PRE-1900 - THE BACKGROUND
The year was 1902 when the idea of a parish for Valley Stream first emerged. Valley Stream was a small village primarily noted for its farming. It was 59 years since the communities known as Near Rockaway, Foster's Meadow, Hungry Harbor and Rum Junction had been united under the name Valley Stream. At that time in 1843, Robert Pagan, who later changed his last name to Payan, the owner of the first store in the village, chose the name Valley Stream. The name Valley Stream, which is unique in the United States, was devised by combining the word Valley, from the valleys in the hilly sections in the north side of town with Stream, from the streams that flowed through the south. A Valley Stream Post Office was opened. Prior to its opening, village residents traveled to Hempstead for their mail.
Every other day on Merrick Road, a stagecoach from Babylon ran through Valley Stream to New York City. It arrived in Valley Stream at eight o'clock in the morning. Merrick Road was a
plank toll road, built in 1853, which extended from Jamaica to Merrick. The toll to travel the full length of the road was 27 cents.
The railroad came through Valley Stream in 1867; a station was added in the early 1870s. Rockaway Avenue was a dirt road.
Merrick Road and Central Avenue had become the center of town.
An important event in our parish history occurred in September 1869. In the parish of St. Monica in Jamaica, N.Y., a baby boy was born to Philip and Rose Bell McGovern. He was baptized “Peter” on September 28, 1869.
The baptism record shows his date of birth to be September 25, 1869.*
He attended St. Monica's elementary school, followed by high school at La Salle Academy in lower Manhattan. The trip to La Salle required a daily commute from his home on Willows Street in Jamaica, by train to Brooklyn and ferry to Manhattan.
In 1888 Peter McGovern graduated from La Salle and entered Manhattan College as a resident student. Manhattan was then located at 131st Street.
In 1890 he received his Bachelor of Arts degree.
That class of 1890 had one-half of the graduates enter the priesthood.
1900 - THE FOUNDING YEARS
In early 1902 Father McGovern received a letter from Bishop McDonnell, which summoned him to a meeting with the Bishop.
Reverend Peter P. McGovern
A group of Catholics in the village of Valley Stream had petitioned for a parish. The Bishop had chosen Father McGovern to be the Pastor of a new parish. Just months before the eighth anniversary of his ordination, at the age of 32, Father McGovern was assigned to found a parish in Valley Stream. There was no land, no church, no school, and no rectory. Waiting in Valley Stream was the committee who had requested the parish. To attend Sunday Mass, they had been traveling long distances, to St. Boniface in Elmont, St. Agnes in Rockville Centre (which a few years earlier began in a blacksmith shop), St. Joachim in Cedarhurst and St. Monica in Jamaica. Travel was on dirt roads by foot, horse or horse and carriage.
Among the family names and names of the early parishioners were:
Father McGovern was acting Pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Richmond Hill as he made plans for his new parish. The “St. Mary's Church V.S. Building Fund” was established. The first donation to the fund was $313. It was collected by A. Russ and recorded on March 17, 1902. Father McGovern was allowed to raise funds from the pulpit of churches in Brooklyn and Queens. This fund raising accounted for $1282.98 from eight churches between November 1902 and June 1903.
By the summer of 1902, Father McGovern had rented the Horton house as a temporary rectory. Rent was $16 a month. The house was thought to have been located at the southwest corner of West Lincoln and South Corona Avenues,
a few blocks north of the Corona Avenue Firehouse.
Corona Avenue Firehouse
There were several blocks of dirt road that separated the rectory from the firehouse. There were no streetlights or sidewalks. Kerosene lamps provided the lighting at night.
*In Father McGovern's ledger that was started in March 1902, the first entry for a Mass for Holy Name of Mary was on May 18, 1902.
The first baptism on record in the new parish was that of Barbara Gerhardy and took place on Sunday, May 25, 1902.
On Sunday, August 2, 1903,* less than 15 months after that first Mass in the firehouse, the laying
of the cornerstone took place. The Right Reverend Patrick J. McNamara, Vicar General of the Diocese of Brooklyn, officiated.
The church's construction progressed rapidly, and the church was ready in time for Christmas Mass in 1903.
*Other records list Sunday, August 22, 1903.
In 1904 construction of the rectory was completed on the land on the south side of the church. This is now the location of the Blessed Mother Shrine and lawn area. The total cost of the rectory was $6,500.
Church and Rectory 1905
The Rosary Society, the first society,* was established on October 6, 1907. Johanna VanHatten was their first president.
Transportation was via horse and buggy, roads were dirt
and the Sunday collection was approximately twenty dollars. When there was a sick call, a hack (carriage for hire) was required
to go to the home of the parishioner, which could be as far as two miles away.
Fatscher's livery stable was used and sometimes, Fred Miller,
of the Miller Homestead, provided the hack. The Miller Homestead later became Gallagher's Funeral Home, and is now Lieber's.
The parish couldn't afford a phone. More immediate problems in these early days of the parish included run away horses and
carriage wheels that would sink in the mud of the dirt roads when Father was on a sick call.
*Other records indicate that the Holy Name Society was founded on October 3, 1907, or in 1913.
*Other records indicate that the Holy Name Society was founded on October 3, 1907, or in 1913.
1910 - THE EARLY YEARS
The Holy Name Society was founded in 1913.
The Andrew Fatscher American Legion Post on Roosevelt Avenue in Valley Stream was named in honor of one of the five.
On March 11, 1919, Right Reverend Bishop Charles E. McDonnell D.D. and Pastor Reverend Peter McGovern signed the “Certification of Incorporation” of Holy Name of Mary into the Diocese of Brooklyn.
1920 - GROWTH BEGINS
The war had ended. It was 26 years since his ordination, and Father McGovern hadn't completed his task. The idea of a
school and convent still persisted.
In 1920 step one was completed. Eight of the ten lots across the street from the church were purchased
By 1920 the annual card party was moved from Bates' “Opera House” on Atlantic Avenue in Lynbrook to the larger Pavillon Royal.
The Pavillon Royal was located a few blocks west of Central Avenue on the south side of Merrick Road, between Montague Street and South Terrace Place.
It was a well-known restaurant that featured famous entertainers like Paul Whiteman, Rudy Vallee and Guy Lombardo.
In the early days of the parish, the rear of the church had no pews. It was used to hold meetings for the different church organizations. The parish was growing so rapidly now, however, that a meeting place was required. In 1924 Father McGovern purchased the small Lutheran Church situated on two lots on the south side of East Jamaica Avenue. This remained the Church Hall for many years, and was used for meetings of different societies, like Catholic Daughters, Boy Scouts, Knights of Columbus and altar boys. It was also used for parish socials and dances. In 1950 it was even used as a one-room schoolhouse for the fifth grade when the school was overcrowded. The Church Hall's construction was unique in that it was half under ground. Its location was what is now the northwest corner of the convent's parking lot.
Included in the purchase of the Lutheran Church were the two remaining lots on South Grove Street, which completed the site for the future school. The cost of the church and the two lots was $5,750.
On January 30, 1925, the people of Valley Stream passed a referendum to incorporate as a village.
The first mayor was Henry Waldinger, a close friend of Father McGovern.
The following is a quotation from the twenty-fifth anniversary journal and is as apropos today as it was 75 years ago. “The early history of the Holy Name of Mary Parish rings of the struggles and difficulties of an untiring priest, who, with the loyal support of the Catholic population at the time, bravely bore the financial cares and worries that are so closely linked with the work of the founding of a parish. The whole beginning of the parish tells of real organization, personal sacrifices, faith and unlimited endeavor on the part of Pastor and laity. But what a consolation must be theirs in knowing that through their efforts there has been added to this earthly sphere of ours one more temple dedicated to the service of their God. ... The history of Holy Name of Mary Parish and the biography of Rev. Peter P. McGovern for the past twenty-five years are so closely interwoven that it has seemed impossible to dwell on them separately. The work, daily life and activities of the one has been the organization, growth and success of the other. In the Church, we have the results of the leadership of the priest, and may she continue to prosper. For the priest, we have affection and devotion; may God guide him in the future as He has in the past, and in His goodness spare him to us for many years to come.”
As growth continued, many landmarks fell to progress;
one of which was the unpredictable “Toonerville” trolley. It ran from Jamaica to Freeport,
passing through Valley Stream along Jamaica Avenue. The “Church Stop” was “Stop 158” along its path. The trolley was started by the Long Island Traction Company in 1903 and ended in 1926.
1930 - THE DEPRESSION YEARS
All thoughts of a school were put on the back burner; the immediate problem was to feed the people. The church was the only support of
many parishioners. In one of the depression years, the church gave $6,000 to charity.
In June 1935, three months before Father McGovern's sixty-sixth birthday, Bishop Thomas E. Molloy assigned him his first assistant, Reverend James A. McNamara. In June 1936 Reverend Peter J. Schoenenberger was appointed as the assistant to replace Father McNamara. The second assistant, Reverend Thomas F. J. Kelly was appointed on June 7, 1941. For each of the three priests, it was their first assignment after ordination.
Reverend James A.
Reverend Peter J.
Reverend Thomas F. J.
The next major milestone in the growth of the parish occurred in 1936, when the Chanin organization bought the Curtiss Airport and started the development of approximately five hundred homes to be known as Green Acres. The resulting influx of parishioners made it apparent that the church building was no longer large enough for the parish. In addition the children of the parish required a school building in which they could obtain a Catholic education. Father McGovern's decision was to build a school, with an auditorium that could serve as a church.
Bishop Thomas E. Molloy gave his permission and on Sunday, October 31, 1937, the announcement was made.
At the age of 68, Father McGovern was taking on another challenge.
“An important date in our parish was May 7, 1939. After the parishioners worked so hard for many years, our school was completed and dedicated on this day. Bishop Thomas Molloy came to Holy Name of Mary to administer Confirmation and dedicate our school. I know. I received my Confirmation that day.
Again as part of Father McGovern's ability of always looking towards the future, the school had an interesting design feature. A new south wing could be added and the building would remain symmetrical. Twenty-four years later in 1963, the south wing was added to the school.
School and Auditorium in the early 1940s
Auditorium interior with the altar on the stage for Mass
On June 19, 1939, a reception in the school auditorium was held to celebrate the forty-fifth anniversary of Father McGovern's ordination
The final addition that was required to complete the parish complex was the building of a convent. The original convent was located on the site of the former Braunstein residence, which was purchased in 1938. It was located at the southwest corner of South Grove Street and East Jamaica Avenue. This convent was a wooden structure, which could house 16 sisters. Joseph Gunther was the architect for the building. The total cost was $46,890.
The original convent was located on the site of the parking lot of the present convent. The adjourning lot on the northwest corner of South Grove Street and East Hawthorne Avenue was purchased in 1950 and is the site of the present convent. The convent was used to house the Sisters of Saint Joseph who were to teach in the new school.
The school opened in September of 1939. Three hundred and fifty-six students registered for the first year. They were taught by eight Sisters of Saint Joseph and one lay-teacher. Four years later the enrollment had increased to 749 students.
1940 - WAR AND PEACE
Reverend Thomas F. J. Kelly was appointed on June 7, 1941, as an assistant Pastor.
“I remember attending a performance of the play, ‘Petticoat Fever.’ It was presented by the Holy Name of Mary Dramatic Club in the school auditorium. The date was Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941. ...Mary Conlon”
Our country was at war. Everything else became secondary. Six hundred thirty-six parishioners went to defend our country in World War II. The names of 24 men who made the supreme sacrifice are listed here and on the War Memorial that is located in front of the school.
The war ended with V-E Day on May 8, 1945 and V-J Day on August 14, 1945.
Parish life began to return to normal as families were reunited.
The Confraternity Cabaret drew more than three hundred fifty teenagers,
and had fourteen adult CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) teachers who also volunteered their time for supervised recreation and dances. This weekly meeting of high school students, Catholic and non-Catholic, was held in the
school basement. There was ice skating in the winter, on the frozen lake in Valley Stream State Park. The State Park is now the village pool.
Father taught him the motions and fine points required to become a pitcher.
After pitching for St. Mary's for several years and then Central High School for a year, his family moved to Florida.
This young man was Herb Score, who began his major league baseball career by being Rookie of the Year in 1955, and breaking the rookie strikeout record with 245 strikeouts, followed in 1956 by 263 strikeouts. He was a member of the All Star Team both years.
The following spring, on May 7, 1957, he was hit in the eye by a line drive, which in effect ended his career as an all star major league pitcher.
He later became an announcer for Cleveland, from which he retired after 34 years. In 1997, at his retirement day celebration, before a crowd of about forty-six thousand fans, the Governor and Mayor, he singled out his specially invited guest and longtime friend, Father Thomas Kelly as the person
who taught him to pitch.
It was Father McGovern's Golden Anniversary. On a Monday night, May 29, 1944, the day before a World War II Memorial Day, approximately five hundred parishioners and friends joined with Father McGovern at the Hotel New Yorker to celebrate his Golden Jubilee of fifty years as a priest.
Reverend Peter P. McGovern, Pastor
Church and Rectory 1944
Church Interior 1944
Reverend Peter J. Schoenenberger, Assistant
Reverend Thomas F. J. Kelly, Assistant Parishioners - 5,417
(531 serving their country)
Baptisms to date - 2,814
Confirmations to date - 2,570
Marriages to date - 761
Seven Sunday Masses
Blessed Sacrament Parish didn't exist
Grades 1 through 8 (no tuition) - 749
Sisters of St. Joseph - 14
Lay Teachers - 2
Special Teachers - 3
Societies and Memberships
High School Confraternity:
Students - 351
Teachers - 11
Catholic Daughters of America - 135
Rosary Society - 115
Holy Name Society - 156
Red Cross Circle - 86
Mothers' Service Club - 47
Ushers' Society - 57
Junior Catholic Daughters - 52
Boy Scouts of America - 46
Altar Boys - 42
Boys' Choir - 34
Adult Choir - 7
C. Y. O. - 62
The fifty-fifth anniversary of Father McGovern's ordination was celebrated at the Central High School Auditorium on Thursday, June 2, 1949. Christopher Lynch, a famous Irish tenor, Valley Stream resident and parishioner gave a concert in his honor.
In tribute to Father McGovern's years of service to the community, donations from the event were used to purchase an electronic carillon and chimes for the church steeple.
Daniel Sheridan, a parishioner who was later ordained a priest, directed the Music Ministry during the 1970s. Timothy Erbe was in charge of the Music Ministry during the 1980s. Mr. Kevin J. Faughey became the Director of Music Ministry on January 1, 1989.