2010-06-18 / Letters

Also Raised in Rockaway

Dear Editor,

This letter is inspired by the Mildred Finneran letter published in your May 28 edition. My name is Betty (Gaffney) Palmer and my years in Rockaway are among the most cherished in my life.

Mildred and I, (assuming she was Mildred Kelly before marriage) were classmates at PS 44 in the 5th, 6th and 7th grades (1942 - 1944).

The youngest of four children, I came to Rockaway in 1933 from Manhattan at the age of 2 with my widowed mother, a brother and two sisters.

In the beginning we rented an apartment over The Wave office at the Boulevard and Beach 88 Street. Our landlord was Hubert D. Murray, longtime publisher of The Wave. We later lived on Beach 87 Street and subsequently on Holland Avenue.

After the 7th grade at PS 44, my family had to leave Rockaway and go to New Jersey with my family. Happily for me, my mother got homesick for Rockaway so we returned there when I was 17. As one thing so often leads to another, I met my husband, Art Palmer, at Rockaway’s Playland in 1949 and married him in 1952.

When my brother’s wife became ill and needed a warmer climate, Art and I got caught up in a family exodus, leaving for Florida in 1956. Our nostalgia for Rockaway set in quickly. I guess it was the fresh salty air, the beautiful beaches, diving through the waves, walking the long boardwalk, visiting Playland. I personally missed the wonderful childhood friends and acquaintances like Mildred Finneran, Eleanor Kusar, Joan Ketchum, Lillian Monahan, Kathleen Walker, Jimmy Myrich, William Frank, Timothy Dillon, Tommy Hughes, Harold Winters, and, of course, William Finneran.

The Rockaways were like a dream place to grow up. In fact, in retrospect, you tend to feel sorry for those who had to live somewhere else. Besides all its other attributes, Rockaway could be a fun and friendly place.

By nature of their work, you don’t expect policemen to be too outgoing and cheerful but Patrolman Sam Gallagher, a longtime family friend, ran into my husband and I one day near Beach 90th Street and the Freeway. He had been recently featured in a national magazine for the distinction of having delivered a phenomenal number of newborns before the ambulances ever arrived.

When we asked him how his delivery service was doing he replied, “Fine, and I’ve got something to show you” whereupon he reached into the pocket of his uniform jacket and took out a cylinder shaped case about the size of a fat crayon. He opened the case and pulled out what looked like a kind of weight on the end of a short string. Holding the string between two fingers while letting the weight dangle he asked “What do you think of this?”

“What is it?” my husband asked.

“A sex detector,” Sam explained, “You hold it over the expectant mother and if the weight swings in a circle she’ll be having a girl and if it just swings back and forth, it’ll be a boy.”

If Mildred reads this letter and can’t quite remember me she can find my picture online at http://new.music.ya hoo.com/betsy-palmer/tracks/come-tome baby—28035648.

Also, if she wishes, she can contact me at artpalmersr@yahoo.com


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