“No one knows you like the people who knew you when you were a kid,” said Doug Marlowe, a former Rockville Centre resident and a graduate of South Side High School’s class of 1971.
Marlowe now lives in Florida and keeps in touch with childhood friends and other former village residents. In fact, he and Richard Gottlieb, a 1974 South Side graduate who now lives in Portsmouth, R.I., created a Facebook group dedicated to this purpose. They started the group, “What Happened in Rockville Centre,” in 2011, and it now has more than 1,700 members.
The two men met at a South Side reunion in Florida in 2009 when a mutual friend, Ann Krinsky, introduced them. About 60 people attended the gathering, which Marlowe helped organize. “It was wonderful,” he said. “That began the core of what we wanted to do.”
Reunion-goers reminisced about coming of age in the village. Later on, Gottlieb suggested to Marlowe that the memory-sharing continue via Facebook. Since then, the group has grown more than anticipated. When they included all past residents, even non-South Side attendees, membership grew from hundreds to nearly 2,000.
Marlowe and Gottlieb can seemingly talk for hours about local hot spots, people they grew up with and how different childhood was in the ‘60s. Though they’ve only met in person a few times, Rockville Centre is what connects them. They recall dressing up in shirts and ties for school as young kids and loving the personalities of their teachers. “You can’t beat the school district,” Gottlieb said. “There is genuine care there. Students loved the teachers and the teachers loved the students.”
Gottlieb also recalls an exciting arts program at South Side and singing with the school choir. Beyond school, they remember the eclectic array of mom ‘n’ pop shops around town. And if they were good, their parents would take them to Nunley’s Carousel, then located in Baldwin. “You could hop on your bike, go to the ball field, walk into town…,” Gottlieb remembered. “There were lots of things to do.”
These are the types of conversation topics that come up on the Facebook group. People will ask about former teachers and classmates and share old class photos and Little League photos with the group.
Gottlieb described a “strong sense of community spirit” in Rockville Centre. Marlowe noticed that people who grow up there often try to move to similar places.
“When I got married, I decided to find a community like it,” he said. “I moved to Naperville, I.L., and I felt like I was back in Rockville Centre there. It has a wonderful downtown, a Chamber of Commerce, parades — all very community oriented.”
Both men moved out of Rockville Centre shortly after graduating high school and haven’t returned to visit much since. Therefore, the Facebook group helps connect them to current residents or people who still live nearby and keep them updated on the goings-on of the village.
While they try to only focus on the good memories, they also know that their classmates may have suffered bad ones in their childhood, as well. Marlowe said they hope the Facebook group connects people to support from their past. “I have very dear friends who are struggling,” he said. “We want to reach out and be there for them.”
Unfortunately, the group also serves as a way to share news of deaths of former teachers or community leaders, Gottlieb noted, or to send well wishes to those who may be sick. But for the most part, the men agreed, “we just want it to be a place to remember the good times, a place to reconnect.”