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Memories of growing up in South Floral Park

Growing up in the '50s and '60s was a lot less stressful than it is today.

My parents, moving from Richmond Hill to South Floral Park, bought their home in Nassau County in 1958. Most of our relatives resided in Brooklyn and thought of this as the country, based on the idea of property that actually surrounded a building, and vacant lots.

Paradise was found! Our neighborhood was small, nestled between two larger neighboring towns, eight blocks wide and four blocks across. It was almost like living in a hammock.

All the houses were different, built independently as new residents moved into the neighborhood. There was a church across the street from our house, and a firehouse, village hall and Joe's little store.

This was before the multicar family, but you needed to have at least one car. Public transportation was not always within walking distance. A car was necessary when you needed to go to the neighboring towns, Elmont and Floral Park, which had stores for food and other amenities. Elmont had the Argo movie theater and the Great Eastern Mills department store, which had a supermarket, and there also was the local A&P.

Floral Park had the train station, and the small town shops and additional supermarkets and theaters. Taxi service was available and did a brisk business. But it was Joe's little store that catered to our immediate needs, as well as our "junk food" fixes.

Back then, a Devil Dog was a nickel, and so was a small bag of Wise potato chips. If you were lucky and saved your allowance, you could buy the larger bag for 39 cents. That was a lot of money back then, almost the same price as a loaf of Wonder Bread. And if you were a little short, Joe or his wife, Mary, would just put your name on an account.

Being Italian, we were expected to have family gatherings, and that usually fell to the family members who could provide the best accommodations for the occasion. Since we had the "country" house, we had the outdoor summer amenities: the yard, patio and pool. Everyone came, even those elders who would only venture out for the most important festivities. A day in the country, complete with barbecue and Italian food, as well as American fare.

The younger cousins loved the pool and yard activities, while the elders would sit under the shade of the cherry tree or awning and take in the peaceful country day. Grandma and Grandpa seemed to enjoy it the most, being from Taranto, Italy, and accustomed to the old country ways. They would walk through the suburban lots as though they were a vast countryside, and Grandma would pick dandelion greens for her salad. All in all, times were good for us then. They were full of hard work, but definitely less stressful. And we always had a good time!

Patricia Walsh, Copiague


I didn't grow up on Long Island, but my husband and I raised our three children in North Bellmore at a time when it was safe for them to walk to their friends' houses, play on the streets until it was time to come inside, and call on their friends to walk to school.

My children have very fond memories of their growing-up years. When one of my sons comes from out of state to visit with his two daughters and his wife, he has very fond memories of "his" 7-Eleven on Newbridge Road, where he would meet with his friends for their supplies and snacks.

My daughter met many of her friends, whom she still stays in touch with, on Long Island. My other son also had many friends who are friends for life.

Jones Beach was another favorite. I would take turns with other parents dropping off our children and then picking them up at the famous "Pencil Landmark." Our children remember Nunley's Carousel and Mill Pond, where our boys would go fishing.

It was a different time, a time when families did family things -- and those are what made up all the memories.

Marcia Friedman, Amityville


When my parents told me we were moving to Valley Stream, I thought, where is that and what would I do there? Heck, I'm from Bushwick, Brooklyn.

I was wrong. Green Acres shopping center was just 14 cents each way by bus. That was a trip each Saturday to get lunch at the Newberry counter downstairs. After lunch, buy a 45 rpm record at Sam Goody or just walk around to all the stores (most are gone), like Gimbels, Chandler shoes and Lane's department store.

On a rainy day, you needed an umbrella because there was no enclosure -- strolling the shopping center was like walking the streets in a town. On Sundays, we went to the movies on Rockaway Avenue at a theater where I saw Murray the K and a rock and roll show.

There was also the Valley Stream library on Rockaway Avenue. We even went to see a show at the Peninsula Boulevard shopping center -- there was a movie theater there, too. I think now it's Ace Hardware. And across the street was a bowling alley.

So I did find things to do. Without a GPS or a smartphone.

Nina Vangeli, Valley Stream

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