Saturday, August 2, 2008

Harry Liebowitz: Metropolitan Diary, June 29, 1988

I bet this is "our" Harry. I'll find out from his son.* If not it's still a nice story.
I took the picture two yeas ago.
METROPOLITAN DIARY, Published: June 29, 1988
Dear Diary: My sister Yetta wrote to say that she was coming back to New York for a brief visit. Yetta moved to Encino, Calif., about 15 years ago; now, among other things, she wanted to revisit places she remembered from the good old days.
Not surprisingly, for her first stop she asked me to accompany her to the old bathhouse on Allen Street between Delancey and Rivington Streets. It was here where, along with many of our companions, we would line up every Friday afternoon in the early 1920's for a weekly shower.
Showering was a luxury: in our tenement homes there wasn't even a bathtub, let alone a shower, to clean ourselves for Shabbat, the Sabbath. With so many children clamoring to get in, apportioned time was of the essence.
To allow everyone a turn, after a few minutes the attendants would hammer on the doors of the shower stalls, insisting that we get out. Yetta and I chose a sunny afternoon to visit this anachronism in our old neighborhood.
Many things had changed. The elevated train was gone. The New Delancey movie house was still there, but is now showing Spanish-language films instead of the cowboy and Indian epics we remembered. As for the Allen Street bathhouse, it was closed (permanently, according to the sign). Later we learned that it had been the last public bathhouse in Manhattan.
Since we couldn't enter the building, we did the next best thing: we asked a kind stranger to take a photograph of us standing in front. I put the picture - carefully, lovingly - in my family album. HARRY LIEBOWITZ

*update:from Larry Liebowitz
He did write this and I have the original column with a picture of Yetta in front of the baths, if I can find it I will email it to you.

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