Thanks for the (Colorama) Memories…

Posted by on Sep 17 2010 | Exhibitions, Photography

Colorama #553 on disaply in Grand Central Terminal from August 15-September 22, 1988. Photogrpahy by Norm Kerr.

As we enter the last month of our Colorama exhibition at the Museum, we’d like to share some of the stories people have sent us about their own connection to these images— and the times they captured (and manufactured) of a by-gone era. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be blogging some of our favorites entries to close out the exhibit. Our first is from David Spiro, Director of Public Relations and Development of Rochester’s Blackfriars Theatre:

While I have been living here in Rochester for the past eleven years, I am Brooklyn born, Bronx raised, and Grand Central Terminal (GCT) is without a doubt still my favorite building in NYC, hands down. I spent many a time passing through the building for one purpose or another, and every time I go home to visit my family (my mother still lives in the Bronx neighborhood where I was raised) I always try to take the time to go into Manhattan to soak in the energy that only it can offer, visit some of my favorite eateries, and of course take the time to walk through GCT. The Colorama is very much an important part of my memories.

I think the thing that stands out most is the summer of 1979. My aunt was able to get me a summer job working at the property tax office in Brooklyn, repossessing little old ladies houses. (Okay, no I didn’t really do that, as I was just doing basic clerical work.) Most of the time, I took the #6 train from Pelham Bay station in the Bronx, and changed at Grand Central Station for the #4 into Brooklyn. (It’s important to note that “Grand Central Station” refers to the subway station, While GCT refers to the actual terminal above it. )

Once or twice a week however, I would take the express bus from my Bronx neighborhood into Manhattan, get off at the 42nd Street and 5th Avenue stop, and then walk the few blocks to Grand Central to hop the #4. Coming into GCT via the 42nd Street entrance, with the Park Ave. viaduct overhead was my favorite approach. It led you directly to the main concourse area of the terminal where you could look up at the magnificent ceiling with the constellations in their gold painted glory overhead. There was the famous GCT clock, the main meeting place for so many people, as well as it’s information booth below it, guiding customers to their proper Metro-North train, and during that time, to their Amtrak train.

If you looked to the right, there it was: The Colorama. If it wasn’t the biggest picture in the world, it sure should have been. The pictures would vary every few weeks, from nature, to cityscapes, to people, but the thrill was always wondering what would come next? I always had to pass underneath it to get to the part of the subway platform I need be at, and always marveled at it, wondering how they were able to blow a picture up that enormously? It was also, as its name suggest, bathed in the most glorious saturation of color. One always saw tourists gawking in amazement, and taking pictures of a picture.

While the restoration of GCT was very welcome as it opened up the main concourse to more natural light, the removal of the Colorama (as well as the old clapboard flip-style train arrival/departure board) was a sad event. To hear that it is being donated to the Eastman House was joyous to read, and here’s hoping it goes on prominent display. You can be sure that this Bronx boy will be among the first on line to see it.

Don’t forget to check out our Colorama Story Facebook page for videos of the Colorama photographers, models, and friends sharing their memories (coming Sept. 24th), to browse images from the exhibition, and to post your own story.

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    Roxana Aparicio Wolfe is the Curator of Education and Online Communities at George Eastman House.

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