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.
The Fifth Avenue Hotel at 9th Street, Sidewalk Cafe, 1935
Last night I was with my writing group, The Oracles, some of the most amazingly talented writers I have ever known. I am so thrilled to be included in their number. I’m always grateful for the helpful feedback they give me. They’re all playwrights. I am too, only now I’m finishing up a novel. The novel has so much dialogue in it that they graciously let me cast it with fabulous actors so that it can be read at the group for feedback. Last night we finished reading one of my chapters from JULIANA and someone in the group asked if they had “brunch” in New York City in 1943. An excellent question and one I had not considered. (They often send me back to the drawing board to check my facts.) This set me on a course of late night researching until I came up with the answer to that question.
Here is the answer:
There actually was a guy who started the whole thing. In England in 1895, Guy Beringer thought there should be an alternative to the “postchurch ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies” (Grimes, 1998). He thought there should be a meal served at noon that consisted of tea or coffee, and marmalade. He considered this later, lighter meal would make it easier for the Saturday late night “carousers.” Well, the idea took off.
Brunch didn’t come to the U.S. until after World War I, but they definitely had it in 1943. In the forties, the Fifth Avenue Hotel and Ninth Street had what they called the “Sunday Strollers’ Brunch.” They served sauerkraut juice, clam cocktails, chicken liver omelets in Madeira and calf’s liver with hash browns (Grimes, 1998).
Finding out about the Fifth Avenue Hotel brunch caused me to change the location of my characters’ brunch from the general “nice little cafe around the corner” to the more specific Fifth Avenue Hotel. This change had significance for me since I lived with two roommates in a one bedroom apartment in the Fifth Avenue Hotel when I first came to the city.
Thank you, Oracles!
References: Grimes, W. (July, 08, 1998). At brunch, the more bizarre the better. New York Times.
Alice Huffman comes to New York City from the potato fields of Long Island in 1941 to make her way on the Broadway stage only to discover she has no talent. At least, not for the stage. She meets Juliana, a perpetually on the brink of stardom cabaret singer, who is a sexual risk-taker during a time when being discovered could destroy her career and reputation and maybe even get her killed. Juliana initiates young Alice into these sexual adventures and inadvertently falls in love with her despite her belief that it is impossible for two women to truly be in love with each other.
Cameo appearances are made by Lauren Bacall, Angela Landsbury, Walter Liberace, Spivy (owner of a fifties Lesbian night club), Tallulah Bankhead, Jules Podell (manager of the Copacabana) and Carol Channing, Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Ruth Gordon, Ethel Waters, Gladys Bentley, Gertrude Lawrence and more coming.