It Seems Like Yesterday - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Originally published in the December 2000 Juniper Berry Magazine

It Seems Like Yesterday

The author at age 4

Attending P.S.87 in Middle Village certainly is one of my more vivid recollections, starting in kindergarten. I could not accept the fact that I would be separated from my mother. After all, we were inseparable for the first five years of my life and now this unexpected, inhumane event was going to change all of that. Through all the crying and tears and shouting "I want my mommy," I finally won! She and the teacher decided that my mother would wait for me right outside the door in the hallway. I accepted this easily won concession and became a happy member of the kindergarten class of 1930. What I didn't know and was confessed to me later, my mother would go home (we only lived a block from the school) and she would return just prior to the end of the session. She was so prompt. I never suspected.

I spent eight more happy years at P.S.87 and was a fairly good student. The teachers were great and the camaraderie amongst us kids was enviable. We were all from the immediate neighborhood and many of us played together after school and during the summer recess. Aside from the three R's we had art and music appreciation. The teacher would play a record and we would have to identify the melody. I still remember listening to the "William Tell Overture," "To a Water Lily" by McDowell, "Narcissus" by Nevin, and other perennial favorites. Then of course, we sang and had plays. The girls had sewing and cooking classes and the boys had shop to do woodworking. Our graduation theme was the New York World's Fair of 1939 with the Trylon and Perisphere emblazoned on the cover of our autograph albums.

Metropolitan Avenue from the "EL" station to Dry Harbor Road, was our shopping mall. Here are some of the names that I remember: Niederstein's Restaurant by the Lutheran cemetery, Schoenfeld's dry good store, Midville Radio, Puntillo's Fruit and Vegetable Mkt. , Arcardi's Beauty Salon, Bank of Manhattan,, Karauskat's Diner, Frank B. Hendel-Real Estate, Paul Rubin-Real Estate, Dr. Irving Berg-Optometrist, Dr. Wagner -Family Practice, Harry's Shoe Store and the Public Library next to the Methodist Church etc. etc.

Now for more sophisticated shopping we would hop on the trolley that ran along the avenue and go to Jamaica Avenue. There we found the bigger stores such as May's, Goodwin's, Lerner's, Woolworth, Bond's Clothing, and movie houses like the Valencia. However, locally we had the Arion theatre and we kids went on Saturday afternoon. It only cost a dime and we often saw double features, a cartoon, and a short news clip. On one night during the week the adults would see a movie and get a free piece of dinnerware.

Any recollection of life in Middle Village would be incomplete without mentioning the religious side of our existence. I was raised Catholic and attended St. Margaret's Church. I don't remember the masses at the old church on 79th Place but I do remember going there for Catechism. Communion and Confirmation for me was at the new church on 80th street. The pastor was Father Henry Kunig. He had a thick German accent and his words bellowed from a short rotund, body. I don't recall the use of any microphone. He really didn't need one. He was frightening. I felt the wrath of God in every sermon. If a movie had been made of the prophet Nathan's visit to David, I'm sure they would have dubbed Father Kunig's voice for the part. As we all know Nathan was sent by God to reproach David for his affair with Bathsheba, who was already married.

Aside from Father Kunig's voice, he was a kind and gentle priest (later to become Monsignor) committed to his pastoral duties. He would travel frequently to Rome and each trip would produce another icon or statue to affix to the wall in front of the altar of St. Margaret's. Father Kunig and the other priests would send Christmas cards to the parishioners in the early 1940's. The walls were covered with his icons, statues and paintings and shortly after his death most of them were removed.

This basically was my little world. It was simple and it was good. Looking back, as a senior, things in my memory seem to be projected in kaleidoscopic form. There are all sorts of experiences and images, some clearer and brighter, others dimmer and more shadowy. Time, that relentless and sinister force is responsible for the degree of recall. In my case that shadow of time covers more than sixty years. For this I ask your indulgence should there be any inaccuracies in my story.