Thursday, September 04, 2008

Nat Goldstein's Fabulous Fortieth
or An Album Finds Its Way Home
This is one of those stories that makes me glad I'm an obsessive collector of useless stuff no one else wants. First a little back story. If you read this blog enough, you've heard me rave on and on about my huge record collection and how I'm spending the next two decades transferring everything to mp3; purging the crap, keeping the cream. Some fifteen odd years ago my collection exploded when I started to go to the ALS Mammoth Music Mart that was held every October. There were thousands of albums for sale there; reel-to-reels, 78s, 45's. There was even a box of wire recordings that I'm still kicking myself I didn't buy. Each year I would buy probably two to three hundred albums. Most of these albums I've still not played. Thankfully, this sale ended three years ago. People weren't donating as many records, and it wasn't worth it to the charity to hold the event. I was heartbroken, but I'm sure I'd be sleeping on records right now if it hadn't stopped.
So my journey continues into listening to everything I bought and moving the sound to the modern age of digital. Last Friday was no different. I didn't have anything to do, so I thought I'd catch up on my album cover photo taking. (Oh, on top of the sound, I'm photographing the album art. I will be doing this until I'm 82.) Usually when I know I'm going to get into the groove of working on the photo files I put on a double album set to transfer. I went to a shelf and saw a thick, white cardboard album poking out among the comedy albums. It was called "Nat Goldstein's Fabulous Fortieth; What Happened at the Americana the night of May 12, 1964". I remembered this album because I had paid $2.95 for it. Sometimes these ephemera home recordings can be a real find, but this was a very dry recording of an anniversary, testimonial dinner for Mr. Goldstein the head of circulation for the New York Times. I recalled playing it once before and never got through the rabbi's blessing at the beginning.

But this Friday I had work to do so I just let it play, and play, and play... Two full hours! I did some photos, cleaned dishes, mopped the floor and listened. It really was a sweet album. Nat's Goldstein's co-workers, city officials, friends one by one got up and toasted this guy who was obviously well loved by everyone. Someone even read a letter from the then governor Nelson Rockefeller. Of course, my interest was peeked and I went to The Google and looked him up. There wasn't a whole lot about him.  His daughter let me know that he started at the NY Times in 1926, worked his way up through the ranks and in 1948 was promoted to Circulation Director. Then at the end of his career before he retired he was promoted to Assistant to the Publisher who at that time was Punch Sulzberger.  He died in 1986 at the age of 78.

During the recording there was a letter that was read from his absent daughter Sara Jane. She was off at school and couldn't attend. The gist of the letter was: Sorry I can't be there, but you'll understand because you loved your work so much that I honor you by staying at school and taking exams rather than coming to your dinner. Her name stuck in my head because I had just watched "Imitation of Life" the night before. The white passing daughter of Lana Turner's black maid was named Sara Jane and I think that name was said a hundred times in that movie. So I Googled Sara Jane Goldstein. And her wedding announcement came up. I then looked up her married name. Sara Jane Drescher. And I got this sentence..."Sarah Jane and Ira Drescher, were inconsolable when they heard about the murder..." Murder?!!! I was brought to the CBS news 48 Hours Mysteries page. 13 years ago Sara Jane's daughter was murdered by her husband. Rather than recount the crime go to this link for this heartbreaking story. THE STORY
I saw that Sara Jane and her husband started Women in Distress an organization that helps victims of domestic violence. I had no idea that playing this crazy testimonial album would lead down this emotional road. I wondered if Sara Jane had a copy of this album or if she even knew that this recording of the night she missed existed. So I wrote the executive director of the organization and asked her to forward my message about this recording.
A couple days later I got this message:
Hi John,...I have so many questions to ask you. Mainly, how did you get the album? Did you know my Dad? Have we met? How did you know he was my Father and how to reach me through Women in Distress?
Thank you for offering the album to me. I would very much like to have it. Sincerely, Sara Jane

I told her this story about my record collection, looking up her father, remembering her name... She then wrote me this:
John, This is more surreal than you can imagine. Your e-mail came over the 13th anniversary of my daughter's death. She was my mother and father's first grandchild and the light of their eyes. August 29th and the days before and after are always difficult for me. Even though 13 years have passed my heart and soul have never truly healed and never will completely.

Thank being said your note brought a smile to my face. I would LOVE a copy of the album.

Women in Distress has helped me to heal. Keeping Donnah's spirit alive is so important to me. Her fund provides money to women who have completed the 3 months in the safe house (where they received therapy and all the help they need mentally, physically and emotionally) but do not have the funds to start on their own. Many times they go back to their abuser because they have no other option. In saving lives, we feel we save generations. And we do it all in Donnah's name! Yes, you may use our story on your blog.
Thank you for anything you can send. It will be wonderful for our children and grandchildren to hear.
Can you believe this? How strange is this that I pull this album to record, and actually listened to it; Then get it to it's rightful owner, the family of the man whose life was being honored! Not to mention finding her at this stressful time of the year when she needed to be reminded of happier times. I've asked Sara Jane to keep in touch and to let me know her thoughts when listening to the recording. I hope she does.
Here is the first 20 minutes of the night... because of it's length I found it was impossible to post the full record.

Amendment: I heard from Sara Jane and she said it was her sister who was away at college and who wrote the letter. I was cleaning at the time I listened, so I'm not surprised I heard that wrong.


Anonymous said...

What an amazing story! Do keep us posted on what happens next...

You Rock, John!


Frankie said...

Wow, that gave me goosebumps.

Aaron said...

No coincidences...I think you were meant to hear that record when you did, and contact Sara Jane when you did.

This is a great story. Thanks so much for sharing it with us!

Feng said...

That's a hell of a story. Amazing from so many perspectives.

Thanks for sharing it with us, and welcome back.


Anonymous said...

My uncle was at that party - he was then circulation manager for Look Magazine and a friend of Nat Goldstein. While clearing out a "junk" collection today - I found a party favor from that night: a small - less than two inches long - pen knife, mother of pear, on a key chain - inscribed "Nat Goldstein The New York Times 4oth Anniversary 1924-1964" Maybe it should be with your album -

Johnny C said...

Wow... Anonymous... please contact me at I'll send you a link to the full evening. I sent the album to Nat Goldstein's daughter. If you want you can send it to her...

Vincent said...

I read this story in late 2009, having just been appointed to a parish in the West of Ireland. There's a link her with Nat Goldstein as well! I actually made contact with his daughter as a result of your post. Thank you very much. Here's a link to the "Urlaur" connection - a good story too!

Thanks again,

Vincent Sherlock
Kilmovee, Co. Mayo. Ireland