Down Memory Lane

 “Down Memory Lane” was a long-standing Valley Stream Historical Society newspaper column written by locals.
The series ran from 1977 through 1994; first in the MAILeader and then in the Valley Stream Herald
Audrey Boerckel, a long-time resident (she married James Boerckel, a native Streamer who also contributed many DML articles) was the first editor/compiler; followed by Helen Frering Zang.  
Editor's note: additional information has been provided to give modern-day readers a better understanding of the subject matter.
Some Streamer memories have been edited for accuracy and clarity. 



by Alonzo Mills, reprinted from the MAILeader, December 21, 1978:

Many Streamers will remember Doc Foster with great appreciation. His accomplishments in the early days of Valley Stream were outstanding. Some of his experiences were interesting and others whimsical. He never hesitated to call on homes whenever someone needed medical assistance. When the snows were too deep for his car, he borrowed Charles Smith’s horse and cutter and braved the weather. (Charles Smith was an uncle of Arthur J. Hendrickson; he had a farm on Central Avenue just below my grandfather Stick’s farm.)

One night, Doc got out of bed and looked westward out the window [Foster lived on the northeast corner of Merrick Road and Franklin Avenue, where the professional buildings stand today]. It was a bright moonlit night. Foster blinked and couldn’t believe his eyes! Walking eastward on Merrick were huge elephants lumbering down the road in single file. Shaking his head and returning to bed, Doc Foster went back to sleep wondering [what he actually saw].

Later, Foster found out that he wasn’t dreaming. The developer of Long Beach was going to use the elephants to move around heavy objects such as piles, water pipes, etc. They were doing a lot of dredging at the time. I think the developer was Reynolds, and I believe he was called “Colonel.” Perhaps Reynolds Channel is named after him.


Editor's note (March 2023):

Alonzo Mills (1901-1997), the author of "Midnight Elephants," was a well-known resident of the village. He was the co-owner of the insurance company Mills-Muller Corporation. (His partner, Frederick Muller, was a local pharmacist and president of the Valley Stream National Bank.)

This article was written 45 years ago - many years before the advent of computers and instant knowledge. Kudos to Alonzo Mills for nailing it!

Julius Mansfield Foster (1875-1943), the gentleman who witnessed the midnight elephant walk down Merrick Road, was also a well-known and well-loved figure in turn-of-the-century Valley Stream. He holds the distinction of being the first physician in the village. Foster’s Brook (aka Mott’s Creek), the waterway that runs through South Valley Stream, is named for Abram Foster, the doctor’s father, who owned a great swath of land in the area. Doc Foster’s most memorable trait was that he wouldn’t ask for payment for his services. His standard reply was: “I’m not worried, are you?”

William H. Reynolds (1868-1931) was a senator, theater and racetrack owner/operator, real estate developer, and mayor of Long Beach. Brooklyn-born Reynolds was also an amusement park owner. In 1904, he opened Dreamland at Coney Island. The amusement park, which burned to the ground in 1911, included a mega hotel, restaurant, ballroom, roller coasters, and wild animal acts. Kind of like Disneyland. In 1907, Reynolds (and his investors) formed a development company in Long Beach. He envisioned the beachfront community to be the Riviera of the East. To lure vacationers and homeowners, he built homes, hotels, and a boardwalk. In order to accommodate steamboats and seaplanes, he dredged and widened the strait that separated the barrier island from Long Island. And, yes, that strait bears his name: Reynold’s Channel. The thrice-indicted (financial shenanigans) and acquitted businessman staged a masterful publicity stunt which also had a practical application. He transported a herd of elephants to the beach from Dreamland. The elephants helped move the timber used to build the bulkhead along the beach and miles of boardwalk.

It was those very same pachyderms that Doc Foster saw lumbering down Merrick Road in the still of the night - close to 120 years ago.

Elephants, the largest living land mammal, are a revered symbol in cultures around the world. According to the Chinese concept of Feng Shui, elephants represent wisdom, protection, strength, and good luck. In Hinduism, the elephant is a symbol of fortune and protection. Here’s hoping the ancient elephant walk down Merrick Road continues to bless our village!

"Elephants on the Beach" - 1969 postcard by Erik Parbst