Sunday trips to New York City

Pretty much every Sunday in the Fall, Winter, or Spring, my parents would load us into the car and we’d drive from our suburban house in Bronxville to one of several wonderful museums in New York City.

1960-Red Valiant

The Safran family car – a 1960 red Valiant

We had a red Valiant just like this when I was little.

Cars didn’t have seat belts in the early 60s, so my sister and I could slide around and fight over seat territory in the back. It had a push button dashboard which I always wanted to play with, and snazzy black and white upholstery; the tail lights were especially cool and looked like eyes to me.

Going to museums was a big deal in our house. We’d all meet in the kitchen on Sunday morning; each one of us saying where we’d like to go or what we’d like to see, and then a museum was agreed upon and we’d go after lunch.

map of new york museums 2013

This is a current map of all the museums in NYC. The red dots and red balloons are museums: there are a lot of places to go and things to do there just like in the 1960s and 70s.

My father usually had veto power if the suggestion was too outlandish (or not what he was willing to do) or the desired collection was in too dangerous a neighborhood. For example: by the early 1970s, going to the Hispanic Society of America which was located on the edge of Harlem, was just too dangerous as was even going to the Brooklyn Museum by then.

We always dressed up for museum going. I remember taking the time to choose my outfit which always included my best clothes, and jewellery (brooches, bracelets, rings, necklaces),

Betty Safran dressed to go to a museum

I am dressed and ready to go to a museum in my pretty clothes… just note that my collar is up on one side, my jumper is crumpled, my pin is lopsided, and my hair bow all droopy… I look clean at least. c. 1964

and frequently my little white gloves, a small purse to hold whatever small change I had for the museum shop, and my black patent leather shoes (or my white Courreges style go-go boots that I liked to wear with a white mohair mini skirt – I was a very groovy kid).

Betty Safran a selection of childhood jewellery and scarf

This is all that remains of my jewellery collection from childhood – most of the cheap stuff has vanished. Here is a favorite pin from Venice; a gold letter B; a jade and gold turtle brooch; a choker made by my sister; a copper dove; and a scarf from our 1965 trip to Europe.

We also had to have our hair done properly – my mother put bows in my hair, and later ribbons when I had braids.

And on Sundays I became the family’s shoe polisher – especially for my Dad – I made sure that our feet were as good looking as our hair. This I would do sitting on the top step of the basement stairs, using a shoe polishing kit. I polished my patent leather shoes in my room with spit.

We only went to the museums that had free admission. In fact, although the Metropolitan Museum of Art was probably my parents’ favorite museum, once the Met started charging “voluntary donations” in the early 1970s we stopped going  there. But by then I was finally old enough to go to the Frick Collection (which had an age limit of 10 years old) and that became a top favorite

St Francis in the Desert, Giovanni Bellini c1480, Betty Safran's favorite painting

One of my all time favorite paintings at the Frick Collection -St Francis in the Desert by Giovanni Bellini. The first time I saw it as a kid I loved it, and I looked forward to returning to see it again and again.

My sister and I grew up walking around museums looking at art. We were so well behaved that my parents were often complimented on our comportment by museum guards and other visitors.

Of course there must have been times that I got cranky and difficult too. But my only memories of these trips are happy ones.


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