2010-07-09 / Columnists

Notes from the High C’s

Rockaway Music and Arts Council
by Sharon Gabriel

It’s been a while since my last column but we have been working diligently on our newest project, “The Bungalows of Rockaway,“ and we will be having the premiere of this new film on Sunday evening, August 22, at the Rockaway Theatre Company theater in Fort Tilden. Everyone is welcome.

Jennifer Callahan and Elizabeth Harris, the producer and director, have been working on this project for several years. It is finally completed and ready to be shown. A few years ago, we screened the unfinished film called a “rough cut” at RTC. After that there was a partial screening at The Museum of The City of New York and that was filled to capacity with over 300 in attendance. As with any film, and especially with an independent one as this is, financing is the biggest mountain to climb and so it took many years to get all the funds together. How did RMAC get involved? Well, a few years back, Jennifer and Elizabeth got in touch with Barbara Eisenstadt and asked if Rockaway Music & Arts Council would be able to help them obtain some financing. We agreed and have been working with both ladies over the years. As a matter of fact, Barbara suggested they speak to me since I have been in Rockaway almost all my life and I could give them some background. We met at the old Sunset Diner on 116 and they brought a camera and interviewed me about life in Rockaway way back when. Of course, that was supposed to be in the film, but, not to my surprise, I ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor. It was fun in any event and the girls went on to many more interesting interviews than my interview. You will see them all in the film; famous people and just everyday people who lived in Rockaway in the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. Life was different then ... a lot easier, but a lot more difficult in many respects. People did not have money and it was an experience to come to the beach. You could rent a bungalow for a few hundred bucks, your children would be safe, the air was fresh and you enjoyed a leisurely summer before going back to the city. Today when you speak to many people and you mention Rockaway you hear, “Oh, my parents had a bungalow in Edgemere for the summer, what fun that was.” They have great remembrances of years gone by. That is what is captured in this film.

The first bungalows seemed to appear about 1905 and by 1933 there were over 7000 on our thriving peninsula. Today fewer than 500 remain. What a pity.

I can remember my parents telling me about the big boarding houses we would see in Arverne and Edgemere when I was a child. It seems that in the 1920s those houses were hotels and on any Saturday evening there would be dining and dancing to a big band and everyone would be in formal clothes. How times have changed!!!! The Marx Brothers were here on the beach and are shown in the film.A few very funny scenes are with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and her father who lived here for a time. Many others are interviewed and we know this film will bring nostalgia back to many of us.

I have recently learned from Jennifer and Elizabeth that Channel 13 has seen the film and they are negotiating to show it at some time in the future which is a great thing, but we hope that you will join us on Sunday evening, August 22 for the opening night and a few refreshments.

Please watch this paper for an ad and further information.

On another subject, you know that due to lack of progress with Gateway, we will not be having any concerts or our Fall Festival this year. It is very unfortunate that after 25 years, we have been priced out of the park. Our problems with the park have been taken up by other local organizations and hopefully they will be able to make some progress with the park and our elected officials, who have not bothered to answer any of our letters.

We pay their salaries with our rather high taxes, and cannot use a park that we pay for. Very sad. But to keep this column on an up scale, we are looking forward to “The Bungalows of Rockaway” and seeing you at the theatre for the film and a little bubbly.

See you around the neighborhood.

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