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GEORGE SINGER 46 years a doorman on the West Side
GEORGE SINGER 46 years a doorman on the West Side

12-20-77

It's a wet, stormy night on the West Side; rain is pelting down without mercy, and the wind is whipping along the edge of the park like a tornado in a canyon. A taxi pulls up in front of the Century Building at 25 Central Park West, and at the same moment a man in uniform emerges from the building holding an umbrella to escort the woman passenger to safety. Anyone watching the scene would hardly guess that the doorman is 75 years old. But his age is not the only remarkable thing about George Singer.

During his 46 years at the Century — longer than any other employee or tenant — George has seen the entire history of the city reflected in the people who have come and gone through the entrance. He has gotten to know world-famous celebrities who have lived in the building, and has met countless others who came to visit — from prizefighters to presidents. He has watched the enormous changes of fashion, custom and law. And from the start of the Great Depression to the beginning of the Koch administration, George has remained the same calm, good-natured observer, seeing all but criticizing no one.

"I've been here since this was a hole in the ground," he says matter-of factly, puffing on a cigar in the outer lobby of the building, keeping one eye on the door. "It all started in 1930, when they tore down the old Century Theatre to put up a luxury apartment building. I got a job as a plumber's helper, lugging big pipes across the ground. After it was finished in 1931, I went to the superintendent and told him I helped build the Century and asked for a job. I simply had to get work, because it was during the Depression and I had my wife and two kids. … I started as an elevator man and I worked up to the front door within a year."

In 1929 George had been earning $125 a week in a hat factory; in 1931 his wages were $75 a month for a 72-hour work week. "Our suits had to be pressed, our hair combed, shoes shined. We had to wear a white bow tie, white gloves. … If you looked cross-eyed at a tenant and he reported you to the office you were fired in those days."

During the 1930s, only about one-fourth of the apartments were rented. Among the residents was a Mrs. Gershwin; her sons George, Ira and Arthur made frequent visits. By the early 1940s the Century Building had become one of the most exclusive addresses in New York. Heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey, Ethel Merman, Nannette ............
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