My Sunnyside (Gardens)
by Lucy (Kryzak) Zaslow
If I were to fantasize about a community, it would be a place where people come together to live in friendship and peace. The Sunnyside I knew was just such a place. People visited each other’s homes without previous arrangements. Folks would just ‘drop by’ all the time. At my house, it was sometimes for a quick visit, or, on Saturday mornings, for bagels and lox. These visits often went on all day, by multiple guests. It was sort of like an ‘open house’, without the formality.
My father sold his hand-made jewelry from our house. Many Sunnysiders, amongst others, bought jewelry from him. They would just ring the doorbell, come in, and sit at the dining room table. Lots of talk, and hopefully they purchased something!
The houses (most of us lived in these, rather than in apartments) were attached, but separate, and the facades were different, one from another. Doors were not always locked at night. Sunnyside was designed so that every house had its own small yard around a common garden. And we were allowed to play in the common garden, around which the houses formed the block. But, the street was most often our playground-for roller-skating, playing potsy, bottle caps or just sitting on the stoop, talking. Friendships were forged in schools, through our parents and on the block.
The local shop-keepers knew everyone by name-from Kaplow’s drug store, to Marie’s hair ‘salon’, to Mona and Fritzi’s dress shop. Everyone shopped at the local stores-Rogan’s for groceries, Mr. Borchansky’s for fruits and vegetables, Herman the butcher and Benowitz’s for a great chocolate egg cream.
My Sunnyside, the one I knew, was a haven for politically progressive people, and these values, shared openly until the advent of McCarthy, formed much of my political background, which I value to this day. My parents and their friends were involved in various struggles, over evictions, the Rosenbergs, and the loss of jobs of teachers (there were quite a few in the community) due to their political beliefs. My Sunnyside was a place where people supported each other in these struggles.
My Sunnyside was a wonderful community in which to grow up. Many people remained living there for their lifetimes. Some children, when they became adults, bought their own homes there. I’m still in touch with friends I made in kindergarten at P.S. 150. We talk lovingly of the community that nurtured us. It gave us friendship and peace.
Lucy Kryzak Zaslow