How I Met My Husband

   by Maria (DeFina) McAndrew

          When Ruth, or Ruthie as I knew her, first contacted me about contributing to Sunnyside Memories, my extended Italian-American family and the small Sicilian village we created right here in Sunnyside Gardens immediately came to mind.  But when I learned that this gathering would be held in the former Queen of Angels Church, I knew I had to change my topic.

          I lived diagonally across Skillman Avenue at 44-05 with my parents, sister, Paula, and my grandmother.  We moved there in 1951, when I was nine and I attended P.S. 150 for fifth and sixth grades.  Mrs. Kampf and Mrs. Singman were my teachers, in case there are any former classmates here.  But while most of my classmates moved on to JHS 125, and then Bryant HS, I began taking the subway from Bliss Street to 68th and Lexington Avenue to attend Hunter High School.  I was only 11.  It still amazes me that my mother, the original “helicopter” mom, would allow me to ride the subway alone at that age.  Of course, we practiced all summer taking the route over and over again so I wouldn’t get lost.  I did anyway.  On occasion, I had to use my emergency dollar to take a taxi to school.

          Unfortunately, I lost contact with my Sunnyside friends, and my new classmates were scattered over all the five boroughs.  So, socially, it was a lonely time for me until 9th grade when I could attend Confraternity, right here in the basement of this building.  The moderator was Father Joe Burns, one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever met.  If you sat through a half hour of religious instruction, you could hang out with friends, dance to 45 records and drink soda kept in an ancient refrigerator.  It was the hub of teen age social life.  That social life extended beyond the basement of Queen of Angels.  There were parties, too, especially in Tony Cannirozzi’s basement on 44th Street, where a glance out the window would reveal my father’s shoes conspicuously walking our dog, Frosty.

Father Burns also arranged outings.  I recall a memorable boat ride to Playland at Rye Beach, and a trip to a TV studio in NYC where we appeared on an American Bandstand look-a-like.  I think Harry Gralton won the dance contest.

          On a summer evening, you could find our group at Torsney Park listening to a portable radio.  “In the Still of the Night” is the song I associate with those balmy summer nights.

          Most significantly, Confraternity was where I met my husband of nearly 50 years, Jack McAndrew, who lived on 47th Street.  In this building, he slipped an engagement ring on my finger, we were married, and our first child was baptized.

"How I Met My Husband" was written for and read at the oral presentation of stories on June 3, 2017 at Queen of Angels Parish Center in Sunnyside.

Maria DeFina is a retired Special Ed Teacher Assistant living in Westchester.  Married to Jack McAndrew of 39-39 47th Street for almost 50 years until his passing in March 2012, she has two wonderful children and five amazing grandsons.