2011-07-01 / Editorial/Opinion

It’s My Turn

By Julie Rosenbaum Engelhardt

The author of this article grew up in Rockaway, moving away at the age of 12.

I was just remembering being a little girl and growing up in Rockaway Beach, in Queens, New York City, until I was 12 years old. What an experience and what a unique, wonderful life.

We didn’t have much and lived in a Veterans Housing Project, which was built for World War II veterans who were home from the war. It was called a medium-income project, but let me tell you, we had very little.

We lived in four rooms. I remember the little kitchen where our table and chairs were. There was a little living room that fit a couch, a chair, some tables and our little television set. My parents had one bedroom and I shared the other with my brother, Warren. We lived on the sixth floor, the top one in the project.

Because the airport was so close, my mom used to kiddingly say, “I just put some coffee out for the pilot.”

We lived four blocks from the beach and I remember my mom packing fruit and juice in a straw basket and walking to the ocean and being so excited.

In my mind’s eye, I can still see the drugstore my parents would take us to once a week. We sat at the fountain and had malts and egg creams (seltzer, chocolate syrup and milk all mixed together). Boy, was that great — but not as great as walking on the boardwalk and getting knishes and hot dogs with lots of relish. We always went to fireworks over the ocean on Wednesday nights.

We could not afford vacations or more than one television. We could afford only one car, which my dad took to work. I was living in the time of “Leave It To Beaver.” However, we were far removed from the fictional suburban home the Cleaver family lived in. I went to Public School No. 42 and I learned to play with all races and cultures. That is something I am so happy about because I never saw segregation or bigotry. We would go across from the school to the little store where we could get penny candy or even a pickle right out of the barrel. I can still hear the ice cream man ringing his bell and remember whining until my mother gave us money to buy a treat.

Once in a while we would go to a pizza parlor and eat a big pizza pie with a pitcher of Coke. Mom and dad had so little, but made sure we went into the city to see the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall and to the rodeo when it came to town. On rare occasions, mom would take me to a Broadway play. I loved Rockaway Playland and went on the big roller coaster with my dad.

I was excited when we finally moved, when I was in sixth grade, into a home of our own on Long Island. However, I didn’t realize that a wonderful time with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins was about to fade into the distance.

Rockaway Beach will always be embedded deep in my heart.

Most of all, when I feel down, I can transport myself to a boardwalk that is a thousand miles away. I can smell the little concessions with all the great food and feel the warmth of being a happy little kid, who had more love and crazy times than anybody could hope for.

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What a fine remembrance.

What a fine remembrance.

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