My travels on 495 The Long Island Expressway and Me

Written By: Diane  Balducci

My story begins in 1936. I was born in Flushing Hospital in N.Y. at the crack of daylight I was told. The most famous event occurred in my hometown Corona, in my park. It was 1942 The Worlds Fair came to The Flushing Meadow in Corona Queens,N.Y. We were called the three block family. How so, you wonder ? It’s a story for sure! Well my whole Italian American family lived on 108th Streets right near The World’s Fair. The street ended at the beginning of Corona Park and The Fair began. It was wonderful! The air electric, in anticipation. Everyday filled with excitement, what to see ? Vendor’s arrived at The World’s Fair, all with a story to tell. The were given a small building to display their ware’s. It would have something to do with the future, the theme was “The World of Tomorrow”. Different unfamiliar foreign languages were spoken. I believe The World’s Fair was to bring people from all over the world together, to share their knowledge, to help make the world of tomorrow a better place for all people. The Belgium Waffle was the most popular new fast food at the Fair. A waffle, whipped cream with a cherry on top. Yummy! I couldn’t count how many of those I ate. It was such a magical land, right in my own park. What I did learn about Flushing Meadow Corona Park, N.Y. was that it had The Famous World’s Fair in 1942 and again in 1964 when I brought my own children to see it. Even Walt Disney came there with his displays of the future. I went to grade school there. On my first day of Kindergarten I went straight to the arts and crafts department. At the end of the year my teacher gave me a hug and said to me “”Dianne-Someday you will be a famous artist, Ah yes. Watch out Van Gogh ! ” Some other things Corona is famous for is: The Lemon Ice King. Once in a while the rumor was Frank Sinatra came in his limo for a lemon ice, Tiffany light company had their factory there and Louis Armstrong’s House Museum is there. PS and me! I was a teen then living in Corona, years passed by. My grandma’s house was on the three block family. We were close to each other and we liked it. Things changed, that’s life, it just goes by. Long Island was bustling in development. Housing development’s were springing up all over. This was where the future was. Grandma had a plan for her family. Her children would come to her house after their work and eat dinner at her house. She was famous for her Italian meal’s. With the money they saved it would be their down payment on a house, problem solved. Harry the peddler would arrive with fresh produce from the farm by horse and wagon every morning. Grandma would shop at her favorite Italian store’s down the block for the rest of the needed ingredients. The stove would be cooking all afternoon. She was ready promptly at 6:00 pm for her plan to take action and it did! Grandma informed me she needed my help to do this. Not another word would be said. There I was at her door step 3:00 o’clock every afternoon after school to help her. My job set the table, make two Antipasto , one for each table. Grandpa would make the wine and bring in fresh flowers from his garden. Grandma would say “Keep the table clean ! ” “Dianne remember-No Crumbs! “. “Don’t forget-No Crumbs” and “Put the dog Rex outside”. Later on when the espresso arrived with the tray of Italian pastries and the bowl of fresh fruit the day was done. That day was over. I would go to the bank every Friday and wait in the front for my Grandma. Her petite figure walking down the street, her eyes downward, pocket book beneath her arm, wearing her hat and gloves.She would look upward as always, our eyes would meet, she would smile and I would smile. We knew we shared life. In time, that time, that special time. Yes, we all moved away. It was sought of an empty feeling. We were going into American Suburbia. At first we moved to East Elmhurst, Queens N.Y. I went to the school there. I graduated from P.S. #127 in June 1951. My dad was a bathing suit designer in Manhatten. One summer he got a job at his work place as a teen swim suit model. It was very exciting for me. We moved again out further into Queens and right next to the boarder of Nassau County. I got a job at May’s Department Store in The Glen Oaks shopping center.On the summer company picnic I was voted “Miss Mays Glen Oaks 1954”. So I had my 15 minutes of fame. There was a fruit and vegetable store near by and I went shopping there. That’s where I met Charles Balducci, he and his parents owned the store. We married in 1956. We took an apartment in Glen Oaks Village a housing community. Our first apartment had three rooms. In walking distance was a shopping center and a bus that went to Manhatten. The rent for apartment was just $100.00 per month. Can you believe that ? The Queens County Farm was right around the block from our apartment. In the warm summery afternoon’s I would pack our stroller and head for the abandoned farm.The door was opened and I would actually go inside, the parlor room first with it’s fire place, I’d run my hand over the mantel place. The kitchen was in the rear of the house. I would pretend that it was my house. I knew it well and it knew me! In the cool afternoon we would sit out on the porch. I’d give my children lunch, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cherry Kool-aid from the jug. We would talk about farm life. The barn a mess, the crops grown high. One day it was said “The apartment complex would build apartments on The Farm Land. NO! – The neighbors agreed NO!. So we made phone calls, wrote letter,s pleaded “Don’t take our farm away”. After many years we won the fight. We won! The Queens County Farm on Little Neck Parkway would always be a farm, later taken over by the parks department. We won! We really did. Today it’s still a wonderful farm. Children from surrounding schools come by bus to visit it everyday. Ah yes – we won! And now the best story of all, Since I was a child I have always wanted to be an artist/a painter. In The 1980’s we took a trip to Hampton Bay’s to visit some young boy’s we worked with in our Fruit and Vegetable Store in Glen Oaks, Queens, Brother’s Dennis and Robert Schmidt. The had opened a Fruit and Vegetable store in Hampton Bays near what is now The King Kullen shopping ceneter. We made a wrong turn and went down West Tiana Road. We were lost when met a man named Ben trying to sell Co-Ops. He needed a buyer for his idea to work to change the building from a motel into a Co-Op’s. His idea, Well for $100.00 we bought into Swiss Air, now Hampton Shores. We spend our summers there on the second floor of our Apartment F-4. It is the most beautiful natural scenery in the world. We just look out our window and appreciate the bay views and wild life. Now, as I say when I was in kindergarten my teachers gave me a hug as she admired my work, my painting and said to me “Dianne you will be an artist someday”. In The 80’s I joined Guild Hall member’s, it gave me the opportunity to be part of the art world. I entered a piece of art decades- every year. This summer the show was named “Guild Hall Artists Members 75th The Diamond Anniversary Exhibition”at Guild Hall in East Hampton. I waited in the crowded lobby of the theatre as the winners names were announced over the microphone. Then I heard the answer to my prayers Elisabeth Sussman called my name out. I thought I was dreaming as I pushed my way through the crowd. I couldn’t believe it. Remembering my kindergarten teacher Mrs Wilhomes saying “Someday you will be a famous artist”. If this is as close to it as I can get to it. I’m happy. The road was long but I did it! This is what I say “It’s never too late and you are never too old”, On August 2nd I will be 77 years old, I made it! Never give up your dream. Sometimes dreams do come true! PS: This I know for sure. Sincerely, Dianne Balducci Hampton Shores 81 West Tiana Road # F4 Hampton Bays, NY 11946