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My grandmother had a bungalow around Beach 35th street and my parents always talked about how Sid Cesar's wife's parents had a bungalow. Once or twice a summer Sid would come down and visit with his wife. Sid would play cards with the guys and he was a genuine nice and regular guy! Also an actor named Ross Martin who played on the TV Show "Gun Smoke" had a mom or grandmom with a bungalow in the 30's [Beach 30s blocks] and was a regular visitor.
I'm so glad I picked up the Echo and read about your film. I'm 70 so I remember when New York was Irish as the beautiful song says. We would travel down from the Westside of Manhattan to Rockaway, where we would swim all day and dance all night at Gildays, The Leitrim House, The Dublin House. We learned the Stack of Barley and all the Irish set dances. When I was 14, I told my mother I was staying at my friends’ bungalow, but I really rented a room for two dollars, with a phony baptismal certificate saying I was 18. I was all set until my friends’ mother, who really did have a bungalow, found out and that was the end of that. But I still snuck into Gildays and danced for hours. Before me, my mother went every summer with my Kerry grandparents. The McNulty's, Ruthie Morrissey, Mickey Carton all were the entertainers. There wasn't much money around in those days but you could never compare the fun we had then. I can't wait to see the film.
Pat Farrell (born in Harlem, raised in Inwood)
I was born in 1941 and I have some fond memories of Rockaway as a child. We lived in the South Bronx and for many summers our parents rented places at Rockaway Beach, which got us off the city streets. My first memory was getting lost on the boardwalk when I was about five years old.
My mother worked as a Matron in the rest room at Beach 105th Street and the boardwalk. She also sold Modess pads out of a shopping bag for 10 cents. My older brother and sister were “watching” me on the beach. Since I didn't like the water I was easy to watch. One time they let me go up to the rest room alone. I got lost taking a wrong turn and walked and walked the boardwalk until I got tired and sat down on a bench till they found me. I gather my siblings got in a lot of trouble for that.
My uncle, John Tarpey, owned a bar and rooming house at Beach 105th and the Boulevard. My mother rented rooms from him and we got to live there the whole summer. It was the year “Irene Good Night” and “Mona Lisa” were very popular and we had to listen to the music from the jukebox from the bar below all night.
Another year I think I was 13 we rented near Beach 103rd Street where the food vendors were. Our small bathroom window was in the alley behind the vendors and we bought food from them, which was passed back through the bathroom window. I guess that was great when it was raining!
Another year I was about 16, I was too young to be left at home in the Bronx, where my older siblings were working. I had to stay in the bungalow with Mom and my younger brother. We rented down near the Bay where the train had a stop. My dad worked at Bellevue Hospital and commuted daily by way of the train. I think my older siblings had a lot of parties back home in the Bronx while we were at Rockaway. They came down with their friends on weekends. I remember changing the 1 on my birth certificate to a 0 to get into the dance halls on 103rd Street that year. When we got older we spent a lot of vacations in East Durham in the Catskills, since my uncle John Tarpey owned a hotel there. But I loved Rockaway!
Noreen Townley Gallinari
My grandmother and Aunt Fritzi and her family had a summer bungalow, usually on Beach 56th street. It was usually on the west side of the street, but one of my earliest memories was getting a bicycle for my 4th birthday, in 1958, and we were definitely on the east side that year. It is one of the few specific memories that I have of my grandfather. They had the bungalow until 1965. My Great Uncle George (Grandma's brother) and Great Aunt Hilda had a bungalow on the same street. There was a candy store and I always bought pez, which Uncle George always kidded me about. I used to love to travel along the long bridge that started in Far Rockaway and ended around B.116th Street. I loved finding my way through the various courtyards, some very narrow. I remember the night of the great pizza wars where two pizzarias across the street from each other sold slices for 10c each.
The only people that still survive from that time are my brother Steven, and my Aunt Hilda, both of whom I spoke with this week.
I was born in 1944. I went to the bungalows with my grandmother, Bessie Brady, and my aunts until 1949. I remember the wonderful smell of the ocean air and the salt taste on my lips at the end of every day. Also the stores along the main street were wonderful colorful sights: beach balls, pails and shovels, colorful bathing caps, the candy sugar cigarettes, wax lips, and wax soda bottles with sugar liquid in them and sugar babies. All day every day was spent on the beach. The shower at the end of the day was in the alley by the bungalow, the water was cold and you stood on a wooden platform. It was awful. When it rained you could hear it on the tin roof. The jettys in the ocean had ropes and the older women would stand there holding on and laughing. I feel blessed to have these memories. I can't wait for the documentary to be available.
Wantagh, N Y
I am 75 yrs old and remember some of my Rockaway days as if they happened last week. For several years my parents rented a bungalow on the beach block of 42nd Street. Summers were idyllic. But my most vivid memory was walking on the boardwalk one evening with my older brother when I was ten years old. There was a lifeguard station attached to the sea-side of the boardwalk, with a walk-around, at 43d Street, and we ambled around the building. We were stunned when a Coast Guardman pointed a rifle at us and warned us away. "There's a war on," he reminded us. Yikes. I also recall the wild Boardwalk celebrations in August 1945, VJ day. Many houses set up card tables outside their bungalows with beer, Four Roses, Three Feathers, (I remember the names so clearly) offering free drinks to anyone in uniform. Lots of takers. The boardwalk scene was out of the movies. What a thrill.
New York, NY
Every weekend we headed down to Battery Park to get on the Rockaway ferry. We would pack a lunch and go down to the beach with my grandparents, aunts, cousins, mother, father, and little brother. Dad would ride the waves with us while Mom would always worry that the waves were too high. We would go down to the jetty to see the mussels on the wall. We always got to go on the rides at Playland. If we were good, we even got an ice cream cone. This all went on from 1950 to 1958. Families were closer. We did not have much money but we had our "little bit of heaven" at Rockaway. When we got a little older, in our teens, we would sneak away with excuses that we were at a sleepver. We were brave souls and slept under the boardwalk. It was safe then adn we had no fears.
I was six years old during the summer of 1954. We had a bungalow on Beach 28th St near the boardwalk. It was the summer of Hurricane Edna. Teenagers in white uniforms would sell ice cream on the beach, from big, shoulder-held dry ice boxes, and shout out, "ice cream, ice-cold ice cream!" When they opened the box to get a pop, smoke would come out. "Sh-Boom" was the big hit song by the Chords and heard frequently on transistor radios. Wednesday nights there were fireworks over the ocean. Sometimes there were bonfires on the beach. No air conditioning, just screen window. Jerry's Knishes was a favorite stop as well as Fascination and SkeeBall in the Arcade near Beach 34th St. There was a movie theater on the boardwalk and we sat on folding chairs. In 1954, the films we saw were: "Elephant Walk" and "The Long, Long Trailer." Life was simple then. I was just six and all my needs were taken care of.
I grew up in the Arverne projects on Beach 54th Street, from 1956 - 1967. We were always at odds with the "bungalow bunnies," playing them in sports and trying to date the girls. The bungalows around Beach 54th-56th streets were nothing like the ones pictured on this Web site -- the ones I knew were more like wooden shacks. During the winter, it was a playground of sorts, playing games among the vacant bungalows. I also remember sledding down the boardwalk ramps in winter. Everywhere else was flat. There were a group of stores at Beach 54th St and Rockaway Beach Blvd (remember the Freeway - under the El): a candy store with a luncheonette counter, Jimmy behind the counter making sodas and egg creams (no egg), think it was Mel's? Gus's barber shop was at the same location. I think it was at Beach 55th St...Pomerantz bakery! Going down to Beach 35th St and the boardwalk to spend money (not much, who had it back then) at the penny arcade.
The memories of our summers in Rockaway seem to be with me always and are as vivid as ever. My mother, father, and younger sister spent many happy days in our bungalow three houses from the ocean. Our days were full -- playing in the sand, jumping over the waves, collecting seashells. Our parents were happy that we were "brown as berries" by summer's end. No one worried about skin problems then. On rainy days we went to the movies (Ida Lupino and a dead husband bricked up in a wall, a man in an iron lung), or we stayed inside and painted our collection of seashells. At night the boardwalk was full of life with places to play games or to eat. Our father, a doctor, traveled by Long Island Rail Road into his office in New York and once in a while he let me come in with him. In the city, the highlight was a trip to the Automat. On the train, I remember seeing women wearing tailored dresses and high patent leather pumps who said that they were going to "business." This was a good place to be. Only a short drive from our house in Midwood, Brooklyn, it was a world apart.
Marlene M. Green
New Canaan, CT
I grew up in Far Rockaway near the Lawrence (Nassau County) border. I was within walking distance of P.S.39 and Far Rockaway High School. Some days as summer neared and the weather was hot I would go to the beach for a swim before school. When I was young I would enjoy swimming with my father in cold weather when the ocean water was still quite warm. The beach and boardwalk were a good part of our lives. Some days I would go for a swim before school. For teenagers, the beach was a meeting place where we would stretch out on blankets with our radios and pass the hot day talking, laughing, and getting those deep tans that are now so out of favor. One night every week we could sit on the boardwalk and watch the fireworks from Playland shooting high over the still ocean water. The nights became chilly but the fireworks were beautiful. There was so much to do on the boardwalk. Food vendors of every variety, some that migrated to NY State lake vacation areas, some that disappeared forever with the gradual abandonment and destruction of the Rockaways. Games of Ski Ball, Poker, names I no longer remember, where kids and adults would play for a nickle or a dime. In the summer, when city people crowded the beaches, "Irishtown" as it was called by the locals, a mile long stretch composed mostly of bars, tattoo parlors, and amusements came to life as the sun went down each evening. Even underage we managed to drink beer and dance in any of the loud crowded bars that covered the streets from and parallel to the boardwalk east of Playland.
It is a mystery to me how this most beautiful stretch of oceanfront properties was left to decay by the City of New York. The demise of the Rockaways seemed to be the inevitable result of poor or calculated decisions by a city government neglectful of this distant haven, so different from the other four boroughs and the "mainland" of the borough of Queens. A new revitalization of the Rockaways may be underway. Maybe it won't succeed; it is too soon to tell.
I know that the Rockaway of my youth will, sadly, never come again.
Helena Ellen Epstein
Pearl River, NY
My family moved from the Bronx to Far Rockaway when I was 4 years old. We moved into a bungalow on Beach 40th Street.
The one great thing about the bungalows was that for every seven to ten homes, on two streets, there was a courtyard for the kids to play in. In my case it was Beach 39th Street. We shared the courtyard with the homes on 39th Street. All the courtyards had trees and grass for the kids to play on. But the best thing was you were always within walking distance to the beach.
I was a little guy there in the late 60s and lived there till the early 80s. I was there when the little stores and amusement park were located on the boardwalk from about Beach 30th Street to about Beach 35th Street. We also made many trips to Rockaway Playland on Beach 97th Street.
It was great to see your documentary on the bungalows of Rockaway. It brought back so many memories.
near Sacramento, CA
As a small child, my mother and all of her cousins rented bungalows from Mrs. Cahill at Beach 96th street. We had 8 mothers for the summer. All the men came down on Friday nights for the weekend -- they were still renting even after we kids were gone. It was a special time, and there were many stories there. We rented the same place year after year and knew many families on the same block who did the same thing. We all got to know everyone, all the problems as well: the Irish Riveria.
Noreen Minton Middleton
Hobe Sound, Florida
I also have great memories growing up in Rockaway. I was born in 1942 and after living in Bayswater and Rockaway Park, we moved to Beach 45th st. in Edgemere when I was ten. It was an exciting place for a young boy to grow up. I spent my time between Jamaica Bay and the beach. I always had a boat of some kind and I would go crabbing or just rowing around exploring for hours at a time but I always made sure I was home for supper. My Grandmother, who raised me, said I never looked like I missed a meal. That was about the time the Army of Engineers were installing the first of five Rock jettys beginning at 45th st. Like all Rockaway kids, I was body surfing at an early age and just loving it. I just remember one exciting thing after another for us to do, lucky me. I had neighborhood friends and good friends in the 30's and Wavecrest, and we all looked forward to the summer kids coming down who lived in all the bungalows. We never seemed to spend a moment in the house. I really can recall being out by 9am on on nonschool days. There just wasn't enough time in the day for all the very important things we were doing.
I will tell you one thing: after entering my teens and my family moving uptown to Rockaway Park, I realized that there was absolutely no advantage having an Italian name in an Irish town. So I immediately learned a bunch of Irish songs and that worked out fairly well since I was always able to sing a pretty good tune. Then I was impressing this beautiful 14-year-old Irish girl who I had met and ended up marrying, believe it or not, a marriage that lasted 36 wonderful years. We both shared our love of the ocean and always had a boat that we spent many great vacations aboard. When the beaches were closed and the boat was in drydock we would still be walking the beach every nice day there was, right through the winters. I could not count how many hurricanes that we were right in the middle of, either on the boardwalk or the beach, taking pictures, getting soaked and laughing till our stomachs hurt. My memories in Rockaway are boundless, one better then the next.
Sal (Siranni) Palisi
Rockaway Beach, NY
I lived in the Rockaways for my first 21 years, and have so many memories of that time. We lived on Beach 112th Street until 1943, when we moved to Beach 92nd Street. After the summer people left, we would ride our bikes along the boardwalk from Arverne to Beach 120th. When it snowed, we would take our sleds to the boardwalk, and ride down the steps that led to the beach... there were no hills in Rockaway. A friend of mine lived in a bungalow on Beach 108th Street, and after school we would go to his house and melt lead and pour it into molds for the soldiers. His mother worked, so we had the place to ourselves and left the mess for her to clean up. That was when I was about 10 years old.
After we moved to the house on 92nd Street, I was a teen and we would "hang out" at Playland during the summer. My fondest memory was that of the Chinese "fast food" stand that served chow mein sandwiches and wonderful fried potato wedges. To this day I fix chow mein sandwiches on hamburger rolls (with crunchy noodles) and soy sauce. Yum yum.
From the time I was five years old, I remember going to the beach all summer long with no sunblock, or shade, and spending the day playing with paper dolls. We would go home for dinner, then play outside until the street lights were turned out. Those were the very innocent days that were lost along the years gone by. My mother never knew where I was but I always made it home on time.
The summers were always exciting because the city people were a whole new adventurous opportunity for us. We would gather large shells at the beach and paint them, and then sell them to the hordes of people getting off the train. The Long Island Rail Road was the transportation of the time. The trestle that transported the trains burned down [in 1950].
Your bungalow film revived so many memories that were buried so long ago. The mind is a wonderful computer. It stores thoughts and memories and they surface every so often. Thank you.
My parents would rent a room in one of the large rooming houses on 35th Street (the twin houses), and then in the later years, they went to 29th Street (The Embassy). The first thing you saw in the morning was the ocean and as soon as you walked outside you smelled the sweet beach air. Those years were the best in my life and the friends I made those many years ago are still in my life. I will say that when I went back to 29th street in 1998, I became very sad when I realized that it was all gone.
Cheryl Katz Silk
I was born in 1944, in the Bronx (Christ the King Parrish), and moved to Chelsea, NYC (St. Columba Parrish) when I was 7 years old and spent the rest of my childhood and teens in Chelsea. It is when I lived in Chelsea that I spent summers at Rockaway, sometimes in a bungalow with Uncle Ben and Aunt May, sometimes as a weekend guest of friends and sometimes as a day-tripper. Wonderful memories of lazy summer days and nights. Playing cards with Uncle Ben on the sand and lunching with Auntie May. Watching all the beautiful girls on the boardwalk, on the beach and in the surf. George Burns captured my heart best with the wonderful song he sang about wishing he was 18 again.
Your Web site brings back lots of great memories. I was born in 1945. One set of grandparents summered in a room in Rockaway and our other grandparents moved from the Grand Concourse in the Bronx to the Wavecrest Apartments in Far Rockaway. Our family lived in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, so we rented a bungalow in Rockaway in the late 1950s to be near all of our grandparents. I remember my father trying to "pick up" girls on the beach for his friend. I would interrupt by saying "Hi Daddy!" I also remember the women playing Mah Jong and my father playing too if they did not have a 4th player. We used to go to the grocery store by bicycle. Being so close to the beach was glorious and I will always remember "riding the waves"--surfing without a surf board!!!
Miami Beach, FL and Hendersonville, NC
I spent the summer of 1970 in a bungalow located on 101st Street off of Rockaway Parkway (The Elevated Subway) with my girlfriend and her family. Might have been on Daly’s Court. It was the greatest summer of my life, our Summer of Love! I remember "Martin's Corner," fireworks on the beach, Playland. Wonderful memories! Thanks for keeping those memories alive!
In remembrance of Maryann D. and our summer of love,
I grew up in Brooklyn. My cousin & I would take two buses to get to Rockaway Beach 116th. We took two buses to get to 116th Street & then walked to 108th Street. We were 14 & 15 years old. Bless New York transportation, we were able to go to beautiful & fun Rockaway Beach & we sure felt so grown up doing it. We loved the wonderful beach & dreamed and wished that we too could have a bungalow there. We sat on the beach at 108th Street. Went to Fitzgeralds to eat. Watched the guys play basketball in the playground. Hall of Famer Dick McGuire was the one we loved to watch. His parents owned a bar on 108th Street a few blocks from the beach. t was great fun & wonderful memories. P.S. I did get a picture and autograph Of Dick.The year was 1954.
I just want to add my voice to the growing chorus who are singing the praises of your excellent documentary. My wife Barbara and I both grew up in Rockaway. We attended your screening at the Museum of the City of New York in July.
Barbara was born in St. Joseph's Hospital 1n 1947. My parents and I emigrated to Far Rockaway from Ellenville, NY in 1950. After I was discharged from the Army in 1971 we lived for two years in an apartment in Rockaway Park. In 1973 we left Rockaway for Bayside, Queens, where we have lived ever since.
Rarely, a day goes by when I am not thinking about the Rockaways. About two years ago I started a Web site, rockawaymemories.com, which is devoted to preserving the memories of growing up in this once idyllic setting. I must admit that after we left Rockaway I did not think there was much hope for its possible renaissance. I felt that Rockaway's death knell was the indiscriminate construction of high-rise buildings built so close to the beach. It is much easier to run a bulldozer through a row of abandoned bungalows than a wrecking ball against the side of a relatively new high- rise apartment building. It seemed that the character charm of this community was changed forever.
However, after watching your documentary, and seeing your portrayal of some of the courageous pioneers like Jeanne DuPont and others, I now feel there is a ray of hope for its turnaround.
I spent the summer of 1948 at Arverne, and Wilma spent the summers in Edgemere. Every night I would walk down the boardwalk alive with the scent of the ocean air, imagining the girls I might dance with as I approached the jukebox outside the emporium on 39th Street... and one night we finally met. And we danced... and we talked, and discovered that Wilma had been to my bar mitzvah six years earlier! She knew one of the four other boys that I was bar mitzvahed with! Next year, in 2011 we will be celebrating our 60th Anniversary. We'll never forget the memories of bungalows in Rockaway as we recollect our anniversaries over the years.
Queens, New York City
My parents met on B. 66th Street in the hotels in 1957 (my father had a bungalow) and since I was born in September, I guess I was spending summers in Rockaway since before I was born. We always had a bungalow (or a hotel room) between B. 29th and B. 26th streets until I was 18. My friends and I ran bingo games in the courtyard between B. 25th and B. 26th Streets for years. In keeping with the fact that we Adelsons are always the last to leave the party, my parents kept renting until around 1986 or so (Beach 27th Street) -- even after 1984, when all of my friends had stopped coming to B. 26th and B. 25th Streets. I'm still friends with a lot of those people now, even if it's only by phone, Facebook, or the occasional reunion. The time in the bungalows was some of the best of my life. I try to describe it to my wife, but there is nothing like having been there. Thank you for making this film. Having seen it, I can’t wait to own it.
Born in 1959, I grew up going to Breezy Point every summer to bungalows handed down from both the German side of my family and the Irish. (My grandparents met at an Irish/German dance at the Point.) That was my first exposure of my true heritage - not the one I currently knew in Washington, D.C. Twenty-five years later in Ireland, I saw a parade that resembled the ones we hand at Breezy Point. The zaniess of the Irish: It's no different on either side of the pond!! My friends in DC don't know what they are missing since they lack a strong heritage such as the one we knew at Breezy Point!
Valerie Schnibbe Smith
I came across the Rockaway bungalow documentary preview on a Web site for PBS and was fascinated. Although I have since moved, I am a third-generation member of my family that was born in the Rockaways (on Bay 25th street). I don't believe I have any pictures but my father and I still go fishing in Sheepshead Bay. He shows me the still-standing splintered posts where the bungalows were built right out onto the water, that were ultimately destroyed by a hurricane (in the 1930's I believe). Thank you for sharing with the rest of the world a quaint area that I hold dear to my heart.
My great uncle born in 1900 went to the Rockaways all his life. He was a championship handball player on the beach. My recollections start at about age four, taking weekend trips to visit. The sea shells covered the front yard, the outside shower always smelled of Ivory soap and the socialization within the alley was vibrant. Took my first ride on a roller coaster sitting in the first car, all the while spending the entire ride on the floor below the seat fearful regardless of my father's attempts to comfort me. Always thought I'd fall off the carousel attempting to grasp the brass ring. Walking to the open air soda shops with wooden floors and Irish bars along the drag were exciting. Fireworks on weekday evenings were a treat. I've never forgotten my parents’ response to the children off the boardwalk, who were in an enclosed yard, also delighted by the fireworks. The children were in an orphanage. My parents were concerned with my reaction learning for the first time there were children less fortunate than us, without parents, and my parents called to my attention to the fact that the children were enjoying the same wonderful experience that only fireworks can bring.....and still do!
All the memories are fond and learned. May Rockaway and the timeless bungalows always survive.
I remember as a kid in the mid-1960s when we'd visit my aunt and uncle who rented a bungalow every summer. There were always about 10-15 people (aunts, uncles, cousins, friends) around when we'd visit. Other than playing with a pensy-pinky ball, and lighting "punks," there wasn't a lot for a kid to do while the adults were talking, but the food was something to look forward to, so, we'd still all hang out on the porch. Personally, I'd be waiting for the Good Humor man to show up so I could get a chocolate eclair. There were always lots of people outside who all seemed to know each other, and it was funny to see everyone gather around the ice cream truck.
Also, thanks to Mike Ussak (above) for remembering the Pomerantz Bakery. It was at 56-11 Rockaway Beach Blvd. There was a deli next door where they had great knishes. After taking it over from their father (Mike), the bakery was run by the three brothers - Abe, Izzy and Sammy - until about 1970-71. Izzy, my grandfather, was the bread baker. Sammy's wife Rose would handle the cashier. And Buddy the bulldog would always be around somewhere... My reward, if I was good... a Black-and-White cookie!
My sister also recalled going for walks with our father to the boardwalk, and to keep her busy while he met and talked with people (my father knew a LOT of people), he'd give her coins to play Skeeball at the arcades. Skeeball was a big part of our memories -- and out on the west coast where I am now, they've duplicated a lot of the boardwalk atmosphere out in Santa Cruz... including arcades with Skeeball.
If anyone reading this has any memories of Pomerantz Bakery, I'd very much appreciate if they share them with me, to help me add stories/memories to my family genealogy. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SF Bay Area, CA
My family rented a bungalow in Rockaway Beach for decades. From when I was two months old until I was 10 years old (1964-1974), we had a bungalow on Beach 28th Street. With its ancient furniture and wonderful breezes, it was a wood-shingle paradise for my family. You see, we didn't have a house in Brooklyn, we lived in an apartment, so this was paradise for us. We had a back door that led to alleyways and courtyards for us to play tag and bingo and hide-and-seek. Just down the block was the beach. My mom used to leave me at Jack and Lenny's arcade and go do her errands. I played Skeeball for hours! I ate Jerry's Knishes all day long (cherry cheese was my fav) and never gained an ounce because we never stopped playing and running and being outside from dawn to dusk.
Then came the bad news...our bungalows were going to be torn down....we had to find a new block....so off to Beach 26th street we went. For the next six summers we lived in a stucco palace (or at least that’s how it felt). Now, the arcades were gone, and we focused on other things as we grew up, like going to Friendly's for fribbles and playing softball on concrete fields in Wavecrest. We met boys and girls and lost touch with them till the next summer because that’s how it was back then....then at the end of school, we'd all come back and pick up where we left off. Some of us met our husbands and wives in Rockaway. In fact, all three of my sisters met their husbands during those long summer days. I will hold those memories dear to me for the rest of my life. Those were MY bungalows and no one can ever take that away...
New York, NY
We moved to Wavecrest in the mid 60s. By then the bungalows were getting rough and had questionable tenants. What I remember best was how our local year round groups would have softball games versus several different bungalow teams on our blacktop field. Looking back, I'm guessing that those games probably went on for many years.
I was born and raised in Yonkers but for the first 13 years of my life I was lucky enough to spend my summers in Rockaway Beach, in the late 40's and 50's. My first years were spent on Beach 79th Street in a big house that my great aunt rented. My mom's entire family would spend time at the beach house. We then rented our first bungalow on Beach 87th Street in about 1946.
My first real memory was the McGuire bungalows on Beach 108th Street and the boulevard, right next to McGuire's Bar and Grill. I remember my dad packing the car full of suitcases, linens and of course my pail and shovel! My brother and I couldn't wait to get there and when we stopped at Weiss' for a hotdog, we knew we were almost there. Our days on the beach began early. We would spend the entire morning in and out of the water. We brought our lunch most days, ate on the blankets and then agonized over the fact that we had to wait ONE HOUR before going back in the water. Mom would try to distract us with building sand castles or looking for shells. After dinner, we would love to go to Playland to ride the Merry-go-round and possibly catch the brass ring. One night a week we would go to see the fireworks display from the boardwalk. My brother would love to go to the basketball court on Beach 108th Street hoping to catch Dick or Al McGuire "shooting some hoops."
We enjoyed meeting our Rockaway friends each summer and the new ones we would add to our list. I never remember locked doors. We were free to go around the corner to play with our friends. We had a cousin who stayed in a bungalow court on 109th Street. We enjoyed visiting especially going to the "court parties." The entire court would be decorated with streamers and balloons.
On weekends, we always had visitors. It was amazing how many people would fit in the bungalow. We would sleep on Army cots! My dad and brother would listen to ball games on the radio or sometimes watch a game on TV with our neighbors, the Brays.
I also remember a man used to walk around the courts with a pony and a camera -- taking pictures of children on the pony.
Around 1949-50 we stayed on 86th Street. This was a bigger place-not really a bungalow since it had a basement apartment. The owner of the house stayed in the basement and rented the upstairs for the summer. This time we rented with our cousins Andy and Bob Donnelly. Double the fun! I especially remember the "pillow fights" before lights out --- McGahan vs. Donnellys. Somehow I seemed to get the business being the only girl!
In the early 50s, the Donnellys bought a bungalow on Beach 89th Street by the bay. We stayed with them and another cousin stayed in the house next door. The family was together to enjoy the beach, celebrate birthdays, and watch my cousins play baseball on the sandlot on 89th Street by the bay. We also went crabbing on Jamaica Bay. Sundays were always the same, early Mass either at St. Camillus or St. Rose's and then home to wait for our Sunday visitors.
We are so grateful to our parents for these great memories. My dad wasn't always able to share all the fun because of his work schedule but was happy to hear about our adventures.
The Bungalows of Rockaway documentary was beyond my expectations! Jennifer, Elizabeth and staff did such a great job. I can't wait to share the DVD with my family. Thanks again for taking us back to those "ROCKAWAY DAYS"!
Mary Jane McGahan
I spent the summer of 1939 on Beach 36th Street in a bungalow shared by two sisters and their families, consisting of six people during the week, with two fathers coming out for the weekends, making it a total of eight people in one bungalow. I do not remember any overcrowding because we 14- and 15-year olds were generally home only for breakfast and dinner. Beach and boardwalk filled our summer days. Mornings were puctuated by the Dugan Cup Cake man's announcement "Dugans! Dugan's Cupcakes!" Evenings were generally spent on the boardwalk listening to Glenn Miller's immensely popular hits of 1939 "Moonlight" and "Sunrise Serenade." I learned to do the "Lindy" at that time. Before that it was the foxtrot dancing in the kitchen with mother. "Our Crowd" in the Edgemere Section was mainly comprised of lower middle class Bronx and Brooklyn refugees from the sweltering non-air-conditioned apartment houses and other dwellings in the city.
Teenage "romances" were initiated by otherwise inexperienced boys and girls and followed up somewhat in the ensuing post summer months. I remember those days as highlights of my youth and they resonate in my memories with as much power and significance as do my army World War Two experiences.
And the photo shot of the rear porches brought back a particular night when a perhaps 20-year old neighbor, with a deep baritone voice mesmerized us with a tale of a washed-up drowning victim who was discovered by the lifeguards some streets below 36thStreet. And the male corpse was headless. Our storyteller, who claimed he had read of the drowning in the Daily News, then painted a picture of police dredging the waters at night for remains of the body. Huge searchlights played on the ocean and the hours counted down until astonishingly, a basket popped up on the surface of the water and the surface pressure caused the basket's lid to open and a head popped out and was seen riding the waves towards the beach and as it approached the sand, its mouth opened and with the attendant crowd, silent and transfixed, you could hear it sing "I ain't got no body."
We were completely fooled by this rascal and hung on to every word of his tale and 70 years later your photo of the rear porches, brought it back to me as if it was yesterday
Glen Cove, NY
When I was a kid back in the 60's my Aunt Margie and Uncle George would take my cousins and myself to Rockaway Beach. Then we would go to Rockaway Playland. My favorite attraction was the Haunted House, where I would go on it several times. I always remembered ending that ride on the conveyor belt. In high school I would go to Beach 116th Street with my friends. That was known as the Rock Beach beach because so many people listened to rock music there. It was fun. Loved the bungalow documentary. Very nostalgic. I told several family members to watch it and they enjoyed it. Thanks for the memories.
Harry and Pearl's, near Beach 35th, was definitely an institution within itself. When ordering a sandwich, one had to be gifted with an extremely wide-mouthed bite. Perhaps it was the generosity of Betty Rosen, the waitress-counterwoman, who was specially imported from the Bronx during the summer season. Perhaps it was simply the luncheonette's policy ... who really knows for sure?
In any case, that is where my friend Lovell Dyszel, born 1949, who lived at the since long demolished 32-02 Sprayview Avenue, met his future wife. He absolutely fell in love with her over a Harry and Pearl's tunafish sandwich! They ate and talked and then ate some more ("kinahurra")... and lived happily ever after.
The inside angle when you worked for Nat Faber or his sister, Sally Domroe: You handed your friend a "fish," which was a skeeball dipstick (no nickles), and let him play to his heart's content. No one ever noticed the noise. At the end of the summer season, we split up the points and the coupons and cashed them both in for a big prize.
The time frame was the late 1960s.
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed your documentary. It reinforced what I had always known, growing up in Rockaway was a gift, a very special gift. Having one high school and only two junior high schools allowed for friends to be made from across the entire peninsula. Rockaway was economically diverse but for me and for my friends it was never an issue or even discussed.
My family spent two summers in Rockaway. The first was in a bungalow on Beach 54th street (shared with my father's parents). The following year we shared one with my mother's parents on Beach 30th. Across a vacant lot was a small amusement park on Beach 32nd next to the boardwalk. I still hear the song they played way too often ("I'm going to sit right down and write myself a letter..."). I grew to hate that song.
After the second summer, we went back to Brooklyn and packed up and moved to Far Rockaway. For me it felt like I had moved to the country. Living on Brookhaven Avenue, I was surrounded by so many beautiful homes with huge lawns and lots of friends to play with. There were no sidewalks. I had never felt that free before. My friends and I were never fearful. We rode our bikes everywhere. As I got a little older I was allowed to go to the beach by myself. I walked barefoot (across Seagirt Blvd) and always parked my blanket somewhere between Beach 25th and Beach 30th. At night we had the boardwalk where everyone would be. My friends and I would walk there and back at night and we never thought twice about it. We had fireworks, bumper cars, Tuckee Cups, Jerry's Knishes(cherry cheese was always my favorite), Fabers, and Fascination (bingo with lights) where if you won a game you would collect a dollar. There was even a Fascination "super star" that everyone would stand around and watch whenever he played.
"Town" was a destination. We had at least 3 movies theatres, a great deli (where my friend Susan would always order French fries) and Gino's Pizza (where I spent way too many hours because I had a crush on someone that worked there). When, and if, you stopped to talk to a friend Benny the cop would be there in a flash telling you to "keep moving." We had two Chinese restaurants, Toddy's (to this day I remember their fried herring), a real diner (The Rockaway Diner), great bakeries, the Pickwick (think I had a birthday party there), a pool room, an army and navy store and I could go on and on..... Town was were you went to see and to be seen.
For me the greatest gift was that every summer the boroughs came to Rockaway. It was a unique opportunity to be able to make, and maintain, friendships with people from the Bronx, Brooklyn, the rest of Queens and Staten Island. They lived in the bungalows and hotels (The Jefferson, The Palace, and The Frontenac) and we would all be together every night. The summers in Rockaway were extraordinary.
When I graduated college in 1969 and came home to Rockaway I did not stay long. I was able to convince my mother that I needed to move to the City. Not long after, my family also moved. I did go back for visits with my grandmother (until she passed away). She lived right by the beach. We would always go to the boardwalk and we would just sit and talk but mostly we would listen to the ocean.
For those of us that were lucky enough to live in Rockaway, I think, the mystery and the beauty of the beaches and the ocean are what we miss most and cannot forget.
E. Soloway Fox
New York, NY
I spent my formative years in Far Rockaway and spent a lot of my adolescence at the boardwalk. I saw the best of and the degradation of much of what I really cherished there as a child and much of this started under the Lindsay administration although some have said that the problems of racism were more rampant than I had imagined as a white kid in the area. I do hold the Lindsay administration responsible for much of what went wrong in the Rockaways.
"Summer shit" was the usual term that my friends and I used to refer en masse to the summer renters. I think that we imagined that they were mostly from Brooklyn and that Brooklyn, which most of us did not know that directly, was filled with people who were either lower in class than us and were somewhat uncouth. But none of this was really true, as far as I know. This expression was quite frequently used by us and was kind of a blanket description that we used for all the summer people. We would talk about picking up "summer shit girls." etc. although we almost never did succeed! I think that your expression of annoyance and tolerance may be accurate, but there is always the idea that they were outsiders and were in some way different from us.
I remember a job in college delivering for a caterer and would say to my frends, "Now I am doing the 'summer shit' blocks." It was in that way endless.
Another old friend from that period thought that the summer bungalows were also a breeding ground for polio. I have no specific recollection of this, but I do remember the polio season and the fears that it brought.
My mother met her lifelong best friend during a summer in the Rockaways, and through her met my father on a blind date. They were happily married for 64 years. Thank God for summer in the Rockaways.
New York, NY
My friend Rosalie Eagle's dad owned a clothing store on Main Street, Flushing. "Eagle's Clothes" was right there under the LIRR train station. We boys, Danny Webber, Ira Ruscoll, "Satzy baby," and me, Armand Catenaro, would regularly descend on the Eagles' tiny bungalow. This is about 1960 and 1961. We weren't the only ones though, there was Rosalie, a cousin Ruth, Lizette, Beth (Bathsheba) Eig and even a cousin from Canada, Linda!! There was a "bunch," of us!! As I recall we got off the “El,” at the Beach 36th Street stop. Mrs. Eagle never kicked us out, either before or after we went to the beach; that was Rosalie's job. She was a doll. We never thought to thank Mrs. Eagle then, but I'd like to do that now, on behalf of all of us.
My family and I spent the summers of 1960-1966 in Rockaway and your documentary brought so many memories to mind.
Four of the six summers we spent on Beach 40th street, just a few houses from the ramp leading up to the boardwalk. My cousins and their parents were virtually next door, and we were in and out of each other's houses all day, sharing meals and games and crafts and other little-girl past-times.
The warmth of the sand and sun and allure of the waves captivated me as a young child of eight and I've never fallen out of love with the beach since then.
The Wednesday evening fireworks from Playland, Jerry's Knishes, and Skeeball were beloved by us all. Staying out for many hours after dark in complete safety and security was a feature of those summers that all-too-soon vanished from the rest of the year as our Bronx neighborhood became less safe with each passing year.
As we turned into teenagers we experimented with boys from the streets over by the bay - all part of growing up.
Our city owes a great deal to the tireless efforts of the activists working to preserve what little remains of the bungalow community in Rockaway. In those rows of small summer houses the aspirations of a generation were realized. My grandparents lived in the tenements on the lower east side and only 50 years later they were able to enjoy a carefree summer in the fresh ocean air. So modest by today's standards - but my sister and I knew we were lucky to get out of the Bronx and the hot city for the summer.
Sharron (nee Bishop) Eisenthal
New York, NY
Amazing that you put this together. My parents would be astounded and touched if they were alive. So many memories both positive and negative. The not so good part was touched upon in your piece: The terrible lack of good planning, underlying racism & classism on the part of policy makers--and the perpetuation of abject poverty that became associated with this area. Your decision to incorporate this into the documentary, however briefly, speaks to the crucial importance of this part of the narrative. The positives you showed are all very resonant with me. We went there to escape the heat of summer as well as the crime in the Bronx--to live the freer and open-aired life, connected to friends and making new friends along the way. It was truly wonderful. We rented a bungalow on Beach 51st Street (in Helen Court, which was torn down), and then made our way to B. 26th and B. 25th Streets. My uncle retired and bought a place on B. 24th St., which my family kept until the mid 1990s when my parents were no longer able to live there in the summer. They enjoyed it mightily till the end. For older folks who would ordinarily be homebound (as the couple depicted in the DVD --Lee & husband), the bungalows allowed an immediate connection to the outdoors. Bravo to the team who had a part in making this!
I lived in the Edgemere Projects (5441 Almeida Ave.) from when I was 12 yrs old until after I graduated high school. Growing up in Rockaway in the late 50s & 60s was like utopia. I attended Benjamin Cardozo JHS (198) and then onto FRHS. At that time FRHS was the only high school in the Rockaways. Everyone knew everyone else from one end of town (Far Rock & Bayswater) to the other end of town (Belle Harbor). The memories of Gino's, Tuckee cup, Sam's (on the boardwalk - 32nd Street) the poolroom, and so many other fond memories are embedded in our brain. Those were wonderful memories...
Before moving to Rockaway, my parents, grandparents & aunts & uncles used to rent bungalows somewhere in the Beach 30s area. I have a couple of pictures of my brother and I outside the bungalow with my grandmother & aunt. I also have some old pictures of my deceased mother, aunt & their friends (probably in the 1930s) in Rockaway on the beach.
Sandra Resnitzky Helmsorig
I was born Oct. 28, 1963 in Peninsula Hospital on Beach Channel Drive. I grew up at 427 Beach 64th street. The boardwalk and beach were our summer camp back then because we could walk there. I went to P.S. 42 for elementary school and also to St. Rose of Lima for a couple of years. I belonged to The American Irish Drum Corp. on Irish Lane off Beach Channel Drive for many years, which was owned by Pat Kelly. I have such wonderful memories of marching in parades and performing at state competitions. I won medals which I still have and now play my own glockenspiel (that's what I was taught to play there). Irish music impacted my life so much then that I still play those old Irish songs every St. Patrick's Day for myself or for anyone that would listen to me. Sometimes I will play for a school or a nursing home if I can arrange it.
We would play games like scully, stick ball, handball or stoop ball. As kids we left the house in the morning to play, came home for lunch, and then were out all day until we heard our mother yell for us to come home for dinner. We went out for Halloween without our parents and never had any safety problems.
My father was a cop in the 2nd precinct and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. We all hung out on our front porches and every neighbor was a friend. We belonged to St. Gertrude's Church. My grandmother Betty Fink was the church accountant and also a community leader. She would take drunks off the street back then, bring them to her house (which was next door to the church), sober them up, and hold AA meetings in her house basement every week. I spent a lot of time at Grandma's house and played for years on the church property. Father Kiernan was our family friend and he would have Sunday dinner with us and I would play my glockenspiel for him after dinner. My grandmother was also politically involved in the community as well. She knew all the street gangs and their leaders and could walk anytime day or night down the street and was always respected by the gangs and the politicians. She was an amazing lady. My grandfather used to work at H&G Factory making toys and would bring home hundreds of toys every Christmas to give to the poor community.
I really miss those days of not having to be escorted by parents everywhere and knowing everyone in the neighborhood and going crabbing with my father and all the barbecues with our neighbors. Life was so different back then. We all knew each other. We all got along so nicely. We were happy and our childhood was carefree. It makes me sad that my children don't have the same freedoms we had back then.
Thank you for reminding me of what a great place Far Rockaway was! I truly cherish all my memories of there back then when it was nice and safe.
Long Branch, NJ
I grew up on Beach 74th Street in Rockaway Beach and I was there from 1935 to 1950.
In the primary years I played punchball with Billy Roth, Melvin Seidenstein, Alan Feltingoff, Carl Feldman and Larry X a big Chicago Cubs fan to name a few of the guys whose names I can remember. Billy Roth hit the ball the longest and Carl Feldman was he best third baseman. I lived in a Victorian boarding house, on the second floor, which was owned by Mr & Mrs Steinhouse. We got ice for our icebox from a horse-drawn wagon. The highlight of the day was the Good Humor truck and winning by receiving a lucky popstick.
All of 74th Street's buildings are gone and the wonderful beaches are closed. I remember the wooden jetties before they were replaced with boulders. Dad & I played handball on the wall which still is standing at 74th St and the beach.
However the last time I was there new buildings are being built with huge property tax write-offs.
I still have very fond memories of those times. Some other places I remember are Lester Lowitt's pharmacy, Dr. Hoffner, Dr. Seidenstein, the block parties and 35th Street where all the girls were.
Los Angeles, CA
A cousin of mine’s grandparents owned summer bungalows on Beach 33rd St. Their name was Irving and Mary Rose. People referred to the bungalows as the "Roses' Bungalows." Of course, like most of Rockaway, those bungalows no longer exist. They were made of wood, had a screened in front porch, small kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom and living room. I believe they were on the beach block or pretty close to it. I remember occasionally hanging out there with my twin cousins when they came to town for the summer.
My dad, who is 92 years old and grew up on Beach 69th St. in Arverne, recently told me that my great-uncle Max Kramer built and owned some bungalows. They were on/between Beach 69th and 70th Streets, and were accessible, from the boardwalk, between those two streets. In the middle of the bungalows was a courtyard named Kramer's Court. I am sure that anyone who stayed there could not only hear the sound of the ocean while drifting off to sleep at night but, also smelled and felt the ocean breezes coming through the open window.
I moved from Arverne when I was 10 years old but came back every summer and stayed with relatives who lived in Arverne. I will always remember the beach, the penny arcades, knishes, Italian ices, Wednesday night fireworks, the evening breezes, the bagel factory and Playland. All I can say is that being a kid in the Rockaways in the 1950s/'60s was pretty WONDERFUL. Of course, flooding was a problem but having the opportunity to live and make memories there makes me a very lucky person.
I was born in Far Rockaway in 1951 and remember not just the bungalows but the entire Rockaway community. There was Roche's beach down on Beach 19th Street, the bungalows around Beach 25th-27th Streets. There were also bungalows throughout the 30s and 40s streets, from the boardwalk to the bay. That was our playground during the summer months. Aunts and uncles would rent the bungalows and we would visit all the time. There would be days at the beach, barbecues, games, and even at times the occasional "jump the rooves" game. Outdoor showers were a treat. No one locked their doors and everyone knew who you were. I always loved the bungalows because you had an extended family. I could walk the boardwalk with friends from Beach 19th Street all the way to Playland on Beach 98th Street. Along the way there were hotels (boarding houses) along the boardwalk, skeet ball and bumper cars, stands with knishes and cotton candy, and this was all around the area of Beach 35th Street!
Then the bungalows started to be demolished for "urban renewal" in the early sixties. The Rockaway of my youth was gone and I was barely out of my teens. Although I applaud the efforts of the bungalow residents that are now trying to preserve a way of life, it is too late for most of Rockaway. I wish there had been such activists during my youth. Perhaps there wouldn't be so much low cost housing projects and nursing homes in Rockaway today. I know there are some areas being rebuilt but the "bungalow community" of my youth will never return.
Jean McClean (nee Hays)
Woodside, Queens, NY
I heard about the documentary through my aunt, who now lives in Florida, and from her two daughters (my cousins), who saw it in NYC, where they live.
I was born in 1955 and probably starting going to Rockaway when I was about three years old. The bungalow was on the beach block and I think we could hear the ocean there.
Every night when we were visiting, my father, who was a professional musician and also played the accordion, would play just about every evening and we would all sit around and sing and then have coffee/milk and cake. Lots of neighbors would come by too.
The boardwalk was great. Bumper cars (the guy running them told my Dad that I was going to be a good driver...he was right). The area that had all the different rides: Fascination Arcade as well as 21, Poker and Ski Ball arcades. We would save those tickets they would give us and turn them in for all kinds of junk to play with.
Food on the boardwalk: pizza, hot dogs, Italian ices, Good Humor and other ice cream and also something called the Taki Cup. It was a cup made out of rice that was fried to the shape of a cup and then they would put steamed rice and chop suey in it. You would eat the insides and then eat the cup it came in too. There was also Hoffman's soda (wonder what happened to that company), egg creams, as well as other stuff.
Danella (Loew) Lubar
St. Louis, MO & Petaluma CA
My grandparents rented bungalows for a few years in the late 1940s, and, later on, in the '50s they found rooms in various Victorian homes that were converted to guest houses. Since my parents could not afford camp or vacations, Rockaway became our summer haven.
It was stark, basic and wonderful to be with my grandmother for one or two weeks each summer. We had cousins and great aunts and uncles to talk to and to play with...
Fire works were Wednesday evenings, and the salty dampness from the ocean was incredible. The boardwalk was a Bronx girl's paradise, and the aromas of the various treats being sold, the Penny Arcade, and the joyful screams at Playland were constant reminders that 'Heaven on Earth" was at Rockaway Beach.
My siblings and cousins visited over 10 years ago, and there was little remaining of what used to be our “home away from home.” Despite the dilapidated state of the area physically, we were transported back to the 50s, and were surrounded by the laughing and talking in our grandparents' native tongue (Ladino). We heard them, and we smiled, giggled a lot and even cried...What a day that was!
I would return in a heartbeat if vacation housing were available, and the community were thriving again...Any chance?
Cedar Grove, NJ
My great-aunt Hannah Moir owned bungalows on Beach 108th Street. Floral Coral and Annex are still there. Hannah purchased the bungalows circa 1915. She also owned a house that was on the current B.108th Street divider and she even had bungalows on a small pier at the end of B. 108th. They were destroyed in the Hurricane of 1938. My Dad took over these bungalows and I assisted selling off the ten units in the late 70s. My brothers and I would help winterize and prepare the 15 rental units every year between 1960 and 1976. Dad would tell us stories of Rockaway, about Robert Moses and his plan to modernize the Rockaways after World War II. I can still remember seeing blocks of abandoned, burnt-out bungalows, part of a master plan that did not materialize.
Beach 108th Street is one of the few blocks that survived the years. A bungalow was my first home. I had it winterized and moved in in November 1977. I started my first job in Manhattan in 1977 and met my wife waiting for the Rockaway Park Local CC-Train on the Euclid Avenue platform. She lived in Dayton Towers at Beach 105th Street and we married in 1980. Rockaway has evolved and is loved by its current residents.
John and Noreen Eberhardt
My family lived in NYC and in the 1950s and early '60s we would take the 60-90 minute ride on the E train to Rockaway Beach on weekends and my mother and father would book a week in one of the bungalows or rent a room in one of the homes near Rockaway Playland. We would go to Playland with only a couple of dollars and have a ball. Many of my grammar school classmates also spent time there. There were a lot of Irish and Irish-American families as I remember but there were Jewish and Italian families as well. Boy did we spend hours in the ocean and got some pretty severe sunburns.
Overland Park, KS (NYC at heart)
My sisters and I grew up in Rockaway (year round) in the 1950s and '60s on Beach 117th Street. During the summer, we would meet other (Irish) children on the beach who lived for the summer in the bungalows around Beach 107th-108th Streets (I think these have been gone for a long time). We would sometimes hang out with them around the bungalows there - such fond memories.
The lifeguard shack and first aid station and Curley's Hotel and Bathhouses were at the end of our street by the ocean - many fond memories of summer there too and meeting the summer people who came to Curley's every year. Curley's of course burned down in the '60s.
I think the documentary is very well done and should trigger a bit of nostalgia for a lot of folks as well as learning some fascinating local history.
Keep up the good work!
Pat Ross Kimelman
New York, NY
My parents owned a bungalow at 332 Beach 89th Street in Rockaway for 25 years, in the 1950s and 60s and 70s. Amazingly it is still there and pretty much intact. My cousin Mary Jane McGahan had alerted me to your project over a year ago and encouraged me to participate. After viewing the final film on PBS, I’m sorry I didn’t take her advice. It was a homerun!
The weekend after the first two showings I attended a 50th class reunion at Xavier High School, in Manhattan, and your documentary was a frequent topic of discussion. If you show it again, I predict the ratings will be just as good, or better, due to the amazing word-of-mouth buzz that has developed in response to this project.
Your film brought back a flood of warm and wonderful memories … and allows us to share these special times with our children and grandchildren.
Thank you very very much.
I grew up on Beach 54th Street from 1949 until 1970. The bungalows were my whole summer childhood. Checking out the bungalow chicks was the whole summer activity for us. We were poor but did not know it. I even sold Good Humor ice cream on the beach with those two heavy boxes slung over each shoulder and that stupid white uniform. Those were hard days, but great days. Thanks for the memories!
The summers of my youth were spent in Far Rockaway. We lived in Brooklyn and packed up the family and moved out to the bungalow on the last day of school every year. It was great. I had winter friends and summer friends. All of the same families came year after year. From 1960 through 1986 we went down to the bungalows. Only, 1986 was spent in the bungalows by Beach 116th. I am still in touch with a large group to this day. Facebook has been a great way to find old friends and has already created several reunions. We started out on "the ramp” on Beach 26th Street. The bungalows were built on a platform that looked like a boardwalk...the two sides were joined by a bridge that spanned a large sand pit. It would become a great volleyball court later on in the evening when all the adults came home from work. After the ramp was knocked down we moved further up the block...It was a community and everyone worked together. It was a village where everyone kept an eye out for each others kids and families.
Your documentary inspired me to go to the boardwalk and one fall afternoon this year I made the trip down. It was very different and didn't look the same but the feeling I had walking on the boardwalk towards Beach 26th Street brought me right back there. I closed my eyes and I was 12 and I was walking back to the bungalow after being on the beach all day and going to one of the many bar-b-ques that would be going on. I miss this place so much...thanks for giving it back to me for a moment. It was great to remember all the good times..
My father, Teddy Mass, had a grocery store called Teddy's in the 1960's and early 70's on 71st St. and Rockaway Beach Blvd. We lived in Far Rockaway, but summered in Arverne, across from our store on 71st St in what I remember as big rooming houses. I remember our landladies' names: Mrs. Schneid and Bertha Apfel. Like so many others, I recall Playland, playing ski ball on the boardwalk, lighting "punks" and Wednesday night fireworks. It was a magical time.
New York, NY
I am 77 years old and was born in Rockaway Beach Hospital. I spent most of my life on the beach in the Rockaways. My grandfather owned Deutsch furniture store in Rockaway and my uncle Sam Goody lived there. We lived in Arverne. I went to PS 42 and then to Far Rockaway High. We ate at Berger's deli and at Jimmy’s Chinese. We played all day long on the beach and in the ocean, which was clean then. We would go to the outdoor movie on the boardwalk. The streets were safe and we could walk home from a dance at the high school at 10 at night. We rode our bikes and played outside all day, and I did not know that some city people could not swim. I could go on all day, tell me if you want more news.
Lila Deutsch Weyman Krawitz
Fountain Hills, AZ
My father and his extended family, consisting of his sister, brother, and parents came to Rockaway every summer from at least the mid 1920s. In 1938, my parents met in Edgemere on Frank Ave, which is Beach 44th Street. My family, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, would arrive Memorial Day weekend and stay through Labor Day.
I remember showering outside my parents’ bungalow in a cubicle. My Uncle Sam grew tomatoes in the front yard of their bungalow. Everyone would sit on the front porch and socialize. I still have very fond memories of Far Rockaway and spent entire summers there from 1958 to 1964, while also visiting there before 1958 and after 1964. My aunt and uncle lived there until the early 90s.
Fort Mill, SC
We grew up in Parkchester and would go to Rockaway every summer in the 1950s! Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all piled into a few bungalows! It was the best!
We (my sister and cousins) would explore the boardwalk daily stopping for the most delicious knishes ever ( my favorite was the kasha knish). We also loved hanging out under the boardwalk and of course playing skeeball and winning all those crazy little prizes! The memories are so numerous and wonderful and it was a truly unique time that I will always treasure!
Marlene (Meyers) Harris
Forever from the Bronx, still at the beach (Delray!)
For me, as for so many others, Rockaway was our family’s summer resort of the 1950s, and I would wager more beloved than the Hamptons are today. Our parents and grandparents rented rooms in the old Victorian boarding houses. Of course the beach, boardwalk, and being with family were great but a memory that stands out the most was our outdoor showers in the back of the boarding house. We wore our rubber water shoes so we wouldn't get splinters on the slatted wooden floor and passed the soap to each other under the partition. Of course, many times the soap would slip between the slats and that was good for a laugh and a quick end to the shower. Oh to have those simple days again where each day was better than the one before, and we were with people we loved the best.
I believe it was Beach 73rd Street or close by. Years later in the late 60s, my grandparents moved to the Mitchell Lama coops nearby but that was after everything else was gone.
In the late 1940s, I was a night art student at Manhattan's Cooper Union at Astor Place. We worked full time days and attended classes four nights a week. One of my girlfriends suggested that when school's out during the summer months we should rent a bungalow in Rockaway Beach and so we did, twelve of us! I still have the receipt for my payment of $81 for the season, which lasted from May till October!
We left our jobs in the city and took the train on a Friday evening and returned to our jobs on Monday morning! There were bunk beds in all the bedrooms. We all got along swimmingly! We were art students and so we painted, gave an outdoor exhibit in front of our favorite diner -- even painted a mural over the diner's juke box! We rented bikes, enjoyed banana splits in the charming outdoor setting of an ice-cream parlor. Friends visited and used our outdoor shower after the beach day and supplied clams and corn for a clambake on the beach! We didn't drink, smoke, and never exchanged a harsh word -- just shared a lot of laughs and fun -- those were the days!
Staten Island, NY
Lived at Beach 110th Street in front of the White House. A game called dog ball was played. Had to get there early in order to play. It was basically baseball in the sand. Used a hard dog ball instead of a regular ball. The playground at 110th Street was the home of some of the great basketball players in the New York area: home to Dick McGuire and many more greats. Played every day from 9 am to 6 in the sun (no melanomas). McGuires Bar at 108th Street, all the bars from 108th Street to 103rd. There is a Rockaway reunion each year. Lived in a room where the bed was on the wall. When the bed was down you could not get into the room. No crime, bathing suits all day, block parties on Labor Day. Parents commuted from Manhattan each night from Flatbush Ave by bus to Rockaway. Was 95 percent Irish up to 105th or 106th St. # 1 song from l952 was "Shanty Town." Ironic as that was what Rockaway from 116th Street to 25th Street. How come now I can wish that I could go back in time and be there all over again?
We spent the summers in Rockaway from 1947 when I was 16 through 1950. Many of my friends and their families spent the summers there. We were in a rooming house on Beach 36th St. We were on the first floor and had a little porch.
My friend Sammy Wiseman and I bought song sheets and we would sing almost every afternoon. He had a nice voice since his father was the cantor in the 36th St. temple.
My friends and I spent a lot of time on the boardwalk. One night a week we would go to the silent movies. Lots of fun. Thanks for the memories.
Carol Michel Kaplan
New York, NY
My family lived in Howard Beach and we would go out to Beach 108th St. and the Dooleys' bungalow. Mr. Dooley was a cop who worked with my dad. They had six kids and lived the rest of the year in Astoria. We would go down on Wednesday afternoon, have a little barbecue, and then go up to the boardwalk to watch the fireworks. We'd go to the beach and Playland regularly, lots of times at Beach 110th St. I remember that, at 12 noon, the Angelus would chime from St. Malachy's (I think!) and no matter what anybody's faith, all the beachgoers would stand. Quite a sight for a boy of 10. There are many more memories, some sad, as when whole sections of the bungalows and old hotels would be consumed by fire.
Syracuse NY (still love NYC)
I just learned of the film and was reading the comments put up this year.
I was a summer-people from 1934-39 (age 1-5) in a bungalow, then moved to Far Rockaway all year, graduated PS 39 (1946) and FRHS (1950) so all this is my history. Boy Scout Troop 100, too.
Anyone still want more memories (such as the remarkable FRHS song, Roll On Far Rockaway)?
Algriff (at) griffex.com
El Cerrito, CA
I was born in 1942 in what was then called St. Joseph's Hospital in Far Rockaway. My dad owned a grocery store on the corner of Beach 28th Street. I spent my first 16 summers at Rockaway Beach mostly in rooming houses, but once in a while a very small back of a bungalow. I remember it as the best times of my life. I often dream about the bungalows and the boardwalk and the beach. It was a time of innocence, freedom, fun and a feeling of being in the best place that ever was.
My life was slightly different than the vacationing kids whose parents rented or owned bungalows...I was treated more as an outsider than someone who actually belonged. That didn't stop me from having the most wonderful summers ... the boardwalk, the beach, other kids from all over NYC... almost all of my favorite memories are of those years. I knew all the local shopkeepers and the lifeguards were my babysitters on the beach while my parents worked. I heard Elvis for the first time singing out of a juke box in one of the boardwalk arcades one evening. I thought of my summers as magical.
I have never experienced anything like it since I moved away. I have gone back to visit many times and each visit became harder and harder until I finally stopped. Almost everything that made it wonderful was gone. My dad's store, and the entire block of bungalows replaced by a school. The entrance ramp to the boardwalk that I trudged up every morning to get to the sand was closed up like it never existed...and that was the last time I visited. I took a snapshot with the fire hydrant that was once in front of my dad's store and is still there. I still cry when I think about those long ago days that were such a gift. I can still smell the dank sand under the boardwalk and feel the splinters in my feet. Maybe everyone feels very nostalgic about their childhood and early teens, but I believe Rockaway Beach was very special. I wish I could go back for a day.
Barbara Haar Rosenfeld
grandmabarbara (a) comcast.net
Port Saint Lucie, FL
I just became aware of your project on the bungalows of Far Rockaway. The beach streets of Rockaway are among my strongest and happiest memories. I spent every summer of my life there from birth to 16. My grandparents and their two daughters - my mother and aunt - started in their youth and spent decades going there.
The summer I was born, 1948, they were ensconced in Sammy Court , bungalows built on a sand at Beach 49 or 50th Street. But soon after, my grandparents headed for nicer digs and bought two bungalows on Beach 25th Street, with a unit on the street and one on a courtyard in back. That’s where I grew up every summer. Many of the same families came back year after year, and my parents and grandparents had long lasting friendships. The Kamei’s, the Golata’s and many of their relatives were well known to us, like distant cousins. And they were all there year after year. All of our NYC cousins, derived from the many siblings of my grandparents, came to visit regularly.
At first my family* (my parents, my sister, and I) stayed in the back bungalow and my aunt and uncle and their two sons in the front with my grandparents. But my mother and aunt had “outgrown” Rockaway after a few decades of coming out there, so my grandparents rented out the back bungalow, and we took turns a month each sharing the front with my grandparents. My sister and my older cousin were somewhat less interested and the main visitors were my cousin Ritchie and I, often overlapping our stays.
The beach streets were endless, as was the boardwalk. The boardwalk began around 19th Street and the bungalows at 24th. And they want on and on to somewhere in the low hundreds past Rockaway Playland on 98th Street. Every Wednesday night at Playland they set off a display of fireworks that caused people to line up and ooh and ahh, along the entire length of that endless boardwalk, all summer long.
The boardwalk was a big part of life. Not only was it many mile long, but about every 20 blocks or so was another section of food, amusements, etc. Really good pizza, the famous Chinese edible “tuckee cups,” Jerry’s knishes, the likes or quality I’ve never found anything close to, games, penny arcades and places that sold and rented out chairs, umbrella’s and the like. We were all ski ball addicts, spending thousands of nickels, and later dimes, to save enough coupons to cash in at then end of the summer on one of the really big prizes for my grandmother, like a bathroom scale.
At three, I started my bike explorations. My mother and the police found me on my trike a few blocks down Seagirt Ave one day. My mom tied my bike up with a rope after that. From age six or seven on, the boardwalk was freedom. I could safely take my bike on it, go out in the morning and just keep going and going…until I ran out of time..and nerve. I never quite reached the end, it was mythic, and I think getting there might have removed some of its magic. ..”wow, I rode all the way to…81st street today…there were like whole other sets of amusement stores I’d never seen…I’m sure I was almost at the end..”
I hated school, especially elementary. I was just not made for six hours in a chair and the open classroom hadn’t been invented yet, at least not in public schools (nor had Ritalin). And I was never that happy during the school year, always aware of being a bit of an outcast because I just couldn’t contain myself throughout the school day. But in Rockaway, I was always a little more important, a bit of a star. I’m not sure why, but I was more of a leader, fastest on a bike, captain of our block softball team and even good enough to hold my own when I played with the bigger guys that my older cousin played with. And later on a little bolder with girls.
Life on the beach streets, as would only be fitting, revolved around the beach, the ocean and the boardwalk. We weren’t allowed outside before 9 am, I was very noisy even when alone, and we all knew the Golata’s slept until 10am and it just wasn’t right to wake them up before 9. I’d go out and ride my bike, play stoop ball or push around a balsa wood glider that would be good for 15 or 20 flights before it couldn’t be put back together again. Purchased from the hobby shop on Seagirt where the nice Jewish man who owned it always answered my price queries with a wink and a “for you…”
Not all the merchants were so nice on Seagirt. The man who owned the little supermarket was so nasty, that he once told a woman he was glad her husband had dropped dead. She went ahead and for a few years opened her own little supermarket just to give him competition. And then there was Harry and Pearl ’s. The luncheonette and candy store, common to NYC and nowhere else, where I bought all my comic books (oh those days of the first Marvel comics), ice cream soda’s and egg cream’s. Both Harry, his wife Pearl, and Pearl ’s sister, the only people who ever worked in this good sized establishment, were short, ugly and fairly scary looking. Their repertoire of facial expressions did not include a smile, least not that I ever saw. And most questions were answered with an attitude that I had a lot of nerve for asking. But little Jewish kids weren’t shy about asking and these little old Jewish merchants weren’t shy about dishing out the attitude. Once I had the unmitigated gall to ask for a toasted English muffin. My mother had just taught me that if you only cut the edges and then tore it apart, you got this nifty rough surface that made for better eating (and you wonder where we get this from). So I asked Harry if would he do the same. Harry stared at me like I was from Venus..or maybe Harlem . He didn’t say a word, but if looks could kill…
Every morning my grandmother, who was born in about 1895, in Russia, and who came to this country in steerage, marched us out at around 10 or 11 to the beach for the required “morning dip.” Then home for lunch, and by 1pm you were wasting the day if you were not back on the beach. She would get genuinely irked if you were not prompt about getting to the beach for the afternoon, though the morning dip was always optional. She was certain that your mental and physical well being were greatly enhanced by being on the sand and in the salt water. And back then, ultra violet radiation hadn’t been invented. The only acceptable excuse for not being on the beach were rain or a ball game, usually the ones I played in but also on occasion, especially during the great home run race between my hero the Mick and Roger Maris to watch the Yankees.
All May and June, the butterflies would start to get active in my stomach at just thinking about the fact that soon I’d be out in Rockaway. And September was always a comedown; life just had less spark.
At 16 I started taking driver's ed, working a summer job and so Rockaway came to end. My grandparents were getting old, but still out there. My grandmother was still going for her morning dip every day, coming home and then heading down the short walk to the beach to spend the afternoon. Life was OK, I could drive, go after girls and get ready for college, which may have even turned out to be as much fun as Rockaway. It was the 60s. When my grandmother died of cancer at age 77, my grandfather sold the two bungalows…for the same $12,500 he had paid for them two decades earlier. And so ended my family’s 50-year affair with Rockaway.
*My parents were Rita and Lester Shaikun, my sister Robin, I am Glenn Shaikun. My Grandparents were Max (Poppy) and Jenny (Nanny) Yustein. My aunt and uncle were Stell and Lou Kendall, their sons Ross and Ritchie.
Ross, Ritchie and I are still alive to remember what Rockaway at times meant to our family, the rest are gone.
Orchard Park, NY
Moved from Sheepshead Bay (Brooklyn) to Far Rockaway and lived on Beach 27th Street all year round. Went to P.S. 106 on Beach 36th, then moved to Bayswater and went to P.S. 104, JHS 180, and then FRHS. Great memories of a special time and place!
I remember walking from Beach 27th Street to Beach 36th St to PS 106 with my brother and sister. Going to the candy store there meant buying pens -- back then it was a big deal!
Used to walk to Met Grocery store....a butcher market where I saw my 2nd or 3rd grade teacher Miss Hyman whom I later learned was the daughter of the owners! How freaky to see your teacher out in public (through the mind of a child)!
Hurricane Donna hit probably around 1960; the beginning of the school year. Adults were rowing boats -- either to pick up students or else to make sure all were okay. One of the few times we were "allowed" to stay home from school!!
Saw my first movie on the boardwalk. It was either "Please Don't Eat The Daisies" with Doris Day (don't remember who else was in the movie) or else it was "West Side Story." Of course every Wednesday night during the summer were fireworks. I think around Beach 27th-30 something, playing skeeball, getting tickets for some glass piggy bank...I can go on and on!!
Thousand Oaks, CA
What can I say? Growing up in Far Rockaway was a great time in my life. We moved from Brooklyn in 1955 to a private house in Far Rockaway on President Street- a tiny block between Cornaga Avenue and Loretta Road. I lived in Far Rockaway until 1970. There were a great bunch of friends who lived on and near the block and a few of us still stay in touch on a regular basis. Growing I had the nickname "Schnitz." I currently live on Long Island. I heard about the film from FRHS alumni friends in Florida.
We had a very wonderful life living out there. None of the pressures and craziness of NYC- we were like our own private community. We had the beach in the summer, school yards to play ball in, the AC Field for "organized sports," three movie theaters- The Strand, The Columbia and The Pix (foreign/risque movies!), the Pool Hall (remember that raid looking for drugs one night?), great restaurants, great shopping. What more could we ask for? And, we were a very diverse bunch of friends- white, black, Jewish, Irish, Italian, Chinese, Spanish, rich and poor. The schools were great- PS 215, JHS 198 and Far Rock. Even the teachers were great- Phil Tietze, Earl Jagust, Jack Kerschman, Rosemary Brennan Curley, how about Monica D Ryan (the principal!)- so many. The teams, the parties, the great times. A very special place and time for many of us!!!!
Rob Schnitzer, aka Schnitz
Glen Head, NY
We lived in Brooklyn, but owned Andria’s Tower of Pizza, on Beach 20th (Central Avenue), near Mott Avenue. I spent most of my time helping my Dad run the pizza place. The other one on that street was Gino’s. Reading the other memories, I also remember the bungalows and the people partying at night and delivering pizza and food all the way out as far as Playland. Benny the cop always was on my case for double parking, needed to pick up my delivery orders, and because I had fast cars and spend down Beach 20th. Toddy’s had great food as well as Al’s Deli, right next door to us. And when Al left, Ann ran a Carvel store there.
We were in Far Rockaway from 1959 to 1976, at which time my Dad retired. When I was “off,” my friends Irwin and Bruno went with me to Beach 35th, where we mingled with the summer renters and owners in the bungalows, made new friends, and hung out on the boardwalk. One girl I started dating, whose parents rented a bungalow, was “Shelley,” whom I have not seen since then, around the summers of 1963 and 1964. But I remember the great times driving around the bungalow areas with her in my 1963 red Bonneville convert with the top down. The last time I was in Far Rockaway, I was amazed that so much had been torn down; empty streets where there had been rows and rows of bungalows, full of people enjoying that exciting area of New York. There will never be another place like that again. I welcome any memories of the “Tower of Pizza.” Feel free to email me if you remember our pizza place, or my Dad, Fred, or me, Rich: docrich2(a)embarqmail.com
Dr. Rich Andria
I find this so exciting to read! I was born in '53 and lived for five years at 55-05 Beach Channel Drive in the projects...so was that the Arverne Projects? We walked to the beach every day in the summer, and for school, my older siblings walked to Rockaway Freeway and Rubin, in the deli on the corner, would cross them for the bus to St. Camillus. I returned to the neighborhood last summer for the first time in 52 years, and I almost cried at the beauty of the projects. There were so many trees and the little parks in the projects were so lovely.....I would love to see Rockaway Beach be a place that people are excited to visit! I live in Singapore now, and every time I fly into JFK I twist and turn in my seat to see my beloved Rockaway!
Once I visited Rockaway last summer with my three kids and my mother, I became intrigued with finding out all I could online. I only lived there for five years (after my Dad began making $10,000 a year, we had to leave the projects and moved to NJ), but my history goes further back. My father grew up in the Bronx, and they were always moving to save money on rent. So for the summer, they would move to Rockaway, and rent a bungalow. Sadly, when my father was 12, his sister who was 13 contracted pneumonia while they were in Rockaway. Within days Betty was dead. Of course, my Grandmother's heart was broken, but I actually found letters that Betty had written just weeks before she died, asking her grandparents to "Please come visit us in Rockaway! We have plenty of room." I think this was when I became really curious about the bungalows....my Dad always spoke of them, but I really then wanted to know all about them.
I was in Wavecrest from 1962 to 1983. Many great memories of watching fireworks every week, the arcade a couple of blocks to the west, sledding down the ramp in the snow, riding my bike all the way up to Belle Harbor with friends, and back down the opposite direction to the easternmost end at 9th Street. Lots of great childhood memories roaming through the bungalows visiting summer friends. Growing up a half-block from the beach was incredible. The view was awesome as well. A kid's paradise...
Does anyone remember the guy who sold knishes from those shopping bags along the beach? They were real greasy affairs, but I remember liking them. He had a name like Shloime - I'm trying to approximate the spelling from the way it sounded. He was sort of greasy looking himself :). I don't know how far he traveled but our bungalow in the 1950s (my aunt and uncle and cousins stayed on into the early '60s) was on B. 56th Place. I was only 7 in 1960 but I remember some odd things like this.
Also, there was a handyman who did repairs on the bungalows named Irving Cashin. I don't know if he was the owner or just a handyman and I don't know how many bungalows he was responsible for and on which blocks.
I went to Edgemere around 35th Street in the '40s. We (my parents and I), my cousins Allan and Susan, their parents, and my grandparents spent every summer there for many years during the 1940's.
I remember the carousel and the disappointment I felt when I missed that gold ring that always seemed out of my reach. I remember the Takee cup where the Chow Mein was placed in a rectangular cup made of crisp Chinese noodles. To this day I'd like to patent that. I remember the fresh fruit Ices at the beginning of the boardwalk and if I'm not mistaken there was a Grand Hotel which was the elite place to be a resident. I remember the ice-man coming to refill the top of our fridge. Oh what wonderful memories of such a happy and innocent time. My mother listened to Life of Riley on the radio and we shared a bathroom in the hallway. I remember marching down the street when WW2 ended.
My family, like most, moved from Brooklyn to Rockaway every summer, at least until I was three, when we moved to Long Island. Then my trips to Rockaway were reduced to a weeklong visit every summer to my cousins’s, who was my age and whose family never left Brooklyn and never stopped spending their summer at Rockaway. My fond and strong memories include the following:
- walking, with my cousin the entire length of the boardwalk. One end ended at an amusement park. However, before we got there we would stop to visit my grandparents who also summered in Rockaway. They stayed in a big building, kind of like a hotel where many people stayed.
- playing skee ball and cashing in my coupons
- body surfing
- at night, everyone was outside, the men played pinochle and the women mahjong
- the Dugan's cup cake truck coming by every morning
My grandfather owned a bungalow colony at the foot of the ramp on 39th street. He and my other grandparents were immigrants from Germany and Austria. In one of his bungalows I could see the ocean from my bedroom window. Fond memories of spending every summer there between 1950-1960. Ate home made knishes, both potato and kasha, at Meyers, played skeeball on the boardwalk, went to the outdoor movies on the boardwalk as well.
My father, who was a salesman, taught me to swim, in the ocean. I can still remember my mother taking splinters out of my feet, which I got from walking on the boardwalk without shoes.
We did not have much, but we had a GREAT TIME.
Old Westbury, NY
I spent every childhood summer in the 1940s & 1950s at Sheahan's “Glenbower House,” on Beach 96th St, most of them in the top floor of the two-story bungalow behind this large rooming house. Below us lived the McLaughlins, all-year-round residents. Alice & Denis Sheahan also owned the candy store on the corner of 96th & Rockaway Blvd, he most often outside smoking his pipe and selling newspapers, while she ran the soda fountain operation inside, assisted by their nephew John Reiser.
I remember other denizens of Sheahan’s Glenbower -- the Tanas, the Heffermans, the Dolans, the Kearneys. Mary McGorty across the street. Joan and Teri Murray and the Perones, up the block. I remember when I was little Playland had a Goat Ride (little carts pulled by goats), which was run by Jim Foody, who also lived at Sheahan's. I remember the "gypsies" on the Boulevard telling fortunes or guessing weights, and occasionally I set up shop on the Boulevard myself, selling painted shells. I remember Curley's diner too, the back of which could be seen from Sheahan's side porch, which faced a grassy yard that had a peach tree. And let's not forget the end-of summer block parties, when porches up and down 96th would be decked out in crepe streamers and balloons. It was such a free life.
I can recall torrential summer rain showers when we kids threw on our bathing suits and ran out to play in the downpour. Another activity for a cloudy day was playing Pokerino. I saved up coupons from winnings at Pokerino to cash in at summer's end for a teapot or set of glasses or some other gift for our mother at the end of the summer. We relished the pizza at the stand just at the entrance of Playland, and across the Boulevard from there, the most wonderful french fries I ever tasted, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, served in a cone-shaped dixie cup with a toothpick for harpooning the amazing fat, salted fries. My favorite ride was the roller coaster, which my girlfriend and I would ride repeatedly (after three rides, the flirty young attendant would give you a free one). We also whiled away many happy hours in the Fun House -- loved the barrel and the final carpeted "slide". Nunally’s, just north of Playland, had the best carousel. Besides the Wednesday night fireworks at the beach, Playland offered great arial acts -- trapeze artists high above the midway, or acrobats performing on impossibly bending poles swaying to the tune of "Jealousy."
Though only in my teens, I drank many a “jar” in the Dublin House, O'Gara's, the Sligo House, etc. - and yes they carded, but not if you walked in with an adult (my mother). Probably many an Irish mother didn't think it was so terrible for a supervised 16-yr-old to have a drink, or maybe even two. I can't recall ever getting drunk probably because the booze in those "seven & sevens" was watered down. Gildea's on the other hand was infamous for serving unaccompanied minors and had a bad reputation for brawls and raids by the cops. I stayed away from there.
As teens, we "cruised" the boardwalk looking to meet boys, which we did, and occasionally even necked a little, but it was all so experimental and relatively innocent. My brother was a "parkie" for a summer or two, a coveted Parks Dept job for teenage boys. On dull days we went to see double features at the movie house on 116th and there was another (was it on Beach 80-something street?) and on our way to the latter, we stopped for a giant sundae or soda at an ice cream parlor owned by Alice Sheahan's loud and jolly sister, Josie, who was so overgenerous with her portions that it was no wonder she stayed in business a relatively short time. And I remember sitting at night atop the lifeguard chair with my best summer friend, Rita Ryan, smoking cigarettes we probably filched from her aunt Alice's candy store, looking out at the dark sea and the waves rolling in and contemplating the mysterious universe, or maybe just talking about boys.
Maureen Walsh Hossbacher
My aunt Vicky Sussman-Lindenbaum, recently deceased, who was born in 1923, was one of those who unconditionally spent all her summers in the Rockaways. In actuality, she considered the yearly pilgrimage a “requirement.” Living the other ten months on tree-lined 636 Cleveland Street, Brooklyn (private house) was not sufficient … The Rockaways always provided life’s ultimate completion. We would often visit her through the 1950s and 1960s at her “summer resort” bungalow on Beach 40th Street.
It didn’t matter that in the process of preparing a freshly caught flounder she lodged a bone shard in her hand it had to be surgically removed. Nor did it seem to make much difference that most of the food had enough sand in it to crack the healthiest and sturdiest of teeth. I also suppose that it was just fine when on Labor Day weekend, 1955, Hurricane Hazel belched at least half of the Atlantic ocean onto her living room (extremely soggy potato chips). In fact, she enjoyed the Rockaways with such enthusiasm that she purchased a private home on the corner of Beach 44th Street and beach Chanel Drive and, in 1969, moved to a huge Victorian home facing the bay on Westbourne Avenue, near the tail end of Bayswater. Of course, with the ocean literally at your feet, “how could you ever go wrong?” she would exclaim. Besides, in case of extreme emergency, one could easily hop on a boat back to Austria! Austria being the place of birth of her parents/my paternal grand-parents. Aunt Vicky, I will always love you. From your loving nephew who keeps in his heart all those wonderful and precious memories.
To ask me to recall memories of my years in Rockaway is like asking a child if they want to go to DisneyWorld. My smile gets so wide you would think I swallowed a coat hanger.
I think of those days constantly as they were the happiest of my life.
We had a bungalow every year in Lincoln Court on Beach 56th St. Lincoln Court contained twelve bungalows in the court itself; eight one-bedroom bungalows and four two- bedroom bungalows. Four of the bungalows were occupied by my mother's sister and brother; the rest were occupied every year by the same families who became extended members of our family.
My father was a truck driver for Rheingold Breweries and because he drove every day he "never wanted to own a car." In order for us to "move" to our bungalow in Rockaway he would hire Al who was a neighborhood man with a station wagon. Every year Al would load up our belongings and cart them to Beach 56th street while Mom, Dad my sister and myself would get on the D train change at
Euclid Avenue in Brooklyn for the train that would go to the Rockaways.
At one point in the journey the train would leave the bowels of Brooklyn and emerge outside on the Elevated tracks that ran all the way to Far Rockaway.
The excitement I felt as we approached our stop was overwhelming, and I vividly remember one year getting off the train and my Dad saying to my sister: "are you all right" and she responded "yeah, I'm just so happy" and proceeded to puke all over Edgemere Avenue. Probably the result of the anticipation of a wonderful summer ahead and the hour and a half (stop at every station)
In my younger years we had a one-bedroom which my sister and I shared; Mom and Dad would sleep in the front room which was separated from the bedroom by a bathroom (with a hot water heater attached to the ceiling) and kitchen.
When I got older we moved to a two-bedroom and I slept in the front room, which made perfect sense as I was the first one up as I couldn't wait for the days to start. I would awaken around 6:00 AM. After breakfast all the cousins and the non-family members who lived in the court would start either the punch ball, off the roof, 3 box baseball or any of the many games we played. Then it was off to the beach where our mothers never got their faces tanned as their heads were constantly in the food bags getting us a sandwich or a piece of fruit etc.....Dinner time a few times a week were the best, as they would put tables together in the middle of the court and the men would fire up the charcoal grills and the women would bring out dish after dish and we all ate together. How wonderful that was......
I remember trucks that would come around to the bungalows twice a day: Dugan the Baker, the Chocolate Man, Candy Man, Good Humor and Bungalow Bar......The old toothless African-American woman who would sing "Sugar in the mornin' Sugar in the evening, etc" and my mother and aunts would sit her on the porch and give her something to eat and drink.
On the beach at 54th street was the Good Humor Stand and the boys (including myself) who carried ice cream in boxes of dry ice on the beach itself. The knish man on the beach who would hide on someone's blanket when the police were around.
The stores on Edgemere Avenue: Pomerantz Bakery,Rubins Delicatessan, Karol's Candy Store, Beach Haven Luncheonette Willy the Fruitman....
I have so many stories and each one is vivid in my mind's eye. People ask themselves if they could turn the clock back to any time in your life what would you turn it back to? There is no hesitation for me: I would pick 1955. I was eight years old and all of our family was alive and well and having the time of their lives. And it was the bungalows of Rockaway that brought us together.
I'm so happy to have found this Web site. I was born in 1938, and not a day goes by that I don't think of Rockaway. I spent every summer of my growing-up years in Rockaway Beach. My aunt owned the big white house on the corner of Rockaway Beach Blvd and 117th Street. I was born and raised in a suburb of Pittsburgh. Every summer my mom would take me by train to NY - and then the LIRR to Rockaway Beach - the last stop. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the ocean air---wow. The train station was on 116th street - not even a whole block to my aunt's house. I'd practically run all the way. I spent every weekday at the beach---I usually started the summer off with a pretty bad sunburn, but by the end of summer, I'd be as brown as could be (no sunscreen back then).
I remember my very best friend, Gail Sue Cohen. We were beach buddies---and would always write to each other over the winter---'til finally we'd meet again the next summer. It was later, after my dad passed, that I was told the bad news that I wouldn't be returning to Rockaway; it was no longer in the budget. In the meantime, my friend, Gail had moved to a different address in Brooklyn; she would write and ask me when I’d be getting to the beach. I was so angry that I couldn’t answer her –eventually she stopped writing and I lost her new address. I asked my aunt about her, and she hadn't seen her the following summer. I have tried so many times to find Gail --to no avail. She always stayed at the big brown house on the corner of 117th Street and the boardwalk.
We weren't allowed to go to the beach on the weekends because of the polio scare. My aunt would tell me that all the commuters would come on the weekends and for some reason that made the polio scare even worse. I remember one day sitting in Maher's Restaurant on Rockaway Beach Blvd between 116th Street and 117th Street. It was one of the first in the area to have air-conditioning, and so you couldn't hear what was happening outside - my mom asked the waitress what was the commotion outside - you could see everyone yelling and waving, etc. She told us World War II had ended!
I used to dread the second week of August - when my mom would return to bring me back home. Gail Sue didn’t return to Brooklyn 'til later. Our schools started up sooner than her schools. I remember the man with the pony who came around to take kids' pictures; the Woolworth's 5 @ 10 cent store on 116th Street; the 10 cents per slice pizza; the penny arcade; and the movie theatre with the open-air top on 116th Street. I remember the Wednesday night fireworks on the water –the walks on the boardwalk down to Playland -- watching the dancers in Irishtown. It was a whole other world. How I hated to go home.
My aunt, Anne Kelly McFarland, had met and married her husband, Harry, and moved to Rockaway where they purchased the big white house at 117-06 Beach Blvd from her aunt, Marjorie Trainor. Marjorie and her husband had been Irish immigrants. The house had several apartments within which were used for summer rentals. Also, she had an aunt, Bridget O'Donnell, and her uncle Ed, also from Ireland, who lived in a big red brick house further down on 117th Street. Ed was a longshoreman. Their home also had summer rental apartments within.
I’ve gone back to see Rockaway, and could hardly believe the changes – my aunt's house was burned to the ground and has been replaced with a modern-looking house, nothing like the old one. The deli on 116th Street is gone along with Curley's bathhouse. Those were the best days of my life...
Mary Jane (Campbell) McDonald
I have just caught a re-running of the show on PBS. I was born at Peninsula hospital in 1954,and baptized at St. Camillus.
We lived on St. Marks Avenue, just east of B.108th St. Our house was torn down in 1956 to make way for "Surfside Park" high rises.
Although I was only two when we moved out to Suffolk County, I can still remember being pushed down the boardwalk in my baby carriage on Wednesday nights to see the fireworks. Or the corner candy store with the coin operated rocking horse out front. My father, Charles Carey, upon his return from the Pacific theater, worked at the Queens Borough gas plant at 108th Street.
But the family business was bungalows. My grandfather, Frank Carey, along with his sister, Irene Craven, owned 37 of them, all between 108th and 109th Sts. There were three courts -- May, Irene, and Eleanor -- named after relatives. My grandfather's house was on the northwest corner of Rockaway Beach Blvd and Beach 108th St. Some of the bungalows are still there, although we sold them in 1969, and could be seen in the aerial shots in the film.
Every spring, my father would take me with him to get the bungalows ready for the season, with the reward of a Playland roller coaster ride to follow. I'd paint them, re-screen, clean up, etc. They seemed to be mostly the same tenants every year and my father knew most of them by name. They had great court parties at night and I still remember the lights strung along posts. Kids remember stuff like that. My family knew all the McGuires personally.
My father ended up working for the Long Island Lighting Company [as do I, or whatever we're called this week] when they acquired Queens, transferred to Hicksville, and we lost all contact with Rockaway.
But I still think about my birthplace, and it will always be with me, no matter where I live.
Charles Carey, Jr.
Northport, Long Island
Although I live in Massachusetts, I grew up in the Bronx and Rockaway was a way of life in the summer. My brother, who lives in Northport, Long Island, and I went to Rockaway for a week or two every summer in our childhood days. My parents could not afford a bungalow but they took a room at Feeney's Irish family boarding house on the boardwalk, or we stayed at the boardwalk home of our friends, John and Mary Clarke. Their daughter Maura became a Maryknoll nun and was killed with three other American religious women in Latin America, now considered martyrs. Maybe those wonderful boardwalk hotels and homes could be your next documentary? Many thanks for doing this. I'm eager to share the DVD with my brother and his family. Thanks.
My family moved to Wavecest in May 1964. The beach, the schools, the subway, and city were all factors my parents considered when choosing to move but since then I have discovered something else. Both sets of my grandparents are linked to the Rockaways. Early documents and photographs indicate my family already knew about the Rockaways - probably from time spent in one of the bungalow communities.
I remember the bungalows teeming with families all summer. As year-round residents we noticed the big influx of people for the summer. Near Met Food on 25th there were businesses that would open around Memorial Day: a candy store, Frank's bicycle rental... The boardwalk and beaches were packed with people. It was a family place.
In the off-season we played in, on top of, sometimes under, and all around the bungalows. A quick fence jump and we were in a maze of bungalows we knew well. We were chased a few times and our parents warned us to stay out but for a few years this was our winter playground when we were in the mood to explore and run around.
When did the end come? Exactly? Each individual experienced the change in a different way and time. For some the end still hasn't come... In my case the end came while I was away and I missed it. There were many signs but the one that sticks the most for me is when my brother and I discovered the empty lot where Playland once stood. How many times did we kick at the rubble of some bungalow, hotel, beach house, beach club, concession, or ice-cream stand?
The end came gradually. A few fires. The summer crowd lessened and changed. The areas surrounding the bungalows became filled with nursing homes and displaced poor people dumped by the city. White flight and urban decay. Beach concessions closed or burned. Empty lots and old hotel sites became "The Weeds," filled with dumped stuff and sometimes danger.
The bungalows are a part of a lesson about the Rockaways, NYC, the beach, families, communities, and all of us. Build on sand and change comes soon.
Every summer in the 1950s was spent at my grandmother's house on Beach 114th in Rockaway. She had a nice house with three bedrooms upstairs and a full bath. To survive, she rented these rooms out to weekenders who came from the city to spend a weekend in paradise. We of course slept downstairs on pullout couches and had to use the only other bathroom in the basement. We were terrified to go down there alone, imagining all kinds of scary encounters.
Life was great then. We saw fireworks from the boardwalk, took long walks to Playland past the bungalows that my grandmother called shantytown, and I of course had no idea what she was referring to.
At noon every day the convent bells were rung. Everyone on the beach stopped and stood in silence for one full minute to pray. I always succeeded in getting one splinter from the boardwalk but still managed to have a lifelong love affair with the beach. Today I still love collecting shells, driftwood et al as it must trigger fond memories of Rockaway. My father was a NYC fireman who was stationed in Far Rockaway. After a work shift he would come by and take us out for creamsicles. We ate them slowly on the porch in rocking chairs my father painted green every summer. I still find green rocking chairs charming and have a love of old things. It was a place of infused cultures, sea creatures and cotton candy!
Williamsburg, VA, formerly Garden City, NY
My parents & I went to the Rockaways for almost 20 years. We rented a bungalow on Beach 28th Street, # 17. Played softball at Pop's Field on Beach 29th Street. The name of our team was the Solarjets. My two best friends were Howie & Richard.
I wonder what these guys are doing now.
Orrin S. Gordon
Valley Stream, NY
I was told by my wife that her great-grandfather, John J. Eagan, was mentioned in the film as being one of the first developers of bungalows on the Rockaways. I often speak to my mother-in-law about her family history and was excited to see one of her stories brought to life on this wonderful documentary. Our entire family enjoyed this stroll through this great era. Thanks.
Glen Cove, NY
Summers at Rockaway Beach are my fondest memories.
For most of the year, I lived in an Irish Catholic neighborhood in the Fordham section of the Bronx. I started vacationing with my family in Rockaway in the late 1940s. We always rented the same bungalow on Beach 107th Street.
School would finish on June 25 and a week before that my Grandmother Nolan (from Kerry) would start packing. The day after school closed, we would pack into my Aunt Jane's Ford and start the trip to the beach. Just before the Cross Bay Bridge, we would stop for delicious fish and chips at Weiss' with lots of tarter sauce. After lunch we would head to the bungalow on Beach 107th Street. The bungalows were made up of courts, six facing one another with a picket fence on each side. The first thing my Grandmother would have my sister and me do was to paint the rocking chairs. The next day, it would be off to our beloved beach. We would stay in the water until the Angelus rang from Stella Maris. Everything would stop while we all stood and faced the convent. After lunch, we would wait for one hour so we wouldn't drown from cramps.
We had to move to Beach 108 Street when the city started to tear down the bungalows. The next year, 1961, we started renting an apartment in Belle Harbor. It was never the same.
Maria McMahon DeMeo
Wow, I'm amazed at this site. We came from L.A. in the summer and stayed on Beach 36th in the 1950s, with my Bubby and Zadee. It was great because the bungalow was so small I had to get out, and therefore escape my mother's worries. Also stayed in Far Rockaway with my cousin Ginger, big shady streets without sidewalks, very different from Edgemere. I was trying to remember the year when we had to evacuate because of a storm surge, waiting until the water came up enough stairs that we could go even though it was Shabbos. I remember coming home and telling my mother that I'd visited some twins on Beach 36th and their Bubbe asked if I was a shiksa. I said yes. I didn't know what it meant. My mother got mad at me.
A lot of the kids couldn't understand my California accent, or they were delighted by the way I talked and asked me to repeat "water" or "dog." I met Kid Coke who was the head of the Playboy Kings. I was about 13. Loved the boardwalk and playing all the games and getting free knishes. I loved the one where you rolled little balls up a miniature bowling alley that tipped up and tried to get high points so I could buy something. My boyfriend, Mattie, bought me some kind of bracelet that way. And then a girl on the boardwalk threatened to fight me with garrison belts--because Mattie was her boyfriend. My mother saw and was proud of me for being tough. In L.A. I would have gotten in trouble, but she grew up on the streets of the Lower East side, and, before that moment, always thought I was a sissy. I remember the first day I arrived, kids asked me "what I was." Greek, Italian, Jewish. Really interesting to be asked that. Different from WASP L.A.
I also have a film, High Heels on Wheels, about lesbian pioneers in the roller derby, and a little personal doc called Miriam, Bubby, and Me.
Los Angeles, CA
I lived in the Imperial House, 66 Beach 66th St, for the summers of 1957-61. It was a large three-story building with about 25 families. Almost every weekend they would have parties on the porch. They were the best times of my life -- I miss it all so much.
It was a half block from the beach. So many kids there, we used to hang out together under the boardwalk at B. 66th. There was a diner on the corner of Larkin & B. 66th called Mels, and another on B. 67th and Larkin, owned by my uncle, Jack Ellias. It was called Nat & Ken’s, and was right across from the Jewish temple. On the boardwalk there was a penny arcade and a candy store, where we would collect bottles from the beach. The owner would give us two cents for each bottle. We also built sand sifters and looked for coins that people lost. A great place was under the penny arcade where the coins fell through the boardwalk. Around Beach 70th Street was a knish place, I think it was called Marty’s. They had great cherry cheese knishes. Every Wednesday night were fireworks. It was unbelievable.
My friend who had a band lived on Beach 70th: Don Itkin. I have not been able to locate him. If anyone knows him, I would love to hear. I wish we could bring Rockaway back like it was.
Later on in life I became a sergeant in the NYPD and for a little while was stationed in Far Rockaway. It was much different then.
Delray Beach, FL
I was a summer child of the Rockaways from the late 1970s -late 1980s.
My great-grandfather owned bungalows on Beach 43rd and while most of them are now gone, his home is still standing! Please note my great-grandfather owned the bungalows from around the 1930s-50s. My mother grew up in Bayswater and I spent summers in Rockaway Park (at Playland) with my aunt. The tradition continues with my own daughter! Looking forward to viewing this documentary of a place that I hold dear to my heart!
I heard about the film through my aunt who never left Rockaway!
I spent six joyful summers in the bungalows in the 1960's from the time I was about 9 till I was 15. I saw sunrises over the ocean, took long evening walks in the cool ocean air, met my first love, made the best friends of my life, and for eight weeks every year experienced a true sense of freedom. I will cherish those summers always.
We always had a bungalow in a court somewhere on 56th Street and I lived for another summer with my best friends Emmy, Dee Dee, Joyce, and Marsha who lived on the same street. We also had many friends from the Arverne projects who welcomed us back every summer with open arms. We would all cry at the end of every summer when we had to go home to our various boroughs and neighborhoods, imagining that we would be so far away! At the end of one summer the Arverne kids wrote notes and signed their names on cloth napkins for their "bungalow bunny" friends to take home as keepsakes of our wonderful summer. I still have that napkin with the autographs and remembrances of song lyrics of that summer's songs..."I wish they all could be California girls..."
To this day I can honestly say that my summers in Rockaway were the best of my life.
My family did summers on Beach 47th street (a sand block) from 1952 until 1966. It was a great way to spend the summer. Does anyone have any photos of the bungalows, alleys, showers, sand streets or the boardwalk from that era? If so, please write me: LBPD1 (at) aol.com. Thanks.
New York, NY
My father was superintendent of apartment building located on E. 159th St. & Brooks Ave., Bronx, NY. We spent some time every summer in the early 1930s around 98th Street and Rockaway Blvd., with other Irish families. I recall the O'Briens. My Mom was a great Irish dancer and when the McNulty family was entertaining, Mom would frequently get up and dance a jig. One of the O'Briens was married to a man named Huey I think, who would work as a waiter there. I think the waiters all sang as well.
My mother was born in County Mayo, Ireland, one of eighteen children, thirteen surviving. Her dad was a farmer in Sligo. Mom was born probably in 1902. My father was born in Dublin, Ireland also one of eighteen children, thirteen surviving, and his father was a baker. They met in America, fell in love and married. I am an only child and would have had a sister but she was lost in childbirth and Mom couldn't have any more children. Both my parents had a brogue that I wish I had now. Most of my friends were first generation Americans and we didn't want to sound like our parents. We wanted to be Americans not hyphenated Americans so I have a Brooklyn accent.
Lots of brogues in Rockaway.
Wonderful memories with the O'Brien kids, Maureen, sister and brother and a Great Dane dog we tried to ride. Playland was wonderful and we begged for money for the rides. Time passes too swiftly now as my wife and I are in our 80s but I sometimes wish we could go back just for one hour.
Met Rita (St Laurent) in Brooklyn (Midwood section) when a young teenager and she was one of our group. Fell in love many years later when we met at a newly married mutual friends apartment. Long story but I am still madly in love with her and looking forward to celebrating 60th anniversary on January 26, 2012. Unfortunately Rita suffered a stroke in 2009 and I am her full-time caregiver. We are together 24/7 and enjoying the closeness we are experiencing. Live near one of my two daughters so if we need help it is readily available. We have 12 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren.
I was born in St. Joseph's hospital on Beach 19th Street. We lived in Bayswater (the "fat part" of Far Rockaway on the northeastern tip next to Nassau County). My parents spent may summers at Roche’s Beach where we had a locker. When I got older, my friends and I rode our bikes to where the Wavecrest Garden apartments were. Then we discovered the stores around Beach 32nd Street. The knish store, the Chinese place where your chow mein and rice was in a noodle the shape of a square soup bowl. There was an amusement store where we got tickets for playing the games. Of course, it took thousands of points for just about anything so we cashed them in for candy bars and small things. As I got older, I started drifting west toward Arverne. Rockaway's Playland, on Beach 98th Street, provided fireworks every Wednesday night. We took the Green Bus lines to the park to watch the fireworks from the boardwalk. The bus was only fifteen cents back then. Only eight soda bottles to find and cash in!
I knew a family who came from Brooklyn every summer to a bungalow on Beach 29th Street. Mrs. "G" took all the boys in, fed them and made us feel at home. So that became the pit stop on the way home from the beach for several years. How lonely the place seemed in the winter when the people went home and just the buildings were left. Unfortunately, work interrupted my love of the boardwalk and beach. I worked on Wall Street and took the "E" train from Far Rockaway to Broadway-Nassau Street where I walked to work. In bad weather, I took the Lexington Avenue IRT to Wall street. After a few years, I met some very good friends who introduced me to people living in the Beach 80's and 90's off of Beach Channel Drive. I got involved in their church sports committee fundraisers and still am proud to have many people as friends today. So my life in Rockaway was not centered around the bungalows, although they played an important part of my growing experience. The Rockaways was a great place to live and grow up. I will never forget them.
Sun City Center, Florida
Born in 1946, in the late 50s to early 60s I spent some very, very happy summers in Rockaway Beach...each year in a different rented bungalow between the streets of 27-34th. Many of my extended family (grandparents, aunt/uncles, cousins) also rented on our block or nearby ones. So great!
The last day of school was the day we would leave Inwood for our summer vacation. I can picture my father carrying heavy packed boxes on his shoulders from our apartment to load up the car. By the time we left, us kids sat atop the piles of boxes and blankets and pillows in the back seat. We had everything packed that we needed for the summer....except, of course, no TV! I made sure to bring loads of writing stationery and stamps that I would need to keep in touch with my friends at home or at camp - and to anxiously await their return letters. "Long distance" phone calls were not made!
The bungalows were small and furnished in "old and sparse" - and I'm sure we were cramped...but we managed very well. My mother tried to make the bungalows homey by hanging plastic kitchen curtains and adding some bric a brac. She prepared all meals in those little bungalow kitchens including a full hot dinner each night.
One of my fond memories was riding my bike each morning to pick up The Forward for my grandfather...maybe also pick up some fresh rolls or milk if needed. After breakfast I would keep my grandfather company and we would both walk down by the beach...look for shells...dip our feet...just talk about things.
The rest of the long golden day would later be spent at the beach with family and/or friends. Riding the waves was the absolute best fun. Resting from the swim and hearing in the distance "ice cream...get your ice cream" was always a welcome sound…although I always felt sad for the guy lugging, in the sand, heavy trunks of Good Humor ice cream on those hot summer days.
In my early teens, my night would begin with meeting friends in front of, I think it was called, the Strand Hotel. It would be a big meeting place for teens and we were all hopeful to find a romance to last the summer. Then the action would move to the boardwalk where there would be other groups of teens to meet. There was no shortage of friends to be made. The boardwalk at night was dazzling with the crowds, the sights, sounds and wonderful tastes.
The summers held so much for me, which I took for granted at the time: it was an innocent time with the freedom to roam safely, to partake in the endless pleasures of the boardwalk, to making long-standing friendships, and to enjoy the majestic beauty of the ocean.
E. Brunswick NJ
Yes, I remember Rockaway.
In the early 1960s to the late 1970s my family, from Hell’s Kitchen, then Woodside, rented in Rockaway for the summer. The first few summers we were in a one-bedroom bungalow with a three-sided open porch with roof, perfect for the rare rainy day. My siblings & I lived in bathing suits, no shoes, not even flip-flops. The outdoor wooden showers were wonderful, a pleasure to stand under. The bungalow was right across the street from the firehouse, so I know when visiting where it stood. Under the EL grew wild blackberries & we'd pick them, then Mom would make blackberry cake like she did in Ireland.
The area was very Irish & Jewish. I used to go to shul with my friend Bernie Morris & I wore a kippa as well. Where are you, Bernie? I think of you often.
After a few years, reason unknown, we rented another one-bedroom in a small court nearby. The Forde family, Josie & Tom & about 7 kids, Marie the oldest, James & Kevin were some of the boys, were on our court. Josie, would make us laugh. When we got too noisy, very often, she'd say "Come here till I kill you," in her beautiful lilting voice.
Returning to the beach after dinner, we'd pretend to be lifeguards, jumping from their stands, running to the shoreline pretending to save someone. Barbecues on the rock jetties were also a pleasure, as well as collecting the seaweed for Mom. In Ireland, in Cork, by Bantry Bay, she regularly ate seaweed. It tasted like spinach, not so bad, as the Irish say
Friends would come from "the city" & we'd sleep on the porch on some old mattress.
It's important to remember that for kids from the city, summers in Rockaway was a taste of another life, a carefree life, an idyllic summer of fun, and for me, much reading. I loved going to the public library, though the librarians never really believed this Irish kid really read all those books. But I did! Years later, I also realized that the summers there were very important for Mom as well. A maid during the Sept-to-June year, she was "off" for the summer. Dad, a union guy, would come down maybe two times a season. He burned so easily & was usually exhausted, as he worked six days a week, each a 10-hour day.
The boardwalk, especially on firework nights was a treat. Life was on the boardwalk.
In the 1970s with most of the old bungalows destroyed by Lindsay for urban renewal, we moved to rooming houses on 115th Street, first, the O'Connell House & then, next door, the Toohey House. Now, both couples, lovely people, are long dead. RIP.
Neither my wife nor my children, now grown, can understand the lure of memory of Rockaway for me. But, years ago, when I took them there & showed them a few of my old haunts, it meant, of course, nothing to them. They did not have the luxury of growing up there in the summer many years ago. Luxury, you ask. Yes, luxury.
Rockaway, thank you.
Yes, I remember.
John Michael O'Leary, Esq.
My memories of Far Rockaway go so far back I can’t remember what streets the bungalows were on. Probably in the Beach 20s. Jewish neighborhood. But I distinctly remember they were on the west side of the street. It was during the 1930’s and ‘40’s. My immediate family lived in Flushing. The Brooklyn branch lived in East New York and Brownsville and took two or three cottages every summer. They were a big, loud, loving and fun-loving bunch of kibitzers, makers of what I understood to be dirty jokes at each other’s expense. They invited all their friends, all the time, so the bungalows were always jammed. Much food all over the place. The matriarch, my aunt, was a balaboosta. If we dropped in on them unexpectedly in Brooklyn or the Rockaways, before she answered the bell she would have the dining room table filled with food.
My major memory of the bungalows was showering outside. In the backyard or alley. My parents, me and my brother, would get there early, change and get to the beach with chairs, umbrellas and big thermoses of lemonade, large food carriers (not insulated) where my cousins had staked out a big area. We would slather ourselves with sun protection stuff. This consisted of oils that probably ignited cancerous cells upon application. We were a family of good swimmers. Not fast. But good. We went far out. Uncharacteristically, I don’t remember my mother warning me about waves, or going too far. We ate constantly. First we ate what we brought. Mostly salami sandwiches on Silvercup bread. Mustard. Jar of half and half pickles. Cole slaw. Potato salad. I have vivid memories of greasy paper bags. Then we ate what my aunt brought, which was mostly more of the same. Then knishes. The knish man I remember most wore a rolled-up handkerchief over his forehead, an old man’s undershirt– sleeveless. Shorts. He was tanned like a piece of leather, but muscular and young. Maybe in his mid thirties. I don’t remember his name. And he definitely didn’t give out business cards. We stayed late. But left before fireworks. And then my fondest memory.
Going home (and coming) we took a major artery, I think Cross Bay Blvd. Bumper to bumper. In the morning, coming. In the evening, going. My brother and I, suffering from sunburns, would sit in the back. At one point as we were moving maybe three miles an hour, my mother uncannily knew when to shout, “Close the windows!” She knew that soon little cellophane bags filled with thirst-magnifying caramel popcorn would be thrown towards the back windows, but would be stopped from getting into the car and our mouths by quickly closing windows. Then, maybe fifty yards further, vendors would appear with soda, lemonade, orangeade. Never tasted them. We got home. My mother soothed us with baking soda all over our burned backs, thighs and chests. But I remember looking forward to the skin peeling off in a day or two, the larger the strip the better.
Sleep. And if it were Saturday, looking forward to doing the same on Sunday.
Did anyone, anywhere in the world, have better weekends?
New York, NY
Was reading all the comments and on #42, I found all the kids I was raised with on Beach 74th St. I was born in Rockaway Beach Hospital, in July of 1936. I do not recall the writer, Frederick Berke, but my grandfather owned the house across the street from Steinhouse. BTW, the Larry mentioned, was Larry Gold and he was a Cleveland Indians fan.
I lived in Rockaway (full-time) for 12 of my first 18 years. Both my mother and father graduated Far Rockaway High Sschool in the late 1920s. A strange coincidence is that my mother was in the first graduating class of PS 42 and I was in the 25th. I went to PS 42 and then FRHS. My grandparents owned the house on Beach 74th St. from at least 1910 until the early 50s.
Even when we lived elsewhere in NYC, we spent our summers at their house in Arverne. I met my first wife in the summer of 1954. Her family for many, many years had a bungalow on Beach 29th St. My grandfather Ezrael (Izzy) Goldstein did the plumbing for almost all the bungalows in Edgemere. In those days all the plumbers had round vent plates that were on the sides on each building. I would be willing to bet that if some where still standing they would have those plates saying, "E. Goldstein Plumbing, Arverne NY." The home that my grandparents owned on the Beach block of 74th St, had at one time been the summer home of the German Ambassador to the US. They of course moved our and my grandparents bought it during WWI. I believe that the Steinhouse home had once been owned by the Ruppert Beer family.
I have lived many places in the US, but will always have sand in my shoes and need to smell the Salt air.
My connection with your film came as I read posting #78 regarding the bungalows of 108th Street from a Mr. Carey. He mentioned that his grandfather would rent bungalows to the same families each summer but he did not know their names. Well, my parents, aunt and uncle and my grandparents were those families. (Shanahan's, Puppa's, O'Connor's) While I was very young, during our Rockaway days, I still have very vivid memories of days on the beach, fireworks and parties in our courtyard. We lived and all grew up in Woodside and our extended family also rented bungalows in Rockaway. Those summers provided great times for all of us and your film's Web site has brought me back to a time I have never forgotten. I look forward to seeing your movie and sharing it with my entire clan. Thank you!!
Rockaway Beach figures prominently in my past, as a teenager, as well as today, as an author who writes memoir. I wrote a book, The Fortune Teller's Kiss (U. of Nebraska Press), where Rockaway is mentioned several times, including the gypsies I met there one summer. Growing up in the Bronx, in a walk-up, I really had no idea how lucky I was to have that ocean for two months, the "Hamptons" for poor folks. I sure know it now.
I remember everything about Rockaway, including the great Mehle House porch where my favorite aunt stayed, facing the ocean. As a kid, I thought it was "Mail House," a post office depository of some sort. For our wild Labor Day parties, we had belly dancing and Turkish coffee, often with "authentic" fortune-tellers who read "the cups." Visitors from Edgemere trekked to Arverne, where lots of us Sephardis stayed in bungalows and rooming houses, just to see our Turkish fetes and hear the music. We were all poor and lived cramped, sometimes four of us in two tiny rooms, but those years, roughly, 1960 to '65, were the most carefree of my life.
Fort Lauderdale, FL
We owned a large rooming house on Beach 74th street in Arverne, Queens, N.Y. We lived there from 1948 until they threw all very nice houses down for city projects. I used to work at Zipzers Hardware on Beach 69th Street. I lived at this address from the age of 8 until 23. I remember some great and fabulous times living in the Rockaways. I played basketball with the Rockaway JCC. For a long time I remember we had the Pomerantz boys and Bobby Shapiro. We had a coach from City College. I still have a photo of the team with coach, and the Jewish boys of the Rockaways. I’ve really great memories of living in the Rockaways. For so many years I always hung out on the boardwalk to meet all the city girls. I used to play pool at Gimpys’ pool hall. I always remember the big collie dog he had. I also used to go to Playland when I was a little boy. Got used to eating all the great food on the boardwalk. Moved To Far Rockaway when I married a Bronx girl From St. Lawrence Ave. Lived on Frisco Avenue and had two children there. I forgot I also played a lot of softball & stickball in the Rockaways.
I graduated from the High School Of Performing Arts For Acting And Music, I used to take the railroad and then the subway. From Rockaway to NYC. Every day living in the Rockaways I had a lot of dates with girls in New York City. By the way, my high school was in the movie FAME. My best friends at high school were Dom Deluise, Vic Morow from Combat TV series, and many famous actors.
I am 81 years young now, and live in Statesboro Georgia, near Savannah. I have six grown children and ten grandchildren. My first wife passed away. I now live with my second wife, who is the greatest southern belle – beautiful, brilliant, precious, and takes such great care of me.
I would love to hear from some old timers of the Rockaways. I have a lot of great stories and memories. I have an email and my phone numbers are as follows: my cell is 912-489-3600 and my home is 912-489-5600. By the way #42 Fredrick Burke is from Arverne, and #57 Anita Bluestone.
All the best and God Bless Y’all.
That so then-salty ocean, the bumpy stucco of that small magical cottage, the grit of sand on linoleum, the sweet summer smell of linoleum, and then ski-ball, and knishes, and Morris across Beach 28th St. He was a WW2 vet when Uncle Arthur and Aunt Bea took the cottage that summer and we escaped curling Bronx blacktop in another hot August. Our bikes rumbled with regular frequencies on the boardwalk, governed by the gap between each board. and we hit the bay for crabs, too. There's more, if I can dig it out. The tragedy is the destruction of these bungalows, a place where regular folks, just working-class folks, could get to the sea. Vanished, ruined; whether by another Robert Moses disaster or Bloomberg's steamroller. Whatever did it has left lasting sadness in its wake; and the lasting sweetness of memory for this time gone out of our lives.