During the darkness of superstorm Sandy, I stayed with a family that had gas heat and hot water. On the third day of my stay, my daughter and I were driving to my home to get clean clothes. As we approached my home, the lights went on, one house after the other, as if a magic genie was at work.
When I walked into my house, the chimes of the battery clock rang, as if to welcome me home. After a short time, the telephone rang. I answered it but did not recognize the voice that asked if I was the person who lived at my address. He used my given name, my maiden name and my married name. I was very skeptical, wondering how someone would have that information when the entire area was a mass of downed wires, fallen trees and darkened light poles.
After a few more minutes on the telephone, I asked him for his name, and I recognized it immediately as someone I knew from Far Rockaway High School. We had both been students there in 1942 and graduated in 1943.
He recalled how we spent many hours with other friends going to the local movie houses and into Manhattan to the New York Paramount when our favorite big band was playing.
I asked how he had gotten my phone number. He had seen a video of the storm damage to Rockaway on his computer. On the website, was a link to the Far Rock alumni. My name, street address and town were listed. He called 411 and he was given the phone number and was happy he obtained it so easily.
He asked if I have a computer, and I do have one. He lives in California, so I begin each day with a morning message and he responds when he wakes. At night, we either use instant messaging or Skype and chat about our interests and our day.
In May, I received an invitation from my niece for a special occasion. She lives in California, about an hour away from my friend. I flew out for the party and my telephone buddy and I had lunch. It was fun and special.
--Fran Werner, Plainview
Our good fortune to be here
I was born in 1942 on Wilson Avenue in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. I lived there with my parents, an older brother and a younger sister.
We lived above a butcher shop in what was called a railroad apartment. It was a cold water flat. As I look back we were poor, but did not know it. Our play area was the sidewalk in front of our apartment, and when we were older it expanded to the street.
There were always friends to play with. And if you were fortunate enough to have a new Spalding ball you were king. We invented many different kinds of ball games. The all-time favorite was stickball, played the length of one of the side streets.
As a family, we often on the weekends took a day trip out East on the Island. Many times we went swimming at Lake Ronkonkoma, or as far as Noyack.
In 1955, my parents bought a piece of property with a one-room cottage on it in Speonk. There was no electricity or running water.
As kids we had a great time; climbing trees and not worrying about getting hit by a car. It must have been hard on my mother in the camping-mode with the washing and cooking to do.
I remember my father having a well put down in the yard with a hand pitcher pump on it. And we could actually drink the water. How cold it was, straight from the ground -- we were used to drinking water from a reservoir with chemicals added to it.
We did this for five years, until 1960. When our old neighborhood had changed for the worse, we had a permanent house built on the property and moved lock, stock and barrel, and never looked back.
As I think back over my life I realize how that one decision of my parents' impacted our family's life. My brother and sister have married and raised their families here. I married a girl from Westhampton and count my self fortunate to have raised four children in Remsenburg, and now have nine grandchildren -- six of them live in the area.
I remember one time when my children were young, playing in the wide-open grass field of the local school. I was lying on the fresh green grass watching them play and thought how fortunate they are, compared to when I played on concrete and asphalt.
--Ed Pfeifer, Remsenburg