Queens is a treasure trove of overlooked but interesting history. Take my neighborhood for example:
Beginnings: In 1665, it was part of the vast central Queens area that the English settlers called New Towne (or Newtown). Later it was known as a place of rich farms where horse-drawn carriages picked up fruits and vegetables for delivery to the Manhattan markets, but it still didn't have a name until 1925, when an enterprising pre-Levittown developer of 45 acres of farmland advertised the area as a ``REal GOod'' place to live. Thus Rego Park got a name.
Turning Point: Home developments sprouted on the farmland in the early 20th Century, but prospective home buyers from Manhattan's crowded neighborhoods could only reach the area by taking the Jamaica trolley from the Queensboro Bridge. That changed in 1928 when the Long Island Rail Road station opened, and the population swelled. By 1939 Rego Park had the city's first Howard Johnson's. The restaurant was torn down in 1969 to make way for the 11-story Queens Tower.
Claims to the Famous: A host of show biz personalities found Rego Park a REal GOod place to live, including comedians Sid Caesar and Eddie Bracken, burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee, actresses June Havoc and Alice Faye, former Miss America and city Cultural Affairs Commissioner Bess Myerson, TV producer Fred Silverman and former Knicks star Willis Reed.
Where to Find More: ``Pictorial History of Queens,'' by Vincent F. Seyfried, material in Rego Park Branch Library, 91-41 63rd Dr.
courtesy of LIhistory.com
Fondest memory: I've lived in Queens 3/4s of my life (in Brookyn the other 1/4). And when I'm away, I miss the vastness of it --relative to other places in New York City. I miss the greenery that is much easier to find than in other places in New York. When I'm away, I miss the local merchants who service a varied ethnic population. As a consequence, it's so easy to explore and sample the best of other cultures.
I even miss the sound of planes! Yes, growing up in a neighborhood fairly close to Kennedy Airport (Rosedale), you always hear the roar of planes--an inconvenience you get used to, like waiting 40 seconds before you can hear the TV again! But it also give you an appreciation of travel. It's a special memory of mine to trace one plane after another, first a British Airways, followed by a KLM, followed by a Delta, followed by a JAL, followed by a Royal Air Maroc, and so on. It's not a stretch to say that my wanderlust and love of travel derive in some measure to watching the planes go by. When the international terminal at Kennedy was new, back in the 1960's some families would make an outing of coming to the airport to watch the planes from many lands come it. There was an undeniable romance. I just had to look out the window of my bedroom! Now, living in Central Queens I'm between both LaGuardia and Kennedy. I don't hear the planes quite as much, but when I do, I'm reminded of that fond memory from earlier years.