2012-09-28 / Columnists

Rock Solid

Rattling The Skeletons In Rockaway’s Closet
Commentary By Vivian Rattay Carter

Rockaway is a land of mystery. Did you ever wonder why we have a yacht club without a dock, and a graffiti-covered concrete box on an otherwise beautiful, but deserted, stretch of bayfront beach? And what’s up with that house on Shorefront Parkway that looks like it was cut in half?

It’s not easy to unravel these mysteries.

Although we have only one cemetery on the peninsula, there are plenty of skeletons in Rockaway’s closet, waiting to be discovered. October is National Book Month, and I am one of many who wish to stave off the demise of the book. If you agree with me that reading is a better hobby than collecting molds, spores, and fungi, join us on Monday, October 1 for the kickoff of a new local book discussion group, the Oceanus Bone Diggers Club. The group will meet on Mondays (October 1, 22 and 29, and November 5, 19 and 26) from 5:30-6:45 p.m., at Seaside Library, Beach 117 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

This club is not about passive amusement. Instead, I’m hoping to appeal to those with two interests: (1) reading and discussing books about Rockaway history; and (2) actively working to protect and preserve our local history. Pick-axes, shovels, and headlamps are not required. Passion to be part of a new corps of local historians is, however, essential! Look for more info at www.rockviv.com. Or, stop by Seaside Library and speak with Librarian Kacper Jarecki. He is new to the community, and has launched lots of fun programs to draw people into Seaside. Don’t be surprised if he challenges you to a game of ping-pong when you stop by…

I’m also taking my book tour on the road during October. I’ll be making more public appearances throughout the area in one month than Helen Marshall made all summer. If you were away on Labor Day weekend, check out the September 2 New York Post for their probing investigation and clever headline: “Beep is Helen on Wheels.” Gotta’ love The Post!

On Tuesday, October 2 at 5:30 p.m., I’ll be speaking about “The Arcadia Books Phenomenon” at Barnes & Noble, 176- 60 Union Turnpike in Fresh Meadows. Students in Professor Szylvian’s Public History course at St. John’s University will be asking me questions about researching and writing a local history book. The public is welcome to attend.

The Queens Historical Society, 143-35 37th Avenue in Flushing, has just finished renovating historic Kingsland Homestead, where they are housed. A new exhibit is on display, “Permanent Residence: Uncovering the Cemeteries of Queens.” A good time to visit is Sunday, October 14, from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m., when I will be presenting historic photos of Rockaway Beach, and speaking about the dilapidated cemetery in downtown Jamaica that is the unfortunate final resting place of Rockaway Beach pioneers Fannie and Michael Holland, and most of their offspring. If you decide to attend, arrive early, because just a few blocks west on Northern Boulevard, historic Quaker Meeting House, proud birthplace of religious freedom in America, is open to the public for tours, following 11:00 a.m. Sunday service. You can also grab a tasty and inexpensive snack of dumplings, noodle soup or Asian-style crispy fried chicken, at one of the meccas of Queens cuisine. It’s my daughter’s favorite place to chow down!

I will be a featured speaker for the Herbert Johnson Lecture Series at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Broad Channel, a four-part event sponsored by Gateway National Recreation Area, which occurs annually each October. My slide show and author talk is set for Wednesdsay, October 17 at 7 p.m. I’ll be discussing “The Legacy of the Pioneers at the Shore: Blessing or Curse?”

In the latter part of October, I will also be signing and selling copies of my book in the lobby at performances of the Rockaway Theatre Company’s new production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” Performances run from October 12-28, with 8 p.m. shows on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays.

The holidays will be coming soon, and a local history book is more than a gift — it becomes a treasured family keepsake. Through the magic of the Internet, you can place a credit card order, and I will mail a signed copy anywhere in the world. Books usually arrive within a week (add a few extra days for locations outside New York). Go to www.rockviv.com and click “buy now.” Send instructions on how you want the book to be signed, to VCARTER@ nyc.rr .com. Have printed books seen their last? Say, it ain’t so, Joe.

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