"I've always wanted to," I cried, never having heard of the place.
Powell's first trip to Staten Island in 1920 and subsequent ones are recounted in a short piece she wrote for Esquire in 1965 called, "Staten Island I Love You!" The "fair young man..., who shall be and indeed was called Joe," became her husband. Staten Island became a favored tramping ground of theirs.
Powell is quick to recognize the eccentricities of the Island's inhabitants, for example, that "nobody can give directions because they don't know where they are themselves":
Hunting for a map-starred beach somewhere in mid-island, we asked the only person we could find on the road where the ocean was.
"I don't know," he said, I just came out of the house.
|St. George Theatre|
He looked around him cautiously as if he had been wrongly accused.
"Listen, folks, he said pleadingly, "I only been to the Black Lagoon," and away he scurried.
The Meurot Club was a large restaurant and catering hall around the corner from the St. George Theatre. It was used for all varieties of social and political events. There are listings for events at the club through the early 1950s; at some point, it was torn down and replaced by a parking lot. The St. George Theatre, established in 1929, has been restored and is used for concerts and events.
|(Photo: Muller Family Connections)|
You wouldn't, for instance, find James bond heading for a five-cent ferry to track down an international spy holed up in Sailor's Sung Harbor, even if all the clues pointed that way.
Some did take a one-way ferry ride: "Carlos Tresca, the anarchist leader held by the police, managed to slip away on the ferry to vacation with his friends on South Beach while the Manhattan detectives thrashed through less obvious territory." And, much earlier, "Garibaldi took refuge on Staten Island in Rosebank in 1851. His neighbors knew him as an amiable candlemaker; his past and future plans as a revolutionary were of no interest to them, nor would they have understood the implications." (Setting an example, perhaps, for O'Donovan-Rossa, another revolutionary who chose Staten Island for his last years.)
My greatest pleasure from the piece is picturing Powell and Joe wandering all over the island, by foot, bus, and trolley not finding the places they are looking for or even finding the ones where they've already been, like the "Four Corners beer garden with a huge stuffed bear in the yard--was it in Annandale?"
|Schaffer's Tavern (Dec. 2013)|
Powell ends the piece with a question: "Does the Verrazano-narrows Bridge know the wonderland it is opening up or will, alas, the wonders vanish at the first breeze from the real world?"
Sadly, I think her question has been answered. And yet... glimmers, traces, clues...