Tuesday, January 10, 2012

42 Washington Square South

McCain Library and Archives
University of Southern Mississippi

1945 New Years Card

“We came to the U. S. A. with the idea that it was a progressive and liberal country,” Margret Rey recalled shortly after the couple became citizens in 1946.  In the six years they had called New York home, the couple published twenty children’s books. 
“We had prepared ourselves for a difficult start,” Hans added,  “but fate was kind—within a month four of the manuscripts I had brought along were accepted for publication.”          
The Reys chose New York for several reasons. First, Margret’s sister, Mary Waldstein Eichenberg, and her husband had lived on Long Island since the mid-1930s. Second, Hans knew the city. Prior to immigrating to Rio de Janeiro, he spent several months working in the New York office of his brother-in-laws’ import-export firm. Finally, New York was the epicenter for trade publishing, and the Reys were determined to make their mark.
Within months of their arrival, the couple had found an apartment on Washington Square, in Greenwich Village. Like many authors and artists before them, the aesthetics of The Village—its irregular streets, classical architecture, diverse cultural life—seeped into their souls. Hans featured their third floor walk-up on South Square in the couple’s 1945 New Year’s card, and in a small sketch depicting its interior.
McCain Library and Archives
University of Southern Mississippi

Here they entertained family and friends, listened to music, argued over politics, chatted about movies and reviews in The New York Times. Ironically, their biggest success, the Curious George series, was with a Boston-based publishing house, Houghton Mifflin. Yet for nearly a quarter of a century, the Reys (and Curious George) roamed the streets of New York, rode its subways and buses, and called it home. George liked to ride on top of the bus. Don’t believe me? Re-read Curious George Takes a Job. You’ll see them all on 5th Avenue—George, riding the bus, Hans in a blue suit walking beside his friend and author, Jesse Jackson (Call Me Charley, 1945), and Margret with Charcoal, their black cocker spaniel, a little to the right greeting a four-legged friend.

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