By Louise E Dunn Herman
Here I am sitting on a stool in front of the counter at the Laurel Luncheonette. It’s called the Laurel because of it’s location, on the corner of Laurelton Blvd., and Park Avenue, in Long Beach, New York. Ricky Pine is making me an ice cream sundae, with hot fudge and wet walnuts, whipped cream and a cherry. Her husband, Hy Pine, is at the cash register in front, chatting through his mustache in his high whispery voice, with all the customers. There are a few tables, and two racks hold comics, and paperback books. Sundaes are 35 cents, and ice cream sodas 25. Located next to the Laurel movie theater, it’s great for a hamburger, malted, or Lime Rickey. Hy jokes that this flavorful soda pop drink, prominently featured in a sign above the counter, was named in honor of his pretty wife, who wears her Lucille Ball style red hair in an upsweep. My friend Terre, who lives on my block, is the daughter of Ricky and Hy. Sometimes, she wraps a white apron around her waist, and pitch
es in at the counter.
Life here is easy. It’s a small town, an island, “the healthiest city in the world,” says the sign on one of the grassy malls that threads through the center of town. The place is defined by the bay, beach, and boardwalk. The Long Island Railroad Station, and City Hall are right in the middle of town. Gino’s Pizza, Laskas Florists, Tilben Records, and The Cozy Nook, the East Ender’s version of the Laurel, are main establishments. West is Atlantic Beach, further east is Lido Beach and then, Point Lookout.
You go to the beach in the daytime, and the boardwalk at night, to the rec center after school. And once in a while, you visit the municipal pool, whose chlorinated water turns your bathing suit white. Handsome lifeguards roam the beaches. Young policemen patrol Park Street. Local politicians eat lunch elbow to elbow in the Penguin, the Grenada, Mickey’s, the Laurel or the Cozy Nook. Everyone knows everyone…kids, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. A highlight is the Memorial Day Parade, bringing out everyone in and around Park Street to watch all the school children, firemen, police, and politicians march to celebrate the holiday and the town.
You buy your shoes, clothes, and party dresses in town. The wooden floored Five and Ten carries all the sundries. Deluxe Market has great meat and vegetables. Rita’s dress shop has a big sale every year when lots of housewives always line up, waiting to get in. Irving the milkman comes a few days a week and fills a wooden box outside the back door with cottage cheese, milk, juice, butter. A soda truck comes once a month, with a case of assorted soda for mom and dad’s cousin’s club evening. They aren’t really cousins, but are adopted by their friends’ families because they all get along so well.
Everyone lives in walking distance to the beach. And every day is a beach day. If it rains you walk back home. And go to the movies, or the rec center, or the library, another popular meeting place. Fishing is great at the pier by the bay. Or you might rent a rowboat and paddle around Reynolds Channel. And once in a while, you can jump on the train and in about 50 minutes, you are right in the middle of 34th Street in New York. You can head to Macy’s, or Chinatown, or Radio City, or up to the Met for a great day of culture and food and fun.
But the most fun is the boardwalk. Overlooking the beach, it's two miles long, and the main part is right in the center of town, with games, rides, miniature golf, and the most delicious food. Pizza, soft custard, knishes, cotton candy, jelly apples, how to choose? The games are amazing: greyhound races where you push down on a rubber lever, and a ball goes into a box, causing sleek metallic greyhounds to advance on a track above you. The faster you do it, the further your greyhound advances. Soon, you are winning tickets, which you can redeem for really good prizes, such as sets of glasses, stuffed animals, or plastic toys. Skeeball, roll the ball poker which seems to be populated by somewhat shady looking characters, a scary fortune teller lady in a big glass box at the Penny Arcade, a shooting range, are all there for pennies, five and ten cents.
At night, the boardwalk lights up, and the ferris wheel, right next to the cotton candy booth, is always noisy with screaming patrons. Walking on the boardwalk is about the best thing to do in Long Beach at night. In the daytime, old men feed pigeons with bags of dried peas or bread, and the sun reflects on your new metal bike. But at night the mysterious black surf, with its white churny foam, plays a backdrop of lulling music, as you sit on the benches or lean on the cool metal rails, and feel excitement in the air.
Long Beach © 2007 Louise E. Dunn Herman (firstname.lastname@example.org)