The Early Diversity Of Rockaway Parkway
I remember taking a long walk on Rockaway Parkway and meeting an oldtime Canarsien, Fred Harms, and his good man Friday, Doot Deben-see, a member of one of Canarsie’s oldest families. Doot later became a truant officer and work-ed out of the Truant Home, which stood on Jamaica Avenue and which was later occupied by Dexter Park, home of the Bushwick semi-pro baseball team.
In the hall next to the barroom at Harms there were many shows put on, such as minstrel shows, Punch and Judy, and some of Canarsie’s leading talent of those days.
When P.S. 114, then a wooden building, caught on fire, the Harms property became the temporary home of the young pupils and their teachers. A new school was built on Remsen Avenue and Glenwood Road. Next to the hall was the home of the Flatlands Volunteer Fire Dept., which had among its members some who later went into the city’s paid Fire Dept.
Among these were Peter Lou Bullwinkel, James Webb, George Miller, Charles Rumph. Nor should we forget one of the greatest fire heroes of that time, Barney Van Houten, who also drove the horses of Engine Company No. 257, which had the red hot fire going in its innards to maintain the pressure for the pumper to help extinguish the blazes.
Most fires, it appears now in retrospect, were in the meadows, which were east of Rockaway Avenue and west of East 87th Street.
We were spared excessive fires but I do recall two really big ones: The hotel at the Grove and the original Holy Family Church at Conklin Avenue and East 93rd Street.
To continue with our walk now: we resume at Rockaway Avenue and we now pass the Halfway House, an original spot owned by Jacob Trochelman who later sold candy and groceries.
I used to stop in often and enjoy his wares. He was a short man with a long beard and he had three daughters, one of whom married the scion of one of Canarise’s oldest families, the Skid-mores.
John Skidmore will be remembered as the man who used to blow the whistle every time the Canarsie shuttle, trolleys and buses left Rockaway Parkway, station for the trip to the shore.