Gertrude F. Hendry
Gertrude Hendry, nee Mazza, known to all as Gert was born in 1923. Entertainment was in her blood. Gert was taught dance by one of the Rockettes and at the age of five she took the stage at the Brooklyn Paramount. Gert who was introduced to Rockaway Point when her father, Ray Mazza, purchased 924 Bayside in 1928, recalled that access was provided by ferry and a trek along a “spooky” unlit dirt road, and that the front row of bungalows extended into the water over stilts. The kitchen was served by a pot belly stove and an “ice box” stocked by chunks of ice hauled by wagon from the local ice house. Gert recalls occasions when she and her older brother Ralph tarried too long on the way back, with predictable consequences for the 25 cents investment in the ice. Gert has affectionate memories of boating, often returning with the catch, not only for dinner but also supporting their local commerce in fresh fish hauled by the kids along the walks, at the five cents price as they went, the singsong pitches of other vendors pulling wagons and advertising dry cleaning, knife sharpening, “tailor/shoemaker,” and newspapers. She fondly remembers Abe who led a horse hitched to a shovel for keeping sandy patches clean and cleared
Gert and Ralph spent summer days diving into the bay from the bulkheads, occasionally indulging in “coining” as the ferry approached. Stores were built along Market Street – a dry cleaners, Cushman’s Bakery, Trunz Supermarket, a hardware store (at times a Wilmarth business and at one time operated by Gert’s father), a luncheonette, and Kotters where she met her beloved Andy. Gert and Andrew J. Hendry eventually married in 1945 when Andy returned from the Second World War, a happy marriage that lasted until his death in 2015. They raised their children Karen Ann, Laura Jean and Raymond William in the Point, during which time Gert was employed as a bookkeeper. She was also a gymnastics teacher, a swimming coach, always a dancer and involved with youth. With Andy she formed a Teen Club in the Church and later became a mainstay of the Cooperative’s Youth Committee. Gert’s labor of love, for which she has become renowned was the Teen Show. The Daily News in a 2009 article described her as “the Dancing Queen.”-- an 86-year old great-grandmother. The Daily News gushed again in a 2016 article, when Gert was 93, that she “doesn’t miss a beat.” The Rockaway Times also profiled Gert in 2016 as one of the most inspirational women in Rockaway, who “has made a loving impact on several generations of neighbors, especially the youth and even the elderly,” who “has dedicated much of her life to impacting the youth of the community.
Gert’s role in the Teen Show dates to 1972 when Ruth Clarke asked her and Maryellen Barnes to create an annual summer show to keep the kids busy and happy and, just as important to the dancing prodigy, to provide a showcase for teens to discover and display their latent stage talents. Since 1972 and continuing to the present Gert, Mary Ellen and a troupe of helpers have staged a musical revue every summer, the famous Teen Show, now in its fifth decade. After the Cooperative rebuilt the Colony Theater in 2005, the area in front was, most appropriately, named Gert Hendry Plaza. The selection of Gert Hendry as an honoree of the Breezy Point Historical Society’s Hall of Fame was an obvious one. Gert Hendry has been a part of our community since its earliest days, her contributions to our youth are beyond measure, and she continues to leave her mark to this day.