Times Square: Crossroads of the World
You have often heard this place called the “Crossroads of the World” and you find yourself wondering if a crossroads of the world can really look so very much like Coney Island. You answer your own question with an emphatic negative, but you have given the wrong answer.
People have always had the wrong picture of the Roman Forum. It was not exclusively populated by crowds cheering Julius Caesar on his return from Gaul. It is not true that wherever you turned in that great central plaza of the Roman Empire your eyes fell on the great Pompey exchanging a few kind words with the poet Vergil, or the brilliant young Mark Antony congratulating Marcus Tullius Cicero on sending away the racketeer Catiline to the penitentiary. It is certainly not true that the public squares in old Athens were exclusively occupied by Socrates and Plato lecturing to Alcibiades and Aspasia.
Actually the philosophers in the Athenian market place must have been many times outnumbered by the cold drink vendors and the peddlers of woolen undervests to be worn under the tunic; and sometimes the philosophers were hard to tell apart from the peddlers. It is fairly certain that Vergil or Cicero could have crossed the Roman Forum a dozen times without being recognized. Most of the time the really interesting sight to the Roman crowd in the forum was the crowd itself, exactly as in Times Square on election night.
Times Square is not a crossroads of the world where famous explorers just back from the Amazon greet South African aviators on leave from ferrying new American bombers to Great Britain. Neither does it happen very often that motion picture magnates from Hollywood find themselves blocked by the red light on the traffic island at Forty-third Street in the company of Professor Einstein and Joe Louis on their way to a war relief luncheon.
Much more frequently the encounters on Times Square are by appointment between good housewives from North Bergen, New Jersey and their girlhood friends from Washington Heights. They may be seen any day in the week, especially around the matinee hours, waiting for each other at the corner of Broadway and Forty-third Street in front of the Paramount Theater. They look slightly forlorn until the familiar face turns up, when they greet each other merrily and trot off to lunch and a movie. Girls frequently wait for their boy friends. In this matter of the theater or the movie the law of nature which holds for shopping appointments is reversed for young people; nearly always it is the woman who waits for the man.
There are occasions when the population of Times Square would seem to consist chiefly of junior high-school girls in slacks with their boy escorts in Byronic shirt collars. They are most numerous on the first two days of the week when the new bill goes on at the picture palaces, and particularly if it is one of the famous band leaders. Tall women of riper years may be seen crossing Times Square at all hours of the day, but they are in the minority. In the main the swing-band female audiences give every impression of being turned out in a standard five foot one inch model by mass production methods.