlin, where beautifully maintained theater buildings were scattered throughout the city, this view was disappointing. Broadway has to be experienced at night when neon lights blaze and light up the sky, but during the day it looked cheap and neglected. We reached Columbus Circle where streets radiated in all directions and walked into Central Park. Central Park was a revelation o me. It stretched far away to the North with lawns and boulders scattered throughout the park, left behind from the last ice age. Berlin, too, has a large park, stretching from Unter den Linden and the Brandenburg Tor to West Berlin, and Kurfurstendam, but the grass areas are surrounded by low iron railings, about one foot high and signs that say: “walking on the grass is forbidden”  (Das btreten des Grasses ist verboten). Naturally the lawns looked well kept, but the freedom of being allowed to walk on the grass and climb the rocks gives Central Park its attraction. It is not meant only to be looked at and enjoyed from a distance, but it is a place that invites relaxation within its midst. When I looked back towards the south and saw for the first time the outline of skyscrapers reaching like giant fingers to the sky I was deeply impressed. Whenever I visit New York now I still experience awe when seeing the skyline. After our excursion in Central Park, we walked back to 42nd street along Fifth Avenue, which at that time still had beautiful stores. Then I suffered through the subway ride again, and we returned home exhausted but happy.


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