In 1921, Frank resettled his family across the bay to Staten Island's South Beach. (On the 1941 map below, you can find South Beach just under the easternmost point of Staten Island.)
In the 1920s, South Beach was still a fairly rural area, although Staten Island had been incorporated into New York City in 1898 along with the other three outlying boroughs of the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. (Staten Island was officially the Borough of Richmond until its name was changed to the Borough of Staten Island in 1975.)
The Ujlaky family owned a horse at one point and enjoyed recreation at the nearby beach for many years, including fun at the amusement rides that dotted the island.
Here are a few photos of family and friends enjoying time at the beach a decade later in 1936.
Staten Island is no longer the rural arm of New York City that it was in the early 20th-century. Much of the world that the Ujlaky children enjoyed has changed.
Construction on the famous Verrazano-Narrows Bridge began in 1959 and was completed in 1964, providing easy access to Manhattan. (Until 1981, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.) The amusement rides that the Ujlaky children knew no longer flourish at South Beach. There is, however, a current drive to bring them back and restore South Beach to its former self as a center of family fun.Visitors today may have difficulty visualizing Staten Island the way that Frank and Helen Ujlaky saw it when they first brought their family to live in South Beach back in 1921, or when thirty years earlier, a Staten Island native named William T. Davis wrote a poetic tribute to the island:
~ William Thompson Davis, 1892
How pleasant were the green woods
and the fields where we did stray,
Where grey the thorny cactus
and the sunflower spread its ray;
Where we sat beneath the tree
and watched the quiet blue Kill
And the haze softly settling
o'er the distant Jersey hill;
We saw the diamonds sparkle
on the little rippling waves,
Purely did they sparkle
and brightly shone their rays.
I see then now they glitter
though the warm sunshine is gone,
And I hear the gentle murmur -
'tis the waves' rippling song.
On the wall the ivy climbed,
so dark and so green,
And with the bending goldenrod
twined the purple bean.
We saw a chipmunk running
o'er the dead and rustling leaves,
And we heard a constant buzzing -
'twas the buzzing of the bees.
Sang a bunting low and sadly
in the old orchard tree,
He sang so faint and sadly
and his song was sweet to me.
I hear him now a-singing,
though warm sunshine is gone,
And I hear that gentle murmur -
'tis the waves' rippling song.
For more on Staten Island, see The New York Public Library's Staten Island Bibliography 1821-2004.
You might also enjoy viewing the New York Public Library's Digital Image Gallery collection of South Beach, Staten Island postcard images. Included are some great images of local landmarks and fashionable "bathing costumes" of days gone by.
Sources of images:
- Staten Island map, circa 1941, from Rootsweb's A Brief History of Richmond County, Staten Island
- Photos of Nugent Avenue home and Ujlaky family and friends in possession of the author
- "In Memory of Staten Island" from Days Afield on Staten Island by William Thompson Davis, 1892, 3rd printing 1937, reprinted 1994 by Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences