Proud of, and Missing Long Island
by William Harinsky
I have lived in 4 other states and two other countries but to this day I will never forget my hometown of Uniondale and growing up on Long Island. The memories are still fresh in my head to this day.
Today friends tell me how much Uniondale and Long Island have changed and it saddens me some. But I remember the days before computers and Cable TV was just coming out. I miss that small truck that sold Charlie's Chips in huge drum-like cans, Mister Softee, Country Store on Wheels, and Julie's Ice cream trucks. Sometimes a small dark truck rode down the street and the guy driving it would sharpen knives and scissors.
Saturdays were devoted to waking up early to watch classic cartoons. This ended exactly at 11 am. From there my friends as I rounded up our bikes and rode all over the place, not worrying about getting lost, for us it was an adventure. Later we would get back to Uniondale and crash in the woods behind Uniondale HS and spend from sunset till night, just talking about everything under the stars. There was no black or white, no rich or poor. We were friends no matter what your faith, skin color or family income. We even called our small group "The Uniondale Knights."
In summer my brother drove in from Massapegua with his family and would take all of us to Jones Beach from dawn to dusk. We would stop at Friendly's for dinner and a cold refreshing desert on the way home. Only to do it all over again next weekend. Later in HS my friends and I would take our own trips to Jones Beach, even in the dead of winter. Other times we went to the Long Island game farm, Bethpage restoration or Adventureland.
I recall the cold snowy nights in bed with the full moon beaming into my window and in my face. Come morning I would wake to find rabbit prints dotted all over the yard in the snow. And yet we never saw the rabbits. I remember when snow came up to our knees every winter, the snow forts we built and the snowball fights we had. Everyone on the block knew each other, even if just by name and nothing more. In summer we held a block party where we would have massive volleyball games. Off to one side our fathers gathered talking about their CB radios and on the other side the women talked in amazement how my mother had the best flowers in the neighborhood.
Autumn was always the best time of the year for me. How I miss this falling leaves, the coolness in the air and that earthy smell. When we were kids we walked alone from street to street from one side of town to the next, even into the borders of East Meadow on Halloween. When we got home our bag were over brimming with sweet delights. When we became too old for Trick-or-Treats, my friends and I haunted out a garage for kids to dare the ghosts and cemetery we built, all for a treat.
I remember the pumpkin patches we visited and the floral nursery (I forgot the name) that had an animated walk-through, filled with ghosts and witches. In spring it became Peter Cottontail's home and in winter Santa's land.
I remember my friends and I heading over to The coliseum Diner for a munchie run or to the best pizza place in the world "Gino's." Or if we dared, The Harvest House in Roosevelt Field Mall, that was connected to Woolworth's. The food there was nasty but we ate there anyway. Sometimes ending up and Modell's when it was a department store just to walk about.
I remember the parties at the park in summer. It did not matter if you were invited or not, the people holding it would ask us to join in. Saturdays my father always went up the street to the deli for cold cuts and rolls to last the weekend. I am talking the real stuff, right off the bone or right out of the oven. On Sundays he always brought home in the early morning light donuts from the bakery and more fresh baked rolls. Sunday was meant for crashing out with comic books and Godzilla movies on TV. Heading over to the Colloseum to see the Islanders or Mitchel Field to see The Jet's practice. The Arrow's playing soccor. And we never took anything for granted.
I remember all this and my heart breaks. I almost choke up thinking of the fun we had throughout our youth and how much I miss home.
It's been almost 20 years since I have been back to Long Island and Uniondale. And now I live across the country. One friend still lives there. He tells me how much it's changed and hardly for the better. The woods behind the school are gone, as are Gino's, the Deli and Bakery, The candy shop, The Dairy Barn, Mr. Klimchek died and so his Christmas house is no more. The rabbits no longer leave their feet in the snow in winter. All the places that made so many memories for my friends and I are gone. At least in my mind their are still there.
Today no matter where I go, when someone asks me, I always tell them "I am a Long Islander! And proud of it!" Some will say "Oh yes, I am from New York too" and to this I respond, "No, I am not a New Yorker. I am a LONG ISLANDER." A Long Islander and proud of it!