As a former resident, I would like to share some thoughts about growing up in the 1950s and ’60s in Valley Stream.
In my teenage years I lived in Hewlett, just on the other side of Peninsula Boulevard — but most of my friends were from the south Valley Stream area. We hung out at soda fountains, whether inside getting an egg cream or Cherry Coke, or weather outside in groups of guys and gals.
Our place was the Campus Sweet Shoppe on the corner of Rockaway Ave and Liggett Road owned by Fred Krim and his wife, Edith (later owned by Jack Samarotto and his father John.) There was a log between the stores and the house where Doc Abrams the dentist practiced. It was like a big telephone pole on its side. We would sit on it and pass the time.
The most memorable part of this story was the home of the Botticelli family on Miriam Street. Chris and Helene Botticelli kept their home open to all of us 24/7, as a place to hang out and stay off the streets. The basement was simple but had a stereo, a regulation-size pool table and an old-time barber chair that had belonged to Botticelli’s father, who was a barber in Far Rockaway, Queens.
Several times the guys got careless or a little rough with the pool table and tore the felt cloth. Mr. Botticelli would get upset, but then he would recover it and let us continue playing pool. It was a safe place for a cold night.
Chris Botticelli also was the owner of FrostiFresh, a frozen food and meat home delivery business on the next block. It was the corner of Rockaway Avenue and Lee Avenue, where Valley Fitness is now. To keep us out of trouble and off the streets Mr. Botticelli put almost all of us to work at various times. The girls answered the phone, did filing, and typing, and some even became meat wrappers. The guys worked in the freezer, helping to prepare orders for delivery. They also swept the garage floors, wrapped meat, cleaned the packing area, and, if that wasn’t enough, painted the ceiling in the garage or any place that needed freshening up.
I stayed there and became manager until I was drafted in 1966 and went to Vietnam. I came back in 1968 and went back to work there until the business closed in 1980.
The Botticelli family leaves a legacy of fond memories of the times we spent in their home. They never complained about noise, fights, or squealing tires on Miriam Street. They were patient, giving and caring people, and I am thankful for those days.
I still maintain a more than 60-year friendship with the Botticelli family. Chris died in 1994, but “Mom” Botticelli turned 95 in April and has a home in Valley Stream and West Palm Beach, Fla. — not far from my home in Delray Beach. I still visit her frequently.
As I write this, I am sending a special Thanksgiving thank you to Chris and Helene Botticelli for their kindness, tolerance and love, and for the pot of sauce that was always simmering that fed all who wanted to join them.
Have an idea for a guest column? Pitch the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.