Letters from Our Readers:

In a message dated July 11, 2012, Robert Sharrott writes to Matt Bashie

 
 

Hi, Matt,

I just finished reading the first fourteen chapters of your autobiography "The Rockaway I Knew". These recollections bring back great personal memories. I was born in 1951. My family lived in Far Rockaway on Grassmere Terrace and Beach Channel Drive. My Father and his siblings grew up in the Rockaways. Later, my father relocated to Cedarhurst, where I grew up. I remember the Jamaica and Green bus lines well. In fact, my grandfather and father were mailmen in Far Rockaway from the early 1900s through my father's retirement in 1970. I love to be reminded of the store names. Bergers, the Chinese Palace, the pool hall, Miltie's candy store on Mott Ave, the M&M Diner, the Arcade, Woolworths, etc. They all bring back memories. Do you remember Calijuri's barbershop on Cornaga and Beach 21st Street?

My grandmother had friends that lived in Wavecrest Gardens. I remember walking up Beach 19th Street and she and her friends were up on the side hill. She would wave me up, show me off and make sure I had a couple of bucks for a Sun-E-Boy orange drink and a popsicle. I also had a good friend who lived off Crest Road in the WaveCrest Gardens. His name was Jerry Stienke. We would wait until his father went to his night job and then we would buy two six packs of beer and then listen to Frankie Vallie on the turntable. The rest of the time was spent on ther beach.

My family also belonged to Roche's beach club. It was an exciting place through the fifties. After the early sixties, my friends and I would spend more time walking the beach to 35th street for the waves. Along the way, we would make friends with the bungalow community girls. Eventually, Roches was torn down. I fondly remember the merry go round on the western end of Roche's. I remember the shack on Beach 19th Street on the west side before the boardwalk ramp. It sold ice cream and rented umbrellas. In 1970, I actually worked at the Sun-E- Boy plant off Cornaga Avenue.

My aunt, father and uncle all graduated Far Rockaway High School in 1928, 1929 and 1937 respectively. Their last name was Sharrott. My aunt would marry George Henglein and they settled on Beach 88th St. We still have a couple of generations living there. They had three sons, George, Charles and Christopher and one daughter, Antonia. They all graduated from FRHS from 1959 through 1966. Charles was on the Dolphin swim team. My Father was a lifeguard on Rockaways beaches and a local handball champ in his youth . My wife, Lillian, graduated Far Rock High in 1964. Her maiden name was Ringhiser.

In my youth, I spent a tremendous amount of time in the Rockaways sleeping at my grandmother's house. My Uncle would bring me to the local cab stand, the "Sevens" and he would grouse with all his childhood friends. We would stand on the corner of Mott and Central Ave on Saturday night with the newsboys and say hello to all the neighbors who would purchase their Sunday papers.

I attended Lawrence High School. Our high school teams would scrimmage against Jack Kershman's football team, the track team and the baseball team. We would also visit the school and play concerts with the Lawrence Band and Orchestra. My Rockaway friends, the Mahr brothers, Teddy, Bob and Tom all attended FRHS .We would compete against each other during the day and head for the beach at night. In fact, we would play PBA basketball above the Strand Theater.

I was entrenched in the many bars of the area. From the Trouville and Ye Olde Tavern to Flynns and McLaughlins, Connellys, McNulteys and O"Garas in Rockaway Beach. Playland Amusement Park was my favorite haunt. We would take re-ride after re-ride on the roller coaster. In fact, my younger daughter might have been one of Rockaway Playland's last patrons. We lived for several years on Beach 119th Street. My wife brought my daughter there for the kiddie rides.The amusement park closed soon after for the season. They never re opened.

I don't know if you were into the stamp hobby field. My uncle, Leonard, was a major coin and stamp dealer for decades in Rockaway. He attended many stamp shows. He use to take me into Manhattan for the stamp auctions. I loved traveling the subway system.

Far Rockaway was a sleepy village back when. My grandparents and my father and uncle were well known. I was always welcomed with their "village friends". Far Rock was a great place to grow up. From swimming to surfing to Playland to the smell of the salt air, there was no place else where I would have preferred to grow up. Especially, with the subway and bus lines, it was only ten cents to get into the city and twenty cents to get home. Manhattan and Yankee Stadium and real adventure were only 45 minutes away.

Of course, I can continue to bore you with Rockaway stories. Its been a pleasure reminiscing. Unfortunately, the Rockaways of our youth started to transform in 1970 and the character of Rockaway life would completely change by 1975. My Uncle passed on in the nineties and I sold the old house in 1998.

Although, I now live in Watertown, NY (Northern New York), I cherish my Rockaway roots. I still subscribe to the Wave.

Good health and Good Luck. Thanks for sharing great and precious memories

Bob Sharrott.


Matt Bashie's Reply, Dated July 11, 2012

Hello Robert,

Thanks for the very interesting eMail. I assure you, it was anything BUT boring. I cannot tell you how much I look forward to readers of the website contacting me and sending me their own personal memories of growing up in and around the Rockaways.

From a few of the things you mention in your eMail -- specifically the food shack (west side of Beach 19th -- right before the boardwalk ramp) and the carousel -- I figure you were in that area prior to the mid 1950s. Almost all of those concessions were demolished way before the close of the 50s.

You don't mention any of the schools you attended and indeed you did mention that although your father and grandfather grew up in Far Rockaway, you on the other hand were moved into the 5-Towns so you probably didn't experience any of the Rockaway schools.

Of course by the way you write and the things you say, you understand the very nature of the Rockaway area during the time of the mid century -- so you obviously remember just how lovely our little village looked and how friendly the people were to each other way back then. While it is fun to remember and to "relive in" those stores of our youth it is now just as sad to look back on what was lost -- not only our own childhoods but the innocence of the entire era.

Although I honestly do not remember the barber shop at Cornaga and Beach 21st, I did patronize a barber then located in the Chase Manhattan Bank building - on Cornaga between Beach 20th and Beach 19th Streets -- I think the place was called "Jerry's" although I am not positive of the name.

I fondly remember the Sun-E-Boy orange drinks -- sold in waxed fluted containers. I used to buy them and take them to the beach. I think they were fifteen cents at that time. Didn't Sun-E-Boy also make the same type of beverage in a grape flavor? Somehow, I keep confusing the name with "Sun Dew" drinks.

The only "hint" I have of your age is a friend you mention in your eMail. I remember Jerry Steinke -- a small guy; had a peachfuzz complexion; a baby face. He would have been around 15 when I first met him. I spoke to him once or twice when he was a student at Far Rockaway High School. I guarantee you he would not remember me. If memory serves, Jerry would have graduated in 1969. Using this as a possible guide post, that would put Jerry at about 60 years of age. Can it really be that long ago? Time certainly does have a way of slipping by so quickly --whether or not we are having fun!

Well, Robert. You have read through about half of the chapters of my autobiography -- and I thank you for that as well as for taking the time to write to me. I don't know if the second half of my book will be as interesting to you -- inasmuch as you did not attend the local schools. Certainly living in Cedarhurst you developed other interests and had other and perhaps even more rewarding experiences in areas closer to your own home. I am not that familiar with the western sections of Nassau County -- I only drove through them on my way to or from some other event.

Thanks so much for reading and thanks again for writing!

I wish you the very best!

Matthew Bashie