On Sunday, a little more than 200 people gathered in the Knights of Columbus hall on Beach 90th Street in the Rockaways to dance, have a drink and travel back in time to Irish Town, a cluster of bars and bungalows that served as a summer refuge for Irish New Yorkers until it was razed 50 years ago to make way for high-rise apartments.
To hear the
recollections, one would think
of working-class Irish — immigrants and their children — streamed out of buses
and trains and found an escape from the hot tenements of pre-air-conditioned
Baxter, who came over from
one table, the McGee sisters — Mary, Ann and Veronica — looked at faded
pictures of their old gang. The sisters lived in the
“We all met our husbands in Irish Town,” said Mary, 70, who was 13 when she met a 16-year-old Greek boy named Harry Aretakis, whose family traveled from the Inwood section of Manhattan to a rooming house on Beach 103rd Street each summer. They were married six years later.
“You swam all day and danced all night,” she said. “When we girls were too young to drink, we’d stand outside the bars and they’d let us in just to dance, not to go to the bar, and we had to leave when the music stopped.”
Mr. Aretakis, 73, added: “There were no guns or knives. If you couldn’t fight, you didn’t come. And the bartenders were all huge. Not one was under 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, and if there was any problem, they’d be over the bar in a heartbeat.”
many visitors to
relatives were sea people from
Beers were a nickel, he said, and since the bars, like the Dublin House, Flynn & McLoughlin’s, Gildeas, Leitrim Castle, the Shamrock, O’Gara’s and O’Donnell’s, stocked the same-size glasses, customers could roam from one bar to another to buy discounted refills.
another table at the Knights of Columbus on Sunday, Patrick McGrath, 80, told
of how he grew up, one of 12 children, on a farm in the
“If you got arrested for fighting, we had a police captain who was very religious,” Mr. McGrath explained. “He’d take you to Mass the next morning and then let you go without a ticket.”
The Rockaways, which was known as the Irish Riviera, “was a paradise for the Irish,” he said, “but the subway ruined that.”
Peggy Tully and her identical twin, Mary Kelly, both 64, emphasized that
Sullivan, whose father, Tom, owned Sullivan’s bar, said, “