80 Year-Old Gang from Rockaway Park Reminisces
Les Landau is an old Rockaway hand who now lives in Maryland. He was one of the major contributor to The Wave’s 110th Anniversary issue published last July. He often keeps up with the paper through the Internet.
During the fall of 1937, eleven Rock away youths banded together to form a group called, "the Gang." Some time later, and with increased imagination, the group changed their name to Tau Gamma.
Tau Gamma’s chief purpose was to throw New Year’s Eve parties. The first outrageous party was held in 1937. After interruptions due to WW II, the group held parties until 1948. The highly successful parties became legen dary and Rockaway’s teenage community avidly sought invitations. By today’s standards, the parties were rather tame. There was moderate in gestion of alcoholic beverages and they didn’t recognize Far Rockaway High School’s dance rules, that partners had to be separated by at least 12 inches. Mr. Harry Luft, chairman of the FRHS Phys. Ed. Department, enthusiastically enforced this dancing code. He was often seen circulating the dance floor, taking measurements and separating dance partners.
Over the years, a tradition was es tab lished for Tau Gamma’s New Year’s Eve parties. At the stroke of midnight, the main switch was thrown plunging the house into darkness. After a bit of feverish smooching, the lights were turned on again. Although the parties were held in large houses clear of adults, no one ever lost their innocence at a Tau Gamma party.
The parties usually lasted until dawn, when the party-goers adjourned to the boardwalk to watch the sun rise from behind Atlantic Beach.
The eight remaining octogenarians (80 year-olds) were in grade school together at P.S. 114 and still communicate with each other, despite living as far away as Oregon, California, New Hampshire, and Washington D.C. Ironically, none of the group stayed in the Rockaways. The role-call of the group includes Daniel Bergman, Ed ward Biow, Herbert Forbes, Norman Goldberg, Felix Kleeburg, Lester Lan dau, Louis Lipshitz, Russell Mayer and Sanford Schultheis. Members C. William Robbins and Robert Gross have since passed.
Group member Les Landau, now living in Pennsylvania suffers from a personal nostalgia, whenever he returns to New York to visit his daughter & grandchildren in Park Slope. "We drive the length of Flatbush Avenue across the Marine Parkway Bridge to what was the eastern fence of Fort Tilden," says Landau. "A left turn and I’m home."
Landau thinks Rockaway still has some charm, but has lost many of the landmarks from his childhood. There are no more sandlots where he once played football and baseball. The Commodore and Seville Hotels, and the little church on the corner of Beach 125 Street on Washington Avenue (now Rockaway Beach Boulevard) are gone. On the bayfront, the yacht clubs and original Harbor Inn have disappeared. Curley’s Hotel and Baths is no longer on Beach 116 Street.
Landau usually stops and lingers in front of his old house on Beach 125 Street. Although he was born and raised into the house, the eighty-plus year old often wonders why he left Rockaway. "Now I regret that I did not stay and raise my children in Belle Harbor."