Creative and Humane Air
by Marion (Judy Wise) Rabinowitz
Sunnyside was where I spent the longest period of my childhood. We were born, my classmates of memory, at the end of the Depression, and when I left my life in Sunnyside, McCarthyism was filling the air we breathed and adolescence was filling my life. I was not a Red Diaper baby and my parents were more observers than participants in most organizations. We got to Sunnyside in the scramble for housing after WW 2 and landed there in the apartment of my grandmother who had vacated it. My aunt lived at 42-15 43rd Avenue and below us lived my aunt’s sister-in-law’s mother-in-law. The same aunt had a brother in law who also lived in Sunnyside. It was always more familial than political for my family.
It was a stimulating place to grow up as an awkward, sensitive, yet mischievous kid. I talked too much and remember time spent in the hall in the 5th and 6th grades. Mrs. Russek was our teacher for both grades. When I met her at a reunion of Hunter College graduates, well into the pregnancy of my first child, I mentioned I must have been trouble, and she stated that I was not, but a wonderfully creative and lovely child. I did not feel that way and I noted what other kids who came from more political and sophisticated homes were exposed to and coveted much of it. A sweet and attractive woman from an impoverished background, my mother was unable to graduate high school. My father was a former and dis-illusioned socialist and my mother was not political. I gave it all a wider berth and never signed up, though civil rights and human rights were important to me even then.
There was PS 150, 42nd Street and JHS 125. IGC classes and the SPs….a heady mix of challenges and opportunities. Everyone was smart and gifted and I felt that I had to keep up with a very challenging crew. I was required to be exceptional and I did not see myself that way. The competition was fierce. My parents were children of poor immigrants, and their children as they, were expected to succeed. But life was rich with opportunity to explore and adventure.
Lots of movies, games in the street, hanging out with people in my building to trade comics, then playing cards for the pictures on their backs, and going to the playground, and the Sunnyside Jewish Center for Girl Scouts, and a Youth Group. Nancy Drew was an important discovery, an early feminist figure in my life.
There were trips to the city by the bus on Queens Boulevard with my buddy Roseanne Leonescu from the 5th grade on, and to the Orthdontist from Bliss Street into the clinic at NYU. I felt part of the elite when I first got braces. It was a heady and aspiring life with forays into the dramatic, roles played while at 150 and a play written, drawings and scrapbooks for Science and Hygiene at 125 done with meticulous and obsessive care. I had many unrequited crushes and tip-toed into adolescence when I graduated 125.
My mother died that summer and after a brief stay at Long Island City High School, I went off to a school in Pennsylvania and discovered literature and art and continued there where I left off at PS 150, breathing in the creative and humane air that was so much a part of my Sunnyside life and education. We were lucky, my family to have been there I think now….It was an enriching and urging place to start and end my early school years.
41-22 42 Street
Marion Wise Rabinowitz is married with children and grandchildren, all creative and above average. She just retired from a career as a psychotherapist in private practice. She lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She has marched for Civil Rights, peace and funding for AIDS, with many other caring and humane people.