As part of the 100th anniversary of Lynbrook’s incorporation, Art Mattson, Lynbrook's village historian, along with the 100th Anniversary Committee, presented “Those Were the Days – A History of Entertainment in Lynbrook,” at the Lynbrook Public Library on Jan. 20.
Mattson, equipped with a laptop, projector and supported by the Quatrain Barbershop Quartet, presented a retrospective of entertainment in the village and the village’s role in popular culture; from the old race track to Lynbrook’s prominence as the hometown of Ray Barone, the fictional character played by Ray Romano on the television show Everybody Loves Raymond.
According to Mattson, the 100th Anniversary Committee and Lynbrook Mayor William Hendrick came up with the initial idea for the presentation, which Mattson then assembled.
“I had fun looking at the old pictures,” Hendrick said. “I hadn’t seen a lot of them, and I enjoyed the barbershop quartet; they really worked hard.” Hendrick, who has lived in Lynbrook for over 30 years, said he is familiar with a lot of the village’s history, and knows where some of the old buildings used to be, but “a lot of the stuff was new to me.”
The members of the Quatrain Barbershop Quartet — All Fennell, from Yorktown Heights, Bob Kelly, from Freeport, Tom Brucia, from Bellmore, and Steve Marrin, from Baldwin — began the program by performing songs that were popular during the early 20th century, including “Smile,” a song written by Charlie Chaplin. The group performed again at the conclusion of Mattson’s presentation, this time singing “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” a hit during the 1920s that was written in Lynbrook, and “Lynbrook, U.S.A.,” the village’s official song, written by Paul E. Holm.
Mattson’s presentation touched on both well-known historical facts and lesser-known local history, and said he was very pleased with the outcome.
“It was fabulous,” he said. “The audience was great [and] the barbershop quartet was great. I’ve done dozens of presentations around Long Island, and I’ve never had as much fun as I’ve had tonight.”
The following were some of the highlights of the presentation and offer a small glimpse into Lynbrook’s extensive entertainment history:
- The Lynbrook Race Track. Originally located near Oak St. and Chestnut St., this horse racing track was the site of both men’s and women’s races during the 1890s.
- Lynbrook was a bicycle center in the 1890s. Karns bicycle shop was a major seller of bicycles, and was located where currently resides, on the corner of Atlantic Ave. and Merrick Rd. In addition, the Walton Motor Co. of Lynbrook built motorcycles from 1908-1909. The company was bankrupt within two years.
- Lynbrook Lyceum. Originally located at the corner of Union Ave. and Atlantic Ave., the Lyceum provided year-round entertainment, including balls and other formal events, as well as more informal events, such as minstrel shows. Active from the late 19th century until it burned down in 1913.
- Bates Opera House. The center of entertainment in Lynbrook. It included everything from boxing matches to vaudeville shows. Originally located on Broadway at the location of the current Mangrove Feather Co. building.
- Legendary director D.W. Griffiths came to Lynbrook in the early 20th century to shoot the outdoor scenes for his film The Stuff Heroes Are Made Of.
- Lynbrook was the epicenter of motion pictures on the south shore. Once motion pictures became popular, the Lynbrook Lyceum started showing the “Latest Acting Pictures,” which is what movies were referred to before the modern term came en vogue. The Plaza Theater, located where the sits now, was Lynbrook’s first movie theater. The Arcade Theater, where the is located on Atlantic Ave. also showed movies, as did the Lynbrook Theater on Merrick Rd., which had the first “talkies” on Long Island, and is still a movie theater today. Lynbrook was also home to the Airdrome, a 1,000-seat outdoor movie theater.
- Part of The Sopranos episode, “The Blue Comet,” from season 6 of the series, was filmed at on Sunrise Highway.
- Lynbrook native Bob Keeshan was a television staple for over 30 years as both Clarabell the Clown on The Howdy Doody Show and as the title character and star of Captain Kangaroo.
- The fictional Barone family from Everybody Loves Raymond lived at 320 Fowler Rd., Lynbrook. This address doesn’t really exist, nor is there a Fowler Rd. – the correct street name is Fowler Ave.