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Editorial: Before Cell Phones, We Had Westgate

You thought the headline should have ended with “Beepers” right? Not quite…at least in Elmont. Before humanity was swarmed with smartphones, PalmPilots and tablets, how did people stay in touch? Well, concerning my days in Elmont and friends, it was Westgate.

Westgate is a tiny street that runs north and south between Hempstead Turnpike and Argo Avenue, which also connects to Virginia Drive. A small traffic island, with about 10 or 12 trees sitting in the middle of the street. To cars driving by, a simple divider; to children…a meeting ground.

Any time I would meet up with friends, Westgate would be the starting point, which in turn, you had either the local convenience store from which to grab a snack, Blockbuster (which is gone) to go peruse some new films to rent or head east to McDonalds and local shopping areas on our way to Averill Park for good fun.

Westgate also served as a safe zone during a game of Manhunt around the neighborhood. Luckily, I lived just east on John Avenue, so I knew the neighborhood pretty well, aiding my pilgrimage to the safe zone during the tag free-for-all. The sign near the turnpike, which usually advertised the St. Vincent De Paul carnival and feast, was the home free zone.

There was a good pizzeria just west of Westgate…La Gondola. I recall hefty Sicilian slices gracing my palate.

Now, kids set up Facebook events, mass text messages and “Tweetups” to get together. Whatever happened to a designated spot…like a playground… or a statue in a park….or a Westgate?

—RF