My Busy Schedule

Cafe Reggio. The green stuff is a late addition

I was now an extremely busy twenty-year-old.  As soon as I had a job I registered at Brooklyn College again.  The College was still free, except for the $8 a semester registration fee.  I believe the fee was the same at all the city’s colleges, and at the time I didn’t appreciate what an incredible deal this was.  The city colleges were unusual in that all of its teachers had to have Ph.D.s (I don’t know of any other college in the country at that time that had made the Ph.D. a condition of employment), and the professors who taught there were an unusually gifted lot.  But more about them a bit later.

My mornings began in a rather leisurely way.  After wake up, ablutions, and getting dressed, I walked north to Delancey Street for breakfast at Ratner’s, a justly famous large, kosher, dairy restaurant.  It was located on the north side of the street, just west of Clinton Street, a couple of doors west from the Loews’s Delancey.  Ratner’s had traditional Jewish waiters who told you what to order if you dared show any doubts.  The best onion omelet in the City was prepared at Ratner’s, and that was my usual breakfast, occasionally with a dessert of cheesecake and a cup of coffee.  What is now called New York cheesecake was invented, I believe, at Ratner’s and was in a class by itself.  After leaving Ratner’s I’d board the subway, and after expertly executing several transfers, wound up at the Avenue H station in Brooklyn, a longish trip that allowed me time for reading.

One of the requirements at Brooklyn College was that you take what was called a P and M period class for the first two years.  This actually meant classes that would start at 4 and 5 in the afternoon.  Some students enjoyed late classes because that allowed them to sleep later in the morning.  For me it meant that sometimes I would fall asleep in class, no matter how interesting the instructor or the subject matter, and this was really my fault, as I went to sleep much too late.

My job at Schrafft’s required me to arrive at 7 PM, and after a quick supper for which I arrived a little early, I’d get to work until 11.  This was only part-time work, but because college was free, I could live on the salary because I also received money from the GI Bill each month.  My budget was tight, but not impossible.  After work, I’d go down to Greenwich Village to check out my friends at a couple of coffee houses.  At the time there were only three on McDougall Street.  There was the Café Reggio, which was genuine, old, and Italian, and then there were the two more recent arrivals operated by enterprising young people, and they really were enterprising, as there were absolutely no other coffee shops in the city or the country at the time.  They were Café Rienzi, and Café Figaro.  However, as a result of all this socializing after work, it was not unusual for me to get to bed until 1 or 2 AM (sometimes later). It also resulted in a good deal of sleepiness by around 6 PM in class, but I did get a nap in while on the subway on my way to Shcraftt’s.  Life was good.



About AlexLevy

Dr. Alex Levy is a retired English teacher who survived World War II and the "Final Solution" by hiding in a Catholic orphanage for girls in Belgium for several years.
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