What’s your Woodhaven story?
by Ed Wendell
May 30, 2017 | 900 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
How many of you remember the trolleys that ran along Jamaica Avenue? Come to the Woodhaven Historians "Voices of Woodhaven" meeting and share your story.
How many of you remember the trolleys that ran along Jamaica Avenue? Come to the Woodhaven Historians "Voices of Woodhaven" meeting and share your story.
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Everyone has at least one.

And at the next meeting of the Woodhaven Historians, we’ll listen to some residents share their Woodhaven stories and we hope you’ll come out to hear them and maybe share some of your own.

The meeting, which we are calling “Voices of Woodhaven,” takes place Tuesday, June 6, at 7 p.m. at the Avenue Diner at 91-06 Jamaica Avenue. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

This is part of our effort to collect oral histories and memories of Woodhaven from as many people as we can. We’ve interviewed about two-dozen people so far, and all of these interviews will be placed online and donated to the Queens Library for future generations of historians to listen to and enjoy.

Last week, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Lewis, who spoke about his early days at the old wooden schoolhouse that was originally P.S. 60. It was interesting to hear about how small the school was, and how you had to pass through one schoolroom to get to another.

Prior to that, we interviewed longtime resident Leonora Lavan, who has lived in the same house for almost her entire life. St. Anthony’s Hospital used to be across the street from her, and she shared memories of how the land behind that hospital used to be a farm and the nuns would sell produce.

We’ve also interviewed Walter Steffens, who has been living on the same block for nearly eight decades. Steffens told us about the time he was hit by a car on Jamaica Avenue when he was nine. He also told us about all the different ice cream shops he visited as a young man.

Each interview we do adds another brushstroke to the large painting of Woodhaven that we’re creating. And with each interview, we learn a bit more about our neighborhood’s past and understand a bit more about what made it so very special.

If you are interested in participating, come out to our meeting next Tuesday, which serves as a warmup for individual interviews. If you can’t make the meeting but would still like to participate, email us at woodhavenhistory@gmail.com or call us at (718) 805-2002.

We have created a worksheet to help get the conversation started, with questions like, if you could travel back in time, what stores would you visit? Can you describe the outside of that store? How about the inside? Can you remember any of the people that worked there?

For me, I would visit some of the butcher shops and delis of my youth. I loved the smell of the sawdust on the floor. And I would love to revisit the store I worked in, Phil’s Cheese & Cold Cuts on 90th Street, next to Jason’s.

What other places would you visit, such as parks, playgrounds, churches or schools? Can you describe them?

In our interview with Lewis, he described the courtyard of the Wyckoff apartment building in some detail, as well as the original Equity Park, which was across 88th Avenue from the Wyckoff. What do you remember about that classic park right in the middle of Woodhaven?

Where was your favorite place to eat in Woodhaven? What school did you go to? Who were your favorite teachers? Did you ever march in the Anniversary Day parades?

These questions and many more will be part of the conversation next week and in all of our interviews as part of this Voices of Woodhaven project.

As a side note, here and there we’ve been teasing the upcoming reveal of the Museum of Woodhaven History. Well, work on this has begun in earnest, and it will be opening on schedule later this year and the results of the Voices of Woodhaven project will be a big part of that.

So the more voices we gather will ensure that the future generations of Woodhaven will better understand us and our past. It’s our chance to speak to the future and we hope that everyone will take this opportunity to make their voice heard.

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