Going to the beach with your friends instead of your parents was sort of a rite of passage for most of us in Ridgewood in the 1970’s. It meant traveling by bus and train (usually bumping into ½ the neighborhood on the way) each of us with our ghetto blasters (usually blasting the radio, sometimes cassettes), stopping at the dirty, grimy delis on the other side of the boardwalk to buy some ice cold beer (Buds, Miller, Michs were usually the choices) and then finding your own little space on the sand!
Now the beach most of us went to was Rockaway Beach in Queens, NY. In those days, Jones Beach was way too far for us to get to (without someone driving you), Staten Island Beaches were the same – you needed a car to get to them and Coney Island could be a …tough place to go and return in one piece …at least that was the rumor.
Its funny looking back ...there were two beaches at Rockaway that were most popular …they were named for the streets (which were numbered) that lead to them. One was “Beach 116” and the other was “108.” Beach 116 was, by far, the most popular beach. I can still remember looking out to the water from the boardwalk and literally not seeing any sand …just one blanket next to the next blanket, next to the next blanket, etc. The sound …the sound was AMAZING! Try to picture hearing 1,000 ghetto blasters all tuned to the same radio station (usually 102.7FM) each blasting Led Zep’s “Black Dog!” The smells were a mixture of hot dogs… hamburgers and wacky weed mixed in with the smell of the ocean. Of course most of us Italians would sometimes bring meatball heroes even to the beach …but that’s taking this story in another direction.
“108” was a much deeper beach (measuring from the boardwalk to the water) and much less populated. It was known as the beach you would bring your girlfriend… or your girl that was a friend for a little heavy-petting beach-style! …my mind is drifting …back to reality!
We’d hang out… drink beers from our coolers… take an occasional dip in the water, most of us in cut-off dungarees with fringe hanging from the bottom. Some of the beach blankets were actually bed sheets with logos of bands on them… ZEP, STYX, QUEEN, TULL, FLOYD, THE DEAD, etc. …man everyone had their favorites but no one cared as long as it was rock and it was piping out of our radios.
Nothing tasted better than washing down one of the greasy hamburgers they sold there with an ice cold bottle of beer at Rockaway beach 116. I started my trek there when I was 13 or 14 years old …yes I was drinking already (so was virtually every other kid in Ridgewood in those days …legal drinking age was 18 back then, but the Korean delis in Ridgewood and the dirty delis at 116 would sell beer and cigarettes to infants that crawled into their stores.
By the time I was 16, I was already hitching rides with friends that had cars and moving onto greener pastures (one thing about Rockaway… it wasn’t “greener pastures”), but the memories of the few years …the few summers …the few weekends …the few days, when I really look at it – that I spent there, left indelible memories. Even as I type this, I’m hearing echoes of “Stairway to Heaven” blaring for everyone’s boom boxes as we all packed up and headed for home.
Anyone else out there have memories of Rockaway beach 116 or 108… leave a comment! Peace, g
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Dean Wesley Smith