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Historian: Valley Stream was a ‘hotbed of entertainment’

Carol McKenna, 65, has been the village historian

Carol McKenna, 65, has been the village historian for Valley Stream since 1996. (Oct. 22, 2012) Credit: Brittany Wait

Community Journalist Briitany Wait is profiling Valley Stream residents all week for our latest Town Focus.

Carol McKenna, 65, grew up in Brooklyn, but has lived in Valley Stream since 1984. She has been village historian of Valley Stream since 1996.

Tell me about yourself and how you got in the position of village historian.

I met my husband, John, in 1968 and we married in 1973 and decided to move to Valley Stream to get our son in a good school. My husband graduated from Thiel College in [Greenville, Pa.] with a BA in history and used to be president of the historical society and village historian. He died in 1996 at the age of 49 and I personally think that the mayor thought I needed something to distract me from focusing on our family’s loss.

In your opinion, what’s the most interesting period of Valley Stream’s history?

In all honesty, when Valley Stream was a hotbed of entertainment during prohibition in the 1920s. I can just hear the alcohol running and people ignoring prohibition. I also find it interesting that locals called the northeast section of Valley Stream Foster’s Meadow, called a section Hungry Harbor, another section Tiger Town and another Cookie Hill.

Tell me about the different ethnic groups that migrated to Valley Stream.

In the 1840s, 50s and 60s, immigrants came from Scotland, England, Germany, even Sweden. We had a protestant population for a while and then Irish Catholics came in. Valley Stream became more diverse within the last 20 years. We’ve welcomed Hispanics, African Americans and people from the West Indies and other islands. It’s a very diverse community, a big change from the 1950s.

Tell me about the house we’re standing in, the Pagan-Fletcher Restoration.

The house was built in 1840. This house has watched Valley Stream’s history develop. It was owned by Robert Pagan and his wife Ellen, who immigrated from Scotland. Robert Pagan is credited with naming the community. In 1847, the house was turned into a two-story farm house as a wedding gift for Robert’s daughter Catherine and husband William Fletcher.

What do you think attracts families to live in Valley Stream?

Security. They feel more secure living here than in other suburbs. Valley Stream offers a tremendous number of programs for the kids like soccer, basketball, baseball and football. For people like me who travel into the city every day, it’s a blessing to live 35 minutes from Penn Station.

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