When Jackson completed the booklet for his children, Helen Fleischman, the Long Beach Historical Society archivist, asked if she could distribute copies of it at a 1997 Long Beach High School class reunion. Jackson removed the family sections and handed over the 32-page booklet.
It was then that he realized he could expand the booklet into a book. With permission from Fleischman, Jackson Ñ a retired journalist and former publisher of the Long Island Independent Ñ delved deep into the historical society's archives. Over the past five years, he has researched and interviewed more than 100 former residents to complete his book.
I couldn't have done it without the access [Fleischman] gave me to the records, the files, Jackson said.
The book documents significant places, events and people who lived in the city during the Great Depression and World War II. Then-residents' memories of stores, schools, movie theaters and bathhouses from the West End to the boardwalk were included in the book. There are also shared memories and photos of Orphan's Day in the summers, parades, the hurricanes of 1938 and 1944, Fireman's Field and the Long Beach Stadium.
The book covers the big bank robbery of 1939 and the murder of Mayor Louis F. Edwards by a Long Beach police officer. It also delves into the city's history as a breeding ground for accomplished athletes. Eleanor Holm was a 1932 Olympic gold medalist who learned to swim in Long Beach. Her family's summer home was on Pennsylvania Avenue. Long Beach Junior High School student Audrey Peppe was only 13 when she made the United States Figure Skating team that same year.
Nearly 250 Long Beach residents served in World War II, and their names are listed in the book. Letters from Long Beach soldiers and compositions by East School students about their relatives in the war are also included.
The 1930s and 40s were a special time in Long Beach, recalled Jackson, now 76. It was a small town, and everyone knew everyone, he said.
At the time, most people didn't have cars, and they traveled by train or bus. Residents commuted to Manhattan, even then, via train, he said.
Doing the research, especially of those who served in the war, was particularly difficult for Jackson, who now lives in Bellmore. It was hard to track people down, but, he said, I think I did pretty well, considering a half-century has passed. It was hard to find everybody. A lot of the guys had already died.
While a sequel isn't in the works, Jackson said, many people have suggested it to him. They have more memories to add, he said. But Jackson is keeping busy with the promotion of his book, an impressive-looking paperback that was self-published.
This is [my] first book, but I've been writing and editing my whole life, he said. Jackson retired from the New York Post in 1993 after 16 years as its travel editor. He was also on the staff of the New York Herald Tribune and Esquire magazine.
Jackson was born in Rochester, but his family moved to Long Beach in 1932. He attended grammar school in the city and graduated from Long Beach High School in 1944. He now lives in Bellmore.
Paul Jackson's book, Our Town, Our Time: Long Beach, L.I. in the 1930s and WWII, recently hit local bookstore shelves. Jackson, a former Long Beach resident, documented his family's history here, and included his memories of the city during the Great Depression and World War II.