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Proud of, and Missing Long Island

by William Harinsky
(Tucson, AZ)

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!

-William Harinsky

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Dec 10, 2016
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Uniondale Christmas House
by: Anonymous

I remember the Christmas house on Jerusalem Ave. My parents took me there when i was a kid in the 60's and went there year after year into my late 20's. Today with all the excitement over these diplays all over the place I still think that was the best one from a different time and one of the very first of its kind on LI and in NY.

Jan 25, 2016
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Re: Proud of, and Missing Long Island
by: W Harinsky

Chris Belmonte. I use to work at the library as a volunteer in 1984 and 1985 after school.

Dec 22, 2015
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Florida girl
by: Anonymous

LI was a grand place to grow up! My parents moved into a house on Lowell Rd.in 1941. They bought it for $5000.Potato fields were in the back of the house and the farmer gave my mom permission to pick as many as she wanted. My dad created a 'victory garden' in half of the backyard so my mom had many more veggies to pick! I experienced many of the activities you described. Great memories. But I am a Florida girl now and loving the retired life.

Dec 17, 2015
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RE: Anonymous
by: Doug W.

Hi, Anonymous, my last name is not "White", its "Winn". Sorry for the very couple month delayed response LOL.

Dec 16, 2015
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Billy H
by: Pat

Billy, did your family live on the corner of Henry and Chester?

Dec 15, 2015
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Was the best place growing up
by: Chris Belmonte

My family moved there in 1952. I grew up there in the 70's. Had fun playing at the Pigeon Towers, hanging at Jacks Deli by Northern Pkwy School, and riding minibikes and dirt bikes at Santini's. Went to St Martha's School for 8 years and hold many good memories from there. UHS graduate of 83. Now? today? That town is a shadow of its old self. It's like a ghost town. You would hardly recognize the place. My mother and father moved out almost 10 years ago. My mother still works at the library there, almost 35 years now.

Dec 15, 2015
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Home
by: Diane Falcone Fraile

As I read everyone comments the tears run down my cheeks. The big U was a great place to grow up. We had so much to be thankful for and our friends are still our friends. I grew up on the dead end by the HS football field. We would meet there every night a hang out, sometimes there were as many as 25 of us. And we were always there for each other. Every Saturday was a trip to Jims deli, Sunday was Church and George's bakery. Christmas was the excitement of the Jerusalem house. With Santa on Christmas Eve.Uniondale may have changed but the memories will alway be with us. Thank you Uniondale you, you made many great people.

Dec 14, 2015
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responce
by: W. Harinsky

I was born in '67 so for me the Coliseum was always there. My folks moved to Uniondale in '68. Never knew what was there before that. Chicken coops hu? Interesting.

I Googled the history of Uniondale but there is not much to be seen. Found a couple of pictures of it from various time periods. I Google walk Uniondale now. Some of the key landmarks I do not even see any more.

I know its been torn down but I still wonder what the stone pillar use to be for, that was in the lot on the corner of Beck and Uniondale Ave. Had to have been a statue of something at some point.


Dec 14, 2015
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Uniondale now
by: Anonymous

While Uniondale has changed drastically it's still fairly quiet and kept up for the most part. The places you speak of are gone but the memories will last a life time. Do you remember the chicken coops? The beef docks is still on Front Street and Nick is still there. I remember riding the home made go-carts and mini bikes at Mitchell Field before the schools and the coliseum took over. Once a Uniondaler, always a Uniondaler!

Dec 14, 2015
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The Christmas House
by: Anonymous

Oh how we loved going there on Christmas eve. My dad would take us down Jerusalem Ave, while my mom and grandmother would place presents under the tree at home.
Riding our bikes past the house watching it all get set up in time for the light display. Cherished memories forever. If he only knew the memories he created for us to take with us for a lifetime.
Thank you forever... Uniondale forever in our hearts.

Aug 12, 2015
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RE: Uniondale Christmas House
by: Anonymous

Hey Doug, your last name would not be "White", would it?

May 15, 2015
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Uniondale Christmas House
by: Doug W.

Your grandfathers house was amazing. That Statue of Liberty to me brought out that display. By any chance would you know who made that or where he got it? Looking for one myself for my house now lol. All in all, that was the best house to see during the season :)

Dec 24, 2014
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christmas house
by: Anonymous

The christmas house speak of was my grand fathers Sameul Klimzcuk. And yes he did have a statue of liberty amongst a ton of other things.

Dec 13, 2014
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I too am a LONG ISLANDER
by: Rob

Great post. Everything you described is all I remember. I'm in my forties, so I suspect you're in that ballpark from all the landmarks and events you mentioned. I left for college 24 years ago and have been a us marine for the last 18. I miss that place the most. I managed to get stationed in garden city and drove past my old house and yes the place has changed. Last thing...Frank's pizza was my favorite!

Dec 12, 2014
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The name of the Nursery
by: Kevin

The name of the Nursery you spoke of is called Hicks Nursery. As of a few years ago its still there and they still do the Otto the ghost X-mas walkthrough. They still sell trees and still have the petting zoo. However, They did get larger and it doesnt have the same homey feel to it now though. I dont live on LI anymore but we would go there every year as a part of my family's Xmas traditions. A few years ago I took my daughter there to show her what Dad did during the holidays.

Dec 06, 2014
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Awesome Memories
by: Debbie K

Thank you for those awesome MEMORIES. I TOO, AM A NATIVE Long Islander from Uniondale. Oh the memories that came flooding back as you described. I also have lived in several cities due to transfers by my company...One city in particular, in San Francisco while waiting on a cab a gentleman walked up and we struck up a conversation. He quickly ascertained that I had "a NY accent". I told him I was from a small town he'd probably never heard of UNIONDALE in Long Island NY. Astoundedly he advised he knew Uniondale and mentioned the Uniondale Mini Cinema on Jerusalem Ave. I was blown away...Apparently he was from Massapequa and had family in Uniondale. We talked about all the things we had in common. It was so nice being so far away and talking about Uniondale and things in Long Island. I now live in ATL but my Mom and siblings are still there. I've met so many people in my life and many of them always say oh you're from New York too or Brooklyn or Queens and I always come back proudly with No, I'm from Long Island, Uniondale. Thanks for the memories!

May 18, 2014
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The Uniondale Christmas House
by: Doug W.

William, the Uniondale Christmas house you speak of, is that the one that had a plastic (I think?) Statue of Liberty as part if the display?

May 13, 2013
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Mister Softee
by: PREM JOHNSON

When you come to visit, Mr. Softee is still here in Uniondale ..

Feb 24, 2008
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Such Fond Memories
by: Bill Drago

I share many of those memories with you, William and sometimes it is sad to see things change.

But all is not lost. Things may have changed in your old neighborhood (as they always do), but Long Island is still a great place for making memories.

Just ask my kids, who are almost grown now. They'll tell you about midnight camp fires on the beach in the dead of winter, summers on Fire Island, pig roasts on the 4th of July, and miscellaneous antics in their own backyard.

They'll have stories to tell just like we do now. And eventually they'll lament the changes, just like we do now.

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