Vintage New York Travel Tips Featured in a 1977 Newspaper

F.D.N.Y. - Engine 276, Ladder 156 & Battalion 33
F.D.N.Y. - Engine 276, Ladder 156 & Battalion 33 via Timothy Wildey on Flickr

By avoiding eye contact with the Jesus Freaks and keeping some cash in your sock, you might survive your visit to NYC.

Visiting the city can be difficult even in 2018, but Pennsylvanians visiting in 1977 were encountering a whole new world. The murder rate was five times higher than today, Times Square was a gritty wilderness, and the Bronx was burning, so it was probably for the best that any tourists attempting a New York trip were made aware of what they were getting into.

In the Reading, Pennsylvania Reading Eagle from March 13, 1977, William C. Santamour laid out some ground rules for a New York trip.

New Yorkβ€”City of Extremes via Reading Eagle β€” View full size
  • Eighth Avenue

It's no longer filled with pimps and prostitutes but the "transients sleeping in doorways" still rings true. Homelessness is getting worse across the city, but a walk down Eighth Ave in 2018 shouldn't have you hoping a police car passes by. Plus, there's an Arby's over there now.

  • If you do go, don't go alone

Good advice, no matter what the year. If you're dropping into the city and staying at a $75/night Airbnb in Midtown, you should probably bring a travel partner if you don't know the city. Walking with a piece of luggage will inexorably brand you as a tourist, and as an easy mark for anyone looking to take advantage of you. You likely won't need the "team of professional wrestlers, leashed and primed for battle" that the writer suggested in 1977.

  • The Moonies and the Jesus Freaks

While it sounds like an insult, there really were Moonies and Jesus Freaks roaming the streets, proselytizing to passers-by. William Santamour even describes believers following him into a restaurant. Depending on the time of day and the part of town, you might still find groups hawking various religious beliefs, but in 2018 they're unlikely to be given the freedom to harass the public.

  • Brew Burger

All the restaurants mentioned in the travel guide seem to be gone β€” The unnamed corner delis are probably the most likely to have survived. The burger mentioned was indeed just $3, and can be seen on this 1978 Brew Burger menu, along with a tantalizing $1 all-you-can-drink beer offer. The burger doesn't sound like much of a value meal when run through the inflation calculator: $3 from 1977 equals $12.43 in modern bucks.

  • Pick-pocket-proofing

Pick-pocketing has fallen out of favor, but even native New Yorkers need to keep control of where they keep valuables, especially when in close quarters such as Times Square crowds or subway cars. Phones being snatched from people's hands is a more modern version of pick-pocketing, so you might want to take the suggestion of the 1977 travel guide where William Santamour stuck some extra dollars in his socks to protect from sneaky fingers. Gone are the days of small cell phones that could fit in a sock, but a nice ankle holster for your iPhone would make a unique fashion statement.

And that's the way it was in 1977 β€” What do you think, could you have survived a weekend trip amongst the pimps and the prostitutes in New York?


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