I was 11 years old living in Whitestone, Queens, in 1938, the year of the Great New England Hurricane.
I don’t remember much about the furious storm, which killed at least 682, but I do have sad memories of losing the big maple tree at the curb in front of our house. We had no camera to take a picture of my fallen tree. Even if we had one, there was no money to buy film. This was near the end of the Great Depression. My father was unemployed, as were many other dads, so our family was put on home relief, now known as welfare. My older brother, Arthur, and I took turns going to a small grocery store to pick up our free monthly rations, items such as flour, sugar and margarine. I started my teen years also embarrassed by the lack of nice clothes, always wearing secondhand garb, a literal "Second Hand Rose."
Fast-forward to 2020. No longer a youngster, I’m 93, living since 1953 on a former potato farm in Massapequa. This time, it wasn’t a hurricane; the furious Tropical Storm Isaias in August caused so much damage. My lovely neighbor across the street, Bunny Khederian, phoned me to look out my front door. I was dumbfounded. My tall 65-year-old maple tree at the curb of my split-level home was one of Isaias’ targets, lying helplessly across Queens Avenue. It blocked traffic until a crew of eight cleared her. Now she’s just another memory, as in ’38, but this time my iPad camera recorded the demise. History repeated itself.
This year, an economic depression hasn’t hit us yet, but we have COVID-19, killing nearly 200,000 in the United States alone. In March, I lost my son-in-law Dennis Koehler, 72, of Medford, to this invisible killer, in Stony Brook University Hospital. Society is suffering as we live a locked-down life.
Hopefully, like Dr. Jonas Salk and his miracle polio vaccine, there will be a cure for this soon. In the mid-1950s, I remember the other moms and I waiting on line at the now-defunct Southedge Elementary School, our crying kids in tow awaiting their vaccine shots.
In the 1940s, nice things also were going on — talking movies in Whitestone’s Rialto, radio series such as "Dick Tracy," soap operas and other simple pleasures. Today, thanks to technology, we have new toys like big color TVs. And movies? The last one I saw was at Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, where they bring snacks to you in a lounge chair. We have the internet, cellphones and genetically improved food. What more do we need? Amazon thought of another advancement, the Dot, featuring Alexa. No, I am not letting her live in my house. Just imagine: I stub my toe, offer an expletive and hear her say, "That’s not very ladylike, Rose." Like a back-then nosy neighbor. History once more repeats itself.
Fashion has changed dramatically. Seventy years ago, women wore dresses, hats and gloves, so pretty and feminine. Kudos to women who broke the glass ceiling but, alas, that resulted in manly cuts. Go to the mall in Massapequa, crowded in winter, and there’s hardly a bare leg; it’s virtually all pants. But guess what — times seem to have changed once more, with women returning to being soft and feminine. Again, history repeating itself.
Reader Rose Wachsmuth lives in Massapequa.