If You Ever Rode The Subway To Rockaway, You'll Love This One

My Rockaway childhood is filled with so many wonderful memories;  the boardwalk, the beach, Central Avenue, the State Diner, Gino's Pizza, the 3 movie theaters, Morton's Army and Navy Store, and of course Far Rockaway High School.    From time to time the memories come flooding back for no apparent reason.  Something small or inconsequential will trigger  a memory and it usually puts a smile on my face.

After high school, I attended Long Island University in Brooklyn.  Before I could afford a car, I had to take the subway to school every day.  For those of us who rode the subway on a regular basis, we were familiar with every stop along the way, especially those stops on the home stretch to 'Town'.  I remember boarding the train at the Hoyt-Schemerhorn street station in Brooklyn which was of course underground.  I couldn't wait for the train to emerge from the darkness into the light of the elevated line that carried us across Jamaica Bay then turning east running along the beach until its final destination of Mott Avenue. 

The names of the stations were indelibly marked in my mind; Nostrand Aveune, Kingston -Throop, Utica Avenue, Euclid Avenue, to name a few...I think that it was about this point in the trip that the train emerged from the tunnel.  I always loved looking down at the stores, cars, people as the train made its way toward Rockaway Blvd, turned south and headed for the Aqueduct Station. 

From there it was a short hop to Howard Beach and over Jamaica Bay for a stop in Broad Channel.  Once the train reached Broad Channel I knew I was almost home.  But those times that the bridge was open, meant a delay in reaching my destination.  And in the dead of winter when the wind was howling and it was snowing, if the bridge got stuck, it meant a long delay.  I would watch the snow pour in through the cracks in the doors. 

But as a child, what I remember most about the subway ride was the thrill I got from being in the front car and standing at the front window/door, holding on to the handle and pretending that I was driving the train.  If you had an older brother or two, you always had to fight for the best position in front.  You could see everything from there and it was the best of views.

While I have returned to Rockaway many times since moving away in 1969, I have never taken the opportunity to make that subway ride ever again.  I resigned myself to the fact that the memory would always be with me and that was enough.  But in my search around the Internet, I have discovered a rare treat.....that's right....it's about a 15 minutes journey I described above in 3 parts.  I believe it starts out somewhere around Rockaway Blvd before the train makes its turn toward Aqueduct. 

If you would like to take the journey, sit back and relax and simply click on the arrow button.  This time you won't have to jockey for position or push anyone out of your way!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Once you have viewed it, please feel free to click on the guest book and share any comments or memories you have.

Skip Weinstock, Class of 1963    


Part II

Broad Channel to Beach 60th Street


Part III

Beach 60th Street to Mott Avenue



View The 'Subway Memories' Guestbook

Sign The 'Subway Memories' Guestbook

August 28, 2008

Due to space limitations in the Subway Memories Guestbook, Michael Spudic's entire letter did not make it on to the page.  It's a wonderful memory of the subway ride to Rockaway and I am posting it below.  Thanks Michael for your wonderful contribution to the Rockaway Memories.

Thanks Skip for your essay and the video clip, a true nostalgia tour!  The two great moments during the trip from Rockaway Boulevard heading east towards Far Rockaway are at the very beginning and very end of the video. 

Four wonderful years (1973-77) were spent riding the "A" train to and from high school in midtown Manhattan On the return trip back to Mott Avenue, I always relished the moment the Far Rockaway train would distinguish itself from the Lefferts Blvd. train, gaining its "independence" with its curved descent underneath the Lefferts track, picking up momentum until racing towards the next stop (the residential Aqueduct station).  I even remember one instance where the motorman overshot that Aqueduct station, in such a haste to recover lost time from a delayed journey from Manhattan. The motorman finally pulled in to the Howard Beach stop and sheepishly apologized to a bunch of annoyed Aqueduct passengers, banging at his door.  

The other great moment is at the end of the clip when the train finally crosses that last bridge on the route, hits the Rockaway peninsula and surges forward towards Far Rockaway.  Usually there was great speed on that curve and it was always a magical moment in time when the train would gain speed and then stabilize itself parallel with the Atlantic Ocean finally within view.  With that first glimpse of the ocean, you knew you were home. 

In retrospect, those of us who rode the subway in the early 1970s enjoyed many distinctions, distinctions that thankfully no longer exist!  Such dubious honors as having to pay double fares; subway cars with inadequate heat and inadequate air-conditioning; glass windows that would shatter upon impact (I had the unfortunate experience of sitting next to a window near the Howard Beach stop returning home from school one late afternoon and a gunshot at the train did indeed shatter the window next to me, a dangerous close call), and finally; conductors opening the doors by standing outside between two subway cars, feet stretched out over the tracks and between two cars, quite a physical workout for such a long journey from Inwood/Washington Heights to Far Rockaway.  I did witness such a "workout" one winter during blizzard conditions, shivering in a heatless train departing at the Beach 44th St/Frank Avenue stop on its way to Manhattan, its conductor yelling and screaming from the platform for the motorman to stop, the motorman thinking the conductor was on board the train! Yes Skip, plenty of adventure along that route, I agree with you totally. 

I totally understand how you refrain from traveling again along that route so as to keep your memory alive precisely by confining that subway ride to a track rerouted down memory lane; really not such a paradox as you explain it.  And I agree, though the video clip is a close second kind of encounter with that memory, it's the one that keeps surging east towards Far Rockaway.  A lot of former Rockaway spirits are riding with you on that train!  Tremendous thanks again for posting this videoclip, together with your thoughts.

Finally, to anybody viewing this guestbook, a little subway trivia:  can you describe the one and only train route that ever made it through  4 (four)  New York City boroughs What was its route?

Michael Spudic    Email Address:  Mspudic@aol.com


Return to Home Page