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the Sunnyside Stories Hour:  a collaborative presentation

June 3, 2017

On June 3rd, the, in conjunction with the Queens Memory Program of the Public Library held an oral presentation of stories from the Sunnyside of the 1940s and 1950s.  For everyone’s benefit, and especially for those of you who were not able to make it to Sunnyside for the gathering at Queen of Angels Parish Center, we hope the following description will give you a snapshot of how the day unfolded. 


Fortuitously, the day itself was stunning, the weather, ideal - one of those clear, sunny spring days.  As people met coming in, there were lots of old friends hugging, lots of smiles and heads vigorously nodding in recognition of shared childhood memories.  We were an older crowd, more secure in ourselves, just happy to be alive and together to celebrate our roots in Sunnyside.

Tables decorated with fresh flowers were set up around the periphery of the 3000 square foot large parish hall, each one bearing some interesting thing to see or participate in.  A table of memorabilia held autograph books, copies of the Sunnyside Spirit, sheet music and the like:  who knew that JHS 125 had a school song?!  We thought Harry’s old board game, Sunnyside-opoly, which replicated Monopoly pretty perfectly, was a hoot.  Maria laid out her wedding photo album: her wedding to Jack McAndrew had taken place more than 50 years before in this very parish hall which, at the time, was the Queen of Angels Church proper!   JHS 125 girls would have remembered ribbon bows from birthday corsages that held candy and bubble gum – yep! They were there too! 

As people greeted one another and circulated through the hall, they stopped at the Memories table to write down the names of teachers, songs, radio and television programs, etc. of the day.  At another table, to fill in names of businesses in the neighborhood.  A place to sign up for the neighborhood walk.  


And two tables to engage with the Queens Memory Program to help them expand their database.  The Queens Library, co-sponsor and promoter of the event, provided enlarged photos of Sunnyside scenes and a looped videotape of photos. Unfortunately, their scanner was on the blink; memorabilia were left with them for future scanning.  The Queens Memory Program would like you to know that if anyone is interested in giving an hour or so of oral history to the library, they will be happy to set up a recording session in the New York metropolitan area.  

The meat of the afternoon lay in the reading of stories, some already up on the website, and some newly written.  Each of them was very evocative of our time and place, all were extremely varied and interesting.  After brief introductory remarks by Grace and Ruth, we heard the readings of Joanna (Mehrer) Kapner, Harry Gralton, Maria (DeFina) McAndrew, Lee Stonehill, Myra Goldberg, Steve Wolfe and Susan E. Meyer.  After a short break, we heard from Jack Hubert, Josh Lehman, Amy Brook Snider, Nora (Straus) Albert, and Deborah Heller.  Prefaced by Laurie (Beckoff) Wellman, the jolliest moment for everyone was hearing the well-rehearsed group of three (Laurie, Gail {Gottlieb} Seiden, and Lucy {Kryzak} Zaslow) sing charming songs they had created as children for school plays, after which everyone joined in for a rendition of “Susie Snowflake,” a song used by Grace’s mother in her dancing lessons.  Here's a video of Grace leading the group in singing: 

We thank those who moved us to laughter and reflection about the days of our youth.

Afterwards, there was lots of animated discussion in small groups over lemonade and iced tea, fresh fruit, crackers and cheese, and cookies set out as refreshment.  Sixteen energetic people joined the walking tour of the neighborhood with Tony Rohle.  Drinks at a local bar, and dinner nearby enabled other folks to linger in sharing memories.  


One more important item:  we had invaluable volunteers to help out and to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude.  Ali Kappel was on board with the project from its beginning, and did a lot of the heavy lifting to organize the event.  Joanne and Dana Kappel joined in on the day of the event, and Marilyn Kappel delivered the ice and wo-manned the kitchen.  We thank Ali’s friend Ernest, Grace’s friends, and members of the church who helped in setting up chairs and tables, and got the sound system going.  We are grateful to Father Brian Dowd, Queen of Angels Church, for fully supporting our event.


Ruth says:  It was Grace’s enthusiasm for the Sunnyside Stories website, and on her initiative alone, that this day became reality.  Her amazing organizational skills brought the entire day together without a hitch, and her good cheer and lively personality carried the program forward. Kudos to Grace!


Grace says:  I loved preparing for the event, and watching it as it developed over the six months prior to the day.  People gave generous donations ahead of time, and all the bills could be paid, including the cost of the website for the present year.  All the people who wanted to, spoke.  Nothing was missing in a full day.    We were former Sunnysiders enjoying an afternoon together in celebration of the place in which we grew up. 


We invited 100 people, 80 showed up; we could not have asked for more.  We thank everyone who made their way to Sunnyside on June 3rd for this special gathering.


Check out the website for pictures of the event, and other articles brought to share, including some historic documents, as they are made available.  The Queens Library's archives about Sunnyside will be enriched with material people brought.


Finally, please continue to share your stories on the website; they are quite fabulous to read! 

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