I have an ever-growing collection of over 600 matchbooks. They were stored in a glass jar until a day, not too long ago, when I decided to write about them and the stories behind them. I spilled them out on my living room rug, looked at the pile, and wondered; "How was I going to do this?" and "What on earth was I getting myself into?"
I was overwhelmed at first. Then I began to look at select matchbooks and spent about a day reminiscing about each one. It was so easy to get lost in them. The matchbooks remained on my floor, and the next day it occurred to me that most of these were from New York City where I’ve resided for over 35 years. I lived in Bed-Stuy (Bedford-Stuyvesant), Chelsea, The West Village, TriBeCa (The Triangle Below Canal), LIC (Long Island City) and Astoria. And, like a good New Yorker, I traveled around the city, as if it were my backyard, with a Zagat’s book and Time Out Magazine as my early guides.
I knew that much of this collection would be from restaurants in Manhattan, so I began by organizing the matchbooks by neighborhoods and then created additional categories for bars and clubs, hotels, cigars and cigarettes, 1-900, chain restaurants, and a few varieties of miscellaneous.
This helped. Immensely. My brain works much better when I can see patterns, and I could now see the stories come alive in front of me. There were tons of them. So many, that it was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. I was eager to start writing the stories. But, where to begin?
It seems obvious now, but eventually I began by writing about how my collection got its start. You can read that story here. From there, it got easier and I now have a list of matchbook stories I want to share with you. I’m just waiting for the right time to strike each story.
Here’s some of what’s to come on Matchbookology.
There's Horn & Hardart where soup and sandwiches were delivered via an automat. And then there's Bouley, once one of the finest restaurants in New York City known for its modern French fare and impeccable service.
Everyone knows about the Playboy Bunny. Heck, we ladies all have a set of rabbit ears in a drawer somewhere. And, whether you smoke or not, you know the notorious Joe Camel.
The George Washington Hotel opened in 1928 as a hotel and boarding house, and closed with a "colorful" history. Club Med was, at one time, a desired all inclusive high end vacations for singles.
In the 1940's the Copacabana was the mob-run nightclub everyone wanted to perform in. In the sixties, it was the Village Gate where Aretha Franklin made her first New York City appearance.
There's plenty more, and I am looking forward to sharing it all with you.
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