Eighth Street time machine

I was walking along 8th Street in Manhattan with my nephew when we came up on a large black and white poster — a blow up of an old photo of 8th Street from long ago.

On the right near corner was a Nedicks, and on the left was a Whelan’s Drugs. Those who know their NYC history will realize that this was the view of 8th Street looking East from 6th Avenue. The Nedick’s was where a Barnes & Nobles stood until recently, and Whelan’s was on the site of the recently closed Gray’s Papaya.

Seeing the old cars and the horse drawn delivery wagon in the foreground, I wondered aloud when the photo was taken. Surely, I said, there must be a clue somewhere in the picture.

Fortunately, half a block to the East was the movie theatre that eventually became the beloved 8th Street Playhouse. On the marquis was advertised Ann Harding in “Nine Girls”. I jotted that down.

Later I looked it up on Google. The name of the film pegged the photo to 1944 (when the movie theater was still known as the Film Guild Cinema). I then ended up spending quite a lot of time on-line, learning about Ann Harding’s fascinating career and times. It was like entering a time machine.

Nobody I’ve spoken to remembers her, except for one woman I’m guessing is around eighty years old, whom I met the other day at the Outer Critics’ Circle Awards. She remembers Ann Harding fondly from her childhood.

Maybe, seventy years from now, somebody will see a forgotten name on a marquee in an old photo from 2014. And perhaps they too will enter a time machine.

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