Travels with Bob Florida: The New Home for FRHS grads

While the Rockaways have always been a major summer destination for folks from throughout the five boroughs, Canada and the northern section of the East Coast, the towns around Del Ray Beach in Florida have become a major location for Rockaway Ex-Pats.

There is a regular group of grads from ’55 -‘57 that meets on Fridays at 10 a.m. for brunch. The numbers vary each week for attendance as the aging group tends to various ailments and medical issues. Those in attendance range from three to a dozen ad hoc members.

Discussions usually focus on days at Far Rockaway High School, the beach and the boardwalk. It also gives those in attendance an opportunity to share their latest surgeries and rehabs. Some have new knees. Others, treatment for eye problems.

But the bottom line is friendships that have survived over the decades. Regulars at the Poppies Restaurant Friday brunches include Larry Mazur who is the unelected chairman. Failing to let him know if you are coming or not will provide the offender with a sharp rebuke.

Regulars, mostly from the classes of ’55 – ’57 include Gene Stuttman, Larry Ramos, Fred Vanefsky (who, by the way, is still referred to by the nickname he was known by at P.S. 42 and FRHS, “Totsie.” Great name for an 84-year-old). Mike Laden is a regular and rarely misses a reunion be it up north or in Florida.

There are a few Snowbirds (such as this writer) who look forward to the weekly brunches. Marty Carr, who attended FRHS originally from Laurelton and then Howard Beach, comes occasionally. Carr moved to Lake Worth years ago and became a deputy sheriff. Now retired, he enjoys his expansive back yard and screened-in, in-ground pool.

Over the years, there have been several reunions in the area catering to the large Rockaway population that now calls Florida a permanent home.

While those reunions of the recent past were held in a country club (and the area is littered with them), for some reason Poppies has become the go-to place.

A recent email from Helene Savit ’65, announced another reunion, this time at Poppies. It’s slated to be held on December 21 at noon.

Attendees from Rockaway South, gather from Del Ray Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Lake Worth and various other locales. There is discussion about gathering all the Rockaway ex-pats, seceding from Florida and establishing an independent state of Southern Rockaway. There’s enough military experience (ranging from a former Green Beret to a Marine officer) to train the militia. Then negotiations with Russia could commence to get them out of Ukraine and free the two Americans left behind in Russian prisons when a basketball star who refused to recognize the national anthem before games, was returned home.

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