Midland Beach front or Miami Beach? In times absent by, it was challenging to notify | From the editor

Hello Neighbor,

Bishop O’Hara reached out the other day. For these not of the Catholic persuasion, the bishop — he still phone calls himself “Father” — is Episcopal Vicar of southern Manhattan and Staten Island. He’s also the archdiocese’s Vicar for Planning. A quite huge offer in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. And a actual very good person.

In any case, the bishop wished to communicate about St. Margaret Mary’s, the Midland Beach front church I wrote about past 7 days that you could possibly recall if you were being with me.

It is closing. The previous Mass was to be Dec. 27. But longtime parishioner Bob Dennis advised me this week that Father Joe — the Rev. Joseph M. McLafferty, pastor — agreed to a person final Mass on Jan. 3 so individuals could see Michael Illuzi’s Nativity scene for the previous time.

The Illuzis 1st constructed the creche 56 several years in the past. It was Michael’s dad, Frank’s, creation. He designed it every single year to mimic the presepe his mom, Lucia, prepared in their household in Giovinazzo, a tiny fishing village on Italy’s Adriatic coast, in close proximity to Bari, wherever Frank was born.

Frank died in 1992 and Michael ongoing the tradition. One that I guess ends on Jan. 3.

St. Margaret Mary R.C. Church

St. Margaret Mary R.C. Church will end masses arrive Jan. 1, 2021.

Bishop O’Hara introduced me back. He talked about old-time St. Margaret Mary’s. Neither of us ended up all over when Father John P. Monaghan was pastor. It was 1939, wrote former Advance editor and writer Bob McCormick, when Father Monaghan climbed into the pulpit of the church and instructed the functioning-course Irish folk arrayed in front of him, “We are a lousy parish and we are heading to do excellent things as a bad persons.”

Bishop O’Hara remembered that. Reminiscing past week about the closing of St. Margaret Mary’s, and the bishop’s recollections of Father Monaghan, received me wondering about the old community and how special it was.

As a kid, I didn’t consider that.

Midland Beachers were being seemed down on by a ton of Staten Islanders who lived “Above the Boulevard.” We have been the “Weed People” simply because we lived in the marshes – or swamps, as the Above the Boulevard crowd dubbed them.

In the ’50s and ’60s, I cringed when another person questioned where I lived. Technically, my home was in Ocean Breeze. But not a lot of at any time heard of it. So I’d say, “Dongan Hills.” Shut more than enough.

These days, I wouldn’t trade my Ocean Breeze/Midland Beach childhood for a person rising up on any of the Staten Island “Hills.”

In people days, Midland Seashore was identified as the “Miami Seashore of the Very poor.”

Father Monaghan may have been chatting to the functioning-class Irish in 1939, but by the time me and my buddies roamed the streets of the Beach in the ’50s and ’60s, it was a lot various. There ended up Irish and Italians, to be positive. My next-doorway neighbors were Puerto Rican. A Black family moved in close to the corner.

But a single issue was nonetheless genuine. The calendar year-round people — from where ever we hailed or whatever we referred to as ourselves — were being bad. Or very near to it.

By 1960, the community had shed a lot if its “Miami-Beach front glamor” immediately after the amusement parks and inns have been demolished, but city individuals still flocked to their summer months bungalows to escape the crowded streets and sweltering warmth.

They weren’t so poor.

It is the Christmas year that makes Midland Beach front memories so poignant for the young children who grew up there. We only had ourselves in wintertime. The metropolis young children moved back again to the town.

We did not have Xmas lights strung across Midland Avenue the way fancier neighborhoods like New Dorp Lane or Port-Richmond-Avenue-In advance of-the-Mall had.

Nor did we have much income to buy our mother and father Xmas items.

But we did have Midland Beach store entrepreneurs who understood us and who cared. They always seemed to make our couple pounds perform.

Pete De Vita

Which is Pete De Vita on the still left with fellow Midland Beach front businessmen Sol Miller, the hardware retail outlet guy druggist Cle Siracusa and butcher John Romano. Sol’s doggy Dobie is on the counter. (Staten Island Advance/ Steve Zaffarano )Staten Island Advance

Midland Seashore had a “department store” — Pete DeVita’s – the largest on the South Shore at the time. There was an total aisle of toys! DeVita’s even put out a catalogue devoted to its toys.For Mother and Father, there was kitchen area things, sweaters, socks and even lamps. Pete always aided us discover the excellent gifts. And then a lady at the counter would wrap them, ribbon, bows and all. Totally free.Across the road was a put we called Mary’s. Perhaps it experienced an additional name. I never ever realized it.All through the summer months, Mary’s was a one-area bungalow on Midland Avenue. Stuff was crammed to the rafters. We’d glance about. It’s possible purchase something for a couple of pennies — sweet, gum.But in winter, at Christmas, Mary moved her store to the Seahorse Tavern down the avenue. The Seahorse, a bustling summer season joint, shut down in the winter. Mary shown her wares on the bar, on the tables — all in excess of.Even if we experienced a greenback or two, Mary found the fantastic reward for Mom.Mary is long gone. Pete is long gone.

Sol Miller, the components shop man, is long gone. Mr. Miller — he was generally Mr. Miller — realized the excellent resource to include to Dad’s toolbox.

Cle Siracusa, the druggist, is long gone. Cle had a fragrance established — complete with powder and puff! — he was absolutely sure Mother would appreciate.

United Cigars, the candy keep, is long gone. Jack’s Bait Store, exactly where I gazed at fishing reels I longed for beneath my Xmas tree, is absent.

Domingo Cruz, the barber who gave me my Xmas haircut every single calendar year, is long gone.

Soon after Christmas early morning Mass, we’d end in Preissers’ butcher shop, finish with sawdust coated floors, up coming to the church, or maybe John Romano’s Midland Superette nearer to the boulevard, and then undertaking “above the boulevard” to Buda’s Bakery on Richmond Street.

Prizer’s is long gone. Buda’s, much too.

And immediately after Jan. 3, St. Margaret Mary’s will be gone.

I question kids developing up in Midland Seashore 2020 will have the similar memories. As hard as our mother and father may possibly have observed lifestyle in the Midland Beach of the publish-war-1900s, we never ever realized it.

I suppose for the reason that we weren’t exposed to a great deal, we did not need to have substantially.

What we have been exposed to was extra significant. Increasing up in these a assorted community in which we were being abundant and inadequate, people today of distinct hues and faiths, superior individuals and terrible, on an Island that was otherwise largely white, was a specific thing.

Christmas will be distinctive without the need of the Illuzi Family members hand-produced creche each and every December.


Three generations of the Illuzzi household aided with the set up of the Nativity scene in St. Margaret Mary’s R.C. Church, Midland Seaside. From the remaining are Kelly and Micahel Illuzzi, with their little ones Michael Frank, then 5, and daughter, Grace, then 3 Jessica Orbon and her grandmother, Marie Illuzzi, and the Rev. Erno Diaz, pastor of St. Margaret Mary’s (Staten Island Advance/Virginia N. Sherry)


Lots of of the beautifully crafted figures are heirlooms made in Italy.

But reminiscences created in Midland Seashore, formed by the shop keepers of Midland Avenue and — no issue your religion — the church’s Father Monaghans, Father Riordans, Father Mullins, Father Navins, Father Dorneys . . . the Midland Seaside reminiscences . . . for individuals of us blessed ample to have lived them, they designed us who we are.


Oh by the way: Out of all the counties in the condition of New York, all 62 of them, Gov. Cuomo has designed it a behavior to single out Staten Island at just about every 1 of his press conferences. And this has upset some Staten Islanders. “There is no reason” for Staten Island to have the city’s highest seven-day normal percent positivity for COVID-19 tests of 5.44%, citing its decreased density and use of public transit, the governor explained the other working day. Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens have an infection percentages of 4.43%, 5.01%, 2.75%, and 4.83%, respectively. “For people of you not familiar with New York City, Staten Island is far more of a household group, additional one family members properties than quite a few of the other boroughs . . . ” Cuomo mentioned. “This is just pure people’s habits and people’s mindset and the community’s frame of mind. A whole lot of political statements are built in Staten Island — good. Now reconcile that with the an infection charge and the number of fatalities.” The governor of New York Point out requires an desire in our local community — the Neglected Borough — and somehow this is a undesirable issue? Facial area it, Staten Island: December has been Staten Island’s third-deadliest thirty day period considering that the start off of the pandemic, with much more than 100 coronavirus fatalities. Drop the politics and start off caring about your neighbors — and yourselves. For extra than 1,000 Staten Island households, this Xmas wasn’t so merry.