Monthly Archives: February 2014

When Cars Drove Through the Washington Square Arch

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The Washington Arch in the 1940s.

The Washington Arch in the 1940s.

If you look at this post card from the 1940s the Washington Square Arch looks pretty much the way it does today.  But if you look closer  you will see that the cars are driving through the Arch.  When I bought this postcard from eBay it drove me a little nuts.  Was I seeing right?  Were those cars really going through the Arch?  I kept staring at it over days and weeks checking my perception.   Then I found an old film about New York transportation in the 1930s and 40s and a city bus drove right through the arch!  I went back over that bit of film a few times still thinking I’d seen it wrong.  After all the film was old with lots of cracking. But, yes, a bus did, indeed, go through the arch.  So why didn’t I check this out on the Internet before driving myself crazy?

Well, I tried.  But there is nothing really on it.  What is reported on is the fight between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs in the late forties and early fifties when Moses had a plan to extend Fifth Avenue into the park.  These Internet articles are written as though there had been no traffic into the park previously, but Moses wanted to put it there.  Actually, Moses wanted to increase the traffic that was already coming into the park and Jane Jacobs wanted to stop him from doing that.  Thankfully Jane Jacobs and her committee won and in 1952 all traffic into the park was stopped.  But prior to this battle Washington Square Park had cars coming into it through the arch.

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Imagine the posts in the center are gone and instead a few cars are driving through the arch. Isn’t that just a little bit scary?

While thinking about this entry I frequently walked down to the arch and tried to picture cars going through it, but it was hard.  Granted, today there is a metal fence and posts that would prevent any vehicles from coming into the park, but if those were taken away how would they do it?  Standing in the freezing in the horrible cold, I tried to picture them fitting through that arch.  It must have been an awfully tight squeeze.  What do you think?

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Plane Spotters

Guest Post by Shareen Knight

My mother’s hands were shaking. It was a sunny summer afternoon towards the end of WW II when we heard the engine of a small plane as it came across the bay. We ran outside, her with the binoculars and me holding the chart of colored drawings of every kind of plane that existed in the 40s. It was her job to report any enemy aircraft, as there was a fear after Pearl Harbor that the Japanese carriers off the coast would send planes to bomb American cities on the West Coast.

Volunteers were organized to keep watch. Thousands of people, high school kids, retired folk, women whose husbands were still overseas fighting, and little kids like me who were unofficial helpers.

As the plane came closer, we held our ground, and soon the plane came into view flying very low. Oh my god, a red circle on the side could only mean one thing, we had spotted our first Japanese fighter plane. The pilot saw us and we saw him. I stood transfixed, a little afraid, but mostly excited. I wondered if he would shoot us. But, he didn’t shoot, instead he tipped his wing toward us and flew by in an arc, as if to say hello-goodbye, and then he headed back toward the Pacific Ocean.

Shareen Knight is a writer and artist/photographer who lives in the coastal mountains of British Columbia. She is writing a novel that takes place in the 40s and 50s in rural America where she was raised, and is also working on a comedic/drama full-length play about the Inuit people and Global Warming. She claims to live in an igloo, but nobody believes her because the snow has all melted.

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Filed under 1940's history, Pearl Harbor, Plane Spotting, World War II, WWII