2008-02-15 / Community

'There Used To Be A Boardwalk Here'Takes Web By Storm

Song Evokes Rockaway In The 1950's
By Howard Schwach

The Boardwalk at Beach 35 Street, circa 1950. The Boardwalk at Beach 35 Street, circa 1950. tribute to Rockaway's past has been traveling the World Wide Web at the speed of light in the past week, ever since the song, penned 25 years ago, was posted to the Far Rockaway website on Tuesday.

en Burdick, Far Rockaway High School class of 1967, wrote the song as a paean to the Rockaway he remembered as a youth.

Long summer days on Beach 35 Street, long summer nights at beach parties or on the boardwalk, with stores, food shops and entertainment venues such as skee-ball from Beach 9 Street to Beach 116 Street.

Skip Weinstock, FRHS Class of 1963, says of the posting, "The video is a tribute to Rockaway Beach of the past, a place that no longer exists. Ben Burdick has written a tribute to a time and place long gone, but which lives on in our collective memories."

The boardwalk at Beach 35 Street still exists. To the north, in place of the row after row of bungalows that once populated the area in summer months, stand empty lots and fences.

On the boardwalk itself, there is no longer a skee-ball parlor, Fascination (the game that thrills the nation), a penny arcade, Jerry's Knishes or the fish bowl-ping-pong ball game store. Now, there is nothing but mile after mile of emptiness, punctuated by an occasional Parks Department building or a bathroom.

A typical bungalow colony at Beach 39 Street during Rockaway's heyday. A typical bungalow colony at Beach 39 Street during Rockaway's heyday. Burdick wrote of the song, "In 1982, I woke up in the morning with the melody and most of the lyrics and even the arrangement imprinted on my brain. I'm sure that it had been festering in my mind for years. I'm a Rockaway kid and there was a part of me that was mourning the loss of the place. At the

time, my parents still lived in Far Rockaway and every summer I'd go out there to go to the beach. Of course, out of habit, I'd always drive to Beach 35 Street, park the car and spend the day.

"But, by 1982, I had the beach to myself. On a hot July 4, the total population of Beach 35 Street was my wife, my dog and me, and all the ghosts. It was like Dresden after the war. Nothing was left. The bungalows, the great hotels, Fascination, Paul's Bumper Cars, Jerry and Rita's Knishes (I worked there for two summers), Howe's Baths, Sam's, the movie theater, Stadler's Miniature Golf, the Italian Ice place, Tuckee Cup, the kiddie park on Beach 32 Street, Big Steve's rigged games… Gone!"

Weinstock took the song and gave it a visual substance by using photos and movies that he had collected over the years or that had been submitted to the website. For anybody who grew up in Rockaway during the 40's, 50's and early 60's, this is a must-see. Equally, for those who want to see what Rockaway was like when their parents were young, they should log on as well. The entire production can be seen at www.farrockaway.com/benbudickvideo.html.

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Howard, I went to the FarRockaway website and may I thank you for the "link!" Also, thanks to the wonderful alumni for so many wonderful memories.
The slide presentation was incredible!

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