Miss Subway from March-April 1959 now owns Ellen’s Stardust Diner at 50th St. and 7th Ave. (Source: The New York Times)
Last week, during my post on subway movies, I omitted On The Town. The Comden and Green musical follows three sailors on leave in New York for 24 hours. One of the sailors — Gabey played by Gene Kelly — falls in love with Miss Turnstiles.
Ah, Miss Turnstiles. It’s a New York subway reference lost to the ages. Once upon a time, from May 1941 through 1976, talent agencies appointed a woman Miss Subway every few months. The winner’s picture was plastered on placards throughout the system, and at one point, even Cher got in on the act, writing a song about the contest.
But as with many things, Miss Subway went by the wayside. Despite a one-year hiatus in 2004 that coincided with the 100-year anniversary of the opening of the IRT, the contest has been a relic of New York City history. Over the weekend, The New York Times had fun with past contest winners. In a great “Where Are They Now?” piece, photographer Fiona Gardner and reporter Amy Zimmer tracked down some winners and snapped their current pictures.
It’s a great multimedia presentation on The Times’ site. They have pieces on Miss Subway June 1942, a current lawyer who held the crown from February through August in 1968 and of course Ellen herself, a winner in 1959.
The contest and its spot in history sure do make the subways seem more humane 50 years ago than they are today. But that’s just the nostalgia talking.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner has dozens of Miss Subway placards on display throughout the restaurant.
Yes, I know it’s a tourist trap, but I was a tourist, in Times Square, and hungry. The food was average, the service friendly and the singing pretty darn good.
I am actively seeking former Miss Subways to photograph for a forthcoming book. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know anyone who might be interested.