Youngsters 'dragged there'

Irving Sollender remembers the Family Circle as a monthly affair from the time he was about 11 years old until he joined the army.  Everyone would sit at small tables with their cousins.  "You'd say a few words to them, and the next thing the meeting was over," Irving said.   "The point is that children who didn't know these people were ordered to come by their parents, so they came.  They were dragged there.

'If you could get yourself out of it ...'

"We wouldn't necessarily make every meeting; parents would understand if you had to stay home and study, so we'd make maybe every third meeting," Irving said.  That was one reason the socializing between the younger generation was not extensive, said Irving, who remembered the best socializing was "always at meals, over the dinner table." As for the Bronx contingent, "you never saw them, unless you ran into them at the hotel.  They didn't start inviting each other for dinners at the house." 

From the adults' point of view, Morris' Family Circle was more successful.  From the mid-1930s until the eve of World War II, it often drew over 100 people.

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"Mother enjoyed Family Circle meetings, " Ruth Sollender Goldstein said of her mother, Rose, shown with Ruth's father (top, right) in a 1938 photo taken on their 15th anniversary.  Above right are Ruth and her brother, Irving, in a photo taken during the Family Circle era.   Sam Varonok, above, joined the Army as did many men of the Family Circle.

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Beyond the New York Times Tower, the spire of the Chrysler Building is visible from the hotel's roof deck, which did not exist during the era of the Family Circle. 

Added during renovation in the early 1990's, the 7,000-square-foot roof deck has a flourishing garden watered by the tenants. 

The garden areas and catering facility are available to the public for rental for private affairs.  Views from the windows on three sides are exceptional, "especially," said a Times Square spokesperson, "when there's snow coming down."

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Morris stayed home

Morris Rubenstein had lost both his legs due to illness by about 1922, and thereafter, he was confined to a wheelchair.  So he was not able to go to Family Circle gatherings once they had moved from his home.  Carl Karben, Morris' brother-in-law, never learned to drive, but whenever he could afford it, he would rent a car and a driver.  "My father and the driver would carry Morris to the car and take him for an outing," Shirley Karben said.  [Readers may recall that Morris arranged passage from Russia in 1923 for Carl and his wife, Dora (Morris' youngest sister), and their three small children -- Artie,  Phil, and Shirley.  See Trying for a Better Life and also, Carl's Story.]     

War came; gatherings ended

Morris passed away in June of 1940, and the Family Circle lived on.   However, the advent of World War II dampened the impulse to socialize, so attendance shrank.  People didn't want to go, Shirley said, "because their children had gone to the war." 

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The neon view on 43rd Street

The top letters of the neon sign of Hotel Carter are
visible above the spring-blooming flowers added to the shrub in the wooden tub by Keith Lloyd, the Jamaican-born curator of orchids at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.  He was brought in to spruce up the rooftop plantings.

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Service berries and Asiatic lilies

A bright orange Asiatic lily hybrid blooms in June amidst bushes heavy with "service" berries, which taste nothing like the delicious blueberries they resemble.  "Service berries tolerate urban conditions well," said Lloyd, who explained that the shrub's name dates back to the Colonial period of American history.  "In rural areas, people would stay on their farms during severe winters, and in the spring, the parson would ride his horse out to the countryside to minister to the people's spiritual needs," he said.  "Just about the time the parson would service the people, the berries came out, and so they were called 'service berries.'"  

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"We met there because it was cheap," said Shirley, who has no memory of the elegant lobby with its marble stairs and columns, serpent motif chandeliers, and gilt ceiling.

When the Times Square Hotel opened its doors in 1923, a room with running water was $2.50.  In 1949, the charge was $6.50.   To spend a night at The Hotel Carter across the street, where these days all rooms come with bath, now costs $82.00.  The  Times Square, which has been renamed to reflect its new use, is managed by Common

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Color photos by Susan M. Rogers

Ground, a nonprofit housing development corporation, which supervised its redesign and renovation. It is now a permanent residence for low-income single adults, including people with mental and physical disabilities, AIDS, and the formerly homeless.    

Meanwhile, the 15th floor catering facility, now called "Top of the Times," is tapped for such events as  a recent affair honoring playwright Arthur Miller. 

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Copyrightę 2001 CousinsPlus - Susan M. Rogers - all rights reserved.