It’s funny how things happen for a reason. I’ve now taught at the same school in Queens for 24 years, which is something I’d never thought would be my life’s work, or at least half of it. You see, I’d always wanted to be a writer, and although people always say things like, “You can do both!” Life has a funny way of getting in the way of our plans. Working, raising two daughters, and finishing college was only part of the equation, but thanks to the Juniper Berry, I’ve been able to fulfill just a little bit of this dream, although a little later in life than I’d hoped.

When the new principal of my old school announced that he wanted to do something special for PS229Q’s 50th Anniversary, several plans were put into motion. In addition to an alumni breakfast, where you could tour the school, and a night out at The Knockdown Center for former (and present) staff and alumni, I offered to put together a journal to celebrate the school’s legacy of staff, students, and community. Incidentally, our Council Member Bob Holden’s children attended PS229, and I was pleased to include a letter from him in our journal. Although putting together this 60 page journal took over my life for over a month, it was as if I found what I was meant to do, which is to not only write, but to do research on one of the oldest communities in America, in the post-Columbian era, that is. This first installment will focus on the location of PS229 and its predecessor, PS78.

It would seem impossible to tell the story of PS229 without first telling the story of Public School #78. It would be like starting a story from the middle, rather than from the beginning. That being said, telling the story of PS78 would seem incomplete without first writing a little about the neighborhood in which it stood, and where PS229 is located today. You would think that this would be somewhat easy, but if you tried to research a PS78 in Woodside you might not find it because back then, this town was called Winfield. So PS 229 used to be PS 78, and this part of Queens was Winfield, not Woodside, and when PS 229 replaced PS78, it kept the name The James A. Garfield School, but was later re-named The Emanuel Kaplan School, which only adds to this story of twists and turns.

We could stop here, but that wouldn’t be any fun when I’ve just gotten started with the many paradoxes that fill our story. After all, depending on what map you look at, PS 229 isn’t completely in Woodside, or rather Winfield; it’s also in Maspeth! To be continued in the next Juniper Berry.