2009-07-03 / Community

Rockaway Memories Of Old Days Gone By

Left to right: Senior activity therapist Beth Gutman, registrants Gerard Lawless, Anne Armstead, Clay Boyd, Lenny Factor, Adelaida Serrano, Anita Cammy, Helen Depieza, and Wave Managing Editor Howard Schwach. Left to right: Senior activity therapist Beth Gutman, registrants Gerard Lawless, Anne Armstead, Clay Boyd, Lenny Factor, Adelaida Serrano, Anita Cammy, Helen Depieza, and Wave Managing Editor Howard Schwach. Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay, the Rockaway peninsula has a diverse history. In honor of Brooklyn Queens Day on June 8, "The Wave" newspaper Managing Editor Howard Schwach graciously provided an historical talk about the Rockaway peninsula to registrants from DSSM Neponsit Adult Day Health Care, located at Beach 102 Street. He also presented them with copies of The Wave's "Celebrating Our 110th Anniversary" edition, which included old photographs of a bygone era. This community was originally inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans, sold to the Dutch by the Moheqan tribe, along with most of Long Island, in 1639 and to the British in 1685. Finally the land was sold to Richard Cornell. The name "Rockaway" is the later corruption of a Lenape word that sounded phonetically something like "rack-a-wak-e," and referred to the area. In 1898, the village of Rockaway Park became incorporated with the City of Greater New York.

In September of 1892, a huge fire in the Seaside section between Beach 102 Street and Beach 106 Street destroyed everything in its path. On May 28, 1893, the first edition of The Wave, named not for beach waves but for the "waves of fire," hit the stands.

Schwach, a Rockaway native, shared his happy childhood memories back to World War II. He remembered when the area was filled with grand hotels and beach bungalows. The boardwalk was bustling with summer visitors and residents enjoying Playland amusement rides and games, dining in oceanfront restaurants, attending movies, buying souvenirs, shopping in Woolworth's and viewing the fantastic Wednesday night fireworks. Wives with young children would spend many summers living in small bungalows across the peninsula while their husbands worked in the hot city, coming to Rockaway for the weekend. Back in those days, the area was a two-fare zone to ride on public transportation. Schwach also brought back memories for the program's residents. Ms. Adelaida Serrano remembered when the ocean water met with the bay and when she first moved into the Hammels projects and going to Playland with her children. Ms. Chester Backus recalled many local stores no longer around.

As the saying goes, as time goes by, nothing stays the same. At present we are seeing the transformation in this ocean community of vacant land that was once occupied by rows and rows of bungalows to brand new homes by "Arverne By The Sea" developers and other builders. Many registrants see the new construction sites and are wondering when they will see the new Stop 'N' Shop Supermarket and other amenities after so many years of seeing advertisements for the future of Rockaway.

Young or old, once you have walked on the shores of Rockaway, it's hard to get the sand out of your shoes or to forget the carefree days of a summer day at the beach.

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