Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Great article with more photos of Dubrow's

Marcia Bricker Halperin is very familiar to readers of this blog, as several of her photos have been featured here. Well, now you can see more!  Over at the blog Jeremiah's Vanishing New York she recalls what made Dubrow's so special, as well.  This seems particularly relevant for readers here, especially as it quotes directly from this blog:

"Dubrow's is often called the "last cafeteria." In one of the articles on the Dubrow's Blog it's described as a place to "kibitz and nosh and argue the fate of the world." What is the value of kibitzing, noshing, and arguing our fate? What allowed it to happen at a place like Dubrow's and where do you think it happens today?

There's a theory about communities called "Third Places." After your home and your workplace comes the need for some social institution. The Irish had bars, the Italians had social clubs, but Jews had cafeterias in New York. They came to eat, but just as importantly to talk. Of course cyberspace is like a "third place" now. The demise of cafeterias was tied to the rise in affluence. People opted for waiter service and felt it was beneath them to carry their own tray. Cafeteria chains prevailed much longer in the South and Midwest where it wasn't until the last decade that many have closed, but they lacked the opulence of the big city ones.

The closest you can come to the feel of an old cafeteria today is at Katz's Deli. The ticket machine, the long counter on one wall, the frenetic feel with people carrying trays laden with Jewish-style foods in search of an empty table. The sound is reminiscent of old cafeterias too--cutlery rattling and lots of conversation. But I don't think you would scour the tables for a familiar face or a comfortable table to share and strike up a conversation with a stranger. By contrast, the dozens of coffee joints around my neighborhood are tomb-like since almost everyone is on their laptop

Also, I discovered someone (perhaps Marcia Bricker Halperin herself, seeing as how her photo shows up here, too) submitted Dubrow's Cafeteria to the blog "Place Matters" with a link to this blog.  I agree! Places do matter.  And if there's one thing I have learned from the years of maintaining this blog, it's that Dubrow's did matter.  And still does.  

Monday, January 09, 2012

Reader John Stanton recollects

It's been a long time since I posted anything here - sorry about that. But a reader wrote me to offer recollections of his parents, who both worked at Dubrow's at met there, so I thought that was a good opportunity to jump back in:

"My father was John Stanton (he was known as Jack) and he worked at one of the Brooklyn Dubrow's I believe from the 40's until the 60's, and then worked at the Manhattan location until he retired I think in 1970. My mother's maiden name was Ming Chang, and she started at the Brooklyn Dubrow's (thus why she is in the picture of the cleaning crew, which she said occured on Yom Kippur.) She said she only worked a few months in Brooklyn and then transferred to Manhattan. As to whether my father followed my mom to Manhattan or vice versa, I don't know, but they met while working at Dubrow's. My mom immigrated from China to attend college and she fondly remembers Irving Dubrow who allowed her to have a flexible schedule in order to attend college. She had no set start or end time, he told her to work around her schooling needs, he always needed the help so any time she could work would be acceptable, so my mom was able to come and go and earn money without interfering with her schooling.

My mom laughingly told me the other night that after she graduated she left Dubrow's to work at Metropolitan Life Insurance, and would often go at lunch time to see my dad and the people she used to work with. One day Irving pulled my dad aside to tell him to only charge my Mom half since she was a former employee, and my dad said I have only been charging her half since the day she left! My mother and fathers romance was a true May/December romance, my father born in 1908 and my mother in 1935 so I am sure that people who worked there when they did would remember them since it was such an unlikely couple (my father a hard drinking Irishman, and my mother a petite demure Chinese woman.)

My mom has been in the hospital the last week and I have been visiting her every night and she has been reminiscing about the corned beef and pastrami sandwiches at Dubrow's which is how I came across this blog. I brought her a pastrami sandwich from Katz's Deli Friday night and all she did was complain that it didn't compare to a Dubrow's pastrami sandwich. I barely remember Dubrow's since my sister and I used to go there as young children, but that basically ended in the early 70's.

To give you a bit of trivia and a small laugh, when my parents married in the early 60's my father was interviewed by the FBI to make sure it wasn't a marriage of convenience for immigration purposes due to the disparity in age, and I wouldn't doubt that some of the employees at Dubrow's were also interviewed.

As to what my mom remembers of Richard Hackett, she said he was the driver for old man Dubrow (a.k.a. Benjamin Dubrow - ed.) who would sometimes come in, and greet customers and troubleshoot complaints. Richard Hackett ended up doing some of that and that is why she referred to it as customer relations. (Note: Joe Hackett was the driver for Dubrow's. Richard Hackett is his nephew and a reader of this blog. - ed.)

Unfortunately my father who would be the true treasure trove of information since he worked there so long passed away in 1998, so most of the information I have on Dubrow's is only from my mother who only worked there 3-4 years.

Ming Chang, I hope you recover well in the hospital. You are in my thoughts and my prayers. I've said here before that I think Katz's is the closest thing NYC has left to Dubrow's.

Interesting tidbit about immigration interviews by the FBI - that's the first I ever heard of it. Anyone else recall these interviews?