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Hofstra University Library Special Collections

Diverse Suburbs Oral History Collection

Theme: Origins

Clips from the Claire Burns Interview


CB: Oh, I've definitely noticed the building up of the community. There's no longer any vacant land. Everywhere you look there's a house or a business, a shop. Garden City and Hempstead used to be kind of the shopping mega of the area. A lot of little shops up and down the streets and that has changed. The little shops now are almost all gone out of business and they're taken over by the big stores - the big mall stores, the Targets, the Walmarts. I think it's Fulton there in Hempstead, between Main Street and Franklin Avenue. It was just lined with little shops, hat shops and dress shops and you'd buy prom dresses there and they're all gone now. That's the thing I notice the most is that it's become more industrialized and less shopper friendly.

RJ: Do you have any memories of activities that you had in Hempstead or being around here or...? I know there used to be a movie theater around here.

CB: Well, they were. There was the Calderone was on Franklin and the Rivoli was on Main Street. And then on Fulton was the State Theater which is now I think it's the Services for the Blind have that area in there. Well, as children we came every Saturday to the movies. Just almost every Satuday we'd meet our classmates. And it was kind of a thing to do and you'd either go to the Rivoli or the Calderone. We were not allowed to go to the State Theater because they showed R rated movies. Although the ratings weren't in at the time, it would be comparable to today's R rated movies. So our parents never let us go to the State. But we did go almost on a regular basis on Saturdays, particularly through the school year we'd all meet.

RJ: Did you shop a lot in that area that the little shops?

CB: Oh, yes. When Easter came everybody really dressed in those days and we would go get our Easter bonnets and our little coats and dresses. And when prom time came we'd bought all our - all of us bough our prom dresses in Hempstead. One after another - one shop. There was a bookstore at the corner of Franklin and Fulton -- Womrath's Bookstore -- and it did a wonderful business because it was the only one around. The Hempstead Library was Garden City's library because when I was a girl Garden City didn't have a library. So there was an old house on Hempstead Turnpike opposite where Home Depot is today. Big old house up on a little hill and that's where we did all our library work there. No Google in those days and so you had to go and look everything up. And so you'd always find someone you knew at the Hempstead Library. Hempstead and Garden City shared it.

RJ: Did you have a favorite shop you know, on Main Street, or...?

CB: I don't think I had a favorite shop. It mattered what you were looking for. There were a couple of hat stores believe it or not. In those days women wore hats to church and a proper lady didn't get all dressed up without a hat. And there were a couple of hate stores there. A couple of as I say, shops that specialized in prom dresses and other little shoe stores. So and then there were the department stores -- Arnold Constable and Franklin shios were at the corner of Franklin and Fulton. So basically, we - it depended on what you needed where you shopped. So I had no favorite. We just went to the one that supplied what we were looking for.

RJ: And how was transportation? I know we have a bus terminal and train station right next to each other now and was it like that then or...?

CB: Yeah, the bus station was one block further south than it is now, but they had the bus terminal and they had the train station then. And so you would in fact, I went to Sacred Heart Academy to high school and we would take the train many times to or from Hempstead and walk. So the railroad has always been there.

RJ: I don't know what the building structure was back then comparedto how it is now. Like how was it build? Was it nicer? Is it - has it changed?

CB: The station you mean?

RJ: Yeah, the station.

CB: The stattion was - has been remodeled much to the better, but it was a cute little station. All the stations (unintelligble). It was very similar to what Nassau Boulevard and Garden City stations look like now. Just small buildings. And there was always someone in attendance. There was always a ticket seller. It was never - it wasn't ever empty. There was always somebody there. So any time that you went there you felt comfortable and it was in all the stations which was kind of nice. They had ticket sellers. Now with the economy and times have changed and so many places just don't have people anymore. You're dealing with machines. But in those days everything was people and I think it's better now because it's a much nicer building, it's been improved. But it wasn't bad in those days. The terminal was not so hot looking and I think they've definitely improved on the terminal. But it was a very innovative thing when they brough it in because it opened up the island to an awful lot of people who didn't have transportation - no cards. So it was a good thing that they brought it in I think.