Memories of Middle Village by Stevanne (aka Eleanor Stockheim) Auerbach*

I recall many warm and wonderful memories of Middle Village, and want to share them so you can also share some of yours, and help to fill in specifics, so we can better complete the history of the earliest days of growing up in our very special community.

My parents, Jeane and Nat Stockheim, left their New York City apartment in the spring of 1937, walked across the Triborough Bridge, and saw a sign for a new housing development -Juniper Valley- Middle Village. There was a car next to the sign to drive them to see the property. There was nothing built yet, so all they could do is see a model and map of the planned subdivision; they selected their house at 61-46 79th Street located in the middle of the block, and left a .00 deposit.

There were building delays. Dad traveled frequently on the Express train to Jackson Heights 74th Street, then took the local GG train to the end of the line, Woodhaven Boulevard. He often walked up the rest of the way up Elliot Avenue to check on the construction until the houses were finally completed. They moved in and started a new life in 1938. The house cost ,600.

There were no sidewalks, and the roads in some sections were still dirt. Much of it was grazing cows and farmland, but it was Juniper Valley Park that convinced them that this new community would be an ideal location to raise a family.

Mom said they walked up and down Elliot Avenue for more than a year until the Resurrection-Ascension Church School opened in September, 1939, and bus service was started to bring students to and from school.

The attached new brick row house had three bedrooms upstairs, living, dining room and kitchen, a back porch over the garage accessible by the alley, a full basement, with a hand cranked washing machine, washtubs, and space for a Victory garden in the back, and in the front of the house leading to the street. They later built a brick arch at the entrance to the front.

Our neighborhood included Elliot Avenue, 80th Street, Dry Harbor Road, Juniper Valley Road North and South, the Juniper Valley Park, 62nd Avenue, Penelope Avenue, and Woodhaven Boulevard.

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Nat, Jeane & Stevanne Stockheim
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I was born, at the end of the Great New England hurricane, September 22, 1938, as reported in the community paper, the Juniper Berry, “the first baby born in Middle Village.”

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Jeane & Stevanne Stockheim on their back porch
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Judith & Stevanne

Judith & older sister Stevanne
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I can happily recall playing in the sun in the playpen on the back porch, or in a large metal tub, which was half filled with water, or being taken for walks, and also playing in Juniper Valley Park, about two blocks away. There were squeaky baby swings with a wooden seat and bar across that slid up and down that I loved to sit in to swing back and forth.

 

The Park always played a central role in my life as it was a great place to play, meet friends, and practice skills like swinging, hitting a handball or tennis ball, moving across the jungle gym, or riding down the slides. There were ball games to watch, bike rides, and walks through the park in all seasons; and days spent sledding the hills in winter, cooling off in the sprinkler showers in the kiddie pool during the heat of summer or playing tennis. My father loved to play tennis and handball.

My first friend Rhona Jill Cohen (Ronnie Hartman) and I played together when we were two years old. We remain close friends despite all the years, distance, or miles. Our children and grandchildren have played together. Strong friendships were forged in Middle Village and endured a lifetime.

We attended PS 49 (now Dorothy Bonawit Kole School) from Kindergarten to Eighth Grade. We grew up there with many wonderful teachers including Mrs. Gang, Mrs. Pope, Mrs. Kaplan, Mrs. Schactman, Mrs. Gustafson, and Mr. Schubert, Mrs. Swenson Mrs. Mann and Mrs. Adamson The very staunch principal was Mrs. Sondheim.

Strong memories persist about outstanding teachers like Mr. Klothe, who inspired reading, working harder, and doing our best; and Mrs. Mann, and Mrs. Briggs two great music teacher who taught us to sing, learn more about and appreciate music.

Even though we were regularly tested with stringent Regents Exams, learning was much more than merely taking tests. We were also exposed to a wide variety of art, plus grounded in math and science, geography and history. We also engaged in many rigorous physical education activities that helped us to be better fit. Plays and musicals were also performed.

We, of course, enjoyed home economics where we gained useful skills in cooking and sewing, although we were not thrilled at the time that we had to make our own white graduation dresses. Some of us were not as skilled as others with noticeable results. The boys got off easy on that one, as they did not have to learn how to lay out a pattern, cut it, baste, create puffed sleeves, or learn to hem by hand stiff white organdy.

Click-the-pic for a larger view & more info

Click-the-pic for a larger view & more info

Our entire class awkwardly and proudly posed for a large group photo on the steps of PS 49 – the last 8th grade class. Looking at that black and white picture it was fun to recall as many of our classmates and friends in the neighborhood as we could –Bernie Dworkin, Bob Hartman, Carol Goodman, Gary Mokotoff, Johnny Smith, Marion Bennett and her sister Roseanne, Nancy Barnett, Rosalind Getzoff (sibs were Heidi and Roger) Warren Elkins, and our PS 49 classmates- Carolyn Marte, Charles Hammerschlag, Donny Dunn, Howie Goodman, John Nazar, John Rittenberg, Norma Meyer, Pat Adell, Phyllis Riley, Richie Scalza, Robert (Bobby) Tucker, Robert Sherman, Rochelle Ackerman, Ronnie Cohen, Sonja Buttenhoff, Suzanne Mokotoff, Charles Mailman, Arnie Peskin, and many more.

Wonder where they are today? Hope each one is doing well and enjoying their lives, and that they too also look back on growing up in Middle Village with many of the same shared happy memories.

When we were little we danced around a colorful May Pole in the school yard dressed in crepe paper costumes. Later, we learned to square dance, Lindy and Foxtrot to popular music. Along the way we grew up, and learned a lot about ourselves, and about respecting and getting along with our school mates and friends.

We walked to school each day along the park in all four seasons measured by the color of the leaves or the bare branches in the middle of winter. The sparkling white Good Humor truck greeted us after school with a tingle of his bell just outside the school yard.

Our neighbors were watchful; and if we ever misbehaved in any way we were immediately told our mothers would be contacted so we were (almost) always good. The wonderful caring neighbors were always friendly, responsible, and kind.

A Greek family, the Tsotsos, lived next door with their seven sons. They moved after they had their first daughter, and (I think) started a Greek Restaurant. When they moved, the Goodman (Bernie and Eleanor) family moved in. We remained friends with their kids Howard and Carol over many years. The Getzoffs and Peress families also lived on the street.

On the other side were Mr. and Mrs. Tom Reilly, who were devoted members of the Resurrection Ascension Church down the hill on Elliot Avenue on 85th Street near Woodhaven Boulevard. Next to them lived the Barnetts. Their daughter Nancy attended R-A school and was an accomplished pianist. Even though we attended different schools and churches we played together, went to the movies or roller skating rink, and shared each other’s holidays.

Many in the community were members of the Jewish Center of Forest Hills West on Dry Harbor Road, and attended services on Friday, and Saturday and special holidays. Middle Village was a blend, a mix of religions, ethnic origins, occupations, and customs, and regardless of the differences everyone got along over many years, shared common walls and dreams, and managed to be civil to each other in all seasons.

It was the time of World War II, and there were Victory gardens, food and fat rationing, and the presence of drills, air raid wardens and shortages. We had no toys, but made fun things ourselves to play with like clothespin dolls and sock puppets.

I recall when my father’s brother, Uncle Charlie came home at the end of the war in his Navy uniform and brought me my first Hershey bar. He went to work as a policeman. Uncle Dan, worked for the Post Office. Another Uncle Dave, and his wife and daughter came to visit and stayed with us for a year or so. Ruth looked after me so mom could return to work as a nurse.

We had many frequent visitors. An aunt and her husband and kids who lived in Brooklyn came to visit as did our cousins from New Jersey. As soon as my cousin Alan arrived we raced to the park, and to this day he still remembers how much fun we had.

We drove in the old Plymouth to see another uncle, his wife and kids in the Bronx. The rest of our large extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins lived in Saratoga Springs, NY, or in Baltimore, Md. We traveled to see them by car and by train. I also remember driving to Rockaway Beach, Jones Beach, and to the gala opening of Idyllwild airport in 1948.

My dad was an air raid warden, and a fireman. He worked in Harlem, and then later at the firehouse on Horace Harding Boulevard and 108th Street, long before there was a Long Island Expressway. He was an Eagle Scout Leader, enjoyed swimming and camping and after he retired, returned to teaching math and science.

Mom, was a registered nurse, walked up and down Elliot Avenue for more than a year and then traveled a long subway ride to Morrisania Hospital in the Bronx; then she worked for the Public Health Department, American Red Cross and Horace Harding Hospital; She also set up the NYC School system’s first school for pregnant teenagers, and later she taught Home Bound children. She also earned her degrees from NYU and Yale and was a Captain in the Army Nurse Corps.

We happily celebrated mom’s 100th birthday on August 1st 2013 in Miami Beach with her friends, fellow retired teachers, and a lot of family from all over. Many of my cousins recalled visiting us in Middle Village as children.

My sister Judy (Dr. Judith Schwartz) was born when I was four years old. She also attended PS 49. After completing her PhD she became a full professor of ceramics and sculpture at NYU and for the past several decades teaches and inspires her students, as well as many other accomplishments.

Our memories are shared and also separate due to our age and experiences, but we both recall our first dog, a black mixed collie and shepherd dog named “Prince” who never tired of playing with us and who wagged his tale fiercely when we returned from school to resume games and take him for a walk to the park.  He also loved exploring in the open lots that were before the steps to the Park.

Rose

 

If you like, you might want to take

a few minutes to enjoy the photos that

have been made available in the

Stockheim Family Album.

I remember watching the delivery trucks moving in and out of Silver Crest Farm Dairy on Elliot Avenue. We visited inside the dairy to learn more about milk processing on several class trips. Bottles were then glass, and the cream was on the top, and often just skimmed off and enjoyed before shaking the bottle.

Across the street from the dairy was the Artis Drugstore. And on the other corner was Jack and Bernie’s classic candy store with a marble counter where they made a terrific chocolate egg cream, sold Breyer’s ice cream and offered plenty of advice; They offered many different yummy penny candies, and comic books of all kinds to choose from with our babysitting money. (Wish I still had the cherished Wonder Woman comic book collection today).

On the same side were other stores and across the street was the Peter Pan Bakery that made an amazing seven layer cake, and excellent rye bread, with or without seeds, that they sliced in their electric slicer if you asked.

Next door was the A&P. They offered specials noted with large signs in the window. I can only guess at the prices then, but they were a fraction of those of today like 25 cents for bread, eggs and milk, There was also a five and ten cent store. Also the Tudor bar and grill (who offered excellent pizza) on the corner of 80th and Elliot Avenue where the bus went to Roosevelt Avenue and 74th Street, to catch the E or F train to the City. The bus that stopped in front of the candy store traveled up and down the hill of Elliot Avenue to the Woodhaven (local GG) stop.

I walked to and from school every day, met and chatted with friends along the way, walked the full distance in all weather, rain or shine, and was always on time.

We played in the park after school. In the winter we met to sled down the hill to the large lots (houses fill that special space now) that were magical places to hide and seek, and play games any time of the year, but especially after the rain when they filled with water and gullies became rivers and streams to jump across. There were large rocks, which formed perfect hiding places while we made up games based on western, police, jungle, pirates and other themes. We traveled by trolley, after taking the bus on 80th Street to the bottom of the hill (there were two large oil tanks near the stop) to the outdoor Aquacade in the summer to swim, or to go indoors at the remaining World’s Fair Building to roller skate or ice skate to organ music.

My parents carried me to the 1938 World’s Fair and photos were taken. We went to Rockaway or Jones Beach during the summertime where I was always at the end of the day sun burned (no sunscreen in those days) and also had splinters in my feet. Ouch!

We rushed through chores on Saturday morning to walk to Woodhaven Boulevard to catch 25 cartoons, a feature movie, and popcorn all for 25 cents. Other times we roller skated or jumped rope. Played sidewalk games like Hopscotch, and played handball on the concrete wall in the park, watched softball and baseball games, or eagerly listened on the radio to the Dodgers, Yankees or the Giants. We were glued to the set at home or at school during the Pennant and World Series.

There was no TV or electronics so we played real games, read real books, and made real things like clothespin dolls, sock puppets, and bean bags. We walked home for lunch, and since mom and dad both worked, I heated a can of Campbell soup while I closely listened to Aunt Jennie, and then Helen Trent, but I had to reluctantly rush back to school before the program ended or I would be late. We eagerly listened to a wide range of afterschool radio shows including Captain Midnight, a favorite, the Lone Ranger, Gene Autry and Sgt. Preston of the Yukon.

On Saturday morning while doing chores I listened to the Hit parade and sang along and can still recall a lot of lyrics from those days sung by Johnnie Ray, Rosemary Clooney, and Frank Sinatra. There were many others including Teresa Brewer, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Patti Page, Della Reese, Dinah Shore, Jo Stafford, Kay Starr, and Sarah Vaughan. We also listened to Tony Bennett, Pat Boone, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Bobby Darin, Eddie Fisher, Dean Martin, Johnny Mathis, and groups like the Ames Brothers, the Everly Brothers, the Four Aces, and the Andrew Sisters.

The whole family listened to Fireside Chats from President Roosevelt, and laughed with Arthur Godfrey, Fred Burns, Gracie Allen, Great Gildersleeve, Abbott and Costello, Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Amos ‘n Andy, Baby Snooks Show, Father Knows Best, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Jack Benny. We thrilled to The Shadow, Dragnet, and the FBI in Peace and War. I can also recall Mayor LaGuardia reading the Sunday comics during a newspaper strike.

On Saturday morning I never missed “Let’s Pretend” and believed everything that was happening as the story in my imagination was fueled by books taken out from the wonderful public library in Elmhurst. But, when our girl scout troop made a visit to the radio station in the City to watch a broadcast, my illusions were shattered as I watched the cast read lines, and watched sound effects being made instead of the real horses that carried the beautiful princess to safety. Illusions ended, but not the imagination.

I remember the passing of seasons not only by the clothes and weather, but how we sang Christmas Carols, dressed up for trick or treat, celebrated birthday parties, attended Scout meetings, and always found lots of fun things to do. We were never bored. We also did not need electronics to lead full and happy lives, as we managed to learn a lot and easily communicate. We practiced cursive writing, spelling, and reading out loud. There was always time for “Show and Tell” and intense discussions.

Middle Village was a small, special and strategically located community full of hard working, caring people who took pride in the appearance of their front yards; and they took time to chat with each other, look out for each other’s kids and were always good neighbors. People were kind, generous, and friendly. People said hello as you walked to or from the corner for bread or milk and remembered your name and your parents. I can still remember a rotary dialer, and my first phone number Illinois 8-1345. And, I also remember the string and two can phone that we used for play and it worked.

From age twelve I safely travelled by bus and train to the City. I went to the City three times a week on the subway to swim in competitive swimming. With a friend we often attended a play, or a concert, or the ballet at City Center. The basics (values, a sense of place, purpose, and roots) I experienced as a child growing up lasted my lifetime. It’s not the same anywhere else as it was then, but then nothing is.

I lived in Middle Village while attending Grover Cleveland High School, Queens College, and teaching in Ridgewood at a public school not too far from home. I moved first into the City for a short while, then to Washington, D.C., and later to San Francisco. But, I still returned to home base to visit mom until she retired, and moved to Florida.

And on August 1, 2013, as we happily celebrated mom’s 100th birthday, I remember Middle Village, almost like yesterday, and my memories are still full, bright, and very strong.

Do you remember Middle Village between 1938- 1960? Any details about any of these or other places?

  • Y.J.s candy store on Elliot Avenue near R.A. School
  • Sal’s Pizza on Elliot between 82nd and 83rd street
  • Andy’s Deli
  • Les’ and Magna’s candy store
  • Bicycle shop on 80st off Elliot Avenue
  • Vacuum store (The Vulcan) on Elliot Avenue
  • The trolley car
  • Peter Pan Bakery
  • Silver Crest Farms Dairy and Barn
  • The drug store on Dry Harbor Road
  • Playing handball or softball
  • Sledding the hill in Juniper Valley Park
  • Attending PS 49 between 1943-1953
  • The movie theatre on Woodhaven Boulevard
  • Other businesses along Elliot Avenue and 80th Street
  • The Aquacade
  • The Roller Skating and Ice Skating Center
  • Ridgewood or Grover Cleveland High School
  • Names of neighbors on 79th Street, 80th Street
Stevanne Auerbach

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*Stevanne Auerbach, PhD is author of 15 books. Smart Play/ Smart Toys has been published in 12 countries. She is known as Dr. Toy and writes Dr. Toy’s Guide.   She lived in Middle Village from 1938-1960. She moved to Washington DC until 1971 when she moved to San Francisco. She is married, has a daughter Amy and grandson.

stevanneauerbach@gmail.com
Phone Number: (510) 540-0111

5 thoughts on “Memories of Middle Village by Stevanne (aka Eleanor Stockheim) Auerbach*

  1. We all shared a unique community that was special in those days and still is.
    We are fortunate to be able to remember back and share those memories.
    Let’s continue for a long time to come. All best ahead.

  2. “We grew up in a special community just a short distance from Manhattan, but another world and almost like a small town all by itself.”

    I took one of my grandchildren to MV about 2 years ago. When I looked at the Google map to plot our walking tour, it struck me that my universe for the first 12 years of my life was less than a square mile. We lacked for nothing: ranging from the Rego smoked fish factory to the fruits and vegetables at my uncle Murray’s and Jerry’s store; all were available on our side of the Avenue.

  3. Yes! that’s true – Juniper Valley Park was very large with playground, handball and tennis courts and ball field. PS 49 was on the other side of the park; so we on the Elliot Avenue site had further to walk to get there, but it was the park and school where we met new friends. Some of my friends lived on the other side (Suzanne, Rochelle, Richie).

    Also I included in the memories much more than geography — the music, radio shows and other nostalgia that we all shared. We grew up in a special community just a short distance from Manhattan, but another world and almost like a small town all by itself. Its wonderful that I can remember so many details of that time.

    Hope you will add to the information we can all share and enjoy.

  4. Fascinating story.

    What strikes me is that there are two sides of Middle Village-divided by the Avenue (Metropolitan Avenue).

    I grew up on the opposite side of the Avenue from Dr. Auerbach, and the names of the stores, merchants, etc. are unknown to me.

    While my father played softball at PS 49 and I played at Juniper Valley Park, that was the extent of our excursions to the other side of the Avenue.

    1. Stephen –

      That’s similar to something I had said on one of the photos “To those of us who lived on the “South side,” we referred to it as Juniper Valley and thought of it as a whole “nuther city.”

      Even when I lived in that area there were only 3 stores that I even went to. The one that stands out the most (and that I used the most) was Silver Crest Farms Dairy and Barn. Two others were a food market and a Drug Store, both on Elliot Avenue.

      During all that time, my “heart”, “mind” and most of my activities were back on the south side.

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