By GARY FONVILLE
Forgotten NY correspondent
In New York City, many name brands have come and gone over the years. Chobani yogurt, Whole Foods, Dunkin’ Donuts and Yelp.com, to name a few, weren’t on people’s radar 35 years ago.
On the other hand, many brands that have been around for decades are still with us. Names that come to mind are Macy’s, Junior’s restaurant, Pepsi-Cola and Consolidated Edison (Con Ed) and Jell-O gelatin.
However, there is a plethora of names that are only in our memory, Names such as Ballantine & Rheingold beers, Pan Am & TWA Airlines, E.J. Korvette’s and F.W. Woolworth’s , just to name a few. And here’s another brand that senior citizens or near senior citizens, like me, who lived in NYC should remember: Buster Brown shoe stores.
I was able to compile a few reminders of brands that have disappeared decades ago AND some recently departed name brands to share with FNY Fans.
A few years back I had completed a journey on Amtrak from Newport News, VA, when I noticed this manhole cover on the platform, which track I cant remember, while heading for the escalator to go upstairs. Immediately I knew PRRCo was an acronym for the defunct Pennsylvania Railroad Company, the builder and former owner of America’s busiest rail station, Pennsylvania Station.
The Pennsy, as many called the Pensylvania Railroad, was at one time one of the largest corporations in America. The railroad had enough resources to construct the old Pennsylvania Station, two tunnels under the Hudson, four under the East River, the massive trainyard in Sunnyside (which is still in use today) and they went went halfsies with the New Haven Railroad to finance the New York Connecting Railroad, which included the mighty still-in-use Hell Gate Bridge. All this was done for about $114m, which translates to $3b in today’s dollars.
With this in mind, it baffles me why politicians can’t get their act together and build just TWO tunnels under the Hudson for increased train capacity into Pennsylvania Station, while the two tunnels under the Hudson were built by a private concern a hundred years ago. But don’t get me started.
The Pennsy thrived until the advent of passenger jets and the Interstate Highway System. In a nutshell, the decline of the Pennsy and other railroads’ passenger business was inevitable as people no longer needed railroads for travel. By the late 1950s, the Pennsy was in dire financial straits. To survive, it sold the air rights over Pennsylvania Station, while tearing down the grand edifice that only existed for about fifty years. It later merged with the New York Central in 1968, who was also teetering towards bankruptcy. The marriage between the once mighty railroads resulted in the resulting railroad being called Penn Central Transportation Company, which was shortened to Penn Central. The short-lived company lasted to around 1976.
These two railroad cars, representing the Pennsy and the New York Central, are indeed rare sight. The Tuscan red Pennsy car was the color of its extra fare NYC-Chicago Broadway Limited in its prime. The NY Central went mostly with a stainless steel look. These two cars were sitting on a siding at Washington, DC’s Union Station — off limits for the proletariat like me. By the way, Union Station almost suffered a similar fate as did NYC’s former Pennsylvania Station. But logical thinking prevailed.
There may be some branches Liberty Travel around still, but I know many have closed like this one on Ralph Avenue, between Avenue K and Avenue L. I believe the main reason why many have closed can be summed up in one technology — the computer. No longer do you have to trek to a travel agent to book a trip. It’s the same as when I want to book a trip on Amtrak and purchase tickets, I don’t have to make a trip to Penn Station to do so. I can do everything on my computer in my home.
The information I have on why Strauss closed is sketchy. It seems that the chain went through several corporate owners before they threw in the towel. Maybe Auto Zone’s emergence had something to do with it. The one pictured here was on Empire Boulevard in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.