Chapter XI - The Empire State Building
Dad said, "Well kids, this is it - the famous Empire State Building. It was just finished three years ago, in 1931. Each one of the forty-eight States has donated a block of marble or granite for construction, so they could be a part of it". We went through the revolving door and into a long marble hallway where there were rows of elevators. People were streaming in and out like it was the week before Christmas. If you didn't keep up with them, I believe they would run right over you. The traffic was unbelievable, and there were taxicabs all over the place - Yellow cabs, and Checker cabs. People were waving their arms, yelling and whistling at the cab drivers to get their attention when they wanted to get a ride. It was a mad house!
Some had little folding desks that they set up right on the sidewalk selling all kinds of kitchen gadgets - anything to make a living. We went into one of the elevators and Dad pressed the top button. When the elevator started up, my stomach stayed down on the floor.
It didn't catch up to me until we reached the fifty first floor. That was almost half way up, we went another fifty-two stories and stopped at the observation deck near the top.
The observation Platform, as it was called, was about ten feet wide and surrounded a restaurant, one hundred and two stories above the street.
There were about twenty short but powerful binoculars mounted on stands. You had to put a nickel in to make them work. You could see all over New York City. People down on the streets looked like ants crawling all over. The cars looked like raisins with wheels.
If the trip up in those elevators is breath taking, the trip down is like riding the Wild Cat at Coney. The floor dropped out from under me and I didn't catch it until we had dropped about seventy-five floors. Then it started to slow gradually until it got back to the ground level. It was a hair-raising experience.
We brought our suit case with us when we checked out of the Penn Post Hotel and we were getting tired passing it back and forth to take turns lugging it around. I wanted to dump it in a trash bin some place, but Dad didn't think that was such a good idea. Bill said why is this called the Empire State Building. Dad said "Most states have nick names like Ohio is called the Buckeye State and New York is called the Empire State.
It was getting near suppertime and the Hungrys' were after us again. The hot dog we had at Coney Island had worn out about two hours earlier. We went back to the Automat to eat a bite before going to Grand Central Station. We got there about Six Thirty and our Milk Train wasn't scheduled to depart until nine but we were so tuckered out we just had to flop some place. A fence post would have felt comfortable.
We draped our tired bodies across the oak benches and waited. Two and a half hours went by while Dad was resting his eyes. He said my dogs are really barking, just as he started to snore. We all staggered aboard the coach and fell into our seats.
The Milk train rumbled through Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware in the wee hours of the morning. It pulled into Baltimore about 5 AM. There was a 4-hour layover. If time goes fast when you're having fun, money goes even faster.
Dad had a "fin" tucked away in a little pocket of his billfold just in case we needed it, and we need it then. (A fin was a five-dollar bill.)
As luck would have it, we had spent all but 2 dollars of the 20 we started with, plus that $5.00
We had another round of coffee and rolls in Philadelphia but we were hurting for some real food. We only had two good meals since we left home. Dad was worried sick about spending all our money.
We got off the train when we pulled into Baltimore, Maryland and we walked to a grocery near by and bought a quart of milk and 4 bananas. I have never tasted better bananas. About an hour later we pulled into the terminal in Washington D.C.
Dad said" I hate to tell you this kids but we have just enough money for bus fare to the Capitol and carfare home. We can't spend another quarter for food or pillows or anything else. We'll just have to tighten our belts and tough it out until we get home. You're all strong boys and I know you can do it. We all said, "Sure pop, we can do it."
We caught the bus over to the Capitol building. We were getting really hungry. God must have surely heard our prayers for just as our bus turned the corner onto Pennsylvania Ave at Lafayette Park, we were greeted by a huge gathering of the American Legion. They could not have picked a better time to hold their convention. Hundreds of veterans of WW I were there. They were wearing American Legion Uniforms.
The entire park was literally covered with box lunches. They were stacked as high as possible at the base of every tree in the park. Men were sitting on benches and all over the lawn eating lunch.
Each box contained a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a cheese sandwich with a piece of fruit, apple or banana. There were paper cups stacked around large crocks of lemonade. They invited everyone to join in and eat with them. They said the lunches are free, take as many as you want. There's more here than we know what to do with.
The Braun kids knew what to do with a few of them. After we ate our fill we each tucked a couple of boxes under our arms and headed back to see the sights. We climbed the long flight of stairs to the Capitol, past the hall of presidents and into the rotunda. It was breath taking. From there we went to the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington monument, and walked across the park to see the Smithsonian Institute. It was fantastic. I thought I was dreaming when we went into the Airplane Museum and walked up close to Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of Saint Louis. It was hanging from the ceiling. We even saw the Hope diamond it looked as big as a walnut. I thought the Smithsonian Institute was just one building but there were about five different buildings in the complex. Dad wanted to take us up to top of the Washington Monument.
There's an elevator that goes almost to the top, but there was a long line of visitors waiting patiently to get in. Dad said we would most likely have to stand in line over an hour, and none of us liked that idea. We were all pretty tired and hungry again so we found a park bench and ate a snack then caught a bus and headed back to the terminal. The conductor let us get on board and told us that the train would pull out for a little over an hour.
I was anxious to go through the long tunnels that were cut right through the Allegheny Mountains. They were really spooky. The three of us kids were awake shortly after the sun came up. Dad was stretched out with his feet propped up on the seat in front of him. He had a big wad of Union Workman in his mouth that he almost swallowed, when he heard us stirring around. When the train stopped at Parkersburg, West Virginia, we all piled off to walk around and stretch our legs. Dad said,"Well kids, we are more than half way home. Do you think you can make it the rest of the way?" We all shouted, "Sure, we can."
It was pitch dark outside when the Conductor came through and said "Next stop: Chillicothe Ohio" I asked him when we would get to Cincinnati, He said you will be home in about 3 hours. That was music to our ears. The box lunches were gone and our stomachs were growling, but we were almost there. We caught a streetcar and staggered into our house about ten o'clock in the morning.
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