Stealing Elegance


Waldorf Astoria. NYC. Forbes image

On my first trip to New York City, I stole a spoon from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

It was not only the first time for me to the biggest of cities, it was the first and only time I committed petty theft; something for the confessional.

On a girl scout field trip sponsored by my Catholic elementary school, we were 11 years old, 6th graders, well past the “age of reason”.

Ours was a small town of farmers who settled in the 1700’s in suburban Philadelphia, later industrialized by the steel industry.

So for us, this was truly a cultural excursion, a taste of a different world. We were awe-struck. Here, we were to witness the meaning of the word skyscraper.

The strangest part for me was that I felt really at home, in a way that did not make sense to me at the time. It was crowded, dirty, loud and a bit scary.

I loved every thing about it.

I can remember thinking that in some way, I was destined to be here.

My fantasy of living in NYC began right there.

Grand Ballroom

Grand Ballroom.

The day-long agenda was lost on me. The luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria grand ballroom was the highlight.

The meal was elegant, and no doubt, delicious; the dessert of Baked Alaska was a spectacle.

Instead of diving into it, I looked at the silver-plated spoon with the engraved “W”, and carefully slipped it into the pocket of my girl scout uniform.

spoon 2

It became a symbol to me; a symbol of elegance, a symbol of wealth, a symbol of urban life, a symbol of my future.

It was one of the 5 or 6 items that I kept in a small cedar box and carried with me my entire life.

I should have felt guilty. I did not. Every time I had the chance to open that cedar box, I would smile.

A few short decades later, my daughter called to say her job was being transferred to NYC.

She was to live out my dream. Prophecy fulfilled.

I was happier for her, and for myself, than she will ever know.


This morning I learned that the Waldorf is being gutted, turned into condos. I resurrected this post, one of my earliest.

This entry was posted in Childhood, Education, Entertainment, Inspiration, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

79 Responses to Stealing Elegance

  1. lbeth1950 says:

    Wonderful! I stole a piece of Dentyne Gum. My mother made me take it back,spit it out and give it back to the lady I snitched it from.

  2. I never admitted to the “grand theft”. Funny, I once went on e bay and did a search..I was not the only one who left with that flatware !

  3. Jim says:

    ha ha! you’re a real hooligan for taking things. I would have too.

    “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It’s been … ah, shit. How long has it been since my last confession???”

  4. Wow Van! Never would have guessed haha! I love this story! So special those childhood treasures!

  5. Erika Kind says:

    Oh, NYC has that special atmosphere and magic. I felt the same when I was there at the age of 15. I can very well understand what this spoon symbolised for you. Very courageous that you stole that spoon as such a young girl 😉

  6. LaVagabonde says:

    Good for you for not feeling guilty. Did you mention it during confession?

  7. Obviously you are not a very good criminal, lol. Wonderful story!

  8. Ritu says:

    I came home with a school tennis ball… Boy did I get whooped!!!
    Next nothing to me… I don’t even like sport lol!!!
    But I can understand the significance for you Van 😊

  9. Uh huh. You cross that City line and immediately become a hooligan. That’s why I don’t go anywhere. Just sayin’. 🙂 (Yes, I did once shoplift when I was 11 or so – with another young girl, who decided to teach me how easy it was. When my mother found that tube of lipstick, she marched me right back to the store and made me explain to the manager what I had done. I really thought I was going to jail! Never did that again.)

  10. I have lived all over the world, we moved a lot growing up.
    Since childhood NY had a special place in my heart, way before I ever visited.
    I’m there frequently for work and work pays for my stay there. My boss is partners in the company that manages the W Hotel.
    He hasn’t told me about this, yet!
    Thinking about it now, I had a tender spot for NY since childhood and I have no clue where that came from. Considering I’m a foreigner, I only moved to the States 13 years ago, and I’m in my mid 40s.
    I know I will move there someday. I know NY has a spot for me.
    Thank you for sharing your story Van ❤

  11. Nurse Kelly says:

    Beautifully written recollection, Van. I bet I know who’s going to inherit that spoon some day. xo

  12. Bradley says:

    Having worked in the hotel industry for 16 years I can assure you nobody noticed the spoon. Rest easy.

  13. I stole a Bonomo Turkish Taffy (valued at 6 cents) when I was in elementary school. I was never so scared in my life and learned that fear was not worth the taste of chocolate.
    Glad to see your daughter was able to help you (vicariously) fill a dream.

    • I was never tempted by candy, for some reason. And yes…I was so pleasantly surprised when she moved to NYC. It gives me so many good reasons to visit now. Thanks, Doc. 💙💜

  14. Say 3 Hail Marys and make a firm purpose of amendment.

  15. Cool story, Van. I totally understand the desire to possess that spoon and what it symbolized. Like finding Cinderella’s glass slipper. How wonderful that the dream comes true 🙂

  16. We all have a dark side. lol. I once changed lanes in the middle of an intersection and didn’t use my turn indicator. I know, right! 🍓

  17. We are going to need you to come in for some routine questioning… about a missing spoon…

  18. Wonderful Hotel. I hear the new Chinese owners are looking to convert it to condos.

  19. lbeth1950 says:

    Maybe if you hadn’t taken their spoon?

  20. A wonderful memory….and memento! 😉

  21. AmyRose🌹 says:

    Oh how sad about the Waldorf! Why can’t history be maintained??????? Other countries manage to do so! And about your story my niece lived out my “fantasy” when I was a young girl. In observing her, I learned my fantasy was not all that great to begin with. Great write, Van!! Thank you! ❤

  22. This post reminded me of my grandfather who had a full collection of utensils from the old Auto-mat.

  23. Deb says:

    Wow that really is a shame that it’s not being preserved. What a wonderful memory that spoon holds for you and I love how you kept in your “treasure” box. What’s funny is you went to Catholic School and you were a Girl Scout…you were definitely a girl with her own mind!!! 🙂

  24. amommasview says:

    Oh no way! That makes me so sad to hear. Such a beautiful elegant house! I love that you never felt guilt. I bet you were not the only one taking home a spoon 🙂

  25. Hi Van
    I finally found the outline Michelle used for Daniels Bio. I’m not using that style but how can I tell WP how great you are without some info. Have a great weekend. Not a great day, nap time. 🙂 M

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