Saturday, July 2, 2011

Corona, In My Memories

Corona was a great place to live when back in the 1920's and '30's. Believe it or not it was country back then. Unfortunately after the war, the big war, it became over built, but my first memories of our semi-attached duplex home where we rented an apartment. My Grandmother lived in the apartment on the second floor next to us and an Italian family, Lascocko, I believe, lived downstairs. They had three daughters, the oldest hung out with older cousin's of mine. The middle girl had a french name and was real pretty. The youngest was named, Faythe and gave me my first kiss at five years old as we played house by the steps leading up to our apartment.  The house next door was owned by Fat Frances and my Aunt and Uncle lived upstairs with a cousin of mine who was more like a sister to my brother and me. Of course she was a bit older and hung with my brother as I was, and still am the baby. Now I should explain why we called the land lady Fat Frances. My Aunt Frances lived upstairs and she was always kind of slim and stylish. The land lady lived on the first floor and was named Frances also. To differentiate between the two became obvious 
based on the physical differences. My Aunt was the good looking Francis and the other wasn't but we couldn't refer to her as "Homely" so "Fat" became part of her name. We lived on Corona Ave. just up from National Ave. and the trolley passed right down the middle of the Avenue.

My Mother's AND Father's family lived with in walking distance. Everybody knew everybody. Jimmy DeSetto's butcher shop was just around the corner and he and his family lived down the block until they moved away, about four blocks where they lived across the street from one Aunt, on my mother's side, and around the block from another, on my Father's side. They girls all hung out with each other and there was some dating with the older guys and girls, even some talk of scandal between a couple but that's another story. My memory tells me only my Uncle Tony, on my father's side had a car. My Uncle Nick had a truck from which he sold fruits and vegetables, main route was in the Bronx. We used to pile in the truck on Sundays and go to the park where we had cook outs, Italian style meaning Gravy (Sauce to you purists) and spaghetti with meatballs. I don't think we used the grills much in those days. The men would play cards in their tee shirts while the women cleaned up. Then the women would join the game and the men would complain. The women would win and the men claimed it was because they talked too much confusing everyone.

It was the day of NO AIR CONDITIONERS. When the summer came with its scorching heat we'd sit on the stoop in front of the house. Next door was a house that had chickens. Yes that's right, chickens were legal in Corona back then! The Rooster was king of the back yard and if he saw my brother he would chase him to peck him. Everyone thought this was hilarious, except my brother. July fourth was always steamy hot and ultra humid. When the sun went down all the way the men, not the children, would set off fireworks. I seem to remember the skies lit up all around us with Roman Sparklers, Rockets and noise from crackers and cherry bombs went on until late evening. Many of the men if they had jobs, the depression was nearing the end because the war was looming, had vacations beginning on July fourth. They had second jobs to work while they vacationed maybe for $5 day. But they were off on the fifth so they stayed up late that night. We all went to bed later, sweating and happy. I can't speak for the grownups of that day but for the kids, we were poor but we really didn't know it. We were all in the same boat and the whole neighborhood seemed like one big family which maybe it was. We knew when something good was happening and felt good for whomever was experiencing the good. We also knew when something bad happened and grieved with the family that was going through the bad times like the time this one kid  came down with rheumatic heart and went from healthy to sickly in a heart beat. The neighborhood tried to do what they could do even if it meant the women said an extra Rosary for them. The men didn't go to church as far as I can remember.

The war came and went. People grew up and got married and everyone seemed to have a car. The car gave freedom to move away to Long Island, OK I know that Corona is on Long Island but we consider it the City.
Nobody seemed to live within walking distance of anybody else. New people moved into Corona, first the Blacks, then the Hispanics and now the Asians. Chickens aren't allowed inside the City limits and every square inch of dirt has something built on it, except of course for Flushing Meadow Park, which by the way is in Corona. Oh and by the way, there are no more Trolleys.
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