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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.

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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
michael feinman from electchester says:
What days!!! I remember Alan who is my brother Steve's age and played basketball at the deuce all day and night. When we rented the gym Alan's younger brother played hoops with us. He was good enough to play with us older guys. as aforementioned our ice cream man was Johnny who would give credit , throw around the football, talk sports. Im pushing 65 and I will never forget growing up in Electchester, Pomonok neighborhood. It was awesome!!!
May 6, 2:10 pm
Robert Schaeffer from 65-40 Parsons Blvd, Pomonok says:
On summer days when it was just too hot to play ball, a bunch of us would sit on Henry Ende's stoop which was in the shade, reading comic books waiting for Jack to come around. Sure, he might have been gruff at times, and woe be it unto us if he ever got wind if we bought from Good Humor or Bungalow Bar. But he did have a place for us in his heart.
Evenings had us out till all hours -- within reason, of course -- playing ringaleevio, hide 'n seek, with no one worrying about anything. Parents were always outside, having finished a day's work and dinner, gossiping it up, at the same time casting an eye about to make sure no trouble was afoot.
It was a great time to be young back then.
May 12, 12:42 pm
Roy Schwartz from 15501 Jewel Ave Bldg 22 apt 1B says:
Lived there from 1951-1994 went to 201 campbell JHS, John Bowne HS class of '69. Worked for Jack Friedman, it was 67 and 68 he had the big step van by then and sold hot dogs and tons of different candy. He was a nice man and always treated me nice
May 28, 9:25 pm
Vanessa Sessoms from 15526 Jewel Avenue Apt 2C says:
We lived in Pomonok from 1952-1969. It was a great place to grow up and I still have many, many close friends from then. I was the a member of the 1st pre-school experimental class where the 107th annex is now. I remember Queens College was a one building Teachers college and Jib Lanes and the library was white sand. The memories was intense, some joyful and some hard lessons learned. On another note - was anyone else there the day that Jack and Tony had a fight? - the two ice cream men were sluggin it out and it pit the two sides of Pomonok against each other in a loyalty war - I would not let Jack's ice cream pass my lips plus Tony had a cute son!! Was however happy when the war was forgotten. P.S. 200, Parsons JHS and John Bowne class of 1970. Can't wait to see this film!!!
May 29, 11:50 am
Michael Rosa from 155-11 Jewel Ave says:
We lived in Pomonok 1955-1963 I went to 1st grade at PS200 and then to PS201 from 2-6th grade then on to Campbell Junior high. We used to hang out at Minnies at lunch and after school (Campbell). I do remember Jack and Tony slugging it out...LOL Jack would always ask if I wanted framastans on my ice cream cone and I always said no just sprinkles. What the hell are framistans? I never found out! Riki Z, I think I knew you back then. I remember Al the housing cop who used to chase us off the grass. I also spent a lot of time at the community center where my dad used their wood shop to build cabinets and desks. I think the guy's name who ran the place was Mr Dadario(sp?). My best friends were Benjie Polkover and Neil Nichols in elementary school. Barry Clark was my best friend at Campbell.That hill by the playground was always filled during snow storms with us kids on sleds. I'm 65 now and I remember this stuff like yesterday, just don't ask me what I had for breakfast today. Where can I find this documentary?..xxmtd885@yahoo.com remove the xx to contact me.
July 13, 1:18 pm
Michael Rosa from 155-11 Jewel Ave says:
BTW I remember Richie P and Dennis E. Dennis kept bullying me when I was a kid. One day one of my little league buddies who was a pretty tough guy, Buddy Ray, took me to Dennis' apartment and told his mother if Dennis ever bothered me again he would kick his ass. That was the end of that! Buddy OD'd not long after that. Geez this stuff is bringing back memories I thought were gone.
July 13, 1:25 pm
Fran Sacher Diamond from 6705 Kissena Blvd. says:
I remember Ira Mogitz (he went to P.S. 201 with me) and Rikki, who lived in my court. I lived in Pomonok from 55' to 66' and then married a guy from Electchester, and we moved there for a few years. Pomonok was so safe then, that I remember walking home from 65-10 Parsons Blvd. at 2am in the morning myself and thinking nothing of it. I have re-acquainted with Howie Sparber, a friend who I used to babysit for in that same building. We still can't figure out how I, being only two years older, was the babysitter!
Aug. 10, 7:07 pm
Jerry H. says:
I Remember Jack The Ice Cream Man Vividly, 67-05 Kissena Blvd Was Where I Lived From 1960 To 1970...He Had The Best Hot dogs In Town, He Was A Nice Man To Me.
Aug. 10, 10:01 pm
Glenda Susser from 154-05 71st Ave. says:
Rikki summed it all up. I lived there from 1953 to 1970. Went to Parsons Jr. H.S. & graduated from John Bowne, June, 1969. I got married in April of 1970 & moved to the Catskill Area, Ellenville. My mother stay until May of 1989 when she passed. I look at my old pictures & it seems like yesterday. Where did the years go? We all went on to new chapters of our lives.
Aug. 10, 10:02 pm
Jeff Kassover from Electchester says:
Grew up in Electchester but spent much time in Pomonok. jack was great...never an —— to me or my friends, Sold some balls from stickball, hot dogs with onions, mmm..mm.
Great place and time...JIB Lanes, {Pomonok Community Center,...201 Gym....Lidos Pizza on the Hill.
Aug. 11, 4:09 am
Mary McCaffrey from 67-16 Parsons says:
I Lived in Pomonok from March 52 til June 64 when I got married. My parents lived there til 1997 when my Dad died.
It was a great place to grow up...lots of kids, playgrounds, we made up our own games! I remember the vendors that came to your door with their goods....Mr. Aster "the shoe man", the
Kreuges bakery guy and a vegetable truck that came around...I think his name was Tony. There was also another guy who came around and sold clothes and household goods...Johnny?
Jack was a fixture, always had a smile and knew many of our names. You were never afraid to run thru to basements to take a short cut or walk around at night by yourself.
Aug. 11, 2:23 pm
Frances Congelsoi from 65-28 Parsons Blvd says:
Reading these comments has brought so many memories flooding back. It was such a safe place to grow up. I moved in the first year the apartments were ready. There was a huge "dirt pile" in the back that eventually became the park. Then P.S. 201 was built. Next went to another brand new school, Campbell Jr. Jack the ice cream man was our favorite. Thinking back, hanging out in the park, so many activities. I think swinging and laughing was so fun. Loved when they would flood the ball field so we could ice skate. Moved to 155-26 Jewel Ave. until I moved out of state. Happy to share that a couple of my best friends from Pomonok are still close friends today.
Aug. 11, 4:59 pm
Fern from 155-01 jewel ave says:
I lived in pomonok from 1953-1979 my father was there until 2011. It was geat played outside all day roller skating. Parents were out sitting in front of building mom played majon (spelling?) jack the ice cream man sold tops (ditch diggers) and we would have contests. It was great. Had so many friends just look out the window run downstairs and play all day. Also remember chow chow truck chow main in a eatable noodle cup. Tell my kids all the time about growing up in pomonok. Great childhood.
Aug. 11, 5:49 pm
Ann Ratkowitz from 67-16 Parsons Blvd says:
Hi Mary McCaffrey! We lived ( grew up) inyour building.
Great childhood memories.
Aug. 12, 5:38 pm
Lewis from 67-47 Kissena Blvd says:
I remember Jack the Ice Cream Man, Mr. D from the community center, and the sprinkler pipes at some of the parks.
Aug. 13, 6:28 am
Ann Ratkowitz from 67-16 Parsons Blv says:
Not only did we have Jack, we had a pizza truck, Chow Chow Cup, The man with his hot coffee and donuts in his little van. We also had rides that came around.
I remeber Mr. D from the community center. We could certainly use a handful of guys like him with kids today.
Aug. 13, 7:32 pm
John Dodge says:
Was there from my birth in 1952 till about 1962 with my sister Judy Dodge. Remember Jack very well. And the huge stinky ginkgo trees in the park next to PS 201.
Dec. 5, 2:17 am
John Dodge from 67-16 Parsons Blvd says:
Hi Mary McCaffery!
Dec. 5, 2:27 am

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