2013-06-14 / Community

Rocholl Pens “Before You Were Born”

By Dan Guarino

In a place like Broad Channel where there is no end of stories, and families go back sometimes to the community’s founding, award-winning photographer Marguerite Rocholl has decided to set down her own family tale.

Recently Green Door magazine described her book, “Before You Were Born,” like this; “This is one of those memoirs that hits you afterwards. Weeks later you will be thinking about (her) upbringing and three generations of a family who settled on a small island… called Broad Channel. “While the book will surely be enjoyed by those who grew up in Broad Channel, the memoir reminds us all of a simpler time, the passage of familial life seen through the eyes of nostalgia but not without complexity.”

Rocholl recently took some time to discuss with The Wave not only “Before You Were Born,” but her interesting family, days gone by and growing up in Broad Channel.

Q: What prompted you to write this book? How did it come about?

A: I have always loved photography and thought that my father, Ed Clarity had the very best job - a staff photographer for the New York Daily News. I was inspired to write about his work but always came up empty. I just did not know where to begin until I had the thought to write about it from the memories of my childhood. One day I just sat down and the words never stopped. My childhood memories had been stored for years just waiting to come to life.

Q: How far back does your family go in Broad Channel?

A: My maternal grandparents were one of the early full time settlers on the island of Broad Channel and that would also include my mother who was probably a young girl of about eight years old. They bought a very small house and had it moved to 11th Road and over the years the house grew as so did the family. They spent the first two winters in Rockaway and my mother went to school in Rockaway as there was no school on the Island.

Q: How long did it take you to write the book? Is this your first?

A: It took me three years to write the book- it was the best of times and the worst of times. My laptop went everywhere and I love the memories of writing a chapter while vacationing on a dude ranch in Wyoming or facing the sunset behind the mountains in the Catskills. It is my first book, and right now I don’t see a second, but who knows.

Q: How did you come up with all those fascinating things about Broad Channel in the past? The stores, the people, the places?

A: I have had these frozen images stored with my thoughts and memories and they are as vivid as what I experienced yesterday. Those memories of the people and places of Broad Channel just came to life and now maybe they will finally rest.

Q: What was one thing that surprised you the most in doing this research or in writing the book?

A: Most of the stories about my grandparents in the years before I was born were as funny and outrageous as my grandfather. However in doing research and talking to family, I never knew my grandfather, who did make some runs with bootlegging, many more than some. (He) was finally a target of a FBI raid and his boat was sunk and a friend and partner was killed. That was quite a surprise to me.

Q: Is there one story that stands out as a favorite?

A: One of my favorite stories was an assignment that sent my father to Rome, Italy. He met with Pope Pius XII and not only photographed him, but had a lengthy conversation with him. To my father it was probably the most impressive interview and photograph of his career and probably my most important memory of my father’s work.

Q: Your Dad was a talented, well known photographer. Where can we see more examples of his work?

A: The Daily News has a website with archives of my father’s work along with other retired photographers. I have some wonderful photographs of President Kennedy that were never published.

Q: You are also an accomplished photographer.

Where can we see your work?

A: Thank you for that special compliment. I have a website www.margueritesphotographs.com. One of my photographs will be on the cover of the summer issue of Catskill Life.

Q: Where can people buy your book?

A: My book is now in The Gift Is Love in Rockaway. (It) is also available from Amazon.com in paperback or on the Kindle.

Q: With living in Florida currently, do you get to visit Broad Channel much? A: I am in Broad Channel as often as I can be. My daughter Regina Stewart and family are on West 16th Road, my sister Mary Mundy and her family are on West 14th Road. My granddaughter, Jeanette, is on East 20th Road. And we have many, many friends who are like family in Broad Channel

Q: Hurricane Sandy had major impact of Broad Channel, and the surrounding communities. Is there anything you’d like to say about the storm? How did your family make out?

A: The storm was so devastating - it has taken its toll on so many people. But it takes the stuff that the people of Broad Channel and Rockaway are made of, to pick up the pieces, to rebuild and start all over again. They have made good progress. But this storm was so intense that it will take many years for the emotional scars to disappear, but they will never forget it. It will be talked about for years to come.

Q: Finally, what would you like future generations to know about Broad Channel? What would you say to them?

A: Future generations will certainly know about Sandy, but they should also know about the heart and souls of the people of Broad Channel. They are family, even those who are not actually related. The folks I know and love in Broad Channel are patriotic, moral and proud of their town.

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