3. Bayside, Queens

Billy Gawronski’s childhood home in Bayside, as seen today. Photo courtesy of Laurie Gwen Shapiro.

Rudy had long wanted more space for him and his family – even considering a return to Poland. In the end, he found what he was looking for in Bayside, Queens around the St. Josaphat Parish where a satellite Polish community was growing. The Gawronski’s moved to a single-family house at 4021 First Street at Ahles Road (the address today is 214-32 43rd Avenue. Shapiro describes this as “the farthest you could get from Manhattan without leaving Queens.” Billy commuted from Bayside to his high school in Chelsea every weekday on the Long Island Railroad.
Bayside during this time was a hot spot for America’s silent film stars, who were living in the upper class, posh portion of the neighborhood. Well-known actors like John Barrymore, Gloria Swanson, Maurice Costello and his daughter Dolores, Buster Keaton and James J. Corbett were living in Bayside, which was “secluded but a handy enough commute to Astoria, Queens, home of the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation (soon to be renamed Paramount Pictures) and the Kaufman studios, and also to Vitagraph Studios in South Greenfield Brooklyn (a neighborhood now called Midwood),” writes Shapiro.
Later in the book, Billy is excited to hear that Admiral Byrd is actually living in Bayside in 1928, renting the home of performer Andrew Mack. The location was not only more private, but it would get the explorer closer to where the planes he’d be flying over the South Pole were being serviced on Long Island near Roosevelt Field.