2007-03-30 / Columnists

The Life Of Rockaway's 'Invaders' In the 1950's

Juvenile Book Tells Story Of Arverne Beachfront Hotel
A Wave Review By Howard Schwach

A Wave Review
By Howard Schwach

Those who lived in Rockaway when it was a small town with a winter population under 20,000 and a summer population that swelled into 200,000 each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day called those extra residents "The Invaders." It was our little in-joke, even though summers in Rockaway were generally much more exciting than the winter months.

There have been a number of remembrances of living in Rockaway during the years after World War II, but they have all been penned by full-time residents. "The Wacky World Of Winnie and Willie" talks about the Rockaway scene from the point of view of one of the invaders who came for the summer, but loved Rockaway as much as those who called it home.

Cheryl Lodico is a retired English Teacher who lives in Whitestone.

Her short book, published by Red Lead Press in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, says, "reliving a memory is like pursuing a dream. It may be real in our imagination, but being ephemeral and elusive in nature, is gone when we awake."

This book, apparently, takes on the task of reliving her childhood right after World War II, when her family owned the "most distinguished rooming house on Beach 63 Street."

Every summer she would spend her time at Playland, the beach and boardwalk and the stores around that Arverne street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

Her stories will bring back memories for both residents and invaders alike. It will also provide a snapshot of what it was like to be a kid in Rockaway during the summer when the beach was there both day and night, the boardwalk chock-full of arcades, fast food places and even a few movie theaters.

The major attraction no matter where you lived on the peninsula, however, was Playland, on Beach 96 Street between Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Shore Front Parkway.

It was a Mecca for kids, teens on dates and adults who were looking for a little minor-league excitement.

In her book, Lodico describes a day at Playland in 1945

"Each of us took turns going on the merry-go-round and the water rides with Patty. Then, Dad took over and let us have cotton candy and have our soft drinks.

"Gloria, Willie, Freddie and I went on the Ferris Wheel. Every time that Willie and I were at the highest point, we started to scream and hang onto each other for dear life. Then the ride continued and as our little car was pushed downward, Willie and I squealed with a mixture of fear and delight. The whole thing was a lot of fun, but it was a real relief to reach the ground and finally get off the ride.

"The best part of the evening was going through the Fun House.

I especially liked the distorted mirrors, where all of us looked like monsters with either tiny heads and big bodies or vice versa.

Our eyes were either tiny specks or so huge that they dominated all of our other features and made us look like alien creatures.

"I loved the last part of our Fun House experience, where we slid down a red carpet, which was like speeding down a hill, complete with bumps and ridges, which made us squeal with a combination of fear and delight."

All in all, the book is a good read for a teenager interested in finding out what Rockaway was like more than 60 years ago, or for an older person who simply wants to feel some nostalgia for the "good old days."

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