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V: 1942

August 1942. "Crowds at Pennsylvania Station, New York." Medium format negative by Marjory Collins for the Office of War Information. View full size.

August 1942. "Crowds at Pennsylvania Station, New York." Medium format negative by Marjory Collins for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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The Long Island Railroad also uses Penn Station as its NYC terminus. At he time this picture was taken it was the best route to that Shorpy favorite, The Rockaways, on the Queens County Shoreline. After a 1950 fire on the tracks running across Jamaica Bay, in Broad Channel, the LIRR felt that the line was too costly to operate and they sold it to NYC and in 1956 it became the IND Subway System's Rockaway line. That opened up those great beaches to the rest of the city.

He's not ordering two more Pimm's Cups

Here's Winston Churchill in one of his iconic images, flashing the V for Victory sign.

Dinner in the Diner

Back in the 1980s, I belonged to a singing group that performed for many "snow birds" in the Phoenix area. One of the favorite songs of our audiences was "Chattanooga Choo Choo", which includes the lyrics:

"You'll leave the Pennsylvania station 'bout a quarter to four, read a magazine and then you're in Baltimore, dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer, than to have your ham and eggs in Carolina"

As one of the oldest in the group, I had to explain what it meant, and keep reminding the other ladies that it wasn't "dinner AT the diner"! I was the only one who could remember dining cars on trains. In the early to mid 1960s, at 9 and 10 years old, I really didn't think much COULD be finer than dinner in the diner, during a cross-country train trip!

On a more serious note, I would love to be able to hear what experiences each person in this photo was having, that day, and in the next few years. Certainly, everyone in it was affected by the global war in some manner.

You could make millions!

Every person in this photo could have become a millionaire if only he or she had the sudden thought: "Hey! Why not build wheels into these suitcases?"

Vault Lights

Note the glass prism vault lights imbedded in the floor, which were used to illuminate the room underneath. As a kid I remember seeing these in San Francisco, but I think most large cities had them. There's an interesting web site that tell the full story at:

glass tile

That glass tile floor provided light to the tracks below. You can still see some portions of it looking up at the ceiling of the NJ Transit tracks.

V for Victory, and more

The “V for Victory” banner dominating the background includes, as you see, the Morse code for the letter: three dots and a dash. Early in WW II the letter began to be used as a rallying signal, expressed by holding up one’s first two fingers with the intent of showing defiance to the Nazis. The BBC took this idea and created its V for Victory campaign, which continued through the war and essentially was used by all Allied nations and their armed forces. Mass communication then, obviously, was by radio, and the BBC gave a sound to the campaign for its broadcasts into occupied Europe by using the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I have no idea if this choice was some wry British humor or what, but Beethoven, of course, was a German.

[It was used because the opening notes of Beethoven's Fifth are three short notes and a long (da-da-da-daaaa), which corresponds to the Morse code for the letter V. -tterrace] [Ahem. That's what I thought I was saying in my first sentence, but I forgot to include the part about the notes.]

As a very young child during the war I traveled through Penn Station quite often and remember two details: the hundreds of model airplanes hanging from the ceiling (black Bakelight plastic aircraft recognition models, identical to a few I had at home) and the crowds of troops arriving and departing, as this photo illustrates. To this day I wonder about the fate of that uniformed generation of Americans that I saw; for some it had to be their last few steps on home soil.

Next weekend my wife and I will be in Penn Station en route to a place without question much nicer than the destination of many of the military men and women who visited there, all those years ago.

Sentimental Journey

Although it is apparent that all the men in uniform have an appointed destination and mission to accomplish, one has to wonder where all the other people are headed with children and cardboard suitcases. There seems to be no business men getting on these trains as one would see at Grand Central Station. I was in a similar line with my mother at the same place just one year later when my grandmother died in Pennsylvania and we took the night train to get there, my first experience as a youngster with a family death. Quite unforgettable.

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