I was a young boy when my JW family went to both the 1953 and 1958 New York International Conventions. I can't remember where we stayed at one convention. But at the other (I think it was 1958) we stayed in a home in Mt. Vernon, just north of the city.
I can't remember too much about that experience except that our rooms were very dark, even with the lights on. We had to go down the hall to the one bathroom. There were five of us and at least two of the homeowners having to share the same bathroom. I remember how bad it smelled in there everytime I had to use it.
All I remember about the people was that they were German or Polish, that they were in their 60s or 70s, and they were very gruff in their manner. Maybe I felt that way because I was a kid and wasn't use to that manner in our home.
I also remember that the old folks would fight and scream at each other all night, finally giving up and going to sleep around 3 in the morning. All of us would take Mexican sponge baths, toss on the cleanest clothes we had, and get out of there as early as we could. We'd try to get over to one of the ballparks as early as we could to have breakfast, but they started cleaning up around 8:30, so we often had to grab something on the street near the ballpark to get us through the morning.
One day we made a trip out to the trailer city to see some friends. I'm sure that in many ways, the trailer/tent city concept was the inspiration for Woodstock and other rock concert gatherings that would happen 15 years later. Everyone seemed relaxed sitting in their own tent or Airstream or converted school bus, listening to the talks being piped in over the loudspeakers. They could eat, sleep, and chatter during the sessions and no one bothered them.
The one big mistake I made in 1958 was to wear my blue LA Dodger baseball cap. Not a cool idea at the time since both the Dodgers and Giants had left the city the year before. I got a lot of stares on the subways until my dad made me stop wearing it and got me a plain old fishing cap like his.