The Pomonok Community Center and library were both located in a two-story brick building on Kissena Blvd. adjacent to the PS 201 park. Today it functions as the Pomonok Senior Center.
I remember attending summer day camp there when I was very young, sitting around in a circle of kids on a cement floor being read to. When I was a little older, I took a few clarinet lessons with Mr. D, the head of the center, but I was no Benny Goodman. My parents rented a clarinet for me from a music store in Jamaica, but I couldn’t even make it squeak. I was convinced it was broken, but when we brought it in to Mr. D, he managed to play Rhapsody in Blue on it without any effort. I stuck to weaving plastic lanyards after that.
The library on the second floor was like a home away from home for me. I can still smell the familiar musty odor that hit would you as you ascended the stairs and the location of the card catalogue and the reference section, with its well-worn volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia. I would always check the shelves to see if there were any new Happy Hollister books in. They were a wholesome and adventurous fictional family who summered on an island and solved mysteries all the time. To this day I am an avid consumer of mystery novels.
In my early teens, I remember the summer program in the cafeteria and gym of PS 201. I loved going there. There was ping pong, board games, bumper pool and the Supremes on the record player, “You Can’t Hurry Love” over and over again. I became pretty adept at ping pong, one time actually beating the perennial champion, Bradley, who was a few years older than all of us. I eventually became so good at pool that I convinced my parents to buy me a miniature pool table, which took up my entire bedroom. My favorite activity was in the gym, a choose up game of wiffle ball. I was a runt of a kid, first on line in every class in grade school, but height and strength were not necessary to be good at wiffle ball. Anyone could hit a home run in the small gym simply by reaching the strip near the ceiling that ran around the perimeter of the gym. I was also good at pitching the wiffle ball, which is made for throwing unhittable curves.
Mr. Daddario ran the community center for many years. He was a mentor for Al Stark, before Al became a famous movie producer. Al worked hand in hand with him at the community center from the late 1960s until Mr. D moved over to the Bland Houses in Flushing in the late 1970s. Today, when he’s not making films, Al is dedicated to working with kids, just as Mr. D did, and presently directs the after school program at Ryan JHS.
Here’s a little known fact about Mr. D: in addition to running the community center and teaching music, he was also a writer. He wrote a sports column for the old Flushing Tribune and a book of short stories a la Damon Runyon about colorful underworld figures called “Atlantic City Kitty.” It was published just after after he died in 1999. It’s funny, but as kids, we never thought that our teachers or community leaders had lives outside of their jobs.
Among the most touching and heartfelt parts of the film “Pomonok Dreams” are the fond memories people shared about Mr. D. We’d be interested in hearing more stories about Mr. D and the Pomonok Community Center. Mr. D and the center were vital parts of what made Pomonok such a great place to grow up in. Sharing our memories would be an honor to his memory.