A Ghost Story

by Allen Rosenshine

          To begin at the beginning, when I was born, my parents and older brother, Matt, lived in Sunnyside on 44th street.  A year later, the family moved to 41-00 43rd avenue (also known as “The Golden Gate” although there was nothing particularly “golden” about it and had no “gate” of any consequence).   My father, Aaron, died when I was 11 and my mother, Anna, continued to live in the same apartment until her death 43 years later.  I lived there until I was 25, finally departing to get married and move to Manhattan.  Matt had moved on when he turned 20.

 

          So Sunnyside was very much a part of my past, and therefore my present. 

 

           I still always turn out lights when leaving a room and can hear my mother saying, “Edison is not your uncle.”  To this day, whenever any uneaten food goes in the garbage, I am somehow reminded that “Every bite goes to the Germans.” (Or more likely “the Arabs” in recent decades).  While I have been lucky enough to have earned more than the decent living both my parents worked hard and watched every dollar to provide, I nonetheless don’t spend without thinking more often than not whether I should.  My closest friend, Jerry Kossoff, remained so for the rest of his life.  Two others with whom I hung out pretty much daily -- Alan Finke and Ted Gewanter -- left Sunnyside before me and unfortunately, I have had only sporadic contact with them since. 

 

          As to the young ladies of Sunnyside who affected my outlook on life, there were certainly a few to whom I would have liked to have literally gotten closer but was far too bashful (or more clinically, socially inhibited).  So they never knew and never will.  The two exceptions were Carol Kotin, when I finally matured enough to “go steady” and thereafter, Gail Schlesinger, a relationship that did not survive her going out of town to college and me going on active duty with the Naval Air Reserve which I joined to avoid being drafted (but certainly not to avoid Gail).  Ah, well.

 

          My first experience in team sports (other than summer camp) was playing softball for the Sunnyside Ramblers in Torsney Park on Skillman Avenue, built on an area previously known as “the lots” which was nothing more than a few trees, bushes and hard, rock-strewn ground resulting in many more scrapes, cuts and bruises than runs or touchdowns.  It was far more civilized to play on the concrete of the P.S. 150 schoolyard where I spent most of my non-classroom time all the way through high school.  Other bona fide Sunnysiders whom I recall from the Ramblers team (of course, we had a few “ringers”) besides my buddies Kossoff and

          Gewanter were Irv Goldstein, Charlie Shotland, John Nicholas, and Jimmy Kahn (before he became James Caan).  Being on the Ramblers served me well during my time in the Navy, where I avoided all sorts of duty assignments by playing for the Naval Air Station team in Jacksonville.

 

          I could relate many stories about my quarter-century as a Sunnysider, but the importance of it to me is that as a community, it provided a foundational environment that I believe has helped form and positively affected whatever values by which I and my four children have conducted our lives.  When I once walked through the old neighborhood with one of my kids whose age difference with me was the same as between my father and me, I actually felt his presence and many others from Sunnyside all around me. 

 

          Like Casper, they were all friendly ghosts.  And It felt very good indeed. 

Allen was born March 14, 1939 in New York City and graduated from Columbia College.  He served in the U.S. Naval Air Reserve, taught at Brooklyn College, and was a copywriter at J.B. Rundle Advertising, a business-to-business agency, before joining BBDO.  He is married, has four children, three grandchildren, and divides his time between Lyme, Connecticut, New York City, Park City, Utah and traveling, as he puts it, to places he has been but never really seen.