The End of an Era…

Many of you might have heard of a time in the 1960s or early ’70s when what were once block after block of summer rooming houses in Rockaway Beach were demolished after plans were approved to improve the area in terms of building condos, malls and new stores, etc.

But what you might not be aware of is the end of an era that was brought about by these major changes. The only things that could never be destroyed are the memories of those people who comprised the life of that era, and I am so proud to be part of that era … gone, but not entirely forgotten!

As a child, I looked forward to the summers at my grandparents’ summer rooming house when I would spend my free time going to the beach just a block away and enjoying the cool, refreshing waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The friendships, adventures, trips to our beloved amusement park, Playland, and general ambience of those years will always be, not only a part of my memory, but an intrinsic part of myself as well.

From the time I was seven until I was eleven years old, every summer my family and I would leave our home in Brooklyn a week before school let out and drive to my grandparents’ summer rooming house in southern Queens, an area known as the Rockaways or, specifically, Arverne. It was a time of great excitement and joy for me. Many of my stories on this website relate to this special time in my life. As a naive child, I thought my summers in Rockaway would last forever!

But nothing good, bad or indifferent in this system lasts forever! When my grandmother announced at the end-of-the-season Labor Day party soon after my eleventh birthday that this would be our last season at Miller’s St. Regis, (the name of the summer rooming house), I can only know what I felt in my heart.

For a while, my heart was broken. I did not want my little world to be disrupted in any way by change! I knew that my life would never be the same, and I was not happy about it! I took it very hard and was, in a way, emotionally numb.

You see, every year, we would have our Labor Day party on the eve of the holiday, and the next morning, to me there would be a seemingly endless line of cars leaving our summer home that in my dramatic childhood heart I would compare to that of a funeral procession. It seemed so sad to me that the summer vacation was almost over, and soon my family and I would be returning to our home just like the others. Since our school began a week after Labor Day, we would stay on in Rockaway, along with my aunt, uncle, cousins and, of course, my grandparents, who owned the house, for several more days. But, like being given a death sentence, the deed was as good as done, even though time would intervene before its execution!

But knowing that this summer would be our last in Rockaway made the end of my eleventh summer the saddest of all. How can I put into words the broken-hearted spirit I experienced at that time? Young people have deeper feelings than that for which they are given credit. At that moment, I felt depressed, alone in my thoughts and anxieties and inconsolable.

Yes, I grew up and I moved on, but the very fact that I have chosen to tell this story testifies to the seriousness with which I internalized this loss. I even wrote a novel about it, which I called “The Wacky World of Winnie and Willie.”

Magical memories of my youth, my family, my friends and all the innocence of those precious years…my microcosm of
life…were all lost in a way that summer of my eleventh year, and it is therefore something that I can never forget or mitigate.

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