A Ghost Story
by Allen Rosenshine
When I was born, my parents and older brother Matt lived 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 died when I was 11 and my mother 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 reminded that, “Every bite goes to the Germans.” My parents worked hard to provide for us and watched every dollar spent, and while I have been lucky enough to earn more than a decent living, I nonetheless don’t spend without wondering, more often than not, whether I should. Alan Finke and Ted Gewanter, friends I hung out with pretty much daily in boyhood, left Sunnyside before me and unfortunately, I have had only sporadic contact with them since. My closest friend, Jerry Kossoff, remained so for the rest of his life.
Young ladies too affected my outlook on life, and there were certainly a few to whom I would have liked to get literally closer but was far too bashful, so they never knew and never will. When I finally matured enough to “go steady” Carol Kotin came into my life, and thereafter, Gail Schlesinger, although our relationship did not survive her going out of town to college and my 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 neighborhood experience in team sports was playing softball for the Sunnyside Ramblers in Torsney Park on Skillman Avenue, an area previously known as “the lots.” “The lots” had been nothing more than a few trees, bushes, and hard, rock-strewn ground that delivered lots 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. Besides my buddies Kossoff and Gewanter, my Ramblers teammates included Irv Goldstein, Charlie Shotland, John Nicholas, and Jimmy Kahn before Hollywood formalized his first name and anglicized his second. Being on that team served me well during my time in the Navy, where I was able to avoid all sorts of duty assignments by playing for the Naval Air Station team in Jacksonville.
I could relate many stories about my first quarter-century, but the real importance of Sunnyside in my life is that it provided a foundational environment which helped form and positively affect the values by which I and my four children have conducted our lives.
Finally, I call this a ghost story because once, while walking through the old neighborhood with one of my kids, on the same streets my father had walked with me, I actually felt his presence nearby. I also felt the ghosts of others I had known 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.