SUNDAY NOV 19th
THE BIG DAY
Walter T: Say Ed, who you got on the show tonight?
Ed : Well let's see, we got Senor Wences, Rowan & Martin, some dancing bears out of Romania and for the youngsters, a fine group from California ....... The Beach Boys
Walter T: When you gonna get that Spooner Kid on? He did a little piece on me you know ..... fine kid...
Ed: I tell you Walter, we have tried to book him, but ever since that media blitz , the kid's price has gone right through the roof!
Walter T: Well your tight with his Grandpa right? I'm sure he can get you a deal on the kid!
That's what I would do, yessiree Ed call in a favor .... go through Jack Spooner .......
I WAS JAZZED
I woke up Sunday feeling pretty jazzed about the day ahead. It actually started Saturday night with Kenny & Pam telling me they were going to postpone their long planned departure for their holiday trip to Louisiana another day, just so they could be there tomorrow. Also I now knew positively that some "very special guest (s)" who told me they were going to try to be there, but who wanted to remain anonymous, were indeed going to be there for certain. The reason I knew that is I spent a good part of Saturday evening on the cellphone giving out directions, as they groped their way in the dark through the confusion of the mass of interstates, starting from the Staten Island approach to the Verazanno Bridge, through the Belt Parkway / Southern State confusion near Kennedy Airport and eventually somehow after a long "radio silence" miraculously across the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and onto the LIE heading east. I talked my "mystery guest(s)" in as far as a hotel near MacArthur Airport and all was well for the evening...... Like I said I was jazzed.
I normally would of done this deal much earlier and not this close to a major holiday, but after having to move the date twice, the library asked if I could do it on November 19th. It was not until I was about a week away from leaving that I had some kind of strange hunch about this particular date. Using the perpetual calendar on "The Internets" I checked something out and lo and behold, it turned out that just like the year before when I told the audience I was speaking for the first time publicly on this project in the building where in 2001 I first learned the full name of who owned the Knapp mansion, that this time I was speaking to them on the exact day that I first lived in Mastic Beach 56 years ago! Like I said I was jazzed.
I woke up pretty early and started reading and doing some 11th hour editing to the manuscript. I knew from the git go that I was not going to do the same thing I did last year.....but that said, last year there was no manuscript at all ......but I really wanted to try and convey as much information and story to the audience of how I got so deeply involved in this project and to do that I had to give them as much personal background as I could fit into the allotted time. That meant focusing on the early chapters of the book. I knew there was no way in heck that I could also convey what I have learned about the Knapp family along the way, but again that wasn't the main criteria to this audience either. I know they wanted to hear about their little town ...... both those who lived there before and during the era that I did, and even those newcomers. After all the little town had a story that I felt was as equally as fascinating as the Knapps personal story , just perhaps without the luxury of all the dollars and the Rockefellers etc. And even though I knew we had a full house I had no idea of some of the surprises that were yet to come.
I went to breakfast alone at The William Floyd Diner, just for luck and to focus myself. After that I had about an hour or so before they were expecting me at the library, so I drove over to my school at the end of Lawrence Rd. ( the one I first went to in September 1952 and basically stayed in when I wasn't " personal field tripping" until May of 1964 ) I parked in the circular drive that the buses used to roll into everday at three. Did some more reading and editing taking out some of the sad parts .... "Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans"........ John Lennon
SUNDAY NOV 19 , 2006
OUT IN THE LOBBY
photos courtesy : Mrs Lorraine Paszkiewicz
Not long after I got inside the library and they wired me up with a tape recorder, people started coming in the lecture hall extra early. I know I'm probably going to forget to mention everyone who I met that day some for the first time, but forgive me if I do......I was working without a net.
I know who came in first though, because I hadn't seen either of them in well over forty years and they came right up to me. It was Ray Trocciola who was in my brother's class and his wife Georgette (who I knew as Georgette DeBatto from back in Floyd) Then I met several elderly ladies who were looking at all the photos the library had on display and reminiscing. When they saw the Knapp mansion one of them was talking about how she went to all the social functions that St. Jude's used to hold there. For a lot of folks, even pioneers of Mastic Beach, a landmark that got erased over 47 years ago, can get it's memories and location a little hazy and I heard one of them telling the other. No that's not the Floyd Place ....... that's The Knapp Place where we went to the card parties and the dances that Father Skelly held.....you remember it was over on Dogwood ..... "Oh yes" her friend said complacently.
A group of guys about my age approached and I immediately recognized one of them as Johnny Gaeta. His face hasn't changed a bit. With Johnny was Harold "Red" Thompson, who has changed a bit. Red was in my class and shared a field trip adventure that is chronicled on the website and Ed Brooks who was in the class of '63. Harold brought a bunch of photos and so did some of his relatives. I told Johnny Gaeta that I was expecting Mr. Proefriedt to come. He was my English teacher in 7th grade and we had re united in August of 2004, the week I went to my 40th year reunion. At that time he asked me if I knew the whereabouts of John Gaeta or Carl Lobner, two students he had his first year at Floyd and thought a lot of. I tried to get them together after the show, but John had already left the building in the confusion that seems to well up at the commencement of large crowded meeting. John I promised Mr. P that I would track you down so if you read this please get in touch with me soon ok?
The room was filling up fast now and folks were coming up to me with all kinds of photos, notes, history etc. Then a woman approached me and said "Hello Kenneth, do you know who I am ?".... Her face looked familiar, but before I could run all the way through my filing cabinet between my ears, she grew impatient and said...... Mrs. Paszkiewicz..... HOLY COW..... MISS ROSADO !!! I yelled ..... Here I was talking to my 5th grade teacher, in person for the first time since I last saw her in June of 1957! She actually got married that spring...... as I well remember. We had spoken on the phone seven years ago when I first started this project , but here she was in person thanks to Joe Dionisio and Newsday ..... the teacher I wrote my first essay for... I WAS JAZZED.... I told her I was expecting a few others from our 5th grade class and that got her jazzed too.
Another person of the opposite gender approached me with the same question " Hey Ken ...do you know who I am" again the recognition was there, but the name was lagging behind a bit....but hey I'm going to be 60 in May don't ya know. It's Donald ....Donald Denning..... HEY WOW DONNY (aka Patty) HOW THE HECK ARE YOU ? .... MAN IT'S GREAT THAT YOU ARE HERE ... IS YOUR COUSIN HERE YET?....
Donny's cousin Donald traipsed in a few minutes later..... boy I needed to get some water fast ....so to the back of the room I went where the line for refreshments was getting very long. Josephine Wurthenow handed me a bottle of water and in what seemed seconds I found myself surrounded by both old friends like Marty Himes and Carl Sandbeck and strangers alike. Some folks just came by and nodded hello.... One fellow came up and introduced himself as Rich L'Hommedieu and handed me a T -Shirt and Hat. He is the director of the newly formed Long Island Music HAll Of Fame that just held its first inductions in October of '06 . Rich had read the Newsday article and came to tell me I would be inducted in there next year **..... I was more than jazzed, I was really overwhelmed....don't believe me ? just ask Marty Himes...... he was a witness...... look him up he's in the book in Bay Shore ( he doesn't go near computers ) ...... Another stranger came up to me with a shoebox in hand telling me he wanted to present (whatever was in it) after the show.....I'm telling you this crowd was trying to kill me before I got to read one word to them......
** I NEVER GOT AN EXPLANATION FROM RICH L'HOMMEDIEU WHY "NEXT YEAR" NEVER CAME... ALL I KNOW IS IT WAS A MAJOR EMBARASSMENT TO ME, BECAUSE I HAD FRIENDS FROM ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY WHO WANTED TO ATTEND MY INDUCTION IN 2007. THERE WAS NO FURTHER COMMUNICATION FROM RICH AFTER THIS DAY AND AFTER REPEATED E MAILS & PHONE CALLS TO HIS HOME, I JUST FORGOT ABOUT IT. THEN ABOUT A MONTH BEFORE THE SUPPOSED INDUCTION CEREMONY WAS TO TAKE PLACE THERE WAS AN ITEM IN NEWSDAY THAT THE WHOLE THING WAS CANCELLED &RICH WAS NO LONGER IN CHARGE OF THE HALL. ???
I saw lots of folks who have some very fine historic homes that I have chronicled on the website like Bob Muse, Jack Heyer, Jo Ann Strong. Jimmy Cutro etc and some like Edie Padilla who lives on the actual property the Knapp mansion once stood on. I saw many of the folks who were there last year too. Like I said I know I'm going to forget some names but like I said I was jazzed and if you were there you had to know it too.
As I waited in the wings and Linda Knel was introducing me I spied Fred Gillespie had arrived and was looking for a seat. I became instant usher found him one next to Mr. Proefriedt. Fred who just turned 90 helped me inadvertantly fill in some of the biggest blanks in the Knapp mystery. Then a quick hello to Alicia Patera who just arrived.... I whispered to her Miss Rosado Is Here......scanned the room for my mystery guest(s)....did not see them in the sea of faces but heard Linda Knel say "So Without Further Adieu ,,,,,,,,, it was SHOWTIME.....
Being on stage for over 40 years or so, I no longer get stage fright like I got the first time in 1961, when our band played for Judy Mezzapelle's 13th Birthday party. (Judy is now Judy Pascale the Suffolk County Clerk) but also it doesn't take much for any performer (and a good reading is nothing but a performance otherwise it's a just lecture drone) to be thrown off their game. I had two distractions that day, the lights were reflecting on my pages to the degree that I had to maintain much more eye contact with the page and less with audience than I wanted to. The second was feedback.... When I realised that there was no one working any kind of audio board in the rear of the room, I tried various microphone techniques to try and deal with it. The only thing that seemed to help was staying far off mic. Knowing that there were a lot of elderly audience members who may have trouble hearing, I spoke up as loud as would dare hoping my voice would hold out and trying to not set off the audio from howling. It was a balancing act I would of preffered not to have to deal with. When I was about 3/4 of the way through, I accidentally discovered it was the actual hollowness of the speakers podium that was causing the microphone acousticaly to start to ring and bug me and I'm sure others especially those in the front rows. I remedied it by keeping both hands firmly planted on the text book thereby dampning the top of the podium, but may of came off as a little stiff. But the show must go on....
There were several major highlights for me during the reading. The major one was the fact that some of the actual people I wrote about, like the Denning cousins or Miss Rosado were sitting in the audience. I aknowledged them to the crowd and it felt really good .... like I said I WAS JAZZED!!! I basicaly told my personal story of growing up in Mastic Beach of 1950 - 1959 era filtering in my Knapp discoveries throughout.
Then it came time to drop the screen and show the photos. I just sat on the edge of the stage with a hand held mike and narrated them freestyle....and totaly off the cuff.
From the experience last year, I knew there were a few photos I had that were going to get a strong response from the crowd. Like the one of Pat & Mike, two regular guys who ran a gas station in town. That was fun and those who were there last year certainly seemed like they enjoyed seeing those pics again. Also I picked up on the longstanding good natured rivalry between both Mastic & Mastic Beach Fire Department members. When ever a photo of a fire that the other department seemed to have difficulty with or could slightly be slightly embarrassed by appeared on screen, there seemed to be laughs from the other side. Finally my Christmas Card to The Mastics appeared on screen and it was time to say good by.
There was another surge of well wishers and folks who wanted to say something or give me photos etcetera from all three sides, my back was against the stage. I quickly saw people like Jim York The Hempstead Town Historian who sent me the very first pics of Mastic Beach in the 1930's, My camera's flash was not working or I would of had a few more to show you thats for sure. Luckily Frank O'Shea was there with his. Frank was the drummer in my very first band The Islanders and we met " by accident " last year for the first time since 1962. I posed for a few photos and wished I could of posed with a bunch more. Far too many people got away from me that day (some were encouraged to leave by the security guards who wanted to close up the joint ) Can't blame them ...for them it was a working day.
DO I LOOK JAZZED?
With "Miss Rosado" KKA Mrs. Lorraine Paszkiewicz and Alicia Patera Norwick
Alicia & I were both in her SECOND YEAR class she had as a teacher.
photo courtesy: Frank O'Shea
photo courtesy : Mrs Lorraine Paszkiewicz
WALK DON'T RUN IT'S ONE HALF OF "THE ISLANDERS"
Frank O'Shea Drums, Doug Percoco, Guitar, and some distracted guy who appears to be looking for the rest of the band. Missing are Pete Morano, Tenor Sax who still lives in Mastic Beach , Bill Clausing Alto Sax who lives in Kansas and Adolf Almasy Accordian who still lives on LI, but was on a cruise ship that week
photo courtesy: Frank O'Shea
William Floyd Class Of '64 Mini Reunion
Kenny Vitellaro , George Barnes, Steve Landau, the former Ken Joseph, Alicia Patera
Out wandering around in the hall was Larry Hall, and perhaps a few others
As I mentioned there were other "Floyd Kids" there. I'm sure more than I actually got to speak with. Kathy Potts came up to me with her Mom Phyllis. I mentioned to Phyllis that I recall eating chicken noodle soup in her kitchen during Easter break around 1955 when I played baseball with her son Lee. I told Kathy that all of us are in a group photo at Larry Schulz's birthday party from that era that's online here,
I also got to meet like last time, folks that have contributed photos and stories I have only e mailed with. This time I met Sue Brooks and Chris Taylor ( of the Taylor Brothers Garage that was on the triangle at Mastic Rd & Montauk Hwy) who have sent me photos of their grandparents like the the Bartys who were in Mastic ever since it was developed in the early 20's They brought a few more gems I just added into The Way We Were pages. Also met the daughter (whose name is escaping me) of Vi Glendenning who worked at the Stork Club in the 1940's with my grandfather Jack and get this. They actually lived in my former Mastic Beach house! It was a photo of the house online that led to her and her husband contacting me.
And there were new "Old Timers" I got to meet for the first time , like Gerry Hemming Henry who has lived in Mastic Beach since the 1930's and is promising to look through her family photos. And Dennis Lukert of East Moriches who's wife was related to Willie Schluder ( the Knapps last estate superintendant). I can't say it enough times If you got photos or stuff or know anyone who might E MAIL me please.
Again I'm probably forgetting someone but things were a blur after the show and they were really trying to empty the place out as fast as possible. I can't believe that one of the Denning boys got away from me before we had a chance to get a photo together.
Chris Rohan, was the fellow with the shoe box and he reappeared this time also holding a copy of my first book Long Ride On A Short Track. He told me the passage in the book I called "Stand By Me" really struck a chord with him and he had made what was in the box when he discovered just three days ago from Newsday that I was going to be here. I opened it and almost fell over. Just ask Marty Himes he was right there witnessing it again.
There it was the car from that Stand By Me passage, but painted in the color and numbered as 43 like the one I raced myself. Detailed right down to the Six Pack Logo on the trunk and the passage from the book on the rear of the display case.
For a writer, be it a song, poem, story etc. , the greatest reward you can have is to have reached somebody in someway.
IT WAS A VERY GOOD DAY
photo courtesy : Mrs Lorraine Paszkiewicz
Afterwards a few of us got together and headed down to Ornofrio's for a little more pizza, but they were having a private party, so it was up to the William Floyd Diner again (No I do Not Get A Kickback For Mentioning Any Establishments) Got to catch up with Donald Denning a bit at the table. Doug Percoco , Kenny & Pam came and Oh yes.... my special mystery guest!.... Like I said .... It Was A Very Jazzy Day...
MONDAY NOV 20th TIME TO GO HOME
The next morning it was seeing Kenny & Pam off and having coffee with their neighbor across the street, Dan Yeager who is a professional musician and who also came to the show. And then off for a special Spooner - Knapp tour with my very special guest. We hit all the spots and met several of the main players who have helped me through the years on the wildest research adventure I have ever known. Yes we took pictures and they may be in the book someday or they may not. That said it was a great way to wind up a great trip.
MY HOSTS HEADING DOWN TO LOUISIANA
With their three dogs Dolly, Beaner and Bitsy
I got dropped off at MacArthur airport around 4 in the afternoon. Traveling by plane post 911 is not any fun anymore at all .What's even worse is when you hear your name announced on the PA to come to a desk...that can never be good.....
SPOONER TAKES A DIVE
I was diverted to another airport (Chicago's Midway) and wound up getting home a little later but I got there ok. While in Chicago I couldn't help but notice this WW2 Dive Bomber that was in the battle of Midway. It sure looked like the Grumman or Republic planes that were built on Long Island. It wasn't (It's a Douglas) but certainly flew with them. And just like the boat back at MacArthur, this plane had been in the water too. It seems they pulled it out of Chicago Lake in 1991.