Friends, Neighbors, and Storekeepers; East Islip in the '40's and '50's 

by Paul Case

Through I came to know Bill Faller who contacted me regarding the possibility of sharing recollections of my youth in East Islip. . We first met at and had a running commentary about life on Main Street in East Islip. Bill Faller also lived on Division Avenue, though I did not know him. He is eight years or so younger and lived on the far end of the street. I’ve been blessed with a pretty good memory and have always referred to it as “my vast wasteland of useless information”. Now that I put that memory to paper, I’ve a new perspective. Thus, the genesis of this article.  These memories are far from being a wasteland as I think back and remember the kind people I met along the way. Friends, neighbors, and storekeepers all played a major roll in my development. These are memories covering the late forties through the late fifties. At the time I resided with my parents and sister at 16 Division Ave. My apologies for any names that have been misspelled.

  Using Division Avenue as the epicenter, let’s go east on Main Street. Directly across the street from Division Ave was Divolla’s Pottery  featuring bird feeders and such. Their son, Anthony, was a classmate of mine at St. Mary’s and for a short time at East Islip High School.

  To the left was Puntervolts, the first miniature golf course in East Islip, if not the world.  Both of  these establishments were later replaced by Friendly’s Restaurant.

  On the opposite side of the street were two junkyards.  Harry Gutkin owned the first one and the Lipsky’s owned the second. Bennie Lipsky was  one of my first Little League coaches.  He was instrumental in converting me from an outfielder to a pitcher.  Never did win a game.

  If all that junk and dirt makes you thirsty, let’s stop by Collins Inn for a cold one. 

  Continuing East brings us to the high school. Pretend it’s Friday night and there’s a junior varsity and varsity game at the gym. No, not the Pete Rogers Gym that was built in the mid fifties. The original gym with the black floor, balcony and stage.  Remember Dick Sperger? He was a scoring machine. Biggest rivalry was of course Islip with big Walt Edsell.  This gym would later become the auditorium from which I graduated…..barely.

  Next to the high school was an eatery and hangout called the Grotto and next to that a machine shop on the corner of Laurel and Main. Both were owned by Joe and Pauline Schwartz who also owned our house and lived next to us at 18 Division Avenue  I referred to them as Aunt Pauline and Uncle Joe. I spent many an hour with them.  They treated me like I was their very own son. 

  Country Village then sprang up in the early fifties.  This meant new friends and new adventures.  Remember thinking how lucky those kids were. They could sleep until the last minute because they were so close to school.  The rest of us had to walk miles (four blocks).

  Returning to Division Ave we head West. In back of the fire department the guys are practicing for an upcoming tournament.

  Dropping my broken American Flyer train set off to Dick Adams, owner of the Shell station. I swear he could fix anything.  His son and I were close friends growing up.

  Checking in with Herman Manno at the pony ring. Big ring cost ten cents per ride, little ring five cents per ride. Herman had several ponies over the years. One was a white horse named “Silver” who died when I was young.  His bread and butter though was the beautiful “Minnie”. This pony was amazing.  She had to be 100 years old.  Everyone loved Minnie and I think Minnie loved everybody.

  Are you hungry?  Let’s stop at the Woodland Rest. George is at the grill. You hear the orders being barked, “one up, with”. Translated, that was a hot dog with sauerkraut. I’ll take two. “That’s thirty cents please”.  George looks on with disdain as he watches the new, ultra modern East Islip Diner being erected across the street.  

  Next up is Bernsteins Department Store. Mrs. Bernstein and her son are so nice and so helpful. Being patient as I count my change trying to come up with enough for that Christmas present.  They of course knew me by name as did everyone on Main Street. That’s the way it was.

  Directly across the street was a small grocery store owned by Bill Nocar.  While at  St. Mary’s this is where we would go for lunch once or twice a week.  Bill cleared a little spot in front of the window for us to sit. One day would be a bologna and relish on a roll, the next a lettuce and tomato on a roll.  Each one cost twenty cents.

  How about a skate around the veterans park? May I borrow your key?  If you don’t know what a roller skate key is, then your too young to be reading this.

  Need to drop my mother’s shopping list off at Royal Scarlet Market. George Stadler will take care of the meat and Dave will fill and deliver the order to your kitchen. Hope she remembered the Needicks orange soda.

  Let’s stop in to see Frank Zwissler at his butcher shop.  Always a free sample there.  His son went to St. Mary’s with me. Remember the day Mrs. Zwissler died.  Frank, Jr. was pretty young.  Very sad time.

  Wave to Manny and Sylvia Karp who own the liquor store, then stop at Bill Vasata’s barbershop for haircut. Bill will give me a fresh supply of bubble gum with baseball cards. Giants have a new player named Mays and I sure hope to get a pack with his card. Bill’s son is playing minor league baseball in the Carolina league. 

  I’ll pass on Hanfords bar and grill and go to Fortunatos Pharmacy, the original one on the corner next to the post office.  Hi Carmen, a black and white ice cream soda please.  To this day, I have not had an ice cream soda to rival his.  Let’s make sure we say hello to Vincent and his wife. Two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

  Behind them is Vollbract's Dairy and across the street is Ulino’s Shoe Repair. Mrs. Ulino was my Den Mother in Cub Scouts.  Their two sons, Anthony and Bobby went to school with me. Will never forget my first Italian meal with them. I’ve been hooked on Italian ever since.

  Crossing Second Avenue by Raulstons Grocery  run by kindly Emil Kriss.   Continue past Podlacks Pharmacy.

  Keeping a dentist appointment with Dr. Feldman. What’s Novocaine? Remember how loudly he whistled while he worked.  Helped drown out the screaming (kidding).  

  Dr. Chesnows office is busy. That’s where I received my first stitches.

  Garbarino Brothers are hard at work in their grocery store.  They are a fun group. Mr. & Mrs. Garbarino,  John, Joe, Paul, Richard and a younger brother. Never a dull moment with them.

  Across the street Dave and Ann Rubenstein are busy in the five and ten, while Dr. Liebermann’s wife is trying and trying to back that big Lincoln or Mercury out of their narrow driveway.

  Stopping in to see my mother at the Evelyn Case Religious Goods store. Sign on the door says she’ll return in an hour.  Must be at Rudy’s getting her hair done.  Abby and Rudy are good friends of the family. Their son, Rudy also went to school with me. His fifteen minutes of fame came when he was the jury foreman  for the trial of serial killer, Ted Bundy.  

  Go past the First National Bank, Unton Buchek, President. Loved that name.

  The screaming you hear is the tortured innocents of St. Mary’s Parochial School.  Probably Richard Garbarino is taking yet another  ruler across the hands. The nuns had an endless supply of these rulers. We would throw one out and they would find another.  How I miss playing Punch Ball at recess and lunch.

  Let’s take in an Abbott and Costello double feature at Jim Poro’s East Islip theatre. Wonder who won the dishes last Wednesday night.  If there’s time we’ll go for a quick skate at Knapps Lake after the movie.

  We’re almost at the end of our journey. Would like to make one final stop at a place where we spent most every summer day, Halloran’s Field. The Hallorans home was on Irish Lane and their backyard was a baseball field. Many a ball lost its cover at that field. Games would go on all day, every day. I don’t know how they could stand it, but never once did they complain.

  I would love to take my children back in time to meet some of these people. They were so caring and understanding. Neighbors were such a blessing.  Today we’re lucky if we know their last name. There are so many people I need to thank.

  My father passed away in 1963 and my mother in 1975. My sister left home in the mid-fifties and moved to Boston where she still resides. I joined the Navy in 1958 and moved to Boston upon my discharge in 1962. I now reside in Brockton, MA with my wife and four of my six children and a grandson on the way.

( Ed. Note: You can reach Paul Case at )