Helen Worden, born in Denver, Colorado in 1896, was a pioneering woman journalist in the 1930s and 1940s.She wrote for several New York papers including the New York World-Telegram, and is known for her New York guidebooks as well as for an account of the famous New York hoarders, the Collyer brothers, entitled Out of This World (1954).
When Shire Books was kind enough to send me Discover New York to read and review, I was enormously happy. I collect old New York City guidebooks, and Helen Worden’s Here Is New York (1939) is a favorite of mine (it was written for tourists visiting the 1939 World’s Fair). Discover New York was first published in 1943 and written for servicemen and women passing through the city during World War II; this reprint is in celebration of the 70th anniversary of its publication.
It’s a wonderful read, one that takes me straight into the New York City of my parents, who were teens back then. Worden tells her readers all the basics, like the cost of a subway ride (a nickel!) and that the Stork Club was the place to see and be seen. You could, she suggests, go to the Hurricane club at 1619 Broadway and catch Duke Ellington playing a few sets? Don’t forget, she adds, that there is a $2.00 minimum there. Or perhaps you’d like to drop in to the Blue Angel, a night spot “run by a Frenchman who knows his omelets” - his chef makes them with rum. And if you prefer the outdoor life, you could take a nickel subway ride to the northernmost bit of Manhattan, and fish for a few bass at Inwood Hill Park.
She describes several neighborhoods, most of which you’ll know - Chinatown, Little Italy, Greenwich Village. But did you know there was a Little Turkey, on Washington Street between Battery Park and Fulton Street, where you could buy silks and brasses, and dine on lamb in grape leaves and “rosewater pastry”? It was also known as Little Syria, and was razed to make way for the entrance ramps to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, which opened in 1950
Complete with reproductions of the original advertisements (which are wonderful, too), Discover New York is a must for anyone who loves old New York or for those who (like me) collect vintage guidebooks. I had a wonderful trip back in time reading it - and so will you.
[Images of inwood Park and a Turkish nightclub on Allen St. in the 1940s are both from Wikimedia Commons]
*Many thanks to Shire Books - and the opinions are, of course, all my own.