Gimbel's Department Store, founded by seven brothers, opened its NY store in 1910 at 1275 Broadway, the current home of the Manhattan Mall monstrosity. The building was designed by Daniel Burnham, of Flatiron fame. This block was formerly the site of a theater that in 1879 staged the official New York premiere of Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore. In 1923, the Gimbel's company expanded by buying out Saks and Company, which was also located in Herald Square, and Saks moved uptown to its current location in 1924. Also in 1924, 1010 WINS NY radio station ("you give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world") began broadcasting from the in-store studio of its owner, Gimbel's Department Store, under the name WGBS. The station was sold to newspaper dude William Randolph Hearst in 1932, who renamed the station WINS, after his International News Service. WINS moved to its present frequency, 1010, in 1943. In 1954, a new owner gave the station have a rock and roll format, which lasted until 1965. On April 19, 1965, then-owner Westinghouse introduced the all-news format that we know and love today.

In 1925, a Gimbel's annex was constructed, designed by Shreve & Lamb, the same company that did the Empire State Building. This annex is now Weber's on 32nd Street. Remember Pushcart Store on Fifth Avenue - like Odd Job times 200? In 1945, the first ballpoint pens were sold at Gimbel's - selling 10,000 on the first day at $12.50 each. Soon thereafter, people stopped buying ballpoint pens altogether and relied solely on stealing them from their offices. Gimbel's is often credited with creating the very first "bargain basement." The company was sold to Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp. in 1973, and the last Gimbel's store closed in 1987.

I just want to tell you about another G thang: Govies! My junior high school (JHS 104) referred to all them Coast Guard kids from Governor's Island as Govies. My school must've been the zone school because they were everywhere, like gremlins after midnight. I went to an 8th grade Governor's Island dance with Govie Kurt Hemphill, and sobbed unexplainably during the song "Careless Whisper." The strangest thing about Governors Island is the lack of apostrophe.

So get a load of this - after 203 years, the National Park Service has officially opened Governors Island to the public, giving free tours until September 27th. The 172-acre island, which New York State sold to the federal government for $1 in 1800, was used by the U.S. Army until 1966, and then by the U.S. Coast Guard until 1997. Like most military installations, Governors Island was a self-contained world, complete with movie theater, bowling alley, Burger King, and a YMCA. The island was officially handed back to New York this year (for one dollar, same price as admission to the MAGIC GARDEN). The deal stipulates that New York is forbidden from selling the land for permanent housing, for a casino, or to build a power plant. I say it should become home to all native New Yorkers (cheer, rah, hooray!)

What fun stuff happened on Governors Island?
- Wilbur Wright flew an airplane from Governors Island around the Statue of Liberty in 1909
- Confederate prisoners were held there during the Civil War
- the first submarine attack in world history launched there in 1776

Governors Island is a five-minute ferry ride from South Street. Free tours will be offered Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 10am and 1pm through Sept. 27. The Thursday tours are for groups of 25 or larger; the Friday and Saturday tours are open to the public. Because space on the ferryboats is limited, 48-hour advance registration is required. Call 212-514-8296 or visit

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