2012-06-08 / Columnists

Rock Solid

Images of America: Rockaway Beach Celebrates Our History
Commentary By Vivian Rattay Carter

The New York Landmarks Preservation Commission has just selected the month of June for a special celebration of the historic beaches, parks and pools of New York City. What auspicious timing — my new book, “Images of America: Rockaway Beach,” was published this week! And how fitting that the month concludes with the 115th anniversary of the founding of the Village of Rockaway Beach (which occurred on July 1, 1897). Could this be yet more impetus for a Rockaway resurgence?

I am looking forward to speaking about my research, and signing copies of the book, in sTudio 7 Gallery of Rockaway Artists Alliance, Fort Tilden, this Monday, June 11, at 7:30 p.m. What a fun and funky space it is, repurposed with care into a great local arts venue by RAA’s devoted community volunteers. All are invited to attend.

If you can’t make the RAA event, you can also purchase a signed copy of the book from me at the Knights of Columbus, another vibrant community organization, at 333 Beach 90 Street, on Tuesday, June 12 from 6:30-7:30 p.m., just prior to the monthly meeting of Community Board 14. To order a signed copy by mail, or find a list of local stores selling the book, visit my website, Oy Vey Rockaway, www.rockviv.com. The initial supply apparently sold out at both Arcadia and Amazon, but I have been assured that more will have been reprinted by the time this column appears in The Wave.

Although there are many unique and surprising things about the book, researchers will appreciate the fact that it contains a list of further reading resources, or bibliography. Biblio graphies are not found in many books, these days. As a former teacher, I decided to add this list as a way of assisting students writing papers about the Rockaways.

Readers should be intrigued to learn the titles of six additional books about the Rockaways dated from 1917- 2007, five pamphlets and research guides (1881-2002), a magazine, The Rockaway Review, published regularly by the Chamber of Commerce from 1935- 1982, and, of course, this newspaper, The Wave, which commenced publication in 1893, is available on microfilm at the history room of the Queens Central Library on Merrick Boulevard in downtown Jamaica. Those of the older generation will fondly remember microfilm and microfiche machines. The younger generation will probably sit before such a machine totally befuddled, wondering where the “back” button is!

The entire stack of 11 books and pamphlets listed in the bibliography probably weighs less than a sixth-grader’s backpack at Scholars’ Academy. But I defy you to walk into a branch library anywhere on the peninsula (or in the entire borough of Queens) and find copies of more than three of these books and pamphlets on the spot. For that, you need to trek to the history room in Jamaica. The average Rockawayite is not making that journey, I guarantee you. Savvy local researchers know that The Wave (which houses The Rockaway Museum’s collection) does have about half of these books on their shelf.

So, I’m now moving on to my next project, which is to work with the local librarians to improve their Rockaway history collections. Due to budget cuts, only about five copies of each new Arcadia history book can be purchased for the entire Queens Library system (and there are, by now, scores of interesting books about outer borough neighborhoods like Richmond Hill, Jamaica Estates, Flushing and Fresh Meadows). I have donated some copies of my book to the libraries, and am looking for other individuals and businesses who would like to add local history books to our area’s public collections. If you wish to donate materials, please earmark them specifically for our peninsula’s branch libraries when you contact the Queens Library. Their administrative offices are at 89-11 Merrick Boulevard, Jamaica NY 11432, and they can be found on the web at www.queenslibrary.org.

Both Matthew Allison, manager at Peninsula Branch (Beach 94 and Rockaway Beach Blvd.), and the newly arrived manager at Seaside (Beach 115th Street), Kacper Jarecki, have been very supportive.

They invited me to speak about “Images of America: Rockaway Beach,” at Peninsula on June 18 (6:30 p.m.) and at Seaside on July 16 (6 p.m.).

All are invited to those events, as well.

Matthew and Kacper are also receptive to the idea I proposed of forming a group that will read a different book about the history of Rockaway each month, and then meet for an in-depth discussion.

The 1940 census figures were recently released online, together with an interesting citywide market study carried out by the metropolitan newspapers in the early 1940s.

Even with its record 48 million summer visitors in 1950, Rockaway Beach was cited by the study as “one of the least important markets in Queens.” This raises the tantalizing question – what happened to the post-war Rockaway Beach redux?

Before that question can be answered, however, we have to gather enough materials to loan to all who would like to participate in the book group.

Are we up to that challenge?

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