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Two Girls From Bayside

Mystery writer features her Bayside roots.

 

This is a story about two girls from Bayside.  One is me. The other is my fictional creation.

I grew up in Bayside, Queens, Long Island, New York.  211th Street and 34th Ave. to be exact... a pretty little tree-lined, dead-end street in a lovely 3-story red brick house.

P.S. 41 is where I learned to read and write and where I twirled a baton as I led our school band in the town’s Memorial Day Parade to . I remember my father telling me that Principal McNally was the brother of Stephen McNally, an actor I knew from Saturday matinee B westerns at our local movie theater – the theater where I sometimes dropped water-filled balloons from the balcony on unsuspecting movie watchers sitting downstairs in the “orchestra” (I was kind of a mischievous child… “high-strung” was a term often thrown around back then). 

Bayside is where my Girl Scout troop marched down Bell Blvd. on the 4th of July (I did a lot of parade marching as a kid), and where I studied dance at Miss Mildred’s neighborhood ballet, tap and acrobatic school with twirling classes mixed in…

It’s where I took the Q13 bus (in front of the “Shack” soda fountain/newspaper stand/candy store) to (when did the term “junior high” get replaced by “middle school?), and would walk the few miles back home, stopping at White Castle on the corner of Northern and Bell for burgers with friends, or stopping in the Shack to read love comics from the rack as I sipped a chocolate egg cream and nibbled on a two cent “tall” pretzel.

Bayside is where my dad mowed the lawn in summer, burned leaves in the fall (before toxic fumes) and shoveled the driveway in winter, while mom sewed my dance costumes, made cookies and grilled Velveeta cheese sandwiches on Wonder bread. It’s where I learned to play tennis at the tennis club across the street from P.S. 41… and where I went sledding in Crocheron Park and ice skated on Golden Pond in the winter.

In spring, the gardens in my suburban neighborhood burst with vivid colors of blossoming hydrangeas, irises and daffodils, and my friends and I gathered on my street and played punch ball. It’s where my heart was broken because I wasn’t allowed to try out for little league because I was a girl, even though I was better than most of the boys. But, my father promised me that things would change and that I would be the one to help make that change. I believed him and believed the world would right itself.

And it was in Bayside’s Redeemer Lutheran Church (our family church) where much admired and beloved Pastor Walter Schwolert presided over the memorial for my father after he died suddenly at age forty-one that I first realized that my world would never right itself. I was no longer living in “Ozzie & Harriet” episodes.

But, life is a perplexing dichotomy, and a couple of years later as a Bayside High School cheerleader, I found myself in the middle of the floor in Madison Square Garden kicking and cart-wheeling myself into a frenzy, cheering for my team in the race for the city basketball championship, while in the classroom, Mrs. Cole, my English teacher, was encouraging me to become a writer.

In short, Bayside is where I became who I am even though, after high school, I left Bayside for college and never lived there again.  

I’m a city girl now (first in Manhattan, now L.A.), but not too long ago I went back to Bayside to do my “roots” thing.

I walked the halls of Bayside High and met a gym teacher who gave me a B.H.S. phys-ed tee. I strolled my neighborhood and saw that many of my neighbors’ big yards from my day now have houses on them. I walked to 35th and Bell to see if the “Shack” was still there, but it was gone. I meandered through Crocheron Park and went down to the Bay and Golden Pond.

And, of course, I walked Bell. So much had changed! The old movie theater where I spent so many happy hours and experienced my first “French” kiss is gone, as are stores and restaurants that now live only in my memory. But, I almost cried when I saw that was still there. Of course I had to have one. OK, two (there are no White Castles in L.A.) and I savored every bite.

Bayside may have changed its façade, but even though it’s been many years since I lived there, the town’s heartbeat is still beating, kept alive by my childhood memories.

So, when I wrote “Freeze Frame,” my Manhattan political thriller, I wanted “Lorna,” my young videographer heroine, to have those memories (well, not those memories, exactly… but she did go to a neighborhood dancing school and was a cheerleader in high school). I wanted Bayside to be the town she goes home to when the big city becomes too frightening and dangerous after she videotapes something that puts her life in jeopardy.

I hope you’ll get to know Lorna and her Bayside memories. And, I hope you also get to know me when you click onto my Amazon site (link below) which also has a brief bio of me, along with the book’s reviews.  Two girls from Bayside – one real, one fictional. Check us out.

 

"FREEZE FRAME"
www.amazon.com/dp/1466392150

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Caroline Andrews April 06, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Lovely piece. I think my favorite part of Freeze Frame was Lorna's adventures in Bayside.
bob saari April 07, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Well, the biggest and most interesting change for me when I returned to Bayside with my wife in 2000 was that the Euro Bastions of tradition and wealth had changed. The Masonic Temple had become a Korean church as did the Bayside Yacht Club. The German deli owned by folks we knew had become a Korean market al la fruit stand a la Seinfeld episode. It was all a wonderful and global transformation.
Ilona Saari April 07, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Thanx for the your great comments, guys. And, Bob, even Redeemer Lutheran has become a Korean church. Very Global. I remember the German deli, too - the best dill pickles in a barrel <g>... I didn't realize it, too, was gone.
Doreen Supper Clarke April 09, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Doreen Supper Clarke, Just got your site from my brother Donald, haven't had a chance to get your book yet. Both Ray and I are looking foward to it. Just wanted to let you know that Redeemer is no longer associated with a Korean church. Ray's brother Tracy still attends church there and though they are a small congergation they still worship as we did as kids...
Ilona Saari April 09, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Hi Doreen - How cool the internet is?! Have been having internet reunions w/ old friends from Bayside and loving it. When did Redeemer stop being associated w/ the Korean church? It's only been a couple of years since I went back and did my roots thing. Hope we get a chance to catch up on the decades and hope you have fun reading my book. So far the reviews on my Amazon page have been pretty great and I don't even know most of the people who reviewed it <g>... My best to you and Ray.

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