Collecting book matches

Truly an integral part of the “Good Old Days,” book matches are so bright and cheerful, and so full of memories, that everyone saved them. I wonder how many collections are out there, and what memories they would bring back if we could see some of them.

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Above if an enlargement of the back of the original matchbook used by the Famous Cotton Club in Harlem, where Duke Ellington, Lena Horne and many others appeared in their early years.

My collection is mainly from New York and the East, where I collected them when I lived in Manhattan for some of the most exciting years of my life . . . and what memories they bring back whenever I pull them out and look at them. The famous Stork Club and its equally famous owner, Sherman Billingsley; the Wing Foot golf club, where major golf tournaments are played; the Old Forge restaurant on Third Avenue, where I had many pleasant meals with my sons Tony and Quincy when we all lived nearby; The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, that Terry and I constantly used for commuting to New York after we moved to New Haven; the Cunard Line and the totally famous Queen Mary that docked regularly in New York; Longchamps restaurant, frequented by all New Yorkers; and my prize, a 1930s match book from the Cotton Club, which I visited in the 1980s, but had to bribe the taxi driver with an extra twenty dollars to drive us there because he was afraid to drive up to Harlem in those days. (The show I saw was nothing like that shown on these matches, which are worth a fortune because they are avidly collected today.) I must admit that I didn’t visit the Show Bar, but I liked the cover. The historic Wayside Inn I visited in 1947 when touring the East Coast with my friend Dal Town during our university days. We drove a new Dodge back from the factory in Windsor for my sister Kaye to save her the 250 dollar shipping expenses they charged in those days. Oh, what memories. And how many crimes have been solved in films and on television when detectives discovered a book match cover at the crime scene . . . “aha,” they said, “just the clue we needed to solve this case.”

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All of these are famous except for Old Forge, a restaurant on Third Avenue where Terry and I had many pleasant dinners with my sons Tony and Quincy when we lived in New York.

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4 New York landmarks