Keeper Of Port’s Memories

Tony “Della’s” passion shared by thousands

By Andrea Mastrocinque Martone

His home may be thousands of miles away, but his heart and memories remain firmly rooted in Port Washington.

Meet Tony Dellavecchia (aka Tony Della), founder and administrator of the Facebook page “The Good Old Days—Port Washington.” Despite the physical distance, the town holds a special place in his thoughts and emotions, as if it were an extension of his very being. The sights, landmarks, history and experiences of Port Washington have become an integral part of who he is, transcending the boundaries of geography and time.

It’s no small feat to manage a Facebook page with 5.4K members, all of whom live (or lived) in Port Washington at one time. In fact, given the time difference from Asia (since 2009, his home is in Thailand), Tony spends many hours sorting through and writing hundreds of postings, all the while mindful of an 11-hour time challenge. Sleep, for Tony “Della,” is a fleeting moment every day as he strives to diligently maintain the hundreds of historical postings he manages. Many of these postings reflect a bygone era in Port Washington’s history, when horse-drawn buggies were the primary mode of transportation, and the town’s 3,500 residents were served by a single-room schoolhouse.

Tony Dellavecchia, 1970 graduate of Schreiber High School

For Tony, a 1970 graduate of Schreiber High School, The Good Old Days Facebook page started as a labor of love. His goal was to capture the memories of his three-generation Italian family. However, the page has since evolved into a thriving memorabilia site for thousands of people from Port Washington.

For the thousands of followers of his Facebook page, they all cherish the days of growing up in the charming, historical, and idyllic peninsula community. The Good Old Days page evokes nostalgic memories that everyone wants to remember and experiences to share. Tony recognizes that at one point, everyone in Port Washington knew each other. The community was a melting pot, with generations of families spawning from early immigrants who came to the area to mine sand from Italy, Poland, Germany, and other parts of Europe.

Through this online platform, Tony and the community of Port Washington natives are able to preserve and celebrate the rich history and tight-knit nature of their hometown. The Good Old Days page has become a digital hub where people can connect, reminisce, and keep the spirit of their beloved community alive.

What makes The Good Old Days so wildly popular? It’s a digital opportunity for thousands of past and present residents of Port who cherish sharing old photos, stories, and memories from bygone eras. The page focuses on posting content that evokes a sense of nostalgia and reminisces about the “good old days” of the past, including vintage advertisements, classic cars, old-fashioned household items, and scenes of small-town life from decades ago.

By sharing this historical and nostalgic content, The Good Old Days Facebook page aims to provide a glimpse into the past and connect people through shared experiences and cultural touchstones. A top contributor to the Good Old Days, Jan Warner wrote: “It was such a treat to go to Wetson’s with my parents. I can still see myself sitting in the back of the car. The smell of the bag, eating my hamburger, fries and a vanilla shake. I remember looking at that sign watching the cost of the hamburger increasing. A child’s first encounter with inflation. Those were the days. Some places when they go, they take a part of you with them. Places like: Wetson’s, Beacon Theater, Bay Bowl, McCrory’s, and Newberry’s. I wonder what happy times may have been like in our town, generations before us. Great we have this podium to reflect back on. Maybe our stories will live longer than the ones from past generations.” Tom Kelly adds, “It is hard to select just one venue as a favorite. We all went to Bay Bowl. Had pizza at every place mentioned, hung out on the town dock on summer evenings. Saturday morning movies at the Beacon. The parades down Main St. Playing Little League sports at Lions Field or PAL. Port was a special place to grow up in. We were free-roaming children. It is a shame that Port does not exist anymore.” Warner and Kelly are two of thousands of members who mirror his passion for growing up in Port and reflecting on childhood memories.

Indeed, sourcing for accurate information about Port’s history is a tedious task, but Tony Della has amassed an impressive portfolio of photos and memorabilia that he culls from a variety of sources, including:

Ebay, The Port public library (including their digital collections), Brooklyn Newspaper, House of Names, Been Verified, New York History, Shutterstock, The Port Washington Mason-Malone Collection, New York Heritage, Flickr, Port Washington BID, Getty Images, iStock photos, and more.

A recent post on the Good Old Days site included a survey asking for everyone’s “# 1 Favorite Venue growing up in Port Washington.” Within two days, 2,833 responses were posted, with the overwhelming majority identifying (in order of votes) Bay Bowl, Louie’s and McCrory’s as the most nostalgic venues.

So, who is Tony Dellavecchia, anyway?

Tony Dellavecchia, born in Port Washington, one of five children: Joe, Donna, Debi & Ann. His father (Joseph Sr.), also born in Port Washington, was a landscaping contractor in Port Washington from the early ‘50s right up to the time of his passing in 2008. Tony’s grandfather, Carmine Dellavecchia, immigrated from Italy in 1911 and lived to be 95 years of age. He worked for the Marino family at the Stone Castle on Port Blvd. where he drove the stagecoach that took workers to the sand banks on West Shore Rd. Tony’s grandma Salerno was born in 1895. She was a Fico. The Ficos came to Port Washington and had a neighborhood grocery store on Avenue A in 1888.

Tony’s mom, Marie Dellavecchia, is still alive and well at 94 and living in Port Washington on Mackey Avenue. A former Salerno (surname), Marie Dellavecchia welcomes her son home when he visits and cooks him a well-received Italian meat sauce that is unobtainable in Thailand. But Thailand offers other gifts that Tony cherishes as much as he does meat sauce. A practitioner of meditation, Tony has learned to incorporate daily meditation into his lifestyle and lives a “grounded” life filled with wonderment of the everyday and mindfulness—living in the moment and acknowledging our experiences without judgment.

“By incorporating mindfulness into our life, we foster a mentality conducive to productivity, creativity, and stress management,” says Tony. Asked what his favorite quote is, he shared, “Your greatness is revealed not by the light that shines upon you, but the light that shines within you.”

Tony Dellavecchia (Photos from Tony Dellavecchia)

Top 10 facts about Tony you might not know:
1. His grandfather, Carmine Dellavecchia, was one of the original builders of the Willowdale Avenue bridge in 1925.
2. In seventh grade he’d skip school and take friends with him, hopping on the LIRR to NYC where they enjoyed penny arcades, movies, shows, and riding the elevator at the ABC & CBS buildings. Tony wasn’t the greatest student but developed life lessons through his escapades which he considers very valuable.
3. He has a 12-year-old daughter, Annie, who is Thai American and lives in Thailand
4. He has a 35-year-old Chinese American son who lives in Texas (where he lived and worked for many years in the early ‘80s as a computer tech worker, mostly in fiber optics.
5. He collects depression glass-colored knives after seeing one his grandmother had and became obsessed with them.
6. He loves to ride his motorcycle throughout Thailand and Chang Mai, where he has a home.
7. He’s fascinated with parapsychology and knows how to read the lines of hands when he isn’t immersed in posting on his Facebook site!
8. He always was fascinated by Thailand and wanted to visit. He originally visited the country in 1986. While there he became smitten with a Thai girl but couldn’t bring her back to the US due to governmental red tape at the time.
9. After leaving Port Washington in the ‘70s, (he didn’t choose to go into the family’s landscape business), he moved and worked in Fort Lauderdale for a Japanese company as an electronic technician, then onto Texas for several years before making Thailand his permanent home.
10. As a young boy growing up on in Port, his favorite thing to do was visiting the original Library on Belleview Avenue, not to read books, but playing on the roof and in the large oak trees with his friend

Dougie Harton, who lived across the street from him. He told his mom and dad “I’m going to the library,” and they were pleased, thinking their son was reading books. That rascal, he!

There are so many reasons to join the Facebook page, The Good Old Days. Port Washington has a rich history dating back to the 17th century when it was first settled by English colonists. Our town played an important role in the development of New York City, as it was a major source of sand used in the construction of many iconic skyscrapers and infrastructure projects. Our town is also home to many historic buildings and sites that reflect its past as a thriving community. This includes the Beacon Towers mansion, which was the inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, as well as other historic homes, schools, and businesses.

Preserving this history helps maintain the unique character and identity of Port Washington. It allows residents and visitors to connect with the town’s past and understand how it has evolved over time. Overall, protecting Port Washington’s history ensures that the community’s rich heritage is not lost and can be appreciated by future generations. It helps preserve the town’s sense of place and identity.

Thank you, Tony Dellavecchia, for recognizing the importance of preserving our past and passing the torch to our future generations of Port kids who might learn to value and appreciate the idyllic town that we all were gifted to enjoy growing up ourselves throughout the years.

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