From 1943 to 1947 my mom worked at the Mayflower Donut Shop on 46th St. and Broadway. She was a waitress there at a time when we were living with my grandmother. I would want to say that it was the happiest time of her life, so I will.
My dad had passed away in February of that year and we moved in with grandma. This enabled my mom to go to work, while her children, my sister Renee and I were going to school. Renee did not live with us immediately because she had to finish out her year at the elementary school she was going to. She lived with a friend till the end of the school year and then came to live with us.
My mom eventually worked as a waitress for 35 years. Many of her later ailments, probably were caused by her standing on her feet all of those years. However, the years at the Mayflower were golden. I am not sure that my sister would agree with me. She was, and still is, 7.5 years older than me. Her view might be that it disrupted her life and took her away from her friends. She will have to tell me.
The Mayflower stood on the corner of 46th and Broadway. It was close enough to the theater district, so that many of the stars of those days would come in for breakfast and get smiled at by Sonny (my mom’s name was Sonia). She waited on them all and sometime she would bring back autographs. I am afraid that a number of them passed through and were not recognized by mom.
As far back as I can remember, she met and served George Raft, Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney. I wish that I had kept those autographs. She told us that they were incredibly nice to her and usually left her a big tip. That was the fun time of the day. Mom would come home with a bagful of change. We would pour them out onto a bed and count them.
Usually the take was somewhere around twenty dollars. Since the Mayflower paid only the minimum wage, 50 cents at that time, her tips were really what she earned. Quite often she would even top the twenty dollar mark and that was cause for celebration. Most of the time, mom put most of the money in the bank. By 1949, even after she left the Mayflower, she had accumulated ten thousand dollars in savings. My grandma would shout at the top of her lungs, “To the Bank, To the Bank,” in a tune like declaration.
For me, the most important part of the mom working at the Mayflower was the donuts. They were absolutely without peer. They were created in a space above the store. Everything was handmade. My sister actually got a job there (must have been the summer) frosting the donuts. There was nothing like the smell of the donuts wafting through the dining area of the Mayflower.
There were no limits to my hunger for those donuts. Mom would sometimes bring them home and secrete them somewhere because grandma was sure they were cooked in pig fat (lard). I cannot tell you if that were true.
Once in a while, mom would get us tickets (or have us ushered in) to two of the first run theaters on Broadway, the Astor and the Victoria. The folks from those two theaters came in to eat at the Mayflower. Most often we were led to a side entrance and put into seats at the side of the theater. My favorite movie, the Thief of Baghdad, played there. I have since learned that it might have been a re-release. I saw the Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Best Years of our Lives and many others.
Sometimes on a Saturday (no services for me that day), mom would take Renee and I into town to eat at Shraffts or Tafinetti’s restaurants. We would then go shopping at one of the fancy stores like Macy’s Ohrbach’s or S. Klein on the Square. Those were glorious days for me.
It all ended in October of 1947. Mom announced that she was having a nervous breakdown (whatever that meant) and would have to go to Florida. I wasn’t sure what she meant by going to Florida to recuperate. All I know is that she bought me my favorite toy of all time- a machine gun that shot out sparks when you pressed the trigger. I had that one till my middle teens. It then disappeared. Who knew that the trip to Florida would revisit me on November 22, 1977, when my mother called and told me that I had a brother?