When social media hit the scene years ago, I had no interest in it whatsoever. My daughter, who was a budding teen at Hicksville Middle School at the time, had joined several different sites and convinced me that it was time to “get into the 21st Century, MOM.” I can still remember fondly how she taught me to set up the accounts for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn on our basement computer. We even tried to get creative with my bio, which had always been an issue whenever I needed to write one for a community theater project. We had a few laughs over the nicknames, or handles, that I should use to log in. “Skatsky” and “Mama Llama” are two that still stand out in my mind. I always thought social media was a tool to post pictures of food, as she often did, or to find long-lost friends. I didn’t realize that it could serve as a wealth of information about local history.
Fast forward 10 or so years, where I now belong to several different groups and pages of various interest. One of the pages that intrigues me most is the “You Know You’re from Hicksville…” page. Found here are nostalgic pictures of Hicksville of yesteryear, along with comments about residents’ fondest memories. Vague memories stirred as I viewed photos of the once open-to-air Mid Island Plaza, now known as Broadway Commons. Who doesn’t recall My Pi Pizzeria in the space now inhabited by Panera Bread at the mall, or Mid Island Bowl on Broadway where Dollar Tree now stands? Speaking of Mid Island Plaza, does anyone remember when that entire area belonged to the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and was known as The St. John’s Boy’s Orphanage until it was razed to make room for the mall in the late 1950s? Yes, I found that information on said page as well. These are just a few of the little-known facts about this wonderful town.
Just this week, someone posted a photograph of an old matchbook from Reinhardt’s, a restaurant that graced Woodbury Road for many years. Before that, the site had been known as Fred’s Inn until the “F” fell off; it was then known as “Red’s”. Reinhardt’s or Fred’s Inn are the predecessors of what is now Charles Avenue. Hubby and I, who were dating at the time, passed that Reinhardt’s sign on Woodbury Road often on our frequent visits to Stern’s, which once inhabited Macy’s retail space.
Another post on the “You Know You’re from Hicksville” page captured my interest this week. The post featured what appears to be a hacienda-style building on Nicholai Street. It was the original home of the Hicksville Opera House as well as a community center and Hicksville’s first movie theater, though local residents have mentioned that operas never graced its halls. The old opera house also served as a dance hall and a sewing factory for Drago Company as well as a nursery school in the 1980s. Its current occupant is an academy for martial arts. The building itself is an interesting piece of architecture, with its curved entryway and stucco façade. Located at the top arch is the year of the building’s birth: 1914.
For a bit more interesting Hicksville lore, both Amazon and Barnes and Noble offer a book written by Hicksville’s own historians, Richard E. and Anne Evers of Hicksville Public Library. The book, titled Images of America: Hicksville, was once sold by Smith’s Drugstore on Broadway. It recounts the history of our town from the first settlement of Native Americans and weaves a tale through time about Hicksville’s humble beginnings. Richard and Anne collected over 200 rare photos from Hicksville Public Library, museum archives and private collections to form a book that they hope will preserve and promote the history of their adopted home as a legacy for future generations. The book discusses Hicksville’s fine contributions to our nation’s economic, social and political areas.
Although I lived in Levittown until my young adulthood, I always found Hicksville to be filled with such interesting architecture and history. I’m not at all surprised that I settled here after marriage. I’m amazed by the stories that are told by those who lived here much longer than I, stories that lend to the charm of this town. Photographs shared on the “You Know You’re from Hicksville” page on Facebook have always held a particularly warm spot in my heart. Perhaps that’s why I’m such a big fan of this town. On those evenings when we drive home from my mom’s house in Levittown, I can still hear an echo of former resident Billy Joel’s music as we drive down Newbridge Road and pass those who are still hanging out at the village green. I’m so grateful to live in a town that’ll always be rich in culture, history and delicious nostalgia.
Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.