First he gives us several views of a subway entrance (and exit) at an unidentified corner which, given the locales that follow, was probably the number 6 train at 43rd and Lexington. By parking the camera there and simply letting it roll as people go about their everyday life, Strickland inadvertently gives us a hypnotic view of existence in all its banality on a fall day in the late forties. Most people ignore the camera (though a few look at it with irritation) and go blithely on their way, unaware that they will one day be watched and written about on something called a computer in the then-unimaginable twenty-first century. Some things to notice: there are many more short people than there are now and there is no texting or cell-phoning. Men's ties were short and silly looking. Women are, for the most part, plump and frumpily dressed. All men wear hats. All--or most--of these people are now dead.
After the subway entrance, Strickland moves to 42nd Street, faces east, and gives us a view of the Elevated train that once ran on Third Avenue. (You can see the sign for a store marked "Waldorf", which relates to the semi-nearby Waldorf Hotel--the store was probably a pharmacy. You can also see the Automat, which makes me idiotically happy). As the El was taken down in the mid-fifties, this footage is quite a lovely thing to have. I've stared down this very block many times and tried to imagine an Elevated train bisecting the view and never had much success at it--it just seems so incredibly wrong for the east side of midtown. But looking at it here, it's just an everyday view of what was then a very different Manhattan.
Strickland then walks further east, passes under the El and turns around, giving us a westward facing view of the El and the city behind it. After a bit of this, he climbs to the top of the El steps with his handy little Eyemo and captures the platform--also a wonderful view as we can see the tops of the Chrysler and GE buildings and get some nice long looks at the actual train, which is filled with windows and looks quite pleasant in a rickety sort of way. Finally he gets sick of public transportation, leaves the platform, walks west on 42nd all the way to Fifth Avenue and parks in front of the New York Public library. A few not very well framed views of that distinguished and virtually unchanged building and he heads north, capturing my favorite of all his shots of the day, the then-two way traffic that ran along Fifth. It's hard for most people to believe that Fifth (and Madison) Avenues were once well functioning two-way streets and that they weren't somehow wider than they are now. But as you can see from Lt. Strickland's footage, such was the case.
After this, Strickland headed to the stock house, showed them his stuff and happily made a sale! How else would we have this footage today if he hadn't? He took the money, dropped into a bar on Third Avenue, downed a Boilermaker and headed home--via the El--to wherever he was living, to proceed into whatever future awaited him...
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