A Promise kept-Elmhurst (posted on 13 Sep 2005)

I came across this online bulletin board after a Facebook friend nudged me back. It reminds me how many of my childhood friends started to get back in touch after so many years – before Facebook. You can find the whole discussion, to the present day, at:

http://www.gothamcenter.org/discussions/viewtopic.php?id=813&p=1

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This all starts with someone wanting help to write a book about Elmhurst and asking for memories or perceptions back in August 2003! …some thoughts from Tokyo for what is contribution likely to the book’s post script (or hopefully a second edition). Please put me on the list to buy the book. 

America’s melting pot 
One of the first things I ever remember reading from a newspaper was in the late 1960’s in the NY Daily News. It was a 110 precinct cop describing his beat. He said “Whatever God made, we’ve got a least one of ’em here.” I remember trying to figure out what that meant. 

My brother and I started in PS 89 for a year then went over to St. Barts in the third grade in 1968. The only strong memory I have of PS 89 was not being able to follow too much because English was our second language – but we caught up eventually and for some reason the walks back from school to our apartment on Ithaca Street are very vivid. 

St. Barts – we lived right across the street! Our playground was our school, the church and the many back alleys and roofs in a two block radius that seemed at the time to span for miles. 
Games: Johnny rides a pony, Hot beans and butter, Mr. Hobdy’s street football, Juniper Valley park with the baseball team, punch ball at recess, slap ball, stick ball, and skitching in the winter (catching rides on the back of cars on icy roads – what were we thinking!!) 
Food: zots, devil dogs, spiced ham sandwiches from the German Deli 
Places: Dandy’s Pizzeria, school closets, confession booths, Henry’s basement to watch Monty Python, (the race to) Elmhurst lanes for after school bowling, the gym with the low ceiling 
Events: The Bazars, Saturday morning basketball games, sports nights, those amazing Gabrielli musicals (Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific) and the practices, first kisses in dark alleys, block parties 
Adventure: Hitch hiking to New England with two fellow Elmhurst adventurers – you know who you are guys “Ringe (New Hampshire) for Kicks!” , A Tale on Dawn concerts and jams. Spying on friends playing/cavorting in our building’s backyard from our balcony 
Fear: The Savage Nomads, the hippies who lived across the park a few houses down the Neufeld’s funeral home, the cops asking who shot at Ms. Devlins’ windows with the BB gun, the guys who stole my first cool bike. Moving to Jackson Heights. 

I try to describe to my kids what it was like growing up in Elmhurst; Immigrant kids of working class parents growing up in the Casablanca of America. One day they will tell their kids what is was like growing up Tokyo and I hope they too will have the same sense of fulfillment. 

 
Maybe that sometimes forgotten Statue on Ellis Island still welcomes and Elmhurst has kept her promise. 

Orlando 

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