1939 – Astor Bar, New York
My father, Michael Rogers, was a bartender at the legendary Astor Bar on 44th and Broadway from 1937 to 1965, one year before it was destroyed. The large photo above was taken by the New York Daily News for its pictorial series called The Correct Thing — the subject line for this segment was “Tipping Bartenders.”
My father was born in Co. Longford in 1903 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1926 coming over on The Celtic Cross. He settled first on 137(th) Street in Manhattan before moving to the South Bronx, near the Hunts Point market, where he died in 1986. Before working at the Astor, he was a motorman on the Third Avenue El subway. He met my mother, Rose Flood, who was from Co. Monahan, in New York City, at a Longford Association Dance. They married in 1938 at St. Columba’s Church on 25th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. They married there because the pastor was, like my father, from County Longford.
My father heard about the opening at the Astor from his friend, Hughie Prunty, also from Drumlish, Co. Longford. During the interview, the Astor manager said he liked his polite, soft-spoken manner, and probably, the soft brogue. The bar was the haunt of political and show biz celebs. In the 1930s and 40s, it rivaled the Biltmore and the Stork Club. Some of the folks my father waited on were: Marilyn Monroe, Cole Porter, Marlene Dietrich, Winston Churchill, Jackie Gleason, Ed Sullivan, Art Carney, Cary Grant, Ann Sothern, Robert Morgen, Mayor Wagner, Barbara Hutton, Doris Duke and Joe DiMaggio. Frank Sinatra was a frequent visitor because the Paramount was next door, and the crooner was one of my father’s favorite patrons. His top favorite was Mayor James J. Walker.
When my father retired in 1965, Lord Astor sent him a letter from his estate in England. He thanked him for all his years of service. My father, who naturally had a beef or two with the Brits, nonetheless cherished the letter. My parents had three children: Eleanor, now deceased, was a public relations executive, Kathleen owned and managed a Diet Center franchise and me. I am a writer and co-author of seven books and two calendars. ♦