2009-08-14 / Top Stories

'A Candle Before Midnight'

Growing Up In Pre-WW II Rockaway
A Wave Review By Howard Schwach

"A Candle Before Midnight" tells the story of a young girl growing up in Rockaway during the Great Depression. "A Candle Before Midnight" tells the story of a young girl growing up in Rockaway during the Great Depression. It is not often that a Rockaway resident has a chance to read a gripping story of an immigrant family in Rockaway in the decade prior to World War II, when the Great

Depression was in full thrall and the peninsula was generally thought of as a summer resort.

"A Candle Before Midnight" is one such story; a gritty, true-to-life story of the hardships and triumphs of a mixed religion family living from hand-tomouth in the Edgemere section of the peninsula.

And, while the telling of the story is often flawed and choppy, the book, penned by Canadian Ed Vlahov, tells a seldom-related story, using as a backdrop the real locations and genuine personalities of Rockaway, locations and personalities that longtime Rockaway residents will remember.

The book recalls the story of Vlasta, the daughter of immigrant parents who, with three older sons, reside on the peninsula in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The family, Croatian Catholic and Muslim, strives to assimilate while it survives the depression.

Ed Vlahov Ed Vlahov Despised by her father because of a disability and her gender and ignored by her mother, Vlasta compensates by excelling both at PS 106 and at Far Rockaway High School in both academics and in sports, as the star swimmer on the high school championship team, before her life takes a turn in the last chapter of the book.

The teachers and coaches she encounters at the two local schools are real, as are the stores and storeowners along Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Edgemere.

The situations and the problems she encounters as she works at Playland and plays on the beach are rooted in reality, as well they should be, because the author grew up in Edgemere during that time period.

In fact, Vlasta's heroics in the Far Rockaway High School pool are recorded in the novel as having graced the sports pages of The Wave. You can't get more authentic than that.

If you are at all interested in what Rockaway was like in those tempestuous times, this is a book that you should read.

Vlahov is an American-born Canadian now living in Mexico. Brought up in a religious family in Rockaway during the depression, he went on to become a pharmaceutical chemist and violinist.

This is his third novel and the first set in Rockaway.

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