2004-05-14 / Columnists

From the

By Howard Schwach

It is actually fun to be the editor of a community newspaper when your past is so intertwined with the community that you are constantly reminded about your parents and relatives each time you read a paper from the past.

When I was researching past issues for our 110 Anniversary Issue last summer, I came upon such artifacts of the past as my birth announcement (November 8, 1939 edition) and my Bar Mitzvah announcement (October 29, 1952 edition). For a minor historian, it doesn’t get any better.

In a 1952 edition of The Wave I found a front page story about my mother, Rosalind Schwach, who was then the PA president of PS 106 in Edgemere. She called a two-day boycott of the school because it did not have the requisite blackout shades (this, you’ll remember, was Korean War and Cold War time) on its windows. By the paper’s account, the boycott was 100 percent successful and the school soon got its missing shades.

In the May 20, 1954 issue of The Wave, which I was reading earlier this week, I found a small article about the coming summer season at the Ten Mile River scout camp in upstate New York. "Stanley Schwach Serves On Camp Committee," the subhead says. Stanley was my father and, during those years, I attended TMR each summer for at least two weeks, my mother joining my father and I by staying at a hotel in White Lake for those two weeks.

Just reading that article brought back memories of childhood that I hadn’t thought of in years.

On the front page of the same issue are two stories that evoked memories as well.

A few months ago, I moved to an apartment on the west end and was going through some old photograph albums that had been locked away for many years with an eye to culling my photograph collection. Among the photos was one of me as a young boy looking at a lineup of propeller-driven aircraft, both fighters and transports. I also remembered a fly-over of some jet plane, but I was not sure that my memory was correct on that issue. I tried to think of where it might have been taken, and then remembered that my father had taken me to Floyd Bennett Field (then an active Navy airfield) when I was 11 or 12 years old. This week, in that paper, I found the rest of the answer to the question of where and when the picture was taken.

"100 Thousand See Armed Forces Day Show," the headline proclaimed.

The article pointed out that "many aircraft were on view on the tarmac" and that a "formation flying Naval planes put on a display as a contingent of jet planes from Mitchell Air Force Base buzzed the field."

Ten years later, I wound up doing my boot camp at Floyd Bennett Field as part of my Naval Reserve commitment. I probably marched on the same tarmac where I saw the planes and probably mustered in the same hangers where the exhibits were held. It is truly a small world.

There are a few other articles of interest in that edition of The Wave:

• The Broad Channel Civic Union demanded that the city advise them of what officials planned to do with the land under the homes in the island community.

• Three teenagers attacked the owner of the Harbor Rest Restaurant on Beach 116 Street when he asked them to quiet down or leave.

• A Rockaway youth who was a caddy at the Lawrence Country Club was awarded monetary damages as the result of an incident when he was hit on the head by a golf ball while he was working.

Issues large and small, all covered by The Wave.

Which brings me to a thought. People often ask how I decide what news gets into The Wave each week.

One of the points I use for making that decision is the understanding that The Wave is really the newspaper of record for Rockaway and has been for more than 110 years.

A front-page story on a recent election does not usually sell many papers. Election results are not a "sexy" story that sells, but the thought that 25 years in the future, somebody might access the paper’s website looking for the results of that election, drives me to place it where it could, in the future, be easily found.

Not a day goes by here at The Wave that somebody does not call us or email us to find out something about Rockaway’s history, about a home they once lived in, about an obituary of a relative long gone, about a story that appeared in the paper decades ago.

I wish that there were a way to make the paper’s entire history available on the web. Unfortunately, that would cost millions of dollars to achieve.

Only the past few years are available at our website, www.rockawave.com.

The fact is, however, that anybody accessing those past few years will find a record of what has happened in Rockaway during that time, with all of its beauty and all of its warts.

For example, type "LILCO MGP Site" into the browser and you will find two dozen stories, editorials and letters that have appeared in the paper.

Type "American Airlines Flight 587" into the browser and you will find the most comprehensive coverage in America about the Belle Harbor crash.

That is as it should be. It happened in Rockaway, and The Wave has been and continues to be Rockaway’s newspaper of record.

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