Monday, August 2, 2010


1947 yearbook picture

Mario Ablondi often takes the short ride from his home in Pearl River to St. Anthony's Cemetery in Nanuet to visit the grave of his brother, Bruno, who was killed in action in Korea. On a recent visit, he thought someone had mistakenly left a wood cross decorated with a baseball at his brother's resting place. But then he found a note and phone number, on the back.
It had been by Ben Capua, who grew up in the Bronx and had just graduated from Evander Childs High School when he was drafted near the end of World War II. Almost immediately after Bruno Ablondi graduated in 1947 from Pearl River High School, where he was All-Rockland County athlete in three sports, he served a year in the Army. Capua and Ablondi, met when they were reservists and served together in Korea after being activated in 1950.
By then, Ablondi was both playing semi-pro football and baseball. Hoping to keep his pitching arm in shape, he found a catcher's mitt aboard their troop transport ship, the Ainsworth, so Capua and others could catch for him. "By the time we were done," Capua says of those sessions, "I couldn't feel my hand." Capua says his buddy was looking forward to a pro baseball career, perhaps with the Yankees, although Mario Ablondi says nothing had come of his brother's one tryout before Korea erupted.
There was no shortage of volunteers to catch for Ablondi, Capua says. "Everybody loved him. He just had a personality that everyone liked." By June 1951, Ablondi and Capua had seen much action against North Korean and Chinese forces in the area of the 38th parallel, the dividing line between the two Koreas. They had been making gains, pushing enemy forces back north of the dividing line.
But on June 2, Capua says, " a little squad of North Korean snuck up on us and lobbed in grenades. "The GIs dove into nearby foxholes. Bruno Ablondi -- who was known as Bruce or Brucie -- was mortally wounded. "He got hit with a grenade," Capua says, "and there was no helping him." The irony was, they were only days from being assigned from combat.
When that happened, Capua, who in civilian life worked as an embalmer, was assigned to preparing the fallen for transport home. That was so hard emotionally, he told me in a telephone interview Thursday evening, that he never returned to the funeral business. Ablondi't remains arrived back in Rockland County in October 1951. Ben Capua was home by then, too, and was with the Ablondis for Bruno's burial.
In 1979, Ablondi was elected to the Rockland Sports Hall of Fame, praised as one of Pearl River's finest all-around athletes of all time. Capua, now 83, splits his time between Somers in Northern Westchester and the Ft. Lauderdale, FL, area. He's never forgotten being with Ablondi in those last moments of a friendship that had grown so deep that the two men planned to have a double wedding when they returned to the girls they left behind.
Capua worked in his family's construction business, which eventually specialized in stairmaking. He married his sweetheart, settled in Eastchester and raised three children. Their first Corinne, now lives in Somers. When their first son was born 52 years ago, the Capuas named him Bruce, for Bruno "Bruce" Ablondi. Back around memorial day, Ben Capua expressed a desire to visit Ablondi's grave, but couldn't recall where it was. Corinne Capua Storms spotted a mention of Ablondi in my column last year about Rockland's Eagle Chapter of the Korean War Veterans honoring the 27 Rockland residents killed in Korea to mark the anniversary of the war's end, as they will do again today at Onderdonk Cemetery at Rockland Community College.
She called, wondering if I might know where they could find Ablondi's grave. I pointed her to Rockland Veterans Burial Commissioner Tony Lombardi, who worked with Eagle Chapter President Dan Zevola and told her Ablondi is buried at St. Anthony's Cemeteryl. Just before
Father's Day, Bruce Capua accompanied his dad to the grave of his namesake, leaving the wood cross he fashioned at his Stillwell stairs business in Goldens Bridge. His brother, Robert, owns SRI Stairbuilders, in Mount Vernon.
The visit, Ben Capua says, "made me cry," thinking about what they had been through together and the potential lost in Ablondi's death. Mario Ablondi, who is 86, has spoken with Bruce Capua since finding the cross, but has only traded answering machine messages with his brother's wartime buddy. He says he's touched that almost 60 years later, someone remembers Bruno and cared to visit his grave. They must have had some strong connection, "Mario Ablondi says of his brother and the man who never forgot him." Sometimes, two people meet and they get very close, Ben Capua says of his connection with Bruno Ablondi, "It was real brotherly love."

From the Journal News, written by Bob Baird

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Bert and Sally meet Bob and Marcy Brennan for lunch at Olive Garden in Savannah in 7/2010.

Bert lives in Sun City, South Carolina and loves hearing from his "old" athletes.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What Pearl River Means To Me

Marion's melons and Willy Barz's watermelons
Tex Davidowitz's curls and Matty's girls
Oakley's taxi --- Judge Borger
Eloise and the Cove
Steve and the Campus
The Cozy Nook --- Norby
Roller skating --- Father Ansbro --Pizza

Skinny dipping --white rock --- seven foot
Pitching pennies --- Leroy Holmes
Football: King Kong, Rip, Krupka and Charlie Boy
Teachers: Chrome Dome, Black Max, Tony Donut
Leather Jackets and Peg Pants
Colors: Pink and Black
Couples: Pete and Pepe, Tom and Marion, George and Peggy

The Duke of Earl -- Earth Angel --The Big Bopper
Ronnie's Cars and Beets' Bikes
Irene and her horses
Elvis Presley and Flatsy Patsy
Lighting Cree and Uncle Ira
Miss Metress, Rose Wizwer, and Miss Ingerson
Stickball with Merriman and Van Zandt

Kevin's singing ---Larry's winning -- Timmy's losing
Flag Flyers and Slim Jim Ties
D.A.'s and Mohawks --crew cuts too
Bill at the movies--Johnny the cameraman --Babe O'Shaughnessy too
Church bazaars, potato sack races, penny socials
Msgr. Toner and Pastor Buller

Umlands--The Grenada--The Commodore
Charlie, Tony, Pete and Dottie
Caddying in Rivervale
Fudgesicles--Cherry Cokes--Raisinettes

Physicals--cold hands
Lefkowitz and Casarra--soak it in Epsum Salts, too
Chemistry--Mr. Stanley--Booklet A and Booklet B
The Our Future Party
Skip Second Period Today

Wanda, Brenda, Myra and Mona
Ted Steele, Ed Sullivan and Howdy Doody
Theresa Brewer, Jonie James and Nat King Cole
The Orangetown Telegram --Mad Magazine
Art Hopper and Mr. Tulevich

Bowling at the Mapleways--Palisades Park
Pep Rallies, "Pearl River to you, we always will be true"
Dexters, Lederles, Rockland State
Silas Champ, Irv Sherman, Mr. Kenyon
Playing Johnny ride the pony
Flash Gordon, Aldo, Dawson, Luke and Gus

Moonean Ingham and Stephanie Demchuch too
3D movies, I Love Lucy, Bobby Thomson's homer
The Say Hey Kid


Written for our 25th reunion 17Jun1982
by Bob Brennan

Saturday, March 14, 2009


New Jersey is a peninsula. Highlands, New Jersey has the highest elevation along the entire eastern seaboard, from Maine to Florida. New Jersey is the only state where all of its counties are classified as metropolitan areas.
New Jersey has more race horses than Kentucky.
New Jersey has more Cubans in Union City (1 sq.mi.) than Havana, Cuba.
New Jersey has the densest system of highways and railroads in the US.
New Jersey has the highest cost of living.
New Jersey has the highest cost of auto insurance..
New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation.
New Jersey has the most diners in the world and is sometimes referred to as the "Diner Capital of the World."
New Jersey is home to the original Mystery Pork Parts Club.
(no, not Spam): Taylor Ham or Pork Roll.
NJ is home to the less mysterious, but the best Italian hot dogs and Italian sausage w/peppers and onions.
North Jersey has the most shopping malls in the world, with seven major shopping malls in a 25 square mile radius.
New Jersey is home to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The Passaic River was the site of the first submarine ride by inventor John P. Holland.
New Jersey has 50+ resort cities & towns; some of the nation's most famous: Asbury Park, Wildwood, Atlantic City, Seaside Heights, Long Branch, Cape May.
New Jersey has the most stringent testing along our coastline for water quality control than any other seaboard state in the entire country.
New Jersey is a leading technology & industrial state and is the largest chemical producing state in the nation when you include pharmaceuticals.
Jersey tomatoes are known the world over as being the best you can buy.
New Jersey is the world leader in blueberry and cranberry production.
Here's to New Jersey - the toast of the country! In 1642, the first brewery in America, opened in Hoboken.
New Jersey rocks! The famous Les Paul invented the first solid body electric guitar in Mahwah, in 1940.
New Jersey is a major seaport state with the largest seaport in the US, located in Elizabeth. Nearly 80 percent of what our nation imports comes through Elizabeth Seaport first.
New Jersey is home to one of the nation's busiest airports (in Newark ),Liberty International.
George Washington slept here. Several important Revolutionary War battles were fought on New Jersey soil, led by General George Washington.
The light bulb, phonograph (record player), and motion picture projector, were invented by Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park, NJ, laboratory.
We also boast the first town ever lit by incandescent bulbs.
The first seaplane was built in Keyport, NJ .
The first airmail (to Chicago) was started from Keyport, NJ .
The first phonograph records were made in Camden, NJ.
New Jersey was home to the Miss America Pageant held in Atlantic City.
The game Monopoly, played all over the world, named the streets on its playing board after the actual streets in Atlantic City. And, Atlantic City has the longest boardwalk in the world, not to mention salt water taffy.
New Jersey has the largest petroleum containment area outside of the Middle East countries.
The first Indian reservation was in New Jersey , in the Watchung Mountains. New Jersey has the tallest water-tower in the world. (Union.)
New Jersey had the first medical center, in Jersey City.
The Pulaski SkyWay, from Jersey City to Newark, was the first skyway highway.
NJ built the first tunnel under a river, the Hudson ( Holland Tunnel).
The first baseball game was played in Hoboken, NJ, which is also the birthplace of Frank Sinatra.
The first intercollegiate football game was played in New Brunswick in 1889 ( Rutgers College played Princeton).
The first drive-in movie theater was opened in Camden, NJ, (but they're all gone now!).
New Jersey is home to both of " NEW YORK'S" pro football teams!
The first radio station and broadcast was in Paterson, NJ.
The first FM radio broadcast was made from Alpine, NJ, by Maj. Thomas.
The Great Falls in Paterson, on the Passaic River, is the 2nd highest waterfall on the East Coast of the US .
You know you're from Jersey when...
You don't think of fruit when people mention "The Oranges."
You know that it's called Great Adventure, not Six Flags.
A good, quick breakfast is a hard roll with butter.
You've known the way to Seaside Heights since you were seven.
You've eaten at a diner, when you were drunk, at 3 A.M.
You know that the state isn't one big oil refinery.
At least three people in your family still love Bruce Springsteen, and you know the town Jon Bon Jovi is from.
You know what a "jug handle" is.
You know that WaWa is a convenience store.
You know that the state isn't all farmland.
You know that there are no "beaches" in New Jersey --there's the shore--and you don't go "to the shore," you go "down the shore." And when you are there, you're not "at the shore"; you are "down the shore."
You know how to properly negotiate a circle.
You knew that the last sentence had to do with driving.
You know that this is the only "New" state that doesn't require "New" to identify it (try . . . Mexico, . . . York, . . . Hampshire ... doesn't work, does it?).
You know that a " White Castle " is the name of BOTH a fast food chain AND a fast food sandwich.
You consider putting mayo on a corned beef sandwich a sacrilege.
You don't think "What exit?" is very funny.
You know that people from the 609 area code are "a little different." Yes they are!
You know that no respectable New Jerseyan goes to Princeton;that's for out-of-staters.
The Jets-Giants game has started fights at your school or local bar.
You live within 20 minutes of at least three different malls.
You refer to all highways and interstates by their numbers.
Every year you have at least one kid in your class named Tony.
You know the location of every clip shown in the Sopranos opening credits.
You've gotten on the wrong highway trying to get out of the mall.
You know that people from North Jersey go to Seaside Heights, and people from Central Jersey go to Belmar, and people from South Jersey go to Wildwood.
It can be no other way.
You weren't raised in New Jersey--you were raised in either North Jersey, Central Jersey or South Jersey .
You don't consider Newark or Camden to actually be part of the state.
You remember the stores: S. Kleins, Haines, Korvette's, Two Guys, Rickel's, Channel, Bamberger's and Orbach's.
You also remember Palisades Amusement Park and Olympic Park.
You've had a boardwalk cheese steak and vinegar fries.
You start planning for Memorial Day weekend in February.
And finally . .. .
You've NEVER, NEVER NEVER, EVER pumped your own gas .


By Peter W. Sluys
The years following the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were years of uninterrupted growth for Pearl River.
The proximity of Camp Shanks - one of the largest ports of embarkation during the second World War - became a spur to growth for Pearl River and all of Orangetown, as returning servicemen came to live in the barracks, and learn at Columbia University and other New York schools under the G.I. Bill.
Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was a frequent visitor to Camp Shanks, talking with the men and their families about the promises of world peace brought by the United Nations, to which she was a delegate.
The end of the war created an unprecedented demand for housing, and that demand was met throughout Pearl River, as what had been farmland was bought up by developers, and turned into housing for soldiers anxious to bring their families into the peace of a suburban life many had not previously known.
Bridge major factor
The great migration into Pearl River was amplified by the building of the Tappan Zee Bridge, which opened the heartland of Rockland County to Westchester and New York in a way that the Palisades Parkway never did.
The opening of the Tappan Zee Bridge, development in Pearl River took off like a rocket.
In the late forties, as that development was going forward, the Pearl River Hospital went into bankruptcy, and was bought out of bankruptcy by Brooklyn physician Dr. Harry Gegerson. The hospital - which had been founded in 1935 - was a 24 bed facility, on South Middletown Road, and it was at that hospital that generations of Pearl River residents were brought into the world and passed out of it.
In 1960, Dr. Gegerson applied to the Town of Orangetown for permission to expand the 24 bed hospital to a 76 bed facility, a request granted by the Town of Orangetown.
However, by 1968, the State Health Department had put tremendous pressure on the hospital to close, an effort which was ultimately successful in 1974.
The two story frame home which houses the hospital was built at the turn of the century, and was then known as the Frederick Egler Estate. It now serves as a home for elderly residents.
Typical family
Typical of the people who came to Pearl River in the fifties and early sixties were the Carson family. According to Debora Carson Hanzus, her family, consisting of parents, grandparents and fellow siblings, moved to Pearl River from Queens in 1960, moving into a "brand new development on Margaret Keahon Drive and Graney Court."
Joining the Carsons in the new development were the Murphys, Murrays, Wallachs, Dybas, McNamees, and many other families.
"There were still plenty of adventures for kids - construction sites to play in, Murray's Lake Swim Club in Montvale, or drive- ins," Hanzus told Our Town.
Then too, there was the firemen's carnival, the annual soap box derby "when Central Avenue would be closed as the soap box racers would speed down the hill", Hanzus said.
She also remembers the Pearl River of the 1960's - "the old Central Avenue school, clothing stores like Kitty Cary, the Pearl Shoppe, Andy's Mens Wear, and Theise's, where you could get your Girl Scout uniform."
"We may have then stopped at the auction outlet to browse at their 8 cent wall of toys, where you had your choice of what seemed like a hundred items. Next was Fields jewelers, where I got my ears pierced," Hanzus said.
On the next corner was "Tucker's Bakery, where you'd have to take a number of Sunday mornings to buy their delicious crumb buns and flying saucers. While waiting, my grandfather would give me a quarter and I'd go to Braunfeld's Candy Store to buy the New York Sunday News, and a candy bar for me."
Hanzus continued "Down at the other corner was Catcher's Drug Store across from a real police booth. Pearl River also had Sanford's Pharmacy, SunTag's Drugs and Singers."
There was no shortage of grocery stores either - Joyce Realty was a Grand Union, Pearl River Lanes was Food Fair, Walgreen's was an A&P, and Empire Tobacco was called Finest Supermarket. What later became
From Page 1
ShopRite started out as a car lot for Ted Schultz Ford on the top of Central Avenue," she remembers, and (as Mae Matern remembers a generation earlier) Hanzus remembers that "the winters seemed snowier then, and my dad would take his girls all the way to the top of Margaret Keahon Drive and we'd sleigh ride straight down.
"Dad would whistle all the way, as we laughed and held on tight. The rest of the neighborhood would be sleigh riding too, and a young newlywed couple would stay at the bottom of the hill to hold back cars."
The developments filled up with people almost as soon as the builders completed them. It was an era when a house which would later retail for more than $200,000 could be bought for $10,000 - and with a mortgage to boot.
Those who lived in the city and surrounding areas were anxious to come to Pearl River.
Schools for babyboom
The growth of Pearl River meant the growth of the Pearl River schools. In 1950 - at a cost of $114,000 - the William Street Elementary School was constructed in the center of town.
Three years later - at a cost of $300,000 - the Evans Park School was built just behind North Middletown Road. In the same year, voters approved the purchase of 35 empty acres between Mountainview Avenue and Holt Drive for a future high school - that cost $80,000.
It was clear throughout the fifties that more schools would be needed, as the baby boom generation was being born. In 1955, the Lincoln Street School was built at a cost of $350,000, and in 1957, voters approved a $435,000 bond resolution to construct additions to the old Naurashaun School and the new Evans Park School.
In 1959, the voters approved the new Pearl River High School, which was constructed over three years at a cost of $2.5 million. The new Franklin Avenue Elementary School was built in 1964 for $807,000, and the Pearl River Middle School was ready to go in 1966, at a cost of $2.7 million.
And so, in a little more than 15 years, the school district had to add or upgrade four elementary schools, a middle school, and the high school - sure proof of Pearl River's tremendous growth.
Library grows too
While this growth was going on in education, the Pearl River Public Library was also growing. As Mae Matern remembered, the library started in the reading room of the Unique Hall, and then moved - thanks to the John H. Secor Post of the American Legion - to 33 Ridge Street, the former Hopper Bowling Alley.
By 1960, the library had completely outgrown that space. Under the leadership of the Rotary Club of Pearl River, by 1962, the voters had approved a new $196,000 bond issue.
In 1966, the library adopted its motto - an American bald eagle with spread wings, the motto adopted from a wood carving of the same design made by George W. Hadeler and donated by him to the library that year.
The library expanded again, with plans begun when your reporter was president of the Pearl River Library Association, and carried forward to completion by Carolyn Johnson, director of the Pearl River Library, and the trustees board, headed by Pearl River resident Robert Schnell.
A friendly town
The Pearl River of the 1950's and early 1960's was the Pearl River truly of "friendly people."
Neighbors took the time to learn the name of new neighbors, and many were the welcoming parties.
Bridge clubs and poker clubs sprung up all over town, and civic associations got a powerful impetus from the many new families who moved in.
Doors were unlocked - there was never a need to worry, as neighbor always looked out for neighbor.
More than one child the age of Debora Carson in the fifties and sixties would spend the time going from door to door, getting cookies from older residents, doing chores, and earning pocket money.
Scouting thrived
The Boy Scout organization - which always had been strong - grew in strength throughout the nation, and Pearl River was no exception to the growth.
Young men vied with each other to become Eagle Scouts, who were held up as model young men in the community. Troop 36 of Good Shepherd Church was one of the best troops in Pearl River, and had a consistent rivalry with Troop 37.
Scouting grew and grew, and Pearl River boys went to the National Jamborees, Philmont Scout Ranch, Camp Bullowa, and the Bullowa Adirondeck Scout Reservation, learning scout skills from men who had fought in the war, and knew wilderness and other survival skills firsthand.
It was a time of patriotism, fostered by men like Sid Bond. Bond - whose son is now the president of the Pearl River Board of Education - taught his scouts by example, not only woodcraft but leadership.
World War II veterans like attorney H. Grant Warner gave up their times to the scouts as well, teaching the young men whose families had just come to Pearl River about 100% Americanism.
In a larger sense, it was a time of robust faith in America, a time where educational excellence in schools was expected, where the problem of drugs was non-existent, and when Pearl River had a boundless optimism for the future.

Building boom starts
That boundless optimism continued into the mid-1960's, and with that optimism came growth of another sort.
In 1967, the Uris Building Corporation took title to 370 acres left by Dr. Montgomery Maze in the southeastern section of the hamlet. There, in what had been woodland, they built Pearl River's first and only skyscraper, in a grandiose plan to build 11 buildings which were later reduced to four.
The development would have its fits and starts over the years, and become the centerpiece of numerous real estate and political wrangles, but would ultimately also be the land on which the national headquarters of Mercedes Benz of North America would come to Pearl River, bringing hundreds of jobs in its wake.
While that new industry was building, old industry was closing. By 1966, 500 people were employed at the local Dexter Folder plant, but that number was quickly to be reduced, and by the fall of 1972 there were fewer than 50 employees.
During its 78 years in Pearl River, Dexter employees had formed the hard core from which membership was drawn for civic, fraternal, religious and charitable organizations and community projects, but now Dexter's contribution to Pearl River was finished, and the factory was closed.
Lederle Laboratories was still a big employee not only for Pearl River, but for all of Rockland County, but the nature of employment was changing. Pearl River was becoming a bedroom community, a commuting community, favored not only by those who worked in New York City but those - New York City fire fighters and police officers - who protected New York City.
Wave of immigrants
With the wave of immigration came new organizations, particularly the Ancient Order of Hibernians, whose Division 3 was founded in Pearl River in the 1970's. It is now one of the strongest fraternal organizations in Pearl River, with more than 800 members. The AOH is the largest fraternal organization in the history of Pearl River, outstripping even the Free and Accepted Masons in their heyday.
The growth of Pearl River's population meant not only the addition of new schools, and new jobs, but also the growth of new churches, with St. Margaret's (which celebrated its centennial last year) growing to such an extent that St. Aedan's Church had to be created to help serve the Roman Catholic community of Pearl River. The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, and many other protestant denominations also enjoyed significant growth, and Pearl River also got its first Greek Orthodox Church in 1962, followed in 1963 with Pearl River's first synagogue, Beth Am Temple (see separate story).
War hits home
While the fifties and sixties were times of unparalleled growth, Pearl River did not escape the war in Vietnam, any more than the two world wars and Korea bypassed the hamlet.
Those same young men who had grown up in the Boy Scouts listening to the World War II and Korean veterans tell their tales of courage and struggle, cheerfully volunteered to serve their country.
Among those scouts was Robert Bauer of Troop 36 in Pearl River.
Bauer volunteered for the Army in 1964, and trained to be a helicopter pilot. During his Army training, he would come back and spend time with the scouts from Troop 36, going on hikes with them, and camping with them at Camp Bullowa. The younger scouts enthusiastically crowded around the Eagle Scout who was going to be an Army pilot, and Bauer - the gentlest of soldiers - would tirelessly answer questions from the scouts, even long after the entire troop should have been in their sleeping bags, asleep under the stars.
Many a scout was touched by Bauer's love of country, and his love of duty, and it seemed inconceivable to any of them that anything would happen to their friend, Eagle Scout Robert Bauer.
Bauer earned his helicopter pilot's wings, and was sent over to Vietnam to fight there for his country.
Months after his arrival, he led his helicopter into a fire fight to rescue some American soldiers, and the helicopter was shot down, and Bauer was killed. Also to die in the conflict were Heinz Ahlmeyer, Michael Kernan, and Paul Lifireri, and their sacrifice brought home again to Pearl River in a way that nothing else could, the pain and waste of war, which the veterans of World War I, the Second World War, and the Korean war knew only too well.
But the Vietnam war was something different in Pearl River as it was throughout the country: it was a war which had no defined ending, a war where the veterans were not welcomed home with a parade or with thanks for their tremendous sacrifice, and it was a war which took some of Pearl River's bravest and best young men.
Despite the fact that the nation was ambivalent about the Vietnam war, Pearl River residents remembered those who had died int he conflict, dedicating a garden park at the library to the memory of Lt. Heinz Ahlmeyer, and dedicating a plaque in the Braunsdorf Memorial Park in the center of town to the four Pearl River men who had died in a land half a world away. But still, there was no parade, and no thanks to the veterans who had borne the storm and returned.
The Vietnam war years saw the continued growth of Pearl River, and the change of Pearl River as well.
The cost of education shot up, as the teachers union threatened job actions and other strikes, and won material concessions from the school district in the late 1960's and early 1970's, concessions which led to the meteoric rise in teachers salaries, and the consequent increase in school taxes.
Then too, the era of the counterculture brought with it to Pearl River the question of drugs. Though drugs had always been available in New York City, now they became a problem for Pearl River, and it was a problem which was responded to with vigor by Pearl River residents.
Though the Vietnam war and the counterculture produced some dissidence in the community, still the overwhelming mood continued to be one of optimism, as Pearl River teams won championships, Pearl River students excelled, and went to leading colleges and universities, and Pearl River enjoyed a continued period of growth, despite recessions and depressions.
Our Town launched
The year 1973 saw the beginning of a new era in Pearl River journalism, as Our Town came to Pearl River under the leadership of Arthur R. Aldrich and Roger McCarthy. That original corporation was founded by Aldrich, McCarthy, Ted Schultz, Mel Liebmann, and Jack Dubiner.
Aldrich and McCarthy were then young men who had worked together at the old News Leader Independent, and came to Orangetown and Pearl River because they saw the need to continue what had been a "great journalistic tradition." That tradition began with the Pearl River Searchlight, the first of many weekly papers published exclusively for the community. It was founded in 1893 by William Sherwood, and established a Pearl River office in 1938 when the name was changed to the Orangetown Telegram, and the Pearl River Searchlight.
In addition, there was the Pearl River News, which was founded in 1922, and taken over in 1924 by Thomas A. Dexter of the Dexter Press. Dexter sold it in February of 1938, and the paper ceased publication four months later.
Dexter issued the Pearl River Informer before he acquired the News in 1922.
For daily news, Pearl River has always been served by the Rockland County Journal News, with the Pearl River reporter for many years being Robert P. Knight, now the city editor of this newspaper. Knight left the paper after the Gannett chain acquired the Journal News.
"You know, more than 25 years in Pearl River we have always been at the community's service, and it will stay that way for many years to come," Aldrich said.
By 1984, Our Town reporter Ed Brophy was writing about how the complexion of the community had changed, with about "35% of Orangetown's population of Irish descent; many have been and remain city civil service workers who commute daily to jobs in New York."
"Others have found employment or started businesses right here. Their shops are sprinkled throughout the town, with names such as Sheridan Insurance, the Irish Cottage, Farrell Realty, Healy- O'Sullivan Travel...Mary Meagher is a resident who discovered Pearl River while on a church picnic from the city years ago.
"We lived in Queens at the time, and my husband and I were house hunting on Long Island. Then I remembered the beauty of Pearl River from the picnic. We circled in this direction, and well, here we are," Meagher said.
"Mary is president of the Pearl River based Irish Arts Forum of Rockland County, a lively little lady of warm conversation, she is interested in preserving the history and traditions of the Irish...One of the young ones, who is also the secretary of the forum is a dark haired Celtic beauty Doris Donohue. Doris is of Pearl River, and has acted and danced in many of the forum's productions."
"I heard of Pearl River while I was still in the Bronx," she says, "I liked what I saw, especially the Irish American community. I am here now nine years and I enjoy the town, the Irish culture, and the people I have met, and only 45 minutes from Broadway..." Donohue said.
"[the late] Cornelius "Connie" O'Sullivan knows Broadway well from the days when he patrolled the streets of New York. He is now a partner in Healy-O'Sullivan Travel, and a prominent member of the Irish community in New York."
"I brought my family here in 1969 on the advice of my coworkers who were residents here themselves. I had New Jersey on my mind in those days, but the rules of my job didn't allow moving there. It's just as well, since we are very happy now, here in Pearl River; it's my home," O'Sullivan had said.
"O'Sullivan is a founding member and past president of the Irish American Cultural Center in Blauvelt, and is active in Division 3 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. As part of his duties in the AOH he helped create the annual Irish Feis here in the county. In its 10 years of existence, the feis has become the largest on the east coast, drawing judges and participants from as far as Canada."
Words prophetic
Brophy's written words have proven almost prophetic, as Pearl River continues to be a magnet for many Irish Americans, and home to not only one of the largest Ancient Order of Hibernian organizations in the county, but also to the ever popular and ever expanding St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Anyone who has once attended a St. Patrick's Day Parade in Pearl River will never forget it: the thousands of marchers, the tens of thousands of spectators, and the feeling of Irish friendliness, community, and pride; once experienced, never forgotten.
The tremendous success of the St. Patrick's Day Parades is due in large part to the work of Mary O'Sullivan and John Devlin, who have worked for more than a decade to make each St. Patrick's Day Parade the biggest and best ever.
In the 1970's and 1980's many community organizations that flourished had disappeared, including the Pearl River Jaycees, the Knights of Pythias.
Still, many organizations have continued over the years, with not only the Ancient Order of Hibernians, but the Rotary Club of Pearl River, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Pearl River Senior Citizens Club, the Benevolent and Protected Order of the Elks, the PTA's, the Masons, the Muddy Creek Four, the Lions Club, the Knights of Columbus, the American Legion, and of course the Pearl River Fire Department, and the Pearl River Alumni Ambulance Corps.
Anyone who has ever had a loved one in jeopardy, and has had the call responded to by the Pearl River Ambulance Corps will always remember with gratitude how the ambulance corps members put service of their neighbors first, and anyone whose house or business has ever caught fire will also remember the bravery, skill and courage of the officers and fire fighters of the two companies of the Pearl River Fire Department.
Near century of service
The proud traditions of the fire department goes back more than 94 years, when the Pearl River Hook and Ladder Company was chartered on July 10, 1903, followed by the Excelsior Fire Engine Company that began in February of 1912. The Pearl River Fire Department was formed in 1921 to coordinate what had been competition between the two companies in battling fires.
In the 1970's, 1980's, and in this decade, education in Pearl River went through a profound change, not only with the increased professionalism and militancy of the teachers, but in changes in administrators, and methods.
It is widely conceded that the district, under former Superintendent Dr. Arthur Williamson, had reached a crisis state when school board president Robert Bergman led the committee which selected Dr. Michael Osnato to be superintendent of schools for the Pearl River School District, now more than seven years ago.
Osnato was to create a revolution of his own, emphasizing professionalism, learning, and tax savings.
Osnato re-energized the district, bringing it the state's Excelsior Award for Quality, and national and international recognition, and leading Pearl River students near the top of the heap in New York State in terms of Regents diplomas and other academic achievements.
As always, in politics, Pearl River has taken an active part with two Orangetown supervisors - John Komar and Jack Lovett - being from Pearl River. In addition, many councilmen have been from Pearl River, including the late Cornelius "Connie" O'Sullivan, the late Niel O'Sullivan, the late Charles McLiverty and the late George Raboni. Current Pearl River councilmen include Robert Bergman and Denis O'Donnell.
Tragedy and loss
While the story of Pearl River has been one of continuous growth and expansion, there have also been tragedy in the untimely deaths of Connie O'Sullivan, Niel O'Sullivan, Charles McLiverty, and George Raboni. The funeral of each of these four councilmen drew thousands of their friends, to pay tribute to each of the different contributions the four men had made to life in Pearl River and to Orangetown.
There were other and great tragedies as well, as high school age young people died as a result of accidents.
The first of these tragedies was the death of high school football player Brian Armstrong, at a football game in Spring Valley. The young man had his neck injured in a play, and subsequently died at the hospital. All Pearl River mourned his loss.
That mourning came again to the community - and very forcefully - in this decade when high school student Alicia Brady died in a car accident, and when Robert McKiernan was killed in an accident in Nanuet. The community came together to support the families of the young people, and to show again that in Pearl River, people are there for each other, in good times and tragic times.
The tragedy of the war of Vietnam was erased for many Orangetown residents who had fought in that war, in the last week of April, 1991.
The victorious local units that had fought in Desert Storm against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein came to Pearl River to march down Central Avenue, and thousands of local residents turned out not only to cheer them, but to cheer the men of Vietnam, who now marched under the banner of Vietnam Veterans of America.
As the Vietnam vets wheeled down Central Avenue, led by the Humvees and other paraphernalia of a war two decades later, the people of Pearl River burst into sustained cheers and applause. The sacrifice of Ahlmeyer, Bauer, Kernan, and Lifireri had not been in vain - Pearl River remembered, and Pearl River saluted those other Orangetown residents who had gone to war, and come home.
As the third millennium dawns, Pearl River has stabilized as a bedroom community with vibrant civic organizations, a good retail base, and strong financial services. No longer does Dexter Folder or even Lederle Laboratories provide the bulk of jobs in the community, as Lederle has said from time to time that even they may leave Pearl River. Rather, high technology is now the ever growing employer of Pearl River residents, with Fujitsu Communications, the national headquarters of Mercedes Benz, and other corporations making their home in Pearl River. Certain it is that in the years ahead that the old Uris Office Park - now known as Blue Hill Plaza - will expand, and in some ways change the face of Pearl River, and the eastern face of Pearl River will certainly change, as the town debates and ultimately decides what use will be made of the now largely abandoned Rockland Psychiatric Center.
The decisions that the community will make on these issues will affect the quality of life into the next millennium, but even as change and recreation, lifestyles, finances, and interests change, one thing will never change: In the year 2222, when the successor to Postmaster Mike Tuttle is seated in his office - wherever that may be - he will still know that a letter addressed to a person at "the town of friendly people" is a letter that has to be delivered to somebody in Pearl River, New York.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


The picture of downtown Pearl River as it was in 1935 provided mw with a great deal of pleasure as I read your November 1, 2000 issue. I closed my eyes and was soon walking from our home on Roosevelt Street to cross Washington Avenue, transit a vacant wooded lot and a stream which brought me out between the Community Garage and Bill King's Campus Ice Cream Store, always occupied by the PRHS athletes of the current season.
After having a Mellow-Role sundae and a five cent Pepsi Cola, I walked out of the Campus and found the Reiss Cyle Shop to my left with Ed Amory's Sport Shop right next door. (Ed died in WWII in the air raid on Ploesti) When I walked toward the view in your post car, I came upon the little garage that housed the Pearl River Alumni Ambulance right next to the Community Garage with Pete Nelson and Neil Hunderfund as owners and operators. Walking toward town I passed a vacant lot used to store cars etc. and then passed the stone houses of the doctors, the names Parizot, Olmstead and Schroeder come to mind.
Just past the doctors and on the corner of William Street was the Evans Insurance and Real Estate office. Crossing William Street I stood in front of the Theatre building which also housed Spaulding's Jewelry and the old Rockland Light and Power office. The Granada Grill still gave off an aroma of good cooking as my mind passed by. Following the supermarket I came upon Glick's Hardware Store run by Leonard Glick, a neighbor on Roosevelt Street. Thereafter came Stanley DeFlaun's men store and the entrance to Doc Sanford's Pharmacy which served the best ice cream in town. How I wished I would win the Lionel train set which was awarded at Christmas to the youngster who could accumulate the most points by purchases of Rexall products by friends and relatives. Best I could do was the second prize of an Erector Set with an electric motor.
On the corner of North Main Street was the First National Bank and Trust Co. of Pearl River, whose president was Harry Hadeler and who, with his brother George, helped run the hardward store across the street. That building shared its space with the Hadeler grocery store -- Fred Hadeler, the owner, was not a relative. I remember you were able to walk through one store to the other. Bump Heiser and Neil Dillon always had a good word for everyone that came in. A free piece of chocolate (Ex Lax) was always on the table to tempt the unwary. On the other side of Central Avenue was Bartels Wine and Liquors and Versace's Shoe Repair and the grocery store of Shoemacher and Timmerman. Then there was Behrendt's Bakery and Slotnik's Stationary Store, which gave Ed Bouton his start in the retail business. Then, going East, I passed Umland's Ice Cream Parlor and Luncheonette savoring a chocolate "heavy" and a slice of banana cream pie, always a favorite. The best ground meat in town came from Kandler's Meat Market sharing the space to the left.
Spreen's Insurance and Real Estate office was towards the corner and Laura Doscher's Sewing Goods Store was in the vicinity. Across South William Street was the Odd Fellows Hall with its comfortable fron steps for a rest. Then along came Police Chief Fred Kennedy with a reminder to "move on" and "not be here when he came through again." The fiedl next to the Odd Fellows Hall was used by the school system as an auxiliary for girl's field hockey and for practice by the football team. Then came the Koch Brother's garage and the Hook and Ladder fire house with its horn that made you jump each and every time it sounded to summon the volunteers. The fire house was the western border for the school field which exists today.
My walk down South Main Street took mbe past Hemmes, the bar of the Pearl River Hotel, the Model Dairy, Costa and Garaventas Fruit and Vegetable Store, Park Stationery (Triller's) and Brauer's Department Store. Upstairs was Doctor Borst, the town dentist along with Dr. Frachtman on Railroad Avenue. Further along came Fisher and Palmers Meat Market and Hadelers Radio Shop, which I recalled, had the first TV in town exhibited in the store window. I watched an early Joe Louis fight while standing outside with friends. On the corner of Franklin Avenue was Theise's Dry Goods. The opposite corner was home to Martha Knights Gift Shop and Payes Stationery Store.
Soon, in my minds' eyes, I was walking toward the park with its silver cannon and tall flagpole, not yet adorned with the names of the dead from World War II. Across from the park tucked in the buildings behind Hadelers, was the Rialto Barber Shop with Pete, Sal and Dominick at their chairs, and Oakleys Stationery and a diner running parallel to the railroad tracks. Davd Longuil was the chief cook and bottle washer and made one of the best hamburgers in town.
Across the railroad tracks was the Post Office and the Comfort Coal Building with its vast lumber yard. Further on down was the Commodore Bar and Grill owned by the Vergine family. For my haircut, I stopped to see Mr. Prezioso who never failed to set a hot towel from that stainless steel ball of in the corner. Billy Rowen's Market served a host of families in town and was the source of my first and only Social Security Card.
With my stroll through 1935 Pearl River complete I opened my eyes and came back to the 21st century with a heart and mind filled with happiness and memories of good friends and good times. I share these feelings with you and your readers and with Bob Knight, your city editor and historian. May good wishes find you all in good health.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Helen Amann of Pearl River, NY, died on November 3, 2008 at Northern Manor Nursing Home in Nanuet, NY after a short stay. She was 99 years old. In addition to being a homemaker for most of her life, Mrs. Amann also worked at Lederle Labs, Pearl River, Dexter Folder Company, Pearl River and the James Amann Company, Pearl River. Mrs. Amann was born on September 16, 1909 in New York City to Joseph and Antonia Steiner. She graduated from Nyack High School in 1927. On September 10, 1932 she married James (Jake) Amann in Pearl River, New York. He predeceased her in 1992. Mrs. Amann was a resident of Pearl River for 76 years. Before that she lived in Nyack, New York from 1914-1932 and in Haverstraw, New York from 1909 to 1914. Locally, she was a treasurer for the Faith Assembly of God, Chestnut Ridge, New York. She was also a volunteer for The American Cancer Society. Mrs. Amann will be remembered for being an avid environmentalist and animal lover. She is survived by her three sons: James and Maggie Amann, Peter Amann and Gary and Linda Amann. Her five grandchildren: Darlene and James Burbridge, Brian and Cindy Amann, Todd and Kelly Amann, Kimberly and Daniel Coultas and Shawn Amann. She also has seven great grandchildren. In addition she is survived by her brother, David and wife Annette, niece Cheryl and her loving care giver Pearl Bissoon. Family members who predeceased her: husband Jake and brother Joseph (Sonny) Steiner, who was killed in WWII during the Battle at Normandy. Burial at Germonds Cemetery.