Once more with a smile …

I have posted this one three times since 2009 and I never tire of it … the images, the fabulous memories, and the unmatched wonder of a child’s world all grown up.

Enjoy if  you will my first Christmas re-run.

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Today I give you my homage to the magnificent edifice of Rockefeller Plaza and my cherished memories of the Radio City Music Hall.

As a child, I cannot remember a Christmas when we did not go to The City, walk around Rockefeller Plaza to see the tree, and the show at the Music Hall.

I cherish those moments spent with my mother, Mary Fois, and her two friends, Josephine Chiappe and Beatrice Napoli. These were my mom’s cohorts, confederates, her closest and dearest friends, and they were, among the six women who became our chaperones, the greatest fun to play with.

The Radio City Music Hall was to my mother the holy grail of events. Not wind, nor storm nor dead of night could keep her from her appointed mission, to herd eight to ten children with her two girlfriends as point and rear guards to the Christmas and Easter shows at the Music Hall.

It was not “are we going this year?” But “on which day are we going?”

We gathered at dawn with blankets, pillows, coffee, hot chocolate, and buttered rolls, and took the long subway ride from Brooklyn to Rockefeller Center. Soon the early hour and the motion of the trains, lulled us to sleep, resting our heads on each other’s shoulders or their laps.

With a round of hands clapping, we woke at our destination, yawned and rubbed our eyes … we were almost there.

Walking towards Rockefeller Center was always a delight. We were no longer sleepy or hungry and turned slowly in a circle to capture all the sights and sounds around us.

Rockefeller Center is an art deco marvel consisting of nineteen commercial buildings covering eleven acres in midtown Manhattan from Forty-Ninth Street to Fifty-Second Street, from Fifth Avenue to Seventh Avenue, with smaller buildings in a rectangle.

CHRISTMAS

On the first floor of these buildings are exclusive shops, their windows lit up and decorated for the holiday season. The tall building in the middle, Thirty Rockefeller Plaza, or as it is called, 30 Rock, looms over a golden sculpture of Prometheus which sits below the giant tree as a symbol of opulence for tourists and native New Yorker’s to enjoy.

Inside the open rectangle of buildings is the ice rink, and on the street above, a balcony with a steel railing. We ran around the circle above the ice-skaters, mesmerized by the sights, the music and the smell of the fresh chestnuts, the three mothers “simply could not resist.”

At Christmas the tree-lined pathways of the arcade are decked out in their holiday finest and lead to the giant tree in the middle and along the pathway from Fifth Avenue, the row of Herald Angels.

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The Radio City Music Hall

Hundreds of excited children and their parents mulled in the enormous vestibule of the theater enjoying the spectacle of it all.

The huge triple wide staircase lined with thick, rich carpeting, the sparkle of the chandeliers, the vendors selling their wares, the beautiful color program guides the parents purchased for each child, ushers dressed in formal wear and the giant Wurlitzer organ playing holiday tunes.

We whispered reverently, our eyes transfixed on the ceiling. My mother grabbed my collar. “Will you get a move on. I want to get orchestra seats.”

The majestic stage is encased in a dome in shades of gold liken to a sunset, a golden curtain across the back. The rows of seats curve upwards from the bottom of the stage … over five thousand soft, wide seats that push back for comfort.

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The three women rushed to the middle to give each of the children, even the shortest, a grand view of the show. Carefully the mothers took hats, gloves and coats and began folding and stuffing clothes in their large bags. For an added measure they put pillows and coats under the shortest children and stashed the rest under the seats.

The Christmas show at the Radio City Music Hall is an extravaganza of incredible proportions with live animals onstage and the Rockettes in synchronized, syncopation, organ music and a movie.

We sat in one long row with the three mothers positioned at the beginning, the middle and the end. It was hard not to admire their organization, their stamina and the den-mother patience with each trip to the bathroom, spitting up, the constant and persistent flow of questions, giggles, interruptions and tantrums of eight children aged six to twelve.

As the show began to unfold, we became uncharacteristically quiet and still. Not wanting to miss one second as the stage moved up and down in three parts, revealing Christmas scenes like real ice skating, the Nativity with Joseph pulling Mother Mary on a real donkey, and a giant tree, rising from below to the squeals of the audience.

In the darkened theater we sat mesmerized by the sounds, the lights and the best of all, the Rockettes as they slowly began their final routine; arms and legs in perfect unity, kicking one, two and three … one, two and three … kicking and circling … kicking and fanning the length of the magnificent stage … adults and children, babies and old women fascinated by the perfection in their dance.

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There were three more trips to the bathroom with the youngest children as the Wurlitzer was winding up intermission. When we heard the announcer warn the audience to come back to their seats, each child got the second half of their chocolate bar. Then the final delight, a full length movie.

My fondest memory, the year White Christmas premiered at the Music Hall.

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Thanks to Peter Allen, a wonderful Broadway entertainer and many of his friends and patrons of the arts, the Music Hall was saved from the wrecking ball, saved from the same fate as the old Metropolitan Opera House, and preserved for generations of adults and children to enjoy.

My trio of angels …

In Loving Memory, to Mary, Josephine and Beatrice.
Your image lingers, like the twinkle
Of freshly fallen snow
Always new, always beautiful,
My trio of angels. Together again.
From the pest, la “rufiana,”

Tell me, who was your angel … that one special

person who remains in your heart?

fOIS In The City

Christmas Maxine

Crabby Road

Rockefeller Center Wiki

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11 Comments

Filed under Ramblings

11 responses to “Once more with a smile …

  1. What a wonderful description of your younger years at Christmas time. I love the picture of the stage and the seats. It must have been awesome to experience as a little kid. We have an old movie theater that has had many different lives since I was young. It went from a beautiful art deco movie theater to a gymnasium to being many others I can’t recall then someone purchased it and renovated it to its original state. I now can go back inside and see how beautiful it still is and recall sitting in the balcony with my girlfriends at 15 years old, watching movies and giggling and eating candy. My kids get to experience what I once did. Kinda cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, Patti. That is more than super cool. To be in your hometown long enough to see something be reborn and have the joy of sharing it with your kids … how great is that?

      And as things go, your children will one day be able to tell them or perhaps even show them. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

      Like

  2. christicorbett

    I look forward to these every year, especially this post! Thank you again for the virtual tour of New York!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Christi, I thought of you when I dug this one out of storage. I think this is the third or fourth time in my six Christmas posts and she remains one of my fav. Glad you think so too 🙂

      I love that we share so many memories of our earlier post. Not to mention, I got to watch the twins grow up on FB 🙂

      Like

  3. vicki

    Oh Florence, these are wonderful pictures and make me want to visit NYC during the holidays, although I am sooo not a cold weather person. I love the shows and have dreamed of seeing the Rockettes. Happy holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, Vicki. NYC is downstate and our fall and Christmas seasons are usually very mild. I would often make my yearly trek to the tree and the store windows with nothing more than a blazer.

      And if you ever get the chance to go at Christmas time, grab it like a prize. It is one of the best places to be during the Holidays and I promise … you will not freeze. Your heart will be too warm from the sights 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. annerallen

    One of my favorites. It reminds me of the wonderful day trips my family took from Connecticut to NYC at the holidays when I was small.. Always to shop at B. Altman, FAO Schwartz, and Macy’s. Then to lunch at Rockefeller Center to watch the skaters…then the show with the Rockettes! The highlight of the Christmas season for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, Anne … here we go again. It’s such a joy that we can share similar memories of The City. I am a bit saddened. B.Altman and FAO Schwartz are both gone. The City we once roamed has changed. But we all owe a debt of gratitude to Peter Allen and Jackie Onasis for preserving some of our greatest sights. Him, the Music Hall and she, Grand Central Station.

      I mean … who wants to take their kids on a tour of The City and end up in Toys ‘R Us? And how many “budding” little girls will not get measured for their first bra at Altman’s? Thanks for sharing you Christmas memories 🙂

      Like

      • annerallen

        OMG, I did indeed get my first bra at Altmans! I’d totally forgotten that. The clerk was French and looked like a movie star. She terrified me. 🙂

        Like

  5. What a wonderful post . . . my 15yo daughter got to visit NYC for the first time last month & I showed her your blog before she left 🙂 My one special angel was my grandmother on my mom’s side. Sadly, she passed away at 62 from cancer, but I guess God needed her home for something.

    Merry Christmas, Florence!

    Liked by 1 person

    • How exciting, Jamie. Exciting and delightful that your 15yo got to experience NYC up close and personal. She’ll be able to tell her friends … it’s better in person than in the movies.

      Sorry that you lost your angel but glad you have her during your childhood. That’s when we need our grandmothers the most.

      A Blessed and Joyous Christmas to you and your family 🙂

      Like

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