In the June 18, 1931 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, arts and entertainment writer Rian James1 used his column to promote the 8th edition of his vest-pocket Gadabout Guide to New York’s most unusual Restaurants, Night Clubs, Roadhouses.
The “Wide-Open Spaces Department” of his column gives us a flavor of life on the roads during the Depression (when, as James puts it, “the man in the streets . . . lost his stocks and socks”) and a priceless description of the Nikko Inn in the 1930s.
“If you like the wide open spaces, and you don’t mind spending the better part of your life sitting in traffic—the open-road houses beckon to you shut-ins to come out to play—and pay! We know all about the open road and open road houses, because we have devoted nearly a whole month out of our life to finding out things. The roads are good, and crowded; the road-houses are good and not nearly crowded, and judging by the numbers of automobiles that scrape the varnish off your left fender, you’d hardly know there was a depression. 2
The thing that drives home the fact that there is a depression is the way the drivers of smaller cars hang grimly onto their steering wheels. They hang onto their steering wheels with two hands . . . just as though at any moment now a big, burly traffic cop would come up and attempt to wrest their prize plaything right out of their grasp.”
After reviewing road houses in New York City, Long Island, the Bronx and lower Westchester, James concludes his column with this pithy description:
“Nikko Inn, at Harmon-on-the-Hudson (all with hyphens), which is the hoity-toitiest spot extant, providing you’ve got girl, and there’s enough moon. You can play around here in a canoe until dinner’s ready. And if this summary sounds a little hasty, or sketchy, or something, remember that it’s the best we can do considering the roads. And have a nice time!”
- According to Wikipedia Rian James must have had quite a life. “A ‘Jack of all trades’, James was a columnist covering arts and entertainment for the Brooklyn Eagle from about 1928 to 1935. He later was a foreign correspondent, parachute jumper, stunt man, airmail pilot, Air Force lieutenant, vaudeville actor, and finally, writer, director and producer.” ↩︎
- All quotations are from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 30, 1931, page 21, columns 1 and 2. See here. ↩︎