Meet one of the 'Voices of Woodhaven'
by Ed Wendell
Feb 15, 2017 | 1948 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society has embarked on a new project called “Voices of Woodhaven,” an effort to collect your stories and oral histories about our hometown.

In some cases, it will mean speaking to someone who has lived for most of, if not their entire, lives in Woodhaven. But in other instances, we will be speaking to people who have grown up here and taken their talents to other parts of the world.

One such resident is Ramon Olivier, who came to Woodhaven in 1972 when he was nine years old.

“We moved to Woodhaven from Manhattan,” he says. “My parents were interested in living in Queens and they looked at several neighborhoods. They were looking for a place that looked nice and safe and Woodhaven fit the bill.”

When Olivier first came to Woodhaven he went to PS 60 for the first month or so.

“On the second day they let us out a different door, over by the boulevard,” he recalls. “I knew how to get home to my house on 89th Street from one door, but not the other. I ended up getting lost over by St. Anthony’s.”

Soon, Olivier transferred over to St. Thomas the Apostle which he described as a “double-whammy.”

“Not only was I the new kid, but here I was showing up in October,” he says. “Everyone was already into school and here comes the weird kid whose last name nobody could pronounce, saying Oliver in place of Olivier.

“That led to a list of Oliver Twist and Olive Oyl jokes,” he says, laughing.

He enjoyed his years at St. Thomas the Apostle and many of the friends he made there, such as George Fredricks and Glenn Curry, are still very close friends today.

“It was a real neighborhood,” he says of Woodhaven back in the 1970s. ”You knew the names of the people on your block, the next block over, three blocks down. The lookouts for the neighborhood were always the parents.”

Living on 89th Street, Olivier was just down the corner from some famous Woodhaven businesses, such as the Circus Bar and Paddywack’s and Liberty Paint, but none as beloved as Chicken Delight.

“It was a grease pit,” he recalls. “But it was good! We probably bought dinner there once a week, a big bucket of crispy fried chicken.”

Of all the other stores in Woodhaven from the 1970s, Olivier is quick to mention Lewis of Woodhaven.

“It was the store for everything,” he says. “When you couldn’t find something or you wanted to find something on your first stop, you would go to Lewis.”

Olivier was also fond of Jason’s Toy Store.

“They were great at catching fads and providing the latest toys, especially at Christmas,” he recalls.

Since leaving Woodhaven, Olivier has started a family of his own, first with his wife Debra and then two children (now grown), Domencia and Ramon. He has lived in several states including California and New Jersey and held many interesting positions.

But for his latest job, Olivier took on something a little more challenging.

“After my kids graduated, I was looking for an opportunity to give back somehow, and so I applied for the U.S. Foreign Service with the State Department,” he explains. “I was accepted, and now I am serving my first tour overseas stationed in Guangzhou, China.”

Olivier has been learning Chinese for many years and is conversant in the language, which has helped him get used to his new surroundings. He says it is a beautiful country and the people are friendly, but living there gives him a greater appreciation for his home country.

Olivier keeps in touch with his old hometown via Facebook, and as his father still lives in Woodhaven he makes frequent trips home and enjoys walking around the old neighborhood and meeting up with friends at Neir’s.

“We really have it good in the United States,” he says. “And we really had it great in Woodhaven.”

What’s your Woodhaven story? Contact us at woodhavenhistory@gmail.com or call us at (718) 805-2002 and let’s add your life story to the Voices of Woodhaven.

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