|Vol. 19 No. 78||
Thursday December 31, 2020
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There is a celebration this week in New York City. The nearly three quarters of a million people that are mostly commuters going to and from work in New York & New Jersey have been forced to travel pre-pandemic through Pennsylvania (Penn) Station in Manhattan, a daily subterranean dismal railroad encounter since the misdirected destruction in 1963 of the monumental Beaux Arts 1910 version of Penn Station (right). These commuters will get some relief beginning later this week when a new passenger experience begins on January 1.
The edict in the mid 1920s was that the
contract to carry and deliver the mails was given to the carriers that
could deliver fastest to the GPO located as mentioned across the street
from Penn Station.
We were recognized and honored with the
highest award of the U.S. Department of Transportation, FAA and The National
Historic Trust, for “Outstanding Contribution to Aviation History
& Preservation” in a Washington ceremony in 1986. The connection
to these activities of course was the destruction of the aforementioned
giant Penn Station that impacted everyone, big and small, who loves New
I grew up at the Marine Air Terminal in New York City. At the time I was unaware of the unique perspective it afforded me—how few children gestated in the belly of a great, round terminal, nourished by ephemera and the hollow, high-topped sound of cavernous spaces carved in marble. I was a wild thing in a civilized cave, hiding behind wooden benches salvaged and meticulously arranged by my father, who recognized their beauty and inherent historical value, and saved them from the garbage heap. Each had a steel propeller inlaid in its sides, as if at some miracle moment the propellers would thrust outward from the wood, rotate frontwise, and the benches would steal away in flight. They lined the rounded walls of the Marine Air Terminal’s atrium, which pumped the people in from the streets and fed them to their flights down ventricular hallways. My father had also placed four benches in the center of the room, facing outward, their sides aligned so each propeller had a mirror image in its neighbor. The negative space they created behind them—a small square of Marine Air Terminal real estate—was my island, and I comforted myself by lying on my back on the floor and looking straight up at the round ceiling, which was tiered with concentric circles leading up to a circular skylight, like some great windowed eye staring at the sky. The iris of that eye was the mural my father saved from obscurity. The great WPA-artist James Brooks painted his earth-toned “Flight” along the upper walls of my cave—it was my very first picture book. If you stood in the center of the MAT and rotated slowly, the story of man’s ascension to the clouds was depicted in vivid detail.
I suppose it was through the
great eye of the Marine Air Terminal that I first saw the world.
The room to the right of
his desk housed a small cabinet with toys belonging to myself and my older
brother, Geoff, and a spiral staircase that ended with a door to the Pan
Am Shuttle. The wall showcased a large piece of art created by my father—a
magnesium stencil silhouette of birds in flight, hung behind glass panels
and backlit by white light. Another of his salvage pieces, my father rescued
the birds from Building One at Newark Airport. The birds had once flown
above the arrivals/departures doorway, but my father discovered them in
the trash while delivering editions of Air Cargo News to Newark Airport.
Building One at Newark was another of my father’s preservation pet
projects. While the Port Authority had initially sanctioned renovations
on the historic terminal—and in the process, destroyed much of the
art and architecture of the place, despite a book my father published
in 1978 in dedication to the building—later, in 1981, my father
was able to halt further destruction with the help of Port Authority’s
new aviation director, Robert J. Aaronson.
I was an airport brat. I thought Rocco’s Yankee Clipper café
was my extended kitchen, and the MAT was my living room. I got free gum
at the newspaper stand and raced at top speed down every corridor, and
when my father lost his office at the MAT—how quickly this world
forgets those people who work, tirelessly and often thanklessly, to preserve
its legacies—I felt like I had lost a dear, old friend.
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Vol. 19 No. 75
Air Cargo Future Full of Presents
Chuckles for December 14, 2020
Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend • Editor Emeritus-Richard Malkin
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend
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