2005-06-17 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

It is always instructive to go back through past editions of The Wave. Pick a year, any year, and even a quick scan of the issues will lead a reader to believe that nothing changes much in Rockaway. The old saw, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” certainly attends.

For example, I recently grabbed the 1955 bound volume of Wave editions. Out of curiosity about what the issues were fifty years ago, I turned to the June 16, 1955 issue,almost fifty years to the day, and what I found was hardly surprising.

Many of the hot issues that were being debated ffifty years ago are still being debated today in civic and political meetings throughout the community.

The Rockaway Chamber of Commerce, concerned over the lack of developable land in the west end of the community asked Robert Moses, the city’s Parks Commissioner, to relinquish the Neponsit Hospital in order to sell it to the Neponsit Homeowners Association.

The Association, in a statement issued to The Wave, said that it would demolish the hospital and build “appropriate housing stock” on that land.

We all know what happened to that land more than forty years later. It now stands fallow after Mayor Giuliani drove all the residents out in the dark of night to provide one of his Republican friends with the land for a hotel. It didn’t work fifty years ago and it didn’t work more recently either.

The Belle Harbor Property Owners Association, at its monthly meeting, discussed two major issues: The effect of the mass transit program to the Belle Harbor community and the parking problems in the community, particularly during the summer.

That meeing could have been held today, and the organization’s members would not have been greatly surprised at what they heard, although some of the discussions seems slightly archaic today. Imagine forcing people to dress before coming off the beach. Imagine asking people to behave well so as not to reduce the community’s property values.

The association urged members to park in their driveways rather than on the street, because street parking, “reduced the community’s property values.”

In addition, the association urged all of its membership to “dress in good taste and keep noise to a minimum.”

It also reminded residents that wearing beach attire off the beach was inappropriate.

“Don’t lower the values or the standards of Belle Harbor,” the organization’s president urged.

The Peninsula GOP organization had similar concerns that week.

“There are too many outsiders parking in our community, particularly on the north south streets between the beach and the bay,” the president said. He urged a campaign to get local legislators to restrict summer parking on all west end streets. He also asked that all local parking lots remain open 24-hours-a-day during the summer months.

The organization urged that the city work to keep the Long Island Railroad line over the bay intact rather than move to a larger rapid transit plan.

Leonard Scarborough, the African-American Assemblyman in Arverne, told his club, The Arverne Hammel Democratic Association, that the Welfare Department was ruining Rockaway by sending “bums” to live in the traditional summer housing being converted to all-year-round homes.

The Wave’s editorial that week asked the Navy, which was placing jet aircraft at Floyd Bennett Field for the first time, to cooperate in insuring that the noisy aircraft use flight patterns that keep the planes away from Rockaway.

The Federal government announced that there would be funding in 30 to 60 days for both the Arverne and Hammel slum renewal projects. The project for Seaside was put on hold and there was no action given on the Edgemere project.

Stella Maris High School announced that it would begin its new building in November.

More than 300 employees of the Home Curtain Company on Beach 51 Street went back to work after a short strike.

Junior High School 198 hosted the first school show in the new building by presenting “The Prince and the Pauper” at the school.

Rockaway Motors at 80-02 Beach Channel Drive offered a special on a new Studebaker Automobile. The car went for $1,776 with free gas for the first 1,000 miles, free oil for six months and 36 months to pay.

A telephone increase went into effect throughout the community. Subscribers would have to pay thirty cents more each month for their service.

The Gem Theater in Far Rockaway, billed as an “art theater,” was showing “The Glass Slipper,” with Leslie Caron and “The Detectives,” with Alec Guiness. The Rivoli on Beach 92 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard was showing “Battle Cry” and “The Fighting Sea Bees.” The Park Theater on Beach 116 Street featured “Underwater” with Jane Russell and “Cattle Queen of Montana,” starring Barbara Syanwyck.

Merit Electronics advertised a home service call for your ailing television set for $2.50 plus parts.

Meyer’s Men’s Shop on Central Avenue in Far Rockaway advertised Father’s Day specials, including SWANK products such as cuff links. The most expensive were sterling silver cuff links that went for $11.

Camp Shoes advertised Tennis Shoes [sneakers] for $5.95. The new Dotty’s Appetizing opened at 115-02 Rockaway Beach Boulevard with many food specials.

You could use the swimming pool at the Park Inn Hotel on Beach 115 Street and the Boardwalk for the season for only $12. Lockers could be had for sixty cents a day, a dollar on the weekends.

The Bohack Supermarket, one of the largest in Rockaway, had Tuna Fish for thirty-one cents can. A jar of peanut butter was thirty-five cents, a loaf of bread, fifteen cents.

Chicken was thirty-nine cents a pound and prime ribs went for fifty-five cents a pound.

Playland was open on the weekends, with its kiddie park drawing large crowds. The park was getting ready for its opening in two weeks with many new rides and attractions.

Some of the letters sent to The Wave that week worried about parking nearby the two Rockaway hospitals – the “new” Rockaway Beach Hospital (PHC) and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Far Rockaway. Several of the letters urged the city to provide free parking for those who are ill and infirm, and “can’t even afford health care nonetheless parking.”

The more things change and time goes by, the more they stay the same.

Look at the issues discussed in 1955 and the community’s reaction to thjose issues.

You can find the same issues in recent Wave stories and editorials.

That’s the way it goes. Those who don’t understand history are destined to relive it.

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