Spending an afternoon in April 1936

May 2, 2012 — 6 Comments

I really need to get that time machine up and running.

Because for starters, I need to go to the Automat. I’ve been hearing about this place since I was a kid. The last Automat in NYC was open until 1991 but by then it was a heartbreaking shadow of its former self. So even though I’ve been to that one, it doesn’t count as a true Automat experience. I want an authentic Automat experience like this:

According to my parents, and everyone else I’ve ever spoken to who was lucky enough to eat there during its better days, the Automat was great. Everything was freshly prepared and all you had to do was put a nickel in the slot, open the door of the compartment containing the dish of your choice, and enjoy. It sounds like so much fun! Plus, they were reputed to have the best baked beans, the best rice pudding, the best macaroni & cheese, the best mashed potatoes, the best creamed spinach, the best chicken pot pie, the best honey buns, the best pies, the best cakes . . . the best everything, really. And most importantly, they had the best coffee, always freshly brewed. The coffee was dispensed from spouts shaped like dolphin heads—and let’s face it, anything dispensed from a spout shaped like a dolphin head is going to taste pretty fantastic.

So I need to go back in time so that I can have a delicious lunch at the Automat. I would have such a good time looking in all the little cubbyhole windows and choosing my meal. And I want to have a cup of that world-famous coffee poured from the dolphin spout, and maybe a piece of cheesecake or coconut custard pie (for which the Automat was also noted).

But it would be a shame to eat and run, so I would probably also take in a movie matinee. That’s why I’ve chosen April 1936—because that’s when Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, starring Gary Cooper, premiered. And if you haven’t seen what Gary Cooper looked like in those days, check it out:

See what I mean? Yeah, I know, he’s smoking in this photo, but Good Lord, he’s also smokin’. Talk about a hot dead guy. I’d have me a fine time watching him on the big screen, and besides, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town happens to be a fun little movie. Of course, they could have filmed him just sitting there reading aloud from the phone book and I’d pay money to see it.

On the other hand, maybe I’d skip the movie and get back in the time machine to hunt down Gary in person. That would make for a nice afternoon too.

6 responses to Spending an afternoon in April 1936


    I’ve wanted to go to an automat because Marilyn Monroe sings about it in Diamonds are a girls best friend. (If a size 14 sex symbol sings about diamonds and automats in the same song…well they have to be good right?) I think Gary Cooper is hot. So is Cary Grant. But the hotest of them all….Gregory Peck. Cha cha cha.



    Having grown up in the social outcasts of, well, outcasts, I’ve never heard of Automats, but they look cool. 1936 would be a really good year to go back to. If nothing else I could find out where Gary got his suits!




      I hardly think you’ve been among outcasts, Nigel! Automats are an American thing–they were in NY and Philadelphia from 1903 until 1991. But I can imagine that they would have been popular in England too if they had opened some there. And yeah, Gary did look smart, didn’t he. Maybe his suits weren’t from Savile Row but smart all the same.



    I bet my kids would like it if I put up and Automat in my kitchen. Especially on the nights I serve broccoli, brown rice, or whole wheat noodles. Great post!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and sharing your wisdom. I appreciate it!



      Heck, I’d enjoy having an Automat in my kitchen too–it would make healthy things like salads, brown rice, etc, seem much more exciting and appealing.

      Thank you for stopping by as well!



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