Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Flushing, Queens

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(the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Park)

Have you ever been in some unfamiliar city or town and you meet someone from your hometown and you’re all excited?

“Hey, do you know Susie Weintraub?  How about Joel Ledger?   Did you used to eat at the Rusty Crab-ery on Pleasant Drive?”

I haven’t lived in Flushing, Queens for years, but I still feel guilty rooting for the Dodgers when the Mets have their home in Flushing Meadows Park.   And God Forbid someone from Flushing roots for the Yankees!

I was even excited when Billy Graham spoke last weekend in Flushing Meadows Park.  I don’t know what he said and I don’t really care, but Billy Graham was in Flushing!

On Kissena Blvd, near the apartment building where I grew up in, is Valentino’s Pizza.  They have great pizza there, worth the long trip from Manhattan.  OK, maybe not… but if you’re ever in the area, stop by.

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(via Albert’s World)

Valentino’s was also a favorite of The Nanny’s Fran Drescher, who attended my junior high, Parsons Junior High, in the early 1970’s.

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Simon and Garfunkle also attended Parsons Junior High in the 1950’s.

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(via foresthillshigh56.com)

All these kids must have moved somewhere else because when I went to Parsons, the school had mostly black students.   It was still a great school, except for the time they showed “Roots” in class and my friend Barry and I had to run home from school.

“My grandparents lived in South Russia, not South Carolina!” Barry yelled as we ran across Parsons Blvd, away from big Jake, this thug from our gym class, who was accusing our families of being slave owners.

I think a lot of the students from my generation left town also, because now the area is Chinese and Pakistani.

A few days ago, I was reading through the blog of some woman here in Los Angeles, when I noticed that in her post she wrote about being from Flushing.  All of a sudden, I got all happy.  I started talking to the monitor, as if the former Flushing Girl was in the room with me.

“Hey, me too!  Where did you live?  Where did you go to school?”  I said to the Samsung 19 inch SyncMaster.

I quickly typed out a rambling comment to her blog, telling her all about myself.  I felt we were bonding immediately, even though I was doing all of the writing.

So far, she hasn’t written back.  Either she thought I was a crackpot looking for a date or she really hated living in Flushing.

Or maybe it was what Flushing’s own Simon and Garfunkel were referring to when they wrote “The Sound of Silence.”

UPDATE:  Marissa, the Flushing girl, wrote back.  (see comments)

51 Comments

  1. hi neil,

    sorry about the delay writing back – I was in transit – to new yawk. my mom and uncle went to parsons. I went to ryan jr high and then to townsend harris in the original bldg on parsons blvd. so I’m familiar with valentinos – spent many an afternoon there after class (altho my family was always partial to fresh meadows pizza near p.s. 26). how old are you? I had a lot of friends who went to parsons back in the day from hebrew school.

    oh, and I have to admit this – I like the yankees. shameful, I know.

    what brought you to LA? did you find my blog via hilary’s?

    -marissa

  2. Oh my god, blogging has served a purpose beyond wasting my time. I have connected with another Flushing-ite! Thank you, Al Gore, for inventing the internet.

    I’m glad your responded, Marisa. You made my day. Or as the band members of KISS might say, (since they come from Flushing also, KISS standing for Kissena Blvd.) — tonight, I’m going to rock and roll all day.

  3. She wrote back–woo-hoo!

    I think one of the reasons people blog is to make these serendipitous connections.

    “The Roots” story is hilarious. My ancestors were slave owners in the deep South. I blame all bad luck in my life on them.

  4. Several years ago I was in line to get on a rollercoaster ride when I saw someone who attended the same high school I did back in Manila. I didn’t even remember her name, but I just started waving and screaming and thank goodness she recognized me and started waving and screaming back.

    Otherwise that would’ve been really creepy…

  5. Don’t you mean Knights In Satan’s Service Every Night Always Blvd?

  6. Flushing update! Louis Armstrong buried in Flushing Cemetery.

    http://tinyurl.com/bu28y

  7. Woohoo, I love Technorati, that’s how I found your blog. Yep, I’m a Parsons grad too– the school was pretty scary when I went, I lived in fear of getting beat up in the halls, also there were rumors of “bad kids” force-feeding you drugs if you weren’t careful, at least that’s what our 6th-grade teacher warned us about. If I’m remembering Valentino’s correctly, they made a great meatball hero…

  8. I went to high school at townsend harris when it was back on parsons blvd – the kids from parsons (who, granted, were the same age as most high school students) used to beat up the boys from my high school – what little we had (5:1 ratio girls to boys). what high school did you go to? then we can really get into playing six degrees.

  9. Marissa, I went to Jamaica High School. You, me, and Albert need to order from Valentino’s one day by airmail. Have you found any good pizza in Los Angeles yet?

  10. Kate (nee)Donovan

    July 1, 2006 at 12:43 pm

    I lived in Flushing-164th St.and went to Parsons in the early 70s.Now cosy in England but never forgot some great times great&some great people.

  11. wow so many people from flushing..although you all may be a lot older then me because I don’t think Valentino’s is there anymore. Anyway I found this site because I was trying to figure out that building on Parsons Blvd called Hotel Parson or The Parson. It is across the street from P.S. 25Q It looks like a nice building but there are always a bunch of looney looking people stanind outside. Anyone know what it is or some history about it?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flushing%2C_New_York this site has some great information on the history of Flushing 🙂

  12. Lucy – My mother went to Valentino’s last night. Their pizza is the best! You must go. Right on Kissena Blvd., near Jewel Avenue.

  13. hmm i must be mistaken then about Valentino’s ill def. look into it 🙂

    any one have info about the Hotel Parson?

  14. hey marissa sorry for us guys beating up on the townsend bunch. us parsons guys couldn,t help it fan158 parsons jhs 1982

  15. Neil —

    Grew up in the Flushing/Queensboro Hill area on 164th St down the block from Arele’s and went to Francis Lewis HS (grad in 1971). Always glad to find more Flusherginers.

  16. Hey, Stu. I went to Arele’s SO MANY TIMES. I’m not sure it is there anymore…

  17. Neil — I think that you’re right that Arele’s is long gone. I was last back in 2001 to visit friends and family (my folks are in Florida now, of course), walking around the old neighborhoods, looking for the long-vanished landmarks of my youth. It’s a long way from Seattle. Checking out Carvel, old pizza joints and pastrami king. At least you can still order bagels online from Bagel Oasis on Horace Harding Blvd in Fresh Meadows…

  18. Unbelievable! I left Flushing in 1963 and have lived in Florida ever since. Went to P.S. 154, would have gone to Parsons Jr. High, and Bown (sp?)High. Anyone remember the Parson’s theater and Harry’s Candy Store?

  19. Great stories! I lived in Electchester 1954-1966, went to PS 200 and then Parsons JHS. I never knew Simon & Garfunkle went there too! Now, if I could only sing. In bad weather, I took the public bus to school (Q65) but in nice weather, we walked…in part through what was then woods and an open field where a murder was later committed (rare for that area back then)Some good teachers but a lot of dead wood…it’s a tough age to teach!

  20. Joel Valez-Stokes

    August 19, 2007 at 8:32 am

    Grew up on Juniper Ave & Colden Street.
    All private homes on the block and I remember playing punch ball, football & red light green light 1,2,3. When cars came down the block we would stop the game and continue when the cars passed!! The good old days!

    Does any remember Gloria’s Pizza on Main St across from S. Kleins!!

  21. Remember Gloria’s? How could I forget? That sweet sauce was the best ever. A little hole in the wall but the greatest pizza on earth. You can see my photo of Gloria’s, along with other Flushing photos, here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/32912172@N00/sets/72157600440525312/

    By the way, I grew up on Colden St. too! I lived in the Bucknell, just off 45th Ave.

    Bob

  22. Went to PS 200 and parsons jhs..graduated in 1967 then to bowne before moving upstate ny

  23. The Bucknell just off Colden St…We know one another for sure…Skyline towers, colden park, the baseball stands on Colden.

    All asian now!!!!

  24. I was searching online for Valentino’s menu and your blog was in the search results. Funny entry. How’s LA?

  25. Lived in Flushing til I was 10. 167th Street and 75th Ave. PS 154….my sister and brother both went to Parson’s and Jamaica High in the 60’s

  26. My grandmother lived in Flushing in the Bland Housing project. My family would fly there every summer and I loved it there. Gloria’s Pizza was the BEST pizza I have ever had. I still tell my son and husband about it….My grandmothers windows faced the unisphere from the Worlds Fair and also Shea Stadium. I miss that place, and was so happy when I saw your site.
    Thanks,
    Sandy

  27. My dad was assistant principal at Parsons Junior High until 1971, when he passed away. I visited the school a few times before that. It was a long time ago.

  28. This has made me so happy. I’m in Washington, DC now but grew up on 75th Ave in Kew Gardens Hills. Went to Parsons late 50’s early 60’s and Jamaica HS. Good memories of a cement pool type area where the water came out of sprays and I used to hang upside down on the monkey bars. The only pizza place I remember is Stella Doro’s. Thank you all for the memories.

  29. What a great blog. Great pictures of Flushing when I grew up there in the 70’s and 80’s. Gloria’s Pizza was the best! I miss the old bagel shop a little further down south on Main Street, across the street from the Toy’s R Us store on Franklin and Main. I grew up on Sanford Ave. and College Point Blvd. Went to PS 120, IS 237 and then Aviation HS. Flushing was a great town to be in at that time!

  30. i grew up in flushing too! i went to p.s 20 jhs 189 and bowne high school…and i still live on the hill(LIE and Main st.)nice to see that some remember…

  31. gloria made great pizza- so did angelo on main near : i got lots of 45’s at triboro records in jamaica at the bus terminal. from ’57-’69 i lived on 160th then 162nd st.s off jewel ave… looks like a tuning fork on the map. this is terrific – i’ve been recollecting my teenage ~ maybe it did really happen!

  32. Gloria’s is gone, but I went to Angelo’s last week.

  33. Joel Valez-Stokes

    July 26, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Gloria’s Pizza gone…damn, what about Gertz Dept Store on Roosevelt Ave…Living in Florida for almost 20 years now, but Flushing will always be my home…Carlyle and Skyline Towers.

  34. I stumbled on this site quite by accident and saw: “By Len Banco on 06.08.07 9:34 am”. This could only be my pal “Lenny”. Would love to hear from you. By the way (and I would never correct Len, who was always one of the smartest people I ever met),I don’t think it was actually a murder in “the woods” but one of the children from the infamous “Alice Crimmins” case was left and later found there by one of the neighborhood kids (also an old friend). Best regards.

  35. This is for Barry Silber who asked if anyone remembers Harry’s candy store and the Parsons Theater. I remember them both fondly. Saturday matinees at the Parsons and reading comic books (the true romance one I wasn’t allowed to read at home)off the rack at Harry’s I went to school with Barby Kirchbaum Harry’s daughter.

    I too lived on 164th street at the corner of 73rd. Ave.

  36. Hey…found ya through google.

    I grew up in Electchester, went to PS 200 (class of 92), Parsons JHS (class of 95) and Francis Lewis HS (class of 98).

  37. Deborah Rabinowitz Layman

    March 25, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Ah, Gloria Pizza! I grew up in Flushing in the 50’s and 60’s. P.S. 20, J.H.S. 189. Does anyone remember the estate that used to be where Carlyle towers was built? We called it the Stone Wall. Remember Louie’s Candy Store on Bowne St.? His wife was a big ugly woman who sat by the door guarding the comic books.

  38. I went to Parsons 1963-66, then Bowne HS. Do you think it’s possible to find old teachers? Thinking of Marsha Rosen (English). She was great. I ate at Valentinos and lived in Dara Gardens.

  39. CHRISTINA LOSASSO

    June 15, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    I GREW UP IN FLUSHING FROM 1955 TO 1965 I LIVED ON 157TH STREET THE RAILROAD WAS AT ONE END OF THE BLOCK I WENT TO ST ANDREW AVALINO CATHOLIC SCHOOL AND 2 YRS AT FLUSHING HIGH IT WAS GREAT THERE MY BROTHER AND I ALWAYS REFER TO IT AS THE FLUSHING YEARS

  40. CHRISTINA LOSASSO

    June 15, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    ST ANDREWS USE TO TAKE THE CLASSES ON PICICS AT BOWNE PARK

  41. CHRISTINA LOSASSO

    June 15, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    NORTHERN BLVD WAS WALKING DISTANCE AND EVERYTHING YOU NEEDED AS A KID WAS THERE CANDY STORE MOVIE THEATER PIZZA I REALLY MISS THE SIMPLE WAY WE GREW UP

  42. I live on 71st ave and 163rd street in the private houses from 1957 to 1980. Attended ps 154, Parsons Junior high, and Jamaica High School which I graduated from in 1972. I walked to Harry’s and was very friendly with him, I worked part time for him. We’d ride our bikes to Flushing to get Gloria’s pizza and had a blastgrowing up in that area.

  43. Gaye (Olin), sorry that this response is over 2 years late. Unbelievable! I also had a love for comic books and bought them @ Harry’s. I also remember going to the Pomonoc Library and reading Dr. Seuss. Through the wonders of the internet (facebook), I have re-connected w/a classmat from 1963 @ P.S . 154. I hope you get this message, Gaye.

  44. I also went to s hooligan in Flushing. I attended P.S. 154 and JHS Parsons. this was during the 60’s 70’s.

  45. Dianne Downs (Simms)

    April 29, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Just another former resident of Flushing, NY stopping by to say “Hello”. I went to IS 237 Rachel Carson Junior High on Colden St and then graduated from John Bowne High across from the cemetery on Main St. I used to live on 45th Ave between Bowne and Robinson Streets. I graduated in 1979 so I missed most of you guys but it sure is nice to know you are out here. Do you remember the old RKO movie theater? The one with the cool old fashioned planets and stars painted on the ceilings. I remember a lot of sports stars lived in the area. Mets pitcher Tom Seavers live on Cherry Ave. Knicks Mike Glenn lived in Carlyle Towers on Kissena and Mets Tommy Agee lived on Kissena across from Maple Park. I met and talked with all of these guys as a kid. That was the way the neighborhood was back then; a big melting-pot of cultures, religions, financial situations, and races… and we all got along for the most part. I miss those days.

  46. Lived in Flushing on Main St. 77th road for many years. I went to Parsons JHS and graduated in 76. It was a very good school then. Good friends and teachers. Ms. Kanner, my music teacher, is the most memorable to me as I really admired her persistence and faith in teaching the kids music when no one seemed to be in into it. So many years passed but after reading the blog it brings back memories esp. the theater on parsons. I moved back to Flushing after getting married and lived 14 years and moved to westchester as its no longer livable there. The only thing that remotely exists in memory is the pizzeria under the train station. Everything has changed dramatically. Thanks for posting.

  47. If the “Nanny” was a student at PS 20 and graduated in 1955, I would love to hear from her.. I’ve enjoyed her show for years and her accent makes me homesick. She is one terrific comedian!!! My dad died in 1955 so my mom mved us to Charleston SC but my brother and I still call Flushing our home!

  48. Wow! I ran across this blog and started reading and it is great to hear about Queens from so many ex-pats.
    I grew up on 168th St and 75th Ave. Went to PS 154 and Parsons and Jamaica. Still communicate regularly with a group of guys I grew up with who also went to 154 and Parsons. Maybe some of you know them: Mark Posner, Steven Feinsmith, Carey Shek.
    Loved Harry’s Candy Store because he never ran me off even when I deserved it.

    Matt Klein

  49. I lived in Pomonok and Aguilar Gardens. Went to PS200 – what a great school, Parsons – I barely survived, Bowne – another great school, Queens College – free, also a very good education. Matt – I knew Steve Feinsmith. Wasn’t he really tall and played for the Bowne basketball team? Still keeping up with many friends from the neighborhood. Would love to know where I could reach Charlie Schwartz, Howard Ratner, Marsha Goldberg, Alice Lipitz, Laurie Langer.

  50. Hi, I read your blogs and it takes me way back, you see when Parson’s Junior High was first built, that’s when I attend Parson’s, it was new and was so beautiful, and I lived one block from the school, I use to walk because I lived on 75th Rd & Parson’s Blvd., you sure brought me back to Flushing, there was nothing like it. PS. I’m 75 now and reside in Florida.

    • Wow this brings back memories. Went to ps154. Parsons and hillcrest graduated queens college lived 80 Abe 164 st next to queens general hospital. Live there 41 yrs now in Florida name is Richie Bonelli

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