Baby boomers research Pomonok’s post-WWII days

A documentary about the Pomonok Houses is slated to feature old photos of housing development and the people who lived there. Photo courtesy Terry Katz
TimesLedger Newspapers

Do you remember Jack the Ice Cream Man?

Terry Katz and Al Stark often find themselves asking this question while compiling material for their documentary about growing up in the Pomonok Houses.

They were just two out of the legions of baby boomers raised there in post-World War II America.

Jack, by the way, was a sometimes vindictive ice cream vendor who sold frosty treats and trinkets on Kissena Boulevard.

“There were so many kids in Pomonok one would think it was a requirement to live there,” Katz joked in a recent interview.

Thousands of working-class families moved from places like Manhattan’s Lower East Side into Pomonok Houses, completed in 1952, which then were brick monoliths jutting up from the unpopulated rural Queens landscape.

Katz and Stark recently sat down with TimesLedger Newspapers at Gino’s Pizza, at 65-01 Kissena Blvd.

As he recalled summer softball games and winter snowball fights, he paused and with a hushed voice pointed out two people in the restaurant who also grew up in the projects.

“He lived on the fifth floor, three up from me,” he said, discreetly pointing to a bespectacled man eating with his family.

The film crew consists solely of Stark and Katz, who are at this point compiling information from anyone who lived in the houses.

They met a man named Willy Sutton who used to sing doo-wop in the hallways and returned to his favorite hallway with the best acoustics to give the filmmakers a performance.

Others who grew up in the houses describe memorable events like the World’s Fair or the moon landing.

The two filmmakers want all of it, and as far as collecting material, they make a perfect team.

Stark knows everybody and is a natural interlocutor, and Katz, an adjunct film professor at St. John’s University, gathers vintage footage and takes care of the technical work.

The two contend there was a sense of community that existed back then that has been lost in time.

Some of it can be attributed to the brick structures themselves.

They did not have air conditioning, Katz said, and during hot summer nights all the mothers and fathers would sit outside on benches and lawn chairs and socialize, Katz said, getting to know their neighbors.

And the kids got to stay out late, too, running around playing games in the dark.

It was because of intimate moments and the general close quarters that everybody knew everybody.

The young versions of Katz and Stark might have thought they were getting away with some youthful endeavor, but a network of mothers, sometimes referred to as the “Mothers Mafia,” were always keeping an eye on the children.

And it did not matter which race or ethnicity the mother or child represented, according to Katz, since they were all living in the place.

“Race was not an issue,” he said.

But they do not want the film to be an exercise in nostalgia, nor do they simply want to attach a rose-colored lens to their camera.

They will take the good along with the bad, and hopefully recreate the Pomonok back then that produced Queens notables like U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik and actor Mike Starr of “Goodfellas” fame.

“In a way it’s like a mosaic,” Katz said, since the film as a whole will be comprised of individual memories. “Everybody is telling their own little story.”

And if you remember Jack the Ice Cream Man, or anything else about the houses, they encourage you to get in touch. They hope to have a rough cut of the film ready by next fall.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Reader Feedback

ABE MOGITZ from FOREST HILLS says:
I grew up in Pomonok in the 50's. I s there any way I can get in contact with Al Stark and Terry Katz?
Jan. 29, 2012, 7:27 am
stewie perlman from pomonok says:
I remember Jack the Ice Cream man fondly, so a description of him as " a sometimes vindictive ice cream vendor" is grossly misleading. I remember that he gave free ice cream on the last day of his seasonal business and was always swamped with loads of kids wanting his attention for his ice cream. Jack was an icon and if he at times may have been less than gentlemanly it certainly did not hurt his popularity.

Thanks for the memory................... I lived in Pomonok from late 1952 to September 1973. It was a great place to grow up.
Jan. 30, 2012, 10:13 pm
rob whaley from 65 26 Parsons Blvd. 6D says:
Is this the Terry Katz that lived on the third floor :).
Jan. 31, 2012, 4:48 pm
Maddy N from Pomonok says:
What a great topic for a documentary! I lived in Pomonok from 1953 until 1973. And I have some photos from the 50's and 60's that have the brick buildings, before air conditioners, in the background that I'd be happy to share. Is there contact information for Al and Terry?
Feb. 2, 2012, 1:01 am
steve salmons from pomonok says:
mom, sister, and i lived there for 7 years or so. 1952 to '59
remember fondly the neighborhood, jack, p.s. 201, sledding on the hills, dirt clod fights, and roaming the area and playgrounds of pomonok carefree.
we lived on the 7th floor, richard and kevin walton on the 5th and barry, tony and timmy tims on the first. Bobby schiller in the next apartment building over.
can't clearly remember what i did last week but have many memories of pomonok about as clear.
looking forward to documentary.
Feb. 26, 2012, 11:29 am
Lisa from Pomonok says:
I grew up in Pomonok from 1961 to around 1975. I vividly remember Jack the ice cream man's truck parked on Parsons Blvd. He always also sold cigarettes to all the moms. I loved growing up in Pomonok and loved the memories of our moms sitting on the "stoop" knitting/crocheting while we played on the lawns for hours. What a great memory of a more innocent time.
Sept. 3, 2012, 9:22 am
joe garcia from flushing says:
I grew up in Dara Gardens and Pomonok from 1966 to 1985. I remember Neil from Mr softy.He drove around Kissena blvd to 150 st. My mother worked in the toy dept in Wainwrites. My school was 165
Sept. 21, 2012, 10:37 am
Elliot Bardavid from 67-39 Kissena Blvd 6C says:
I lived across the street from Stewie Perlman. We were good friends for a time. It brought back great memories to read his post.
As for Jack the Ice Cream man, he was a complicated guy. He held hula hoop contests and went door to door with his ice cream if it was raining out.
Just don't let him catch you buying ice cream from Good Humor or Bungalow Bar!
Sept. 26, 2012, 10:45 pm
bridget larney from 69-03 kissena blvd apt.3a says:
I remember Jack the ice cream man he always called me freckle face I secretly wished he called me princess. I remember screaming to my mother Jack is here!!
( like as if the jesus christ had arrived). My mother would then throw fifteen pennies in aluminum foil
( which could have been used as a weapon) I then would chase Jack all over the neighborhood until I finally caught up to his truck. I would get a cherry ice and quietly and slowly devour it!!!!!!!! Those were the days!!!!!! Good Humor Man had nothing on Jack and thats a fact.
Dec. 1, 2012, 8:42 pm
Robert Kaplan from Pomonok says:
We used to hang out on the "hill"{behind 65-30 Parsons} after dinner and would wait for Jack to come around. I used to have the vanilla coconut pop. Great memories.
March 31, 2013, 9:08 pm
Eric Ohlson from 67-34 Parsons Blvd says:
Grew up in Pomonok from '52 on. May have some photos to contribute. I know I have a photo of myself with Mike Starr who was one of my friends. How is the documentary progressing?
April 18, 2013, 2:57 pm
Al from Electchester says:
We had Johnny the ice cream man. I also remember the milk machines for $.25 a quart, playing handball and stickball at the park.
April 29, 2013, 9:30 pm
Mickey Kail from 67-37 Kissena Blvd says:
Jack the ice cream man was a good guy......he only got annoyed when Good Humor tried to horn in on his business! I hung out with my best friend Eddie Glazer (deceased), Irv Gikofsky (Mr. G), Alan Horen (best athelete in Pomonok) and to a lesser extent Richie Prezioso, Dennis Edelman and some others. I lived in Bldg. 12. from 1951 till 1960.
June 7, 2013, 12:11 pm
Al H from Flushing says:
Lived on 65th ave played basketball in ps221 at nite all my friends lived in pomonok I also remember the little play grounds
June 25, 2013, 9:15 pm
Riki Z from Pomonok says:
I lived at 67-01 Kissena Blvd apt 1A from 1955 thru 1968 - it was the courtyard where the community center and library was. I too remember Jack the ice cream man. I also remember Polar Cub who sold soft ice cream - frappes with wet walnuts and whipped cream mmmmm - And the rides that came through - high flyer and the whip - walking to ps 201, then to campbell jhs, then on to john bowne high school - We caught lightening bugs in jars at night - played skelly, jump rope, red rover, ringolevio, johnny on the pony, may I, hand games (the spades go tulips together.....) , rubber ball games like : hit the penny, A my name is...., box ball, stoop ball - riding our bicycles around the neighborhood, going to the stores on Kissena Blvd, or JIB lanes to bowl, reading comic books with our friends, hanging out in the PS 201 park playing handball, squash, going on the swings, seesaws, slides, monkeybars, or playing in the "pool" with the sprinklers in the summertime, or we just hung out at the community center playing knock hockey, board games or listening to music. There was also a crafts room where we made things from wood , copper etc. We would go upstairs to the library and actually research things. And on the third floor were the meeting rooms for girls scouts, cub scouts, brownies, blue birds, boy scouts etc. But most of all, we felt safe. Halloween was a time for fun not fear. We would fill up our shopping bags or pillowcases and then go out and fill them again. New years eve we banged pots and pans out our windows. There were Christmas trees and menorahs throughout the neighborhood. We sledded, tobogganed had snowball fights, built snowmen or just played in the snow drifts. We roller skated on the sidewalks or ice skated at the City building or the lake at Kissena Park. Nobody cared if you were green blue black purple etc. We were a community of families who looked out for each other. Oh what a wonderful time we had.
July 16, 2013, 10:31 am
Lois Nikki Maiello from Kew Garden Hills says:
Lived on 71 road in back of the Jewish Center.Also went to PS165. Had many friends from school and then we attened Parsons Jr High In the early 60's.
With the zone changes It was Forest Hills High and my buddies went to Francis Lewis High..
Loved those days would go back in a heart beat.
And I agree it was safe back in those days.............
Would love to see this movie of our youth,and maybe you can take your camera's up towards Main Street..
There is much history there also.
The best to everyone and good health
Sept. 11, 2013, 6:26 pm
Kevin M. Gilpin from Pomonok 69-11 Kissena Blvd says:
I lived at 69-11 Kissena Blvd with my older brother Lloyd and my mother, between 1961 and 1971 from ages 2-11 yrs old! And back then life in Pomonok was truly a childhoods paradise!!! There are sooo many memories that are engrained in my mind and heart like the faint sound of Jack’s bell in the distance that brought a stick ball game in the park to an instant halt and dash across the grass over the chain linked fence (which served no purpose) thru the outer bldg door, leaping 2 steps at a time (as though it was an athletic skill) flinging open the always unlocked apartment door screaming to my mom as I approach her in the kitchen with the same level of urgency as a bomb about to explode…
“Mom Jacks coming can I have 15 cents!!!”

Thank you all for the wonderful times!!!
I would enjoy hearing from anyone that remembers me!!!
(You can find me on Facebook or email me @ breezehill@mail.com)
Sept. 29, 2013, 3:38 pm

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