My father was a kid when he first went to New York City. Well, not exactly a kid but this was the 1960s and if you were in your early twenties, that kind of classified you as a kid. He flew via Iceland where the ‘plane needed to refuel before flying on to JFK.
This photograph is the first he took in the city, taken on one of those instant cameras – you know the type – you had to wave the photo about in the air to let them dry, they smelled a bit, but they were still quicker than waiting a week. Younger folks would probably not know what it was like to wait days for your photos to return to you and then find most of them were useless.
The reason I’m telling you this part, is because my father only ever met two famous people on his travels; and when I say famous I mean…….well you’ll see what I mean. The first was in Spain when he met Matt Munro, a singer famous for the song, Born Free, from the film of the same name. The other was a man he met in a bar, a little joint off of Times Square. My dad, as I said, was young and on his first trip to the US of A; a country we would live in and spend many wonderful years.
I think the bar my father wandered into was called The Black Spider or something like that. He was old enough to drink but looked real young and was embarrassed when he was asked his age – something he had to prove by showing them his passport.
“Where ya from?” Asked the barman.
My dad told him, and the man replied: “Oh Scotland, sure, I’ve got a pal over there, Willie McDonald, you don’t by any chance know him?”
Of course my father didn’t, but he just agreed that he did to be friendly.
Apart from the barman there was another guy, sitting up at the far end – a seat that gave you a view of everyone and anyone who entered the place.
The man, probably in his forties, asked if a ‘Scotchman’ knew how to play pool. My father said he didn’t and so the man said he’d show him.
“Put your money away,” said the man, “you’re a visitor and guest in my city. I’m paying.”
The night went on and they both ended up pretty drunk – my father decided because he had work in the morning that he’d better leave. The man said he’d walk with him.
“What cha work at?” Asked the man and my father told him he was an engineer.
“What about you?” Asked my dad.
“Oh me, I’m going to shoot the President.”
And with that, the man said his goodbyes and disappeared down 8th Avenue.
My father took this photo in July, 1962.
bobby stevenson 2016
photo by Tom Stevenson, NYC 1962