Payne LogoAlong with a group of people who had purchased Fords from Payne Motor Company in 1964 I went on a trip to New York City and the 1964 New York Worlds Fair.Progress Clipping There were two buses left New Tazewell in July 1964 from Swan Seymour Tours, Maynardville, Tennessee. (This was wrong according to Ann Shumate, who accompanied as a guest of Cissy Payne. There was only one bus and when we broke down they traveled with another bus all the way to New Jersey to continue our trip.) They were loaded with family, friends, teachers and customers of Payne Motor Company. Some notables included John Tom Payne, Dayton Shockley, Elizabeth Fugate, Rebecca Rose, Milt and Vida Brooks, Agnes and Dan Bailey,  Rita Cardwell, Lynn Essary, Davis Reece, Carolyn Moyers, Frank and Anna Belle Fugate, and Aunts and Uncles, Clyde and Mildred Bumgardner, Rita Greene, Mary Payne, L.G. and Helen Payne and  cousins Bryan and Cissy Payne.  Two buses (wrong) of happy people going up the New Jersey Turnpike singing and having fun on a very hot summer day.  What could go wrong?  "Well let me tell you."  A phrase that my good friend Randy  England might use for that hot summer day going up the New Jersey Turnpike.

If I remember correctly and after talking recently to Swan Seymour his son Bill was driving the first bus in which I was riding.    Soon after stopping at the toll booth entering the turnpike our bus made a terrible noise.  Something was wrong in the engine compartment in the rear of the bus.  Mr. Seymour made a quick stop followed by the second bus.  After he surveyed the damage he returned to tell us that his fan blade had come off and been cast through the radiator.  Great this meant what then?  Well it meant that were were going to have to sit in that hot bus for nearly 8 hours and wait for Mr. Bill Seymours brother Joe to bring us a new fan and radiator from Maynardville, Tennessee.  This was only the beginning of a glourious week of fun and antics in the Big Apple though.  I was fourteen years old and "hanging out" in the Big Apple with the older guys and girls was something special.  There was Rockefeller Center's Radio City Music Hall and Rockettes, the Yankees Game, the Empire State Building and getting lost on the New York City Subway.  More on this trip next time.  And our next year, 1965, trip to Florida - Tampa/St. Petersburg - and Bush Gardens will be a continuation.  Lots of stories to tell.  My Uncle Tom had a great big old heart and lots of friends.   More later.   Meanwhile enjoy some of the sights of New York in 1964.

Ford Levacar

The following is taken from
HE MOOD OF the future is continued in the Styling display, for here the world of tomorrow is being created today. This, too, is a projection in time, and the forms are necessarily abstract, for such advanced styling concepts must anticipate inevitable engineering innovations. Will the vehicle ride on a cushion of air like the experimental Ford Levacar? Will it also fly? If so, what kind of propulsion will it use? Suppose it is amphibious, what kind of styling and design would it require? Within this abstract dimensional environment, stylists must be able to conceive and create in order to lead -- in order to bring to reality the cars of the future.  I brought home a AMT Model

1964 Worlds Fair
Image from website Yesterday's Tomorrows

  If you would like a scale visit this site.


We stayed at the famous Knickerbocker Hotel

Hotel Knickerbocker

New York, New York
The Knickerbocker
by Clay Risen

Of all the classic New York hotels, one of its finest, The Knickerbocker, has fallen into almost-total obscurity. Clay Risen opens doors that have been too long forgotten and too much made over.   The Knickerbocker designed by Ernest Flagg at Fifth Avenue and 28th Street.

On November 9, 1918 � Armistice Day � opera superstar Enrico Caruso stood on a balcony of the Knickerbocker Hotel, looking out over the intersection of 42nd Street and Broadway. Throngs of people had gathered below to celebrate the end of the first World War, and Caruso, the world�s most famous tenor, wanted to add to the excitement. He decided to do what he did best: Sing. He led the crowd in the �Star-Spangled Banner,� and followed it with the French and Italian national anthems.

And yet the most fascinating thing about the Knickerbocker isn�t its design, but its history. Indeed, it�s one of those New York buildings whose story is as surprising as its anonymity. Tens of thousands of people pass by there every day � and yet probably only a mere handful know anything about it.

Today the hotel is simply called 6 Times Square, and it holds not hotel guests, but apparel showroom � a 25,000-square-foot Gap occupies the first floor. But when it opened in 1905, the Knickerbocker was one of midtown�s premier hotels, and one of the tallest buildings on Times Square.

Construction began in 1903, underwritten by an investment group led by developers J.E. and A.L. Pennock. But work on the building halted a year later when the
group collapsed, and John Jacob Astor IV, who owned the property, stepped in to complete it. He redesigned the interiors, and when it opened the Knickerbocker boasted 556 rooms, original art by Frederick Remington and Maxfield Parrish, and an immense dining room. Lore holds that on its second night the hotel turned away 500 people from its restaurant.

Old Post Card

The Knickerbocker even had its own subway entrance, which can still be seen today. It�s at the eastern end of Track 1 at the Times Square shuttle platform. (At the time, the shuttle was actually part of an IRT track that ran south along the 4/5/6 line and continued north along the 1/3/9 tracks.) There you�ll find a grimy, nondescript door, the lintel of which reads �KNICKERBOCKER.� (see image below)  The door is locked, but it once gave way to a cozy basement lobby and bar.  I think this is one reason that my Uncle choose the Knickerbocker, it was handy to the subway in 1964 the entrace was open.

Celebrities and the city�s elite flocked to the hotel, drawn both by its luxurious rooms and its world-class restaurant bar. That bar is where, in 1912, an immigrant bartender named Martini di Arma di Taggia allegedly mixed gin and dry vermouth, perfecting the martini. One of his first tasters was John D. Rockefeller, who liked it so much that he recommended it to all his Wall Street buddies, and the drink quickly became a national favorite.

The Knickerbocker�s most famous guest, however, wasn�t, in strict terms, a �guest� at all, but rather a resident. In order to be near the Metropolitan Opera, which at the time was located just three blocks away, Caruso and his family lived in the hotel from its opening until his death in 1921. Caruso�s wife gave birth to their daughter, Gloria, in their suite; Caruso is said to have examined her mouth and declared, �Ah, she has the vocal cords, just like her daddy!� According to one newspaper report Caruso ate virtually all his meals in the hotel restaurant, always using the same utensils, and one time when he encountered an unemployed man lined up at the bread line at the back of the hotel, Caruso gave him his coat and shoes.

Monk Eastman, the famous gang leader, was captured here by police while having a shoot-out with a Pinkerton detective; the 10 years he got spelt the end of his power in the underworld.

Its interior was sacrificed to the vicissitudes of contemporary fashion, its lobby�s barrel-vaulted ceiling had been covered in illuminated plastic, a look that was, according to one observer, �vintage �70s.�

Vincent Astor, the son of John Jacob Astor IV (who went down with the Titanic in 1912), announced he would close the hotel in 1921. There�s no clear story on exactly why he shuttered the Knickerbocker a mere 15 years after opening, though some speculate that Prohibition and its impact on the hotel�s bar business could have played a role. Or maybe it was simply that, at a time when the world was just coming off a major war, not enough people were in the mood for luxury suites and a gold dinner service.

Whatever the case, the Knickerbocker was quietly converted into office space, and though its exterior remained the same, its interior was sacrificed to the vicissitudes of contemporary fashion � before it underwent its most recent renovation, its lobby�s barrel-vaulted ceiling had been covered in illuminated plastic, a look that was, according to one observer, �vintage �70s.� The paintings hanging in the restaurant were sold off � the Parrish, �Old King Cole,� now hangs in the St. Regis � and the hotel sank into anonymity.

Between 1940 and 1959 it was the home of Newsweek, thanks to which the Knickerbocker is still often called the Newsweek Building. It was converted into residential lofts in 1980, because at the time the office-space market was in the dumps; as Frank Farinella, the architect who oversaw the conversion, told the Times, �You couldn�t give away office space at the time.� In 1988 New York�s preservation commission made it a city landmark.

Times have changed, of course, and office space in New York is in high demand. Which is unfortunate, because it means there�s little chance of the Knickerbocker being converted back to a hotel anytime soon. In fact, while the exterior renovations are amazing, the building�s current owners missed a great opportunity to put the interior to a use other than apparel showrooms. For now, the Knickerbocker is just one more quiet, storied building, in a city full of them.

Entrance to  Times Square

Next time you are taking the Times Square Shuttle toward Grand Central, walk toward the northern end of the platform. You'll find a locked door with the word "Knickerbocker" above it. What could it be? Where does the door go?

Behind the door is a stair which led up to the rear lobby of the Knickerbocker Hotel at 1466 Broadway, at the southeast corner of 42nd Street. There was a lower level nightclub/dancehall/restaurant. The stair is still there as a relic; underneath the stair is a subway power/communications manhole. Also in back of the wall are sidewalk vaults that belonged to the Knickerbocker.

The Knickerbocker is no longer a hotel. Newsweek magazine had its headquarters in the building for awhile. Today, the building has been divided into condominiums.

Knickerbocker Hotel in the 1920s

George M. Cohan and Enrico Caruso are among the celebrities who once stayed at the Knickerbocker. It was built in 1901 and has undergone a number of alterations over the years. Its bar was once known as the "42nd Street Country Club."

Times Square Entrance

The Knickerbocker Hotel entrance was not the only building entrance in the original Times Square station. Befitting the station name, there was a door that led directly to the New York Times Tower (the one now covered in billboards and ringed by the famous "zipper"). The New York Times' press room was directly below the station and the newspaper noted in 1905 that "it is possible in the early morning hours to load the successive editions on subway cars for the most rapid general distribution" although the paper would remain in the Times Tower for only 8 years.

Soon after, the entrance was bricked up, although the remains of an archway above the door are still evident.

Source: "Crossroads of the Whirl", David Dunlap, NY Times March 28, 2004

The shuttle station at Grand Central is itself a relic, being part the first real subway line in New York City that was built in 1904. The line ran along today's 4-5-6 lines north from City Hall , then west along today's shuttle. then north along Seventh Avenue along today's 1-2-3 lines. A look from the south end of the shuttle station will reveal that the shuttle tracks do indeed connect with the 1-2-3.
Some of Times Square's original terra-cotta work.

There was a door in the Knickerbocker Hotel Lobby that lead down to the famous Peppermint Lounge.  We kept proping the door open with one of the large lobby chairs.  Finally the Hotel Management threatened to throw all us "HILLBILLYS" out and accussed us of stealing their chairs.


Peppermint Lounge

For years it was whispered that the Peppermint Lounge, the sweaty little Times Square watering hole that for a few golden months in the early 1960s served as world headquarters for celebrities eager to be seen dancing The Twist, was run by The Mob.

Whether it was or not, it sounded better than saying the Pep was created by the Nazis.

But that, in an indirect way, was true.

After the Third Reich marched into Paris in 1940, the city's new officials banned live jazz, which Germany officially considered decadent. This drove Parisian nightlife underground, in some cases literally, as the patrons of nightclubs moved their fun to smaller, less visible rooms where, at times, to avoid trouble with the authorities, live music was supplanted with recordings.

The most famous of these spots, Le Discotheque, opened in 1941 and became so popular that "discotheque" became almost a generic name for these sorts of clubs, which flourished even after the Germans had been shown the door.

If recordings were a cheap way to entertain a crowd, however, live music still had an allure of its own for dancers, so many nightspots went back and forth.

In New York, one such spot was a small bar at 128 W. 45th St., next to the Knickerbocker Hotel. As the 1960s dawned, it was variously described as a neighborhood bar or an easy hangout for sailors passing through Times Square. Terry Noel, who soon would become one of the important early club deejays, has reported it was a gay hustler hangout.

In any case, by early 1961 it was booking local bands, like the Starliters out of Jersey.

The starliters, said to be named for the Starlight Amusement Park, were led by Joey Dee, who had been born Joseph DiNicola in Passaic in 1940 and who had been looking for his big break since 1954, when his earlier group the Thunder Trio placed second on "Ted Mack's Amateur Hour."

The Starliters also included Larry Vernieri, Carlton Lattimore, Willie Davis and David Brigati. They worked clubs, parties, dances. Their first record, arranged with help from Dee's high school friends the Shirelles, was "Face of an Angel" and "Shimmy Baby." It didn't sell much, but the group worked up an interesting stage bit for "Shimmy Baby": a quick step that went, "One-two-three kick, one-two-three!"

They were playing at a club called Oliveri's in Lodi, N.J., when agent Don Davis spotted them and offered them a weekend at the Peppermint Lounge. The money wasn't great, but it was New York and the timing was perfect: There was a new dance craze in the land. It was called The Twist.

Singer Chubby Checker had started this craze with a painstakingly perfect remake of a minor 1958 hit by Hank Ballard. Dick Clark had heard the Ballard song and thought it had potential, but, fearing Ballard was too associated with rhythm and blues, arranged for the clean-cut 19-year-old Checker to rerecord it. With the not-incidental help of Clark's powerful national TV show, it became the most popular record of 1960 - huge with white kids and still acceptable to blacks.

The twist also had legs beyond the Checker record, and the Peppermint Lounge was just the kind of place to keep it going.

The room was unpretentious enough to be exotic, its 200-patron capacity was small enough to make it seem exclusive and the dance generated enough perspiration so it felt like a walk on the wild side to celebrity patrons from Judy Garland to Sybil Burton and visiting European royals. The Starliters arrived in mid-1961, just as the hot moment was starting for the Pep.

With their stylish Italian-kid looks, they clicked right away. Soon the Peppermint Lounge had even more celebrities, from various Kennedys to Nat King Cole, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Liberace and Mr. Blackwell. Lines snaked down the block and around the corner as doormen roamed the lines deciding who was good enough to get in.

One night, three 18-year-olds from Harlem put on their tightest skirts, piled their hair to the ceiling, stuffed their dresses and got on line hoping they looked 21.

Soon a man with an unlit cigar came over and escorted them in. He pointed to the stage and told them to dance.

Not only did they dance, the boldest of the three, Ronnie Bennett, sang a verse of "What'd I Say" with Brigati. The Ronettes had their big break.

But the Starliters were the stars, so synonymous with the Peppermint Lounge that many patrons thought Dee owned it. By October, they had signed with Roulette Records and recorded the R&B-flavored "Peppermint Twist." It became a national No. 1 hit � thanks in part to a chorus that went "One-two-three kick, one-two-three!"

By early 1962, they were starring in a quickie movie, "Hey Let's Twist." They got 13 months out of their craze and had another couple of hits, including a remake of "Shout." By 1964, when the pop music world turned its attention to some kids from England, Joey Dee hooked up with a new group that included David's brother Eddie Brigati, Gene Cornish and Felix Cavaliere, who themselves would soon break off and form the core of The Young Rascals.

Dee stuck with the Starliters. The Pep hung on for a while, too. The Beatles, escorted by their new best friend Murray the K, dropped in for a visit on their first New York trip. But eventually the crowds moved on to new clubs and new dances, and on Dec. 28, 1965, the state Liquor Authority announced it was closing the Peppermint Lounge for failure to disclose that it was partly owned by a man with a criminal record.

One-two-three kick. One-two-three.

Originally published on March 5, 2004

Entrance to Peppermint Lounge

The Rockers standing in front of the original Peppermint Lounge in New York City. This was just before their first performance there. The only one missing from the photo is Tony Lopez because he snapped the photo.