For Far Rockaway High School (FRHS) alumni sisters, Carole Barna Scherker and Barbara Barna Brown, what started out as plans to return to their beloved childhood Wavecrest Gardens neighborhood to celebrate Carole’s 75th birthday, speedily evolved into the first-ever FRHS Reunion hosted on the beach, and the response they have received has been astounding.
The FRHS Beach Reunion, hosted for classes 1950 through 1978, will be on Saturday, September 29 at the DredSurfer Grill Beach 17th Concession, just steps away from the Wavecrest Gardens apartment the sisters grew up in the 1950s. Scherker, (FRHS class of 1961), said the idea came about back in May, when she was thinking about how to momentously celebrate her 75th birthday with old friends, neighbors and classmates.
“My sister and I have both lived out of the state for decades, and wanted to come back to Far Rockaway to celebrate our beloved beach, new boardwalk, old friends and memories, and of course, my birthday. Then it hit me, why not host a high school reunion right on the beach? Most of the previous high school reunions we attended were held in fancy halls outside of Rockaway, and were very expensive. I wanted to host something at a low cost, instead of a big-to-do at a fancy corporate hotel or restaurant. DredSurfer Grill is the perfect place to celebrate with fellow alumni that doesn't break the bank, while also supporting a terrific local business on the boardwalk. Plus, what better venue to celebrate our Far Rockaway memories than on the beach?” Scherker said.
Brown (FRHS class of 1963) jumped right on board, and the ideas just escalated. “This has just been so overwhelming, and we are so excited. I’m an advocate for sustainable aging, and think this is the perfect avenue for us to get together in a habitat we all know and love — the beach. Age is irrelevant when you're looking at the ocean, breathing in the ocean air, and laughing with old friends,” Barbara said.
According to Brown, after launching the Facebook page just a mere few months ago, folks from all over the country came crawling out of the woodwork, posting old class photos, childhood memories of the beach, and expressing their excitement to share their old memories of Far Rockaway.
The itinerary for the day includes: At 9:30 am. - A pre-lunch morning Memorial Walk and name-reading of alumni who have passed; At noon - A budget-friendly FRHS beach reunion lunch at the DredSurfer Grill on the boardwalk at Beach 17th Street for FRHS classes 1950 through 1978. Note that sign-in begins at 11 a.m. Pre-registration suggested to assure a reserved table with your class and the availability of preferred menu items. Class table assignments will be sent by email. Charles Jacobs, proprietor of DredSurfer, contributed a live band playing 1950s and 60s music, plus there will be a tribute to folksinger/songwriter, Phil Ochs. Also, attendees will have an opportunity to donate to one of the designated causes of the FRHS Beach Reunion: Suicide Prevention, Autism, Alzheimer’s Research and Rockaway Animal Rescue. Additionally, Scherker, Brown and their brother, Michael (FRHS class of 1965), granted permission to copy their father, Tony Barna’s 1968 oil painting of the Wavecrest beach and boardwalk, in memory of their brother, Jimmy Barna (FRHS class of 1972). Additional copies will be made available to those who donate to the FRHS Beach Reunion's designated charities, as well as to FRHS alumni who through the efforts of fellow alumni, Alan Silverstein, donate towards the GoFundMe page he set up to offset travel and accommodation costs for 79-year-old Carol Marston, a long-time supporter of FRHS alumni, to fulfill her dream of attending the reunion, and seeing her childhood Far Rockaway friends.
Brown came up with the idea for the Memorial Walk/Name-Reading to commemorate the lives of those who have passed, and to make sure their memory lives on; and Scherker jumped right on board. She said, “This was such a good idea as we lost a lot of boys in the Vietnam War, and what better place to memorialize their lives and childhood memories of them, than on the beach.”
For both Scherker and Brown, their childhood in Wavecrest Gardens is something they will always treasure, and to host their reunion at the nearby beach is something they only dreamed about. “Wavecrest was such a unique community. As kids, every season was beach season. Even when it was cold, we enjoyed playing on the sand in the snow, riding our bikes, and even just playing in the buildings’ hallways. Carole lives in Phoenix, Arizona and I live in Columbus, Ohio, but Far Rockaway never left our blood. The smell of the ocean, sound of the waves crashing, and the feeling of Rockaway sand between our toes — can never be erased, much less replaced. This reunion celebrates all that and more,” Brown said.
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