The recent loss of Nathan’s on Central Ave. in Yonkers, a staple of not only the local landscape, but of innumerable childhoods such as my own has bit the dust and has literally been turned to dust, thanks to a myriad of forces beyond the battle scared veteran of delicious frankfuter’s control.
Sure, perhaps the residents of Yonkers and or City Officials could have rose up against the development of the area and in fact, the demise of Nathans was set in motion long ago, with rumblings year in and year out on the development of the area and finally, in what was a mere few weeks notice, the place of childhood dreams was taken from the very people who spent hours pumping quarters into games and indulging in the culinary art of meat in tube form.
Thankfully though, Nathans will survive, nearing their 100th anniversary in a few years, you can still go out to Coney Island or to your grocer’s freezer and find the good stuff that so many of us grew up on. But the shuttering of the Nathans on Central Ave. is a loss that cannot be rectified by mere hot dogs and crinkle cut fries, the place was and always will remain, something special for all Yonkers residents and residents throughout Westchester.
Many have told me that I’m way too sentimental and that me being torn up about the closing of Nathans is like being torn up about the loss of the original Pizza N Brew, or Tower Records, or the original traffic pattern along Central Ave. near the Ground Round…or even, The Ground Round itself. To them I say, yes, call me old-fashioned, call me sentimental, call me closed-minded and habitual, I could care less.
I took some time a few days before Nathans served up their final Hotdog to marvel at the history of the place. For better or for worse, it hasn’t changed much since I was was a kid and probably way before that as well. The stains on the ceilings and walls have not changed, the Fun Chicken has not changed, the condiments stand has not changed and perhaps most importantly, the people have not changed as well.
Sitting there, in the same booth where I enjoyed my 5th birthday, I was surrounded by one story after another, from patrons who also were trying to grapple with and put into context, the permanent loss that they were only days away from experiencing.
Some cool old signage could still be found on the upper parts of the walls of the arcade.
It really was freakin sad to be honest, we were all in a purgatory state, eating our Hotdogs with mustard and sauerkraut and taking an extra few seconds between bites, to somehow burn our last few images of the Yonkers icon into our subconscious, to hopefully be stored away forever. Walking into the arcade, despite the changes in some of the games and newer lighting, I could always be easily transported back to my youth, whether it was pinball, street fighter II, Afterburner, WWF, baseball, car racing, basketball, whatever.
The sacking of Nathans however is perhaps, a right of passage for me. Being in my 30’s, I’ve only experienced a few losses so far in my life, be it people, places or otherwise. In life as I have come to find out, we all lose bits and pieces of our past and the more time that goes by, the more we cannot hold onto.
Perhaps it’s good that the new CVS/Nathans/whatever else they build will be unrecognizable and will help in the healing process. Even now as I drive past Charlie Brown’s on Central Ave. I feel a sense of sadness for the loss of another childhood landmark as it now sits as a dormant, hollow shell of what it once was; so perhaps, cold turkey is best.
Still though, I feel angry that it’s gone and that anger cannot be quelled by simply heading to Brooklyn. I suppose time will heal this wound as well and as with any loss, my mind will find a way to make peace with the past, as I hope yours will too.
To my old friend that I spent hundreds of quality hours with as a kid and adult, I bid you adieu.