Archive for the ‘Queens’ Category

Neighborhood Joints

May 19, 2009

I really did get on a roll with the neighborhoods puzzle, but it did take me awhile to finish it.  This is mostly because I wanted to include the Queens neighborhood of Richmond Hill.  I had the first part of the clue, Staten Island’s original borough name of Richmond, but wordplay for “Hill” did not come so easily.  Even when I settled on using the name of a noteworthy Hill, I was not comfortable with the choices.  I weighed the options of Benny Hill, Anita Hill and Laryn Hill.  I went with Lauryn as I felt she was more relevant right now then the other two Hills, even with Lauryn Hill being out of the spotlight for a couple of years now (a veritable eternity in pop music).  I was happy enough with the dual clues for Richmond Hill, and called it a day for this puzzle.

So why Richmond Hill?  Well, this happens to be the neighborhood that my mother grew up in.  More than two score of years ago a young lady from Richmond Hill fell for a young gentleman from the suburbs of New Jersey.  They got married and started a family in suburban New Jersey.  How’d that work out?  They’ll be celebrating their 42nd wedding anniversary this fall, thank you very much.  I sometimes think about how when my parents came together how they had to marry more than themselves, but also two different upbringings (city, suburb) with different paces to life, landmarks etc.  Well, it turned out that they had one landmark in common.  Jahn’s.

Jahn’s was an ice cream palor/restaurant/diner that started out in the Bronx and expanded to about thirty locations in the outer boroughs and North Jersey.  The history of the Richmond Hill Jahn’s can be found here and a profile of the last remaining Jahn’s in the New York Times is here.

I grew up going to the Jahn’s in my home town in New Jersey, and I can attest that the sundaes were awesome, and my sister remembers that our Jahn’s made a great burger to boot.  The first memory of my life that I can conjure up in my mind is a Jahn’s hot fudge sundae with chocolate ice cream (which I sadly can not eat anymore…).  I have been told that this was my second birthday, and I was pretty wide-eyed when I was given an ice cream sundae.

I would like to think that Jahn’s provided a common experience that both my parents and the newly minted sets of in-laws could use to help bride two family’s from two different states.  The two family’s ended up meshing very well, and the shared experience of Jahn’s got passed down to my sister and I.  This is the true value of the neighborhood joint.  These are the places where common bonds are formed, and a bunch of people who just happen to live together become a community.

A great fear of the “developmentation” of New York is that these neighborhood hangouts and eating establishments are going the way of the dodo, swamped by a wave of TGI Friday’s and KFC’s.  I have found that in many neighborhoods, these places still exist.  No matter how much land is given over to the big chains, people still need places to go and feel like they are part of something local, and not a number three places to the right of a decimal point on the P & L of a multi-national corporation.

This isn’t to say the local joint isn’t being pushed by the big boys and other outside forces.  The Jahn’s in my home town closed down many years ago to make way for a Rite Aid, and the Richmond Hill Jahn’s fell to cultural changes of that neighborhood.  Many neighborhood joints and Ma and Pa chains go by the wayside because Ma and Pa retire, and no one wants to or has the talent to maintain such places.

The very fragile nature of these places makes them special, and they also serve as guideposts and historical markers for the changing fabrics of neighborhoods.  Support your neighborhood joint!  You’ll at least have great memories to share.

I leave the blog  Queens Crap to have the latest word on the closing of the Richmond Hill Jahn’s.   Be sure to check out the comments.