Sunnyside Post

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A big piece of Sunnyside history to be recognized on Saturday

By Bill Parry

The Sunnyside Garden Arena was the place where boxers turned up to slug it out in the ring.

(provided by Chamber of Commerce)

The arena, where Wendy’s is located today (44-11 Queens Blvd), drew many people to neighborhood between 1945 and 1977, and helped put Sunnyside on the map.

This Saturday, October 6, at noon, there will be a ceremony commemorating the old arena in front of Wendy’s . Members of Ring 8 Boxing association, a veteran boxers group, will join with former fighters, politicians and other dignitaries to unveil a monument (see picture).

John Edebohls, who was raised just a couple of blocks away when the arena was in operation, led Ring 8’s four year mission to secure the monument at the old site. “This place launched many careers: Emile Griffith [middleweight world champ] and Jose Torres [light heavyweight world champ],” he said.

This was the first place Gerry Cooney fought professionally, Edebolhs added. Cooney fought Larry Holmes in 1982 for the heavyweight title and lost. Cooney – as with Griffith–might turn up for Saturday’s event.

The plaque will be dedicated to the fighters who used the 2,000 seat arena as a springboard to their professional careers. A successful debut at the Sunnyside Garden Arena often led to bigger fights and bigger paydays at Madison Square Garden.

Local historian Luke Adams said the arena, however, wasn’t just for boxing. “They had proms there, they made a movie there (Mr. Universe), and in 1960 John F. Kennedy had one of the first rallies of his Presidential campaign there.”

The arena was originally built as a private tennis club by railway magnate Jay Gould in 1926. It was sold and became a boxing arena in 1945 and then razed in 1977.

“It’s a shame we lost it in 1977 when interest began to wane.” Adams said.

George Kowalski, a Sunnyside resident since the late 50’s has many memories of the arena.  He remembers the boxing mostly, but “they also had roller derby, big-time wrestling and a pretty good industrial league basketball team playing out of there. It was a classic place, really.”

The plaque will remember the fighters, but not by their names. “It took four years because of all the squabbling between the old fighters: whose name goes first?  What about my corner man? On and on this went, but that’s boxing,” said Edebohls.

Kennedy held a rally at Sunnyside Garden Arena
(Source: Chamber of Commerce_

 

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35 Responses »

  1. I hear the Celtic Park co-op board is very upset about this.

    Ian McGowan has started a trend.

  2. Some of the darkest days in sunnyside history should not be remembered.

  3. I apologize for all my racist comments. I’m just trying to troll people because I have no life. I will be a good boy from now on

  4. “The arena was originally built as a private tennis club by railway magnet…”

    I had no idea magnets were that clever.

  5. BTW, another small piece of Sunnyside history was the soda fountain-ice cream place called “Edebohls” on the triangular block around 49th and Queens Blvd. where QB runs into Roosevelt Avenue. A teenager hangout in the 1950s and early 60s!

    MarilynS.

  6. I loved that place Edebohls.

    They had jars of candy in the window and soda fountains where you could see the soda inside and it was pumped up so it washed down the sides. I thought I was in sweet, sweet heaven! After a shopping trip to Greenpoint Avenue my mom would stop there for a cup of coffee. My brother and I got sodas. The guy behind the counter–wearing a white paper hat–would fill a cone-shaped paper cup with crushed ice he dug up from below the counter. He’d put the cup in a metal stand, then pull the lever on that magical fountain and fill it with soda. Last thing, he’d stick a paper straw in it. We’d sit on the stools and spin around while he was doing that then carry the sodas to the booth my mother picked. There we would drive her crazy banging our feet against the wooden bottom of the booth. It was a joy. Thank you Mr. Edebohl!

  7. It’s a pity that a place with such a colorful history couldn’t be saved.

  8. I’ve heard many great stories over the years about that venue. With it’s rich history, it would seem to be overdue.

    RD

  9. @Old Lady Sunnyside & @Marilyn:

    Your history comments are amazing. Keep up the great work. A side of Sunnyside so many of us never saw…

  10. the glory days of the neighborhood. too bad they are long gone.

  11. when the roller derby was there on sat-nite for .50 cents you could skate on oval track it was a lot harder then they made it look man it was fun. lotts of burn’s on the elbow and knee’s

  12. I agree with ‘nobody’, I truly enjoy hearing from the truly olde skool Sunnysiders!! Great stories!

    RD

  13. Thank you, Nobody and Rick Duro. I usually get comments telling me to get with the current program, get hip, be cool, and go buy some expensive coffee! I live here because I was born here, and it was a place for fairly new Americans to enter society. I’m happy for anyone who is living out the American dream, making money and enjoying the good things in life, but leave some room for the rest of us, please. We created the place you think is so cool through generations of care-taking, when politicians didn’t have any money to redo things, when stores sold things you needed, not stuff they hope you wanted and when newcomers looked to old timers for hints on how to live best here.

  14. Walking my dog has intro’d me to a bunch of folks that are Sunnyside lifers. They usually hang out on the benches outside Lodati. I truly enjoy listening to their stories of the ‘old neighborhood’ and my dog loves the attention she gets from them:)

    Cheers and keep on posting!

    Rick

  15. @Old Lady Sunnyaide

    Bet we know each other. Grew up on 46th St and 50th Av. from 1938 to 1954 …

    Edebohls was on the corner of 47th St and QB, know that as I and my two girlfriends (about 16 to 18)went there for grilled cheese and cokes every Saturday, After we cleaned our rooms and helped with other chores in the house.
    Didn’t have to be told either, just knew it had to be done, before you left the house. ..

    Oh yeah and there was wrestling at the Sunnyside arena. I remember my Mom and her friend getting all gussied up (that was Dad’s words) and going to see Gorgeous George wrestle. He used to spray perfume in the ring before his match .. And wore big ermine capes …

    Who remember the original White Castle when it had car hops serving
    the orders. Great time to grow up and Sunnyside/Woodside was the place to be.

    Oh and the PAL dances in the 43rd St park. They were the best.

    Sure others have good memories of the times. Love to hear of them.

  16. The car hops would bring the order on a tray that hung on the driver’s window, I think it was red. I distinctly remember seeing the hamburgers piled up in their little bags. Sometimes we went to White Tower. Where was that?

  17. Re: the comments regarding Sunnyside in the old days:

    Sounds like an episode of Happy Days (before Fonzie jumped the shark that is).

  18. @Old Lady Sunnyside
    White tower was between 47th & 48th Streets with entrances on Queens Blvd and Greenpoint Ave. It was a great place to stop for some good food.
    Thanks for the memories keep them coming.

  19. Just a suggestion: Perhaps those old timers with snapshots of Sunnyside in previous decades can scan some of them and submit them to this site if the the site owner is willing. It would be a fascinating look at the past.

  20. Thanks for the nice memories of the neighborhood. I loved going to watch the roller derby matches at Sunnyside Gardens, especially the girl teams which provided exciting entertainment.

  21. Ich bin ein Sunnysider’s idea of pics is excellent. Do any of you have pics you can scan for us to see of that era? We’d love to see them!

    RD

  22. The Good Old Days
    Help us save our past!

    Anyone interested in donating old pictures of the neighborhood please contact us.
    The Sunnyside Chamber has an ongoing project of saving pictures of our past! Including and originating and building with love and volunteer labor the sunnysidechamber.org, on which this revised site is based, thanks just a few of the many contributors:

    Thank you to Alice Havlina and Warren Boyen, two wonderful local historians who have passed on but who helped us with information regarding some of these photographs. John and Mike Leahy and their family have provided us with not only great pictures and information from 1915 that would have been lost without their family history. The next time you go through your old pictures and documents, remember our office. Don’t let anyone throw out the pictures you so carefully preserved over the years!

    We are looking for pictures of John F. Kennedy at the Sunnyside Garden Arena (we have one but look for more), Mayor Jimmy J. Walker opening the Sunnyside Gardens Park on May 18, 1926, Gleason Centennial Hotel, Miller Hotel. We have some of the Sunnyside Pool, Sunnyside Theatre, 43 St. Theatre but looking for more that we know are out there! Still looking for Knickerbocker Laundry Building, Jay Guild Tennis Court at 45th St, and anything else you may have of interest. Sometimes even ordinary photographs of daily life are the most interesting of all! We do have pictures of the Original White Castle building and thanks to John Edebohls we have pictures of Edebohls Ice Cream Parlor.

    We recommend Main Branch of our Queens Public Library to anyone seeking more about our history. Their old newspaper records were invaluable. We look forward to your comments, suggestions, and hope you take time to visitthe Sunnyside Chambers pictures from “The Good Old Days!”

  23. Looking at the photograph of JFK at the corner of 46th street and Queens Blvd. brings back memories of the fire that removed the 2nd story of the corner building, never to be replaced. the cigar store still occupies that corner but Angie’s Pizza was one of the few pizzerias in the neighborhood which also had rotisserie chickens. Pizza was 15 cents a slice in the early sixties. Moving further west in the photograph is the Queen of the Sea Restaurant where we only ate on special occaisions but even as I youngster I appreciated those few occaisions as special. The last time my family ate there was following JHS 125 graduation in the Bliss Theater. The South Pole which occupies the site adjacent to Wendy’s, former Sunnyside Gardens, was the Robert Hall clothing store into the early 1970′s. That’s the corner where my friends and I stood as candidate Kennedy drove passed.

  24. JFK was the last real president we had.

  25. There were also some not-so-nice venues in Sunnyside: The Merry-Go-Round topless bar on Queens Boulevard between 45th and 46th Streets, and Gallagher’s, also on Queens Boulevard in the lower 40s (not sure which block). For about a decade everything was covered with graffiti and roll-down gates covered every business on Queens Boulevard. There was little pedestrian traffic. Things have improved tremendously over the last twenty years and hopefully will continue to do so, thanks both to the old-timers and the newcomers.

  26. Very true Dorothy, looking back is generally done with fondness. I recall Gildeas Bar next to the white castle where there was always a weekend fight that would spill out into the WC parking lot. I remember the under aged drinkers that would come into the Bickfords on 46th street and create major disruptions. The Escape was a bar/disco where the OTB presently is and it had the worst of activities going on. The undeveloped area behind “Torsney” park know as rabbits island was the ideal place for mischief, under age drinking and more. It was not difficult to get into trouble with the various groups of teens who hung out on just about every corner or the park benches at night. I also rememberl hearing my parents saying the similar things to the neighbors that I am saying about the neighborhood and how it has changed since the glories of their youth.

  27. Gallagher’s BEFORE it was topless was a regular bar on QB btwn 39th Place & 40th Street….there was also a bowling alley on QB where Arriba Arriba & Burger King are then it was it became a disco, the 1st if I can remember correctly was Hunka-Monka

  28. Susan, the Stadium Bar became the Inwood East and later Hunka-Munka. Downstairs with a direct entrance from the street was Stadium Lanes which may have been 10 lanes of bowling owned by the bar owner as well. There was also a boys club a few doors over and The Broiler where Burger King is now.

  29. All that has been said is true. During the seventies and eighties, when the city was broke, the neighborhood was in bad shape–as were many in the city. Rabbit Island was for teenagers, parks had broken glass everywhere, public facilities were nearly always broken. But this was true everywhere. I remember playing frisbee on the sheep meadow in Central Park–there was hardly a blade of grass.

    My childhood memories are from the 60s. Every few blocks there were very local services, food, cleaning, shoe repair, barber shops, beauty parlors. For household needs beyond that we went either to Greenpoint Avenue or Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside. Special purchases required a trip either to Jackson Heights, Steinway Street or Alexanders and Macy’s in Rego Park. Sunnyside was for local shoppers. Everyone had their own Woolworths, Thom McCanns, coffee shops and movie theaters. No one needed ours. The side streets and avenues belonged to the people that lived there.

    Technology has changed all that, both for good and bad. There are more people now. They have cars. They shop in giant stores for long-term supplies. Everything is different. I guess wistfulness for a sweetened past is a function of living long enough to see how much things change.

  30. I love the old stories about Sunnyside, it was a wonderful place to grow up. It was so small town in a big city. Lots of trees and empty lots to play in when you could not go to the park.

    Born on 46th & 43rd Ave in 1947 and made the big move to 47th St and 43rd Ave on 1957.

    Every store you could possibly need, I remember doing my Christmas shopping on Greenpoint Avenue with the smell of snow in the air with all the decorations and Christmas carols playing.

    Ice cream parlors with real fountains with high stools or Bickford’s with entrances on 46th and on Queens Blvd.

    Many great memories and many not so great but happy that it is coming back to it’s beauty.

  31. Gosh, do I remember Sunnyside! I lived on 39th Place off of 50th Avenue and loved going to Clancys’ candy store. The thing that had gotten me started with my memories was looking at my Skates Box, which was obtained from Sunnyside Gardens Skating Rink. I remember a News Reporter taking a picture of me in my cute little skating outfit. I used to have a clip, but lost it and can’t find it. Anyhow! I miss the Ice Cream parlors with the true taste of cream. Anybody remember Gildeas next to White Castle? The Center Theatre, I can’t believe is still there. I loved the Villa Capri Pizzeria on Greenpoint, the best Dam Pizza, I have ever had. I left Queens in 1974 to join the Navy which was during the Vietnam Era. HERE IS A SHOUT OUT TO MY SUNNYSIDERS, I MISS THE OLD TIMES ;-)

  32. I grew up on 48th Street between Queens Blvd and 43rd Ave — Sunnyside/ Woodside was a terrific neighborhood –while I moved to Texas in 1990… I was there for 36 years ..my parents lived there for over 50 years until they passed a way a few years back..I still visit each year — If you are interested in hearing more about the old days ..and seeing some great pics –there is a Sunnyside 60′s-70′s page on FB where a lot of us post pics and talk about the old days in Sunnyside…

  33. My aunt Maddy use to roller skate in sunnyside gardens Madeline Donlin, I was very little, does anyone remember the teams for female roller Derbry names?

  34. My family lived at 43rd St. between Greenpoint Ave. and 48th Aves. from
    1935 to 1997…yes, 62 years! I remember Sunnyside Garden (wrestling and boxing), Edebohls (46th & Q.B.), the Asia (Chinese food) on Q.B.,
    White Castle, White Tower, Robert Hall’s, Silver’s (womens’ clothing store on QB), Lindy’s (another store) plus, my favorite womens’ clothing
    store called Eunice on 46th St. Between Greenpt and QB.
    I left Sunnyside in the early 90′s and still return to check out the
    “old neighborhood”. Big loss to me was the Bliss Movie Theatre; we
    also had the Sunnyside Theatre and the 43rd Street theatre, plus the
    long-time Center Theatre…still there.

    Glad to see the new stores and that the area is clean and busy with
    families.

  35. I just found this site. Seems like a lot of people who might remember the late ’50s here. My father use to own a bar /restaurant across the street from the garden called “Venice”. Anyone remember it?
    My father’s name was Julie kappen. He disappeared/ left my family in 1959 and I understand he changed his name to james Carroll. If you remember or possibly know someone from that era, maybe they would remember. Please contact me. I always wanted to know why he did what he did to my mom and brothers. He had a partner named Jimmie o’neill. They didn’t last long in business there. Appreciate it if you know something about him to contact me. Jfk71149@yahoo.com

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