2003-10-30 / Little Old Canarsie

E. 92 Street: Main Road To The City In The Early Teens

John Denton
E. 92 Street: Main Road To The City In The Early Teens John Denton

In the early teens the village here had only two routes to go to and from the city one of these was called the main road, which later became East 92 Street, the other Rockaway Avenue, which parted from Foster Ave. down to the shore and later became Rockaway Pkway. In those days the street lights used gas, which had to be turned off and on by someone with a long stick.

I can still recall when one man, Mr. Belford, who would come around about 4 p.m. each day and then 7 a.m. the following morning to service these lights that were about 2 or 3 blocks apart, of an old Canarsie Family and also two brothers who in their early days here also went around with a long stick to put the lights on and off. The Ferraiolo brothers who raised large families here one lived on Conklin Ave and E. 96th St. the other lived over on the E. 105th St. section.

When these lights were discontinued and replaced with electricity a man used to come around with a small ladder and turn a crank on the pole to let down the lamp. Then he would replace two carbons which met together to burn all night. After a few years they started to use bulbs and then the lights operated by a clock, which was set for them to go one and off automatically according to the length of daylight and darkness.

When they no longer needed a man to come around every day to service the lights, in the late teens we also saw something new come to town. When some of our earliest Italian men rented a cellar in some store and would put out a sign "Ton-Ice-Coal and Wood" or "Dominick-Ice-Coal and Wood" where they would sell you a hundred lb. Bag of cola or a ten cent piece of ice or a bag of wood. One of these men I recall was Tony Battaglia who had his place on East 92 and what is now Ave. J. Then there was one on Conklin Ave & E. 93 Street and another on Rockaway Pkway near Ave L owned by a Mr. Accardi.


Tree-lined, unpaved East 92 Street led to Jamaica Bay in one direction and to the city in the other.               Canarsie Historical Society/Merlis collectionTree-lined, unpaved East 92 Street led to Jamaica Bay in one direction and to the city in the other. Canarsie Historical Society/Merlis collection

When the building boom ended in 1929 an ice dock was opened by a well-known former oysterman and builder Harry Dickens, right alongside of the famous Fortmeyer Candy Store, next door to P.S. 115, where he sold lots of families ice, until the frigidaires came out and all of these places closed down, in the name of progress.

How this generation would have loved to walk down E. 92nd St. in the summer months and hear the croaking of bullfrogs in the swamp area and the strains of music from the Murphy Carousel at the shore where the tune of "Sweet Dardinella" could be heard as soon as you passed P.S. 115 at Avenue M.

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