Lifelong Friendships in Rockaway

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Randi and Melissa

While it may be hard for most people to remember anything from when they were six years old, Rockaway native, Randi Savron would beg to differ. I’m sure most of you know how unreliable those pesky Dayton Towers elevators can be, leaving you stuck for several minutes at a time. Well, while most find being stuck in an elevator a terrible experience, Savron is thankful that the elevator broke down that one day when she was six years old, because that was the day she met her absolute, “true, bestie bestie,” Melissa Berger-Afragola. Stranded in the 8000 Dayton Towers elevator with both their mothers, Savron and Berger-Afragola’s lifelong friendship began.

Savron and Berger-Afragola’s friendship seemed almost destined from the start. Growing up in the same building, it was very rare that the two weren’t together. Whether it was just the two, or it was a whole family affair, Savron and Berger-Afragola’s friendship quickly transitioned into something more—a sense of family.

The girls enjoyed their childhood schooling together, as they went to P.S. 183 (class of ’73), J.H.S. 180 (class of ’76), and Beach Channel High School (class of ’79). As kids, they loved spending their summer days on the beach, and summer nights at the good old, Rockaway Playland. They loved Playland so much, that the duo even got part-time jobs there working the rollercoaster and bumper cars. Savron said she’ll never forget the day in 1986, when she and Berger-Afragola watched from the boardwalk as Rockaway Playland was dismantled, never to open again. As she reflected on their childhood in Rockaway, Savron said, “Everyone got along, and it was a great sense of community. The days of the bungalows were wonderful.”

Like most Rockaway girls, they loved living walking distance to the beach, spending most of their free time there. Embracing their true Rockaway roots, they even enjoyed hanging out on the beach at night. Even though Savron’s parents wanted to throw her a traditional, big “Sweet 16,” Savron insisted on celebrating the big day with a beach party, right on Beach 80th Street. With the help of her brother, Savron and Berger-Afragola invited more than 100 people to the beach for Savron’s bonfire birthday bash. Savron’s beach “Sweet 16” even had a full band blasting from the boardwalk.

As much as they enjoyed the beach, Rockaway also had some other hotspots that the girls frequented. For these two, their all-time favorite places were the Rain Tower, Dingy Dan’s, and Connolly’s. When reflecting on all the great memories they had, Savron said, “I look at Melissa as more than just my BFF of over 50 years, but as the sister that I never had.”

Although Berger-Afragola moved out of Rockaway 36 years ago, their friendship remains just as strong as when it began. The two speak practically every day, whether it be chatting on the telephone, or just sending a quick check-in text to each other. And since Savron continues to live in Rockaway today, Berger-Afragola always has a reason to return back to the peninsula. At their last reunion, the girls were even able to meet up with some of their former classmates from P.S. 183 and J.H.S. 180. Savron said, “When she came back, it was like she never left because of how incredible this community is.”

When thinking about her lifelong friendship with Berger-Afragola, and how much it has evolved since their Dayton Towers days, Savron considers herself incredibly blessed to still live and be a part of the Rockaway community. Savron is very active throughout the peninsula, as she recently helped plan the 40th Class Reunion of  Beach Channel High. With a total of 75 people in attendance at the Knights of Columbus, the reunion was a total success.

Shortly after their graduation in 1979, Savron told Berger-Afragola and the rest of their classmates, “Somehow, someway, I’m going to live 200 ft. off the beach.” And when those who had moved away asked her why she chose to remain in Rockaway after all these years, with no hesitation she said, “If you stick to your dreams, even in the small community of Rockaway, you can do it.”

While the tan lines may fade, the memories made here on the peninsula last a lifetime. Here’s to another 50 years of friendship for Randi Savron and Melissa Berger-Afragola!

By Marina Cregan 

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