(who began singing in the New York City Opera Chorus, but eventually had a very successful career in stage make-up), Mallory Walker, Metropolitan Opera chorister Jean Rawn, Lee Belaver of the New York City Opera Chorus, Teri Hansen, Willard White, John Such (singer turned manager), the successful voice teacher Greg Lamar, and Tom Whitney to name just a few.
Shortly after the Holloways moved to 780, their marriage ended and Doris found herself a single mother raising a son in New York City. At first, she felt little connection with the neighborhood now known as the Audubon Park Historic District, because “I kept thinking I’d move downtown,” but gradually she began putting down roots at 780. “My first year, I played the piano for the Christmas party,” she remembers, “and except for one year when my carpal tunnel was really bad, I’ve played it every year since.”
The "Couple of Years" that Became Forty
Doris is like many long-time residents who thought their stay in the neighborhood would be brief. Though she has thought of moving over the years, she realizes that with a spacious, rent-stabilized apartment overlooking the Audubon Terrace Museum Complex and the Hudson River, she could never find anything of equivalent value on the island of Manhattan. “I’d be living in an efficiency, and a dinky one at that,” she laughs.
When Doris’s son, Devin, reached school age, she sent him up the street to the Michael Jumel School at the Grinnell, a private school from Kindergarten through 4th grade that occupied Apartment 1A in the ‘70s. She remembers it as extremely affordable, “probably $100 a month; it couldn’t have been much more because I wasn’t making much money in those days.” Doris thought the teacher’s name was Miss Millet, but to refresh her memory, asked Devin, who now lives in Texas, what he remembered about the Michael Jumel School. Although Devin did not remember much about the Grinnell community, his response includes some interesting information about the school that once occupied the ground-floor A-line apartment.
I think you were right about the name of the teacher being Miss Millet. There was another teacher there whose name I don't remember at all who actually washed my mouth out with soap (along with another student) for cussing. I also remember doing the Christmas play there, and being the only one who knew all the lines to the play. It was a really good school, now that I think about it, one that inspired a lot of creativity for being a traditional little grade school. Freddie Prinz attended the school (of Chico and the Man fame), and Miss Millet remembered him well - he often returned from LA to visit family and would drop by the school (I don't remember this happening while I was there).
After attending Michael Jumel, Devin moved on to Bank Street and then to Riverdale High School, where he earned highest academic honors. In a turnabout, he spent his summers on the farm in Kansas where his mother had grown up, learning to love country living as much as she had learned to love life in the big city.
Doris eventually made a transition into a new career, using music as her bridge into the corporate world. An excellent pianist in addition to her vocal skills, she began playing the piano at the Manhattan Savings Bank 2 ½ hours a day, gradually arranging other performances for the bank, including an annual Dog Show and Cat Show and managing the very popular Holiday Ice Skating show. One of her tasks was to make sure the ice was perfect for the four skaters who performed every day at noon – in a bank no less! Eventually she worked her way into the position of Director of Corporate Events and after surviving takeovers by Republic National Bank and HSBC Bank USA, retired from the latter in 2009.
The Grinnell: So Near and Yet So Far
In her nearly 40 years living at 780, has Doris ever considered moving to the Grinnell? She laughs when she says that the Grinnell has always reminded her of the song “So Near and Yet so Far.” She has always found it a fascinating building, but somewhat “forbidding and off limits,” and she says that with no rancor or hard feelings. “Maybe it’s because it’s so very enclosed and there’s always a doorman sitting in the booth, which discourages people – including me – from just walking in. Many times I’ve walked by and tried to view the lovely enclosed garden, but I wouldn’t just walk in uninvited.”
A gregarious person by nature, she’s known many people living in buildings that surround the Riverside Oval, some by name, some only by face and conversation (including a woman she used to chat with in the Payan Park, who she later learned was Estelle Bennett of the Ronnettes), but she’s only known a few people living at the Grinnell. Her first visit to the building was when “an African-American fellow who came to 780 to work on my bike, invited me to come see his apartment at the Grinnell; it was that apartment line that comes to a point at the corner of 157th and the Drive[the J-line].” Like many people in the neighborhood, Doris knew Miss Geraldine Moore, helping her cross the street, chatting with her, and learning about her decades long association with the Grinnell.
Doris occasionally came to the Grinnell with a 780 friend who babysat cats for a Grinnell family when they were out of town and learned most of what she knows about the co-oping history from her, second-hand information but remarkably accurate. Over the years, she was aware that Grinnell residents had problems with an absentee landlord, that they had spent winters without heat, that the elevators didn’t work, and that the residents “had taken over the building,” but she was “not aware enough to ask if any apartments were available” so that she would have been in the building for co-oping. After many years of seeing the Grinnell from outside, she accompanied her friend from HSBC, Joni Greenspan, when she came for her first look at the wonderful duplex apartment that Ms. Greenspan and her husband eventually bought and remodeled, so over the years, her Grinnell connections have strengthened.
A Neighborhood through Four Decades
Like long-time Grinnell residents, Doris stuck out the neighborhood downward spiral in the ‘70s, survived the difficult ‘80s, and took pleasure in the gradual improvement through the ‘90s and into the new century. She also has her battle stories. In the ‘80s, baseball bat in hand, she chased a rapist who had assaulted one of her neighbors on the 780 roof, forcing him to jump the retaining wall at the corner of 155th. He broke both legs when he landed thirty feet below. And, then in the ‘90s when she was on the way home from the grocery store, she was mugged on 155th and Riverside Drive. Having spent her money at the store, she had nothing for the muggers who stole her running shoes in lieu of cash, leaving her to walk shoeless through the snow back to 780.
She’s pleased that the neighborhood is changing for the better, without loosing its multi-cultural character. She’s delighted to learn that a theme throughout the Grinnell Centennial Year is community outreach and plans on attending events in the community room (“You have a community room? I never knew that!”). With an invitation and reason to come inside, she’s much more comfortable visiting and now looks forward to the next event.
Doris Holloway, 780 Riverside Drive, 1973 - present
The Grinnell is like a big fortress…a little forbidding and off limits…the streets separating it from the rest of us are like a moat.
When Doris Holloway moved to 780 Riverside Drive around 1973, she and her husband, operatic baritone David Holloway were already leading a peripatetic existence moving from city to city as their musical careers demanded; he was beginning his career, singing with opera companies and symphonies around the country, while she sang “Tommy Pyle” jobs – contract choral work ranging from church gigs to concert performances to party gigs playing the piano.
The Holloways had a young son, Devin, who traveled with his mother to her various rehearsals and performances if they were during the day. They had found their apartment through other musicians, Dixie Neal, a vocal coach, and her husband Bill Neal, operatic tenor. Then, as now, 780 was home to many musicians – employed musicians making names for themselves in their respective disciplines: John and Erica Miner, Ryan Edwards, Charles Elsen