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Transplanted New Yorkers recall their wonderful town

Event takes on special meaning 50 years after the Dodgers moved.

October 05, 2008|James Wagner | Times Staff Writer

If only for a few hours, New Yorkers living in Southern California could feel at home Saturday night.

At, of all places, Beverly Hills High School.

Nearly 1,500 people gathered in a courtyard there to eat Coney Island hot dogs, reunite with long-lost high school classmates and celebrate their hometown.

Banners hung for each borough of New York -- the largest contingent was from Brooklyn. Attendees, several wearing T-shirts from their high schools, wandered around eating, chatting and gathering with old friends.

The event, now known as New York Day in L.A., has been held annually for nearly three decades. But this year had special meaning for many, as the Dodgers commemorated the 50th anniversary of their departure from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn for Los Angeles.

To Brooklyn native Michael Juceam, losing the Dodgers was "like losing one your relatives." A dozen years later, Juceam and his family followed his team west, settling in Valencia.

"I wanted to follow the Dodgers," said Juceam, 68, a textile salesman. "We all did."

The yearly chance for New Yorkers to reminisce got its start in 1979 as a reunion for about 1,000 graduates of Brooklyn's Lincoln High, said Lou Zigman, chairman of the New York Alumni Assn.

In 1985, Zigman -- a Lincoln High alumnus -- opened the gathering to all New Yorkers living the area, he said.

Beverly Hills residents Ed and Lorraine Feldman, both originally from the Bronx, said they have been coming to New York Day for nearly a decade. It's a chance to talk about the old days and live, momentarily, in the past.

But unlike some who have made the move, the Feldmans -- California transplants since 1968 -- had little bad to say about their adopted state.

"This is paradise," Ed Feldman, 79, said about the weather.

And he had no complaints about having to drive everywhere in Los Angeles.

"I haven't ridden a bus in 30 years and I don't miss it," he said.

A ceremony later in the evening honored New York native and Hollywood veteran Jerry Stiller.

Garry Marshall, a television and film director and producer, was among the Hollywood contingent in attendance. Marshall, a native of the Bronx, said he loves attending every year.

Saturday night, though, he was distracted by another event happening across town.

He said he was hoping the Dodgers didn't beat the Chicago Cubs in the best-of-five series.

Marshall said he was holding a ticket for Game 4.

"If they sweep, then my ticket is useless," he said.

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james.wagner@latimes.com

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