Monday, November 12, 2007


According to my blurry memory, after six months of living in an apartment building on Fordham Road (#4, 5 or 6 train to Pelham Parkway) in the Bronx, my family moved to Elmhurst, Queens in July 1980. These were the early years in America when each member in the family was trying to survive together as a unit but also "swim or sink" in our own little world. My Mom stayed home while my Dad and I worked. My sister, CH, brothers TL and VL attended Newtown High School.

While going thru boxes of photos and an album filled with 35mm films, I found these photos which I took with my first Canon camera. I read an entry in Qaptain Qwerty's blog about his visit to the old neighborhood, and since his lousy old cell phone could not capture the street signs, I got the idea for this entry about the old neighborhood from my perspective. There were many wonderful memories in that small one-bedroom apartment but also unpleasant instances of being in such tight living quarter. In August 1986, I moved out to my first "crib" in Forest Hills, Queens.

Elmhurst is a neighborhood in northwestern Queens. The apartment building we lived in was only a block away from the #7 Flushing subway line. The station was 90th Street/Elmhurst Avenue. We could see the subway from our windows. My Mom used to sit by the bedroom window looking out for my Dad. He often waved from the platform when he got off the train. Whether for safety reason or just trying to keep dinner warm, Mom always kept an eye out for Dad and had everything ready by the time Dad rang the door bell.

We lived in one of the apartment buildings as shown in photo below.

I remember going to Jackson Heights/82nd Street with my sister CH on the weekends to do shopping, seeing a movie or just hanging out at a drug store because we were infatuate with a store manager named Gerry. Back then we thought he was really good looking and because he was always smiling while saying hello to us. As we got older, our taste in men has improved over the years. CH and I got a good laugh now and then when we talked about our silly crush on Gerry who was a plain looking middle age man with receding hairline.

I also remember going to the library with CH & QQ. One time we tried to check out more than 20 Peanuts books because we loved the comic strips. The librarian told us that one person could only borrow 10 items each check out. We went back to a nearby table, divided the piles between the three of us and were able to check out all the books! Another fond memory was when we thought we saved money by going to an early double-feature show. We all got terrible headache afterward! Well, at least the Qaptain did not cry and demanded to leave the show after he ate all the popcorn and candy!
The above photo must be the view from the windows in our apartment. Unlike the movie "Rear Window" starring James Stewart as L.B. Jefferies who was confined to his Greenwich Village apartment with his leg in a cast and witnessed a murder from his window, we only got the good view of the subway trains and the people getting on and off the trains. In the summer, my Mom would make comments about young women who wore very little clothing or older women who did not dress appropriately for their age by exposing too much of their bodies.

The neigbhoorhood back then was already high population density with many ethnic groups. Perhaps because we were still learning about the new land, I was not able to distinguish a Russian immigrant from a white American, a Kenyan refugee from a black American or a Mexican from someone of Dominican Republic. I read the book "Queens - What to do, Where to Go (and how not to get lost) in New York's Undiscovered Borough" by Ellen Freudenheim that in 2006, people from over 100 different countries are living in Elmhurst. This is much different from the first half of the 20th century when the neighborhood were mostly upwardly mobile Italian and Jewish.

This probably was the window Qaptain Qwerty mentioned looking for his schoolmate walking toward the building. Back then, we did not talk much about our daily lives and I only learned about QQ's first summer job at Hot Bagel from his blog. It is one of the reasons why I really appreciate blogging. I have to ask my sister CH and brother TL about their experience during that time and about attending Newtown High School. The Newtown H. S. located at 90th Street & 48th Avenue, was built in 1917. It is one of the city's largest public high school serving approximately 4,500 students.

The above photo was from one of the stores along Roosevelt Avenue which has been one of the main commercial strips through the Jackson Heights neighborhood. I went back there in 2003 and understood why the area was called Little India as evident from the colorful fabrics stores, displays of saris, silk cloth, grocery stores with fresh and dried Asian spices and vegetables. The aroma of exotic ingredients coming from restaurants that are Pakistani and East Indian could be overwhelming to visitors who are not familiar with the new cultures taking place. The old theater we used to go to now showing Bollywood movies in Hindi and Urdu.

The photo below must be the grocery store on the other side of either Roosevelt Avenue or Elmhurst Avenue. I remember crossing the street, away from the apartment building to get to the store. My Mom did most of the shopping (and cooking), while I only went with her on the weekend to carry the packages home.

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