History

Port Jeff Army Navy on Main Street uptown will close at the end of August. Photo by Alex Petroski

Boarding the wrong train in 1939 might have put a damper on Joseph Sabatino’s day, but if he knew the series of events that would play out over the eight decades that followed, what he likely viewed as a
mistake would be more accurately depicted as destiny.

As his daughter Barbara Sabatino told it, her father was a pharmacist who saw a newspaper advertisement that a location of the Whelan’s Drug Store chain was for sale in Port Washington. She joked that her father must have confused his presidents, ending up on a train to Port Jefferson instead.

Barbara and Peter Sabatino, owners of Port Jeff Army Navy. Photo by Alex Petroski

It was his lucky day, because a storefront in the same building that currently houses Port Jeff Army Navy also
happened to have a Whelan’s location up for sale. He started his pharmacy at the site, eventually buying the building in 1958 with his brother Samuel. His children, Barbara and Peter, have owned the location since his death in 1977, operating as Port Jeff Army Navy since 1999, though the store underwent several transformations over its 80-year lifespan in the Sabatino family. Later this year, the location will embark on another transition, as Sabatino’s son and daughter plan to retire and close up shop. Barbara Sabatino, a Port Jeff Village resident, joked she and her brother, who lives in Port Jeff Station, are getting old and are ready for some relaxation and travel time.

“I always used to say, ‘We’re Madonna,’” she said. “You know how Madonna always used to reinvent herself? Well we’re just like Madonna, reinventing ourselves.”

Her father’s 1939 mistake had a lasting impact not only on his business, but also his personal life. Sabatino said her parents met when her mother Frances went on a trip to her family’s property in Coram, and before heading home on the train, as fate would have it, stopped for a soda at Whelan’s.

“If he didn’t come to Port Jefferson by accident, and if my grandfather didn’t own property out in Coram, [my parents] never would have met and we never would have been here,” Sabatino said. “This was a happy mistake.”

“You know how Madonna always used to reinvent herself? Well we’re just like Madonna, reinventing ourselves.”

— Barbara Sabatino

The Sabatino children were faced with a decision in 1999, though it was far from the first time, having transformed the pharmacy into a stationary store in prior years, and even adjusting the spelling of the name in decades past. Whelan’s Drug Store had to change to “Weylan’s” in the 1960s when the company decided to
require franchise owners to license the name for $100 a month, according to Sabatino. Her dad decided instead to flip the “h” in the sign over to a “y” and tweaked the order of the letters, allowing them to keep their vibrant neon signage and avoid the fee.

The opening of a couple of office supply stores nearby decimated the business, and Sabatino said she and her brother settled on becoming an Army Navy store because of a hole left in the market — Mac Snyder’s was a long-standing Army Navy store in downtown Port Jeff that closed a few years earlier. At their store, veterans and military aficionados could purchase ribbons and Army-Navy accessories, recover lost medals, buy uniforms and other items like firearms and camping gear.

“It was a natural draw with Peter being in the Navy for 11 years,” Barbara Sabatino said, adding that she used to shop at Mac Snyder’s and always found it a cool place to be. “Out of all of our incarnations, this was my favorite. It’s fun, and the customers are lovely.”

Both Sabatinos noted how special it was to be able to assist active and former military personnel in getting what they needed in the store, which also allowed them to interact with some of the country’s most upstanding and honorable citizens.

“After Barbara suggested the idea of an Army Navy store it brought back a lot of memories, and I said to her, ‘That’s a good idea, that’ll work,’” he said. “There’s a lot of people from Vietnam that are trying to replace all of the stuff they have, and we’re able to get the items in for them.”

Whelan’s Drug Store became Weylan’s drug store in the 60s when then-owner Joseph Sabatino decided to flip the ‘h’ in the name over rather than pay a licensing fee or remove the store’s iconic neon sign. Photo from Barbara Sabatino

At the public village board meeting in June — Barbara Sabatino is a regular fixture at these meetings — a village resident mentioned the pair’s impending retirement, currently slated for the end of August.

“If Barbara is happy, I’m happy,” Village Mayor Margot Garant said upon hearing the news, adding that she
wished her well.

Their impact on the community will be a lasting one. Sabatino said the store owners not only prospered in business during their time uptown, but also gave back to help those around them by helping neighborhood kids with homework, advocating successfully for a new park on Texaco Avenue in recent years and even supplying transportation to village events for uptown kids who wouldn’t have otherwise had a means to get there.

Sabatino shared a card a longtime customer sent to her and her brother when they heard the news.

“At first I was very upset to hear that you were closing because we’re not only losing the best store around, but also the friendliest and most helpful people out there,” the card said. “Port Jeff Army Navy’s goods, services and friendship will absolutely be missed. I am happy that you are retiring. You deserve to rest and be happy and enjoy your family and friends.”

This post was updated June 13.

From left, Michael O’Dwyer and Annie and Stephen Healy enjoy last year’s event. Photo courtesy of TVHS

By Kyle Barr

If there’s anything that we know about the 1920s, it’s that the parties were wild. Despite, or likely because, of Prohibition, the music was loud and idiosyncratic as jazz came onto the scene, and the alcohol flowed as if by fountains into the expecting mouths of flappers and bootleggers alike.

Setauket’s Three Village Historical Society, in collaboration with The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook is hoping to bring that period of time back to life with the second running of their annual Prohibition Night fundraiser at The Jazz Loft next Thursday, June 14 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Montauk Brewing Company, will include snacks, wine, beer and raffles.

This time the TVHS is adding an extra layer of early 20th-century history with a new emphasis on the women’s suffrage movement and how that tied into a time of cultural revolution.

The fundraiser will feature memorabilia from the Women’s Suffrage Movement including this stamp from the collection of the Melville Family papers.

“You had this revolution with the women’s movement and the right to vote, and you had this revolution with the clothing, with flappers and the Charleston and the bobbed haircuts,” said Tom Manuel, owner of The Jazz Loft. “These were real renegade statements of society and culture, and its cool when you put them together.”

The Jazz Loft will have several items on display relating to women’s suffrage, including several articles, papers and artifacts housed in display cases as well as a mannequin fully dressed up in the class women’s suffrage garb with a large purple sash reading “Votes for Women,” courtesy of Nan Guzzetta of Antique Costumes & Prop Rental by Nan in Port Jefferson.

“[The movement] was really ahead of its time,” said Stephen Healy, president of the Three Village Historical Society. “It’s interesting to see if history is going to repeat itself or we will move on from here. The movement has been a longtime coming.”

That historical revolution collided with the cultural revolution of the 1920s, as many of the same women who campaigned for the women’s vote also stumped for the temperance movement. Suddenly, with the ban of the sale and consumption of alcohol in 1919, a whole new era of organized crime and mass criminality was born as the sale of alcohol eclipsed any decade before or after it.

“Everybody became creative with getting alcohol,” Healy said. “From everything with potato farmers out on the east end of Long Island and vodka creation, and I can’t imagine [the activity] between the water and the farms and the amount of backdoor distributing that was taking place on Long Island.”

The fundraiser will feature memorabilia from the Women’s Suffrage Movement including this “Vote Yes” stamp from the collection of the Melville Family papers.

But it wouldn’t be the 1920s without jazz, and Manuel said he has that covered. Manuel’s band, The Hot Peppers, will be performing live music straight from the jazz giants of the period such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Thomas “Fats” Waller and more.

“I think for us it really supports and makes a statement about who we are,” Manuel said. “Our mission is jazz preservation, jazz education and jazz performance. Any time we can take history and allow it to come to life, we served our mission.”

Last year’s Prohibition Night was supremely successful with sold out tickets and a packed room. Healy said he expects this year to do just as good or even better.

“It was a great success, it sold out, and it gave us some cross pollination between history and The Jazz Loft,” Healy said.

Manuel agreed that the event is the perfect blend of history and recreation. “Any time we collaborate with something in the community, it really solidifies the statement they say about jazz, which is that it’s all about collaboration,” he said. 

The Jazz Loft, located at 275 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook Village, will host the 2nd annual Prohibition Night: Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage in New York State on Thursday, June 14 from  6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 adults, $20 seniors, $15 students. Period costumes are encouraged. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

Living History cast members, from left, Ellen Mason as Elizabeth Arden; Peter Reganato as Pietro, the Italian chef; Beverly Pokorny as Ann Morgan; and Florence Lucker as Consuelo Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlborough. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport turns back the clock once again by offering its popular weekend Living History tours now through Sept. 2. For more than a decade, these tours have delighted visitors to the elegant 24-room, Spanish Revival waterfront mansion, Eagle’s Nest, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Vanderbilt has been called a “museum of a museum” — the mansion, natural-history and marine collections galleries are preserved exactly as they were when the Vanderbilts lived on the estate. 

Guides dressed as members of the Vanderbilt family and household staff tell stories about the mansion’s famous residents and their world-renowned visitors. Stories told on the tours are based on the oral histories of people who worked for the Vanderbilts as teenagers and young adults. Some stories originated in William K. Vanderbilt II’s books of his world travels and extensive sea journeys.

This summer it will be 1936 again. Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan is enjoying a reunion of her friends in the women’s suffrage movement. 

“The movie ‘Captains Courageous’ with Spencer Tracy is playing in the theaters, and Agatha Christie’s new novel, ‘Dumb Witness,’ is in the bookstores,” said Stephanie Gress, director of curatorial affairs. “Legendary aviator Amelia Earhart is lost at sea in July, and European leaders are faced with threats of German expansion. And the U.S. Post Office issues a commemorative stamp in honor of the women’s voting rights activist and social reformer Susan B. Anthony on the 30th anniversary of her death in 1906.”

Earlier in 1936, New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia — who supported women’s voting rights — had been the keynote speaker at a dinner at the city’s Biltmore Hotel to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Women’s City Club in New York. The Living History presentation is set against this background of national and international news. 

LaGuardia is invited to Eagle’s Nest to join a few of the Vanderbilt family members — including Vanderbilt’s brother, Harold; his sister, Consuelo, the Duchess of Marlborough; and her guests Elizabeth Arden, Anne Morgan and her nephew, Henry Sturgis Morgan, Gress said. Consuelo and her guests reminisce about their younger days at suffragette rallies. 

The museum will display items in two guest rooms that commemorate the centennial of women’s right to vote in New York State. Included will be an enlargement of the Susan B. Anthony stamp, suffrage banners and sashes and an authentic outfit worn in that era by Consuelo. (Vanderbilt’s mother, Alva, also had been active in the movement.) 

The Living History cast: Ellen Mason will play Elizabeth Arden, who created the American beauty industry. Yachtsman Harold Vanderbilt — three-time winner of the America’s Cup, and expert on contract bridge — will be portrayed by Jim Ryan and Gerard Crosson. Peter Reganato will be Pietro, the Italian chef. Dale Spencer will perform as William Belanske, the curator and artist who traveled with Vanderbilt on his epic journeys. Anne Morgan will be played by Judy Pfeffer and Beverly Pokorny.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport will present its Living History tours in the mansion on Saturdays and Sundays at 12, 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. Tickets: $8 per person, available only at the door, are in addition to the museum’s general admission fee of $8 adults, $7 senior and students, $5 children ages 12 and under. Children ages 2 and under are free. For more information, please call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org. 

by -
0 237
Robert Eikov ran a shop on 25A in East Setauket east of Gnarled Hill Road. Photo from the Three Village Historical Society collection

By Beverly C. Tyler

In an oral history interview with Joseph Eikov, who was born in Setauket in 1903, he talked about life in East Setauket in the early 20th century. His father came here from Warsaw, Poland.

“They all migrated here,” he said. “My mother [Dora Pinnes] from [Kopyl] Russia … All the Jews migrated here … They were called greenhorns. They came here with badges on. They came here to work in the [East Setauket] rubber factory and after the factory burned down [1905], then they started to leave. That’s when Pinnes [Dora Pinnes’ brother Herman, who opened a kosher butcher shop in East Setauket] went from kosher. They moved away gradually until there were very few left.”

Joseph Eikov, known as Jess, was the owner and operator of the bus company that serviced the Setauket Union Free School on the hill in East Setauket for many years. 1961 photo from Three Village Historical Society collection

Local history is a combination of the history of people, places and events. All of these elements are needed to understand and enjoy the history of a community or family history. Research into one of these areas naturally spills over into the others. Sources of information are so varied that they cannot be listed or explained in one short article; however, getting started in the exploration of local history is as simple as finding out about your own family’s history.

Without the research provided by family historians, the collections of local history in libraries and historical societies would be much less useful. If your family comes from Long Island, plan a visit to the Suffolk County Historical Society library in Riverhead at 300 W. Main St. The society maintains one of the largest files of genealogical material in Suffolk County. Its Weathervane Gift Shop also has a large collection of books, pamphlets and other materials on Long Island history and genealogy. The Long Island collection in the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, 120 Main St. in East Setauket, includes a large number of published genealogies. These include both individual and family histories. The manuscript collection of the Three Village Historical Society (the Capt. Edward R. Rhodes Memorial Collection of Local History) in the Emma Clark Library includes a number of typed and handwritten genealogies. Most of these are family histories, but some include extensive information on specific individuals as well.

It is important for more local residents to provide information on their families to be placed in the Three Village local history collection. In this way the history of Setauket and Stony Brook can be kept up-to-date.

The information compiled by family members includes not only the names, dates and relationships of prior generations, but often supplies the interesting stories about their lives that makes local history so interesting. But where to start? Most genealogists recommend that those entering the field for the first time read a good basic book on the subject of genealogy and family history. Researching family history can be an enjoyable undertaking if you dig into the past with the right tools at your disposal.

Family history has, with the advent of the internet, become a popular pastime. There are a number of sites that can help with family research. Start with www.live-brary.com. Click on Local History and Genealogy and then on Topic Guide Genealogy. The Mormons have a free site you can use at www.genealogy.com. Ancestry is a for-profit site at www.ancestry.com that can be accessed for free at the Emma Clark and other local libraries. Heritage Quest, on the other hand, can be accessed from the library or at home by signing in to the library website at www.emmaclark.org. One of many interesting sites for genealogy and family history is www.stevemorse.org.

Sam Eikov ran this shop on Main Street in Setauket, now a dental office and lawyer’s office. Photo from Three Village Historical Society collection

Books on genealogy and family history are available at libraries. At the Emma Clark library, upstairs under 929.1, are books such as: “The Troubleshooter’s Guide to Do-It-Yourself Genealogy” by W. Daniel Quillen (both 2016 and 2014 editions), “How to Do Everything Genealogy” by George Morgan (2015) and “Genealogy Online for Dummies” by Matthew and April Helm (2014). There are also a number of DVDs on genealogy and family history.

To begin your family history, just remember to start with yourself. You are the beginning of the search. Record all the known facts about yourself — birth, baptism and marriage dates — and all of your known brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, parents and grandparents. Next, use home sources. Find out what kind of genealogical materials you have in your home and relatives’ homes including family bibles, newspaper clippings, military certificates, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, diaries, letters, scrapbooks, backs of pictures and family histories. Don’t forget to talk to or write to — email if possible — your relatives, even the ones you haven’t spoken to in years. Family gatherings can also provide a good source of information about family history and folklore.

However you get started, get going. You will find the journey well worth the effort.

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

Nikola Tesla, depicted in statue at top, was a Serbian-American inventor who had a lab built in Shoreham, where the statue sits. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Shoreham’s Wardenclyffe property, the site of famed Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla’s last living laboratory, is up for consideration for historical site status by the New York State Historic Preservation Office June 7.

“We want to make the world aware, more than it is now, of the site’s importance,” said Jane Alcorn, president of the board of directors of Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe. “It gives the community and our investors some assurance that we’re moving in the right direction, that were not just gaining local recognition, but state and national as well.”

Inventor Nikola Tesla’s Shoreham laboratory, built in 1901, is his las lab still standing. TBR News Media

In 2012 the science center worked with The Oatmeal comic website to launch a successful Indiegogo campaign that raised $1.37 million to purchase the land. Since then the nonprofit has renovated the property with plans to turn the site into a museum and incubator for technology-based business startups.

Alcorn said the board hired a historic architect consultant who documented the land and its legacy. The group worked for months crafting a 92-page document describing Tesla’s life along with the many minute details of the 16-acre property, such as which buildings are historic and which are not, when each was built, and by what person and company.

Marc Alessi, the science center’s executive director, said that having the property on the historic register would help to indefinitely safeguard the land.

“It’s preserving it for future generations,” Alessi said. “When you get something registered as a historic landmark, we’ll be able to rest easy knowing 500 years from now if society completely changes, there is a very good chance the lab will still be there.”

“When you get something registered as a historic landmark, we’ll be able to rest easy knowing 500 years from now if society completely changes, there is a very good chance the lab will still be there.”

— Marc Alessi

Alcorn said getting historical status would not only increase the project’s notoriety, but would also allow the group to apply for state grants they wouldn’t be eligible for without the historic status.

“It’s often one of the requirements of many state grants — that you are located on the historic register,” Alcorn said. “We’ve been eliminated from granting opportunities in the past due to that lack.”

Many modern-day entrepreneurs and scientists have a vested interest in the lab’s history. Tesla, a self-starter and entrepreneur, created many technological innovations still used today, such as alternating current and electromagnetism technology. His research influenced modern day X-rays.

In the early 1900s Tesla acquired the Wardenclyffe property in Shoreham to test his theories of being able to wirelessly transmit electrical messages. The property housed a huge 187-foot tower for the purpose, but in 1903 creditors confiscated his equipment, and in 1917 the tower was demolished. The concrete feet used to hold the structure can still be seen on the property today.

The science center submitted the final historic register application nearly a month ago, and next week it will be reviewed by the state’s national register review board. The review process takes several weeks, and if
accepted, the property will be put on the state register of historic places. The application will then automatically go to the National Register of Historic Places review board for the potential of being put on the national registry. That process will take several months.

A sign outside of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe shows it was designed by architect Stanford White, as inscribed. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Not everything submitted to the national registry gets listed, but New York has a very good track record, so hopefully we’ll be hearing a good thing from this one,” said Jennifer Betsworth, a historic preservation
specialist for the state preservation department.

Only a day after the center announced its application, it had more than 6,700 people sign letters in support of the application, according to Alessi, and were sent to the state historic preservation review board.

Betsworth said despite how the property has been modified through the years, it has value as Tesla’s last intact laboratory and has historical significance as the site of some of his last and most ambitious inventions.

“It’s a bit complicated because it’s a building that’s absolutely covered with later additions that aren’t historic, so its value is not necessarily immediately obvious,” said Betsworth. “If this wasn’t the last remaining laboratory related to Tesla, it might not have been eligible. The incredible rarity and significance of this
resource is what it has going for it.”

The science center is currently working to fundraise for the first phase of a project that would turn two buildings on the grounds into exhibition spaces for science education. The fundraising has reached $6 million out of the planned $20 million, according to Alessi. The science center hopes to have the first part of a functioning museum up and running by the end of next year.

Reviewed by Victoria Espinoza

Author Patricia Novak with a copy of her book.

With Patricia J. Novak’s new book, you don’t need a time machine to see what the Town of Huntington was like 100 years ago.

Broken into seven chapters, “Huntington,” part of the Arcadia Publishing’s Postcard History Series, looks through the lens at old postcards to get glimpses of what life in Huntington was like back in the day.

“I have been collecting postcards of the towns/hamlets in Huntington township since the 1980s,” said Novak in a recent interview, adding “Before the internet (and eBay), I acquired them by visiting postcard shows and by mail. Dealers would send me their cards for review and I would pick what I wanted. I would return the ones I didn’t want and include a check for the keepers. When Arcadia Publishing introduced their new Postcard History Series, I knew I had a book!”

Novak, who grew up in Huntington, organized her book by different parts of the community. The various chapters, which feature over 220 black-and-white images, span religious structures, schools, businesses and scenes of residents from years past enjoying their lives in the North Shore town. 

The first chapter starts off with a very familiar site, Huntington Town Hall. Initially used as a high school for Huntington students starting in 1910, it eventually changed hands to become the center of government. 

Other school buildings in Huntington and Northport are featured in this chapter as well, along with old mailers detailing and encouraging residents to support school expansion projects due to a population increase in the area after World War II. It’s quite interesting to read a message from Huntington’s school board in 1954 and see the similarities in budget pitches with school boards currently in power.

Aside from school buildings, the first chapter also shows churches in the area, some that look almost identical now as they first did in the early 20th century and some that are no longer standing.

The cover of Novak’s book

Another chapter gives readers a glimpse into the lives of the residents that came before them. Familiar structures like William K. Vanderbilt II’s mansion, Eagles Nest, in Centerport and the Huntington Country Club can be seen in their early starts, but you can also learn about impressive establishments like the Camp Christian Endeavour, located close to where the Huntington train station now stands. This organization worked to provide an opportunity for disadvantaged city boys and girls to enjoy outdoor recreation, three meals, clean surroundings and fresh air for 10 days every summer. Photos show children swinging and enjoying the Huntington scenery. 

Perhaps the most fun aspect of a book like this is comparing the old photos to what everything looks like now, including the chapter that shows the business establishments of the past featured in several postcards. 

Novak said her favorite postcards are ones that tell the greatest stories.“The real-photo postcards are exciting, but any postcard that has writing on it which gives us some insight on events and daily life from that time period are particularly interesting to me.” 

And although she was not phased with the wealth of information she had to work from, Novak said she was surprised with some of the personal stories she got to learn.

“I did extensive research on many of the individuals that I ‘met’ along the way,” she said. “The contributions they made to the social and economic progress of Huntington during the early 1900s should not be overlooked. I even went to visit their graves.”

As for why she thinks people should be interested in learning more about Huntington’s past, Novak said this town has no shortage of fascinating stories.

“Huntington has a rich history dating back to the 1600s,” she said. “It is a perfect, and well-documented microcosm of how communities grew from European settlements to our modern footprints today.”

A lifelong resident of the Town of Huntington, author Patricia J. Novak is a librarian and archivist at the South Huntington Public Library and a member of the Huntington Historical Society. “Huntington” is available online at www.arcadiapublishing.com, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The Sound Beach Veterans Park memorial

By Ernestine Franco

A few weeks ago, Ann Moran, a member of the board of the Sound Beach Civic Association, was getting the Sound Beach Veterans Park’s garden ready for its upcoming Memorial Day celebration when she noticed something she had never seen before.

On the horizontal slab of the granite stone that displays the plaques of the seven fallen veterans of Sound Beach, someone had left two coins in front of each plaque, two quarters to be exact, and she wondered why. Moran knew that people sometimes leave a small stone on a headstone in a cemetery to indicate that they had been there but had no idea what it meant to leave a coin. When she stopped by the park a few days later someone had left a number of long-stemmed red roses in front of every plaque next to the coins.

When she told me about the coins, I was moved and knew it meant something to the person who left them there — but what? In an effort to understand this ritual, I decided to do some research.

People have been leaving small items on or near the graves of loved ones for a very long time. Excavations of even the earliest graves have uncovered goods meant to serve the deceased in the next world, such as pottery, weapons and beads.

Coins have been around since the late seventh century B.C., and as societies began using monetary systems, the practice of leaving currency at grave sites began as yet another way of equipping the dear departed for the afterlife.

Mythologies of different cultures added specific reasons for coins being left with the dead. In Greek mythology, Charon, the ferryman of Hades, required payment for his services. A coin was therefore placed in the mouth of the dear departed to ensure Charon would ferry the deceased across the river Styx and into the world of the dead rather than leave him or her to wander the shore for a hundred years. Although it is unclear when and why this started, in England and the United States  pennies were routinely placed on the closed eyes of the dead.

 

Coins left on the headstone of Ann Moran’s late husband

Leaving a coin is meant as a message to the deceased soldier’s family that someone has visited the grave to pay respect. Which coin is left on the headstone seems to symbolize different things. Leaving a penny at the grave means simply that you visited. A nickel indicates that you and the deceased trained at boot camp together, while a dime means you served together in some capacity. By leaving a quarter at the grave, you are telling the family that you were with the soldier when he or she died.

Traditionally, the money left at graves in national cemeteries and state veterans cemeteries is eventually collected, and the funds are put toward maintaining the cemetery or paying burial costs for indigent veterans.

In the U.S., this practice became common during the Vietnam War, due to the political divide in the country over the war. Leaving a coin was seen as a more practical way to communicate that you had visited the grave than contacting the soldier’s family, which could devolve into an uncomfortable argument over politics relating to the war. Some Vietnam veterans would leave coins as a “down payment” to buy their fallen comrades a beer or play a hand of cards when they would finally be reunited.

All the coins that Moran found at the memorial park were quarters. Because the veterans honored there died in action between 1942 and 2005, she knew the coins could not mean that the person who left them was with the soldier when he passed. She knew it was a sign of homage and remembrance. 

This past week she went to Calverton National Cemetery to visit the grave of her husband Matt and she left a nickel and a dime — one to remember him and one to just say hello. She did remove the coins at the Sound Beach park and put them in the civic association’s fund for upkeep at the Veterans Park.

We all remember the day that a friend or family member died and we mourn their passing. Memorial Day is the national day of mourning when we as a nation, as a people, remember those who have died to preserve our freedoms. 

Small tokens are left by visitors for no greater purpose than to indicate that someone has visited that particular grave. When visiting the grave of a good friend buried at Calverton, I left a tiny statue of a bunny at her grave for no other reason but that she loved bunnies.

A close-up of the roses and coins left at the memorial.

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) expressed her feelings about Memorial Day by saying, “For 150 years, America has paused on Memorial Day and honored those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our liberty. These brave souls truly defined what a hero is: someone who has given his or her life for something bigger than themselves. It’s a day to mourn their loss and honor their sacrifice, but also to thank God that such men and women have lived.”

A remarkable scene around Memorial Day at grave sites of men and women who have died for our country is the placement of American flags at each grave by Scouts at national cemeteries throughout the U.S. Sound Beach resident Nancy Ford, whose daughter Katie is now in the Air Force Reserves, places another kind of flag at Calverton each year in remembrance of her husband Jim, who served in the Air Force and was in the Sound Beach Fire Dept. Ford said, “Placing a fireman’s flag each year helps to renew my sense of patriotism in Jim’s military service.”

So this Memorial Day, if you visit a soldier at a national cemetery or a family member at a local cemetery, if you place a flag by the grave site, if you position flowers in front of the headstone, if you leave a memento that meant something special to the person buried there, or if you simply leave a coin, know that you are part of a tradition that remembers and honors the person buried there as well as lets family members know that someone has visited, that the person is  remembered. 

The traditions of a people are born from and nurtured by history. History remembers and safeguards the traditions that make up the spiritual center of a people. We follow them because somehow these rituals connect us with our past and link us to our future.

Ernestine Franco is a member of the Sound Beach Civic Association and a proofreader at Times Beacon Record News Media.

All photos by Ann Moran

A boulder on the Setauket Village Green, above, features two plaques. On one side local soldiers who lost their lives in World War I are recognized. On the other, area soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

In a proclamation made May 24, 2017, President Donald Trump (R) shared his sentiments about Memorial Day.

“Memorial Day is our Nation’s solemn reminder that freedom is never free,” the proclamation reads. “It is a moment of collective reflection on the noble sacrifices of those who gave the last measure of devotion in service of our ideals and in the defense of our Nation. On this ceremonious day, we remember the fallen, we pray for a lasting peace among nations, and we honor these guardians of our inalienable rights.”

Veterans march in the 2017 Memorial Day Parade in Setauket. File photo by Rita J. Egan

This year Memorial Day is celebrated Monday, May 28, a day to honor the men and women who served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice. On the Setauket Village Green is a boulder with plaques honoring two Setauket men who did not return from World War I. The boulder was placed there in 1919 to honor them. On Sept. 1, 1919, a celebration, parade and memorial services were conducted at the new East Setauket memorial and then, at the conclusion of the parade, on the Setauket Village Green.

The two who did not return were memorialized at the ceremony on the Village Green at the end of the parade as reported by the Port Jefferson Times. “With the service men in uniform standing stiffly at attention and the civilians with bared heads, the entire assemblage united in singing ‘America’ … The Rev. T.J. Elms then dedicated the rock to the memory of the Setauket boys who died in the war — Raymond Wishart and Harry Golden … Mrs. Wishart received a medal for her son and Mr. Golden for his boy.”

The massive boulder erected on the Setauket Village Green was brought from Strong’s Neck and the plaque was designed by the well-known artist William de Leftwich Dodge who painted the murals on New York history that are in the state capitol in Albany.

“With the service men in uniform standing stiffly at attention and the civilians with bared heads, the entire assemblage united in singing ‘America’”

— Port Jefferson Times, Sept. 1, 1919

Private Raymond Wishart, son of postmaster and Mrs. Andrew Wishart, was born Sept. 10, 1893, and he died in France Aug. 23, 1918. His remains were returned to this country and were buried in the Caroline Church of Brookhaven graveyard on a Sunday in July 1921.

Harry Golden is remembered by his nephew Sam Golden. “He was a sergeant in charge of the mules,” Sam recalled. “His unit was attacked, and he was killed. He was 28 years old when he died, and he’s buried there in France.”

On the opposite side of the rock is a plaque that was placed there after World War II. It reads, “1941–1945 — In memory of Clifford J. Darling, Henry P. Eichacker, Francis S. Hawkins, David Douglas Hunter, Orlando B. Lyons, Anthony R. Matusky, Edward A. Pfeiffer [and] William E. Weston of the United States Armed Forces who gave their lives in World War II.” A new plaque was later added to honor Chris Brunn who died in Vietnam in 1969.

This year the Memorial Day ceremony will take place on the Setauket Village Green at 10:30 a.m. May 28 with the amassed flags of the Three Village veterans and community organizations as well as village and town officials and dignitaries. This will be followed by the parade from the Setauket Village Green to the East Setauket Veterans Memorial on Route 25A and Shore Road, followed by the Memorial Day ceremony in East Setauket.

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

From left, Museum Executive Director Nomi Dayan, Museum Board President Patricia Aitken, Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman, Councilwoman Joan Cergol, Town Historian Robert Hughes, Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and John Newkirk from The WG Pomeroy Foundation. Photo from Whaling Museum

MAKING HISTORY 

In a time when most towns are losing their historic significance as older buildings get torn down for newer, modern designs, the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling museum received recognition from the Pomeroy Foundation for their 1894 offices, on May 11. 

The reception saw townspeople, board members, and museumgoers, as well as many of Huntington’s town leaders, and representatives from Senator Gillibrand’s office come out for the unveiling. Following speeches, Joan Lowenthal, one of the museum’s interpreters, led the crowd on a walking tour through Cold Spring Harbor Village, highlighting the many historic structures along the way.

“It’s amazing coming to work every day in such a special piece of history, while we work on history programming,” explains Assistant Director Cindy Grimm. “It really makes you appreciate how fortunate we are to have these structures standing today; in fact most of Cold Spring Harbor is the same as it was in the 1850 whaling boom.” 

The Captain James Wright house was built in 1894 for the coastwise captain, who also fought in the civil war and was a Huntington town constable. When he died at home after a short illness in 1923, his daughter, Eva (who was the operator of the first telegraph in Cold Spring and later a librarian at the Cold Spring Harbor Library), remained in the home until she sold it to the Whaling Museum in 1956. It was partially rented out until the 1980s, when the museum moved its offices to the building.

For more information, call 631-367-3418.

Barbra Streisand in a scene from 'Hello Dolly'

By Heidi Sutton

I am simple, complex, generous, selfish, unattractive, beautiful, lazy, and driven. — Barbra Streisand

What can one say about Barbra Streisand? In a career spanning six decades, the legendary singer, songwriter, actress, author and filmmaker has won multiple Academy Awards, Grammys, Emmys, Golden Globes, Tonys and a Peabody, proving that the incredible voice that launched her career was only one of her remarkable talents. 

So it was only natural for Sal St. George to pay tribute to the legendary star in his latest Living History Production, now playing at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook Village through June 14. 

Barbra Streisand at the 1969 Academy Awards with her best-actress Oscar for her role in ‘Funny Girl.’ Photo courtesy of Photofest

According to St. George, the show focuses on a specific turning point in Streisand’s career. “The story takes place in 1969. Barbra recently won the Oscar for “Funny Girl” and her latest movie, “Hello Dolly” has just been released,” he said, adding, “This was a pivotal time in young Barbra’s life. She was divorcing Elliot Gould at this time, as well.” 

Now the 27-year-old is a special guest on the fictitious sixties talk show, “The Dixie Carlyle Program.” Formatted as if the audience is coming to a live taping of the show, Streisand is interviewed about her life and career. 

The original script was written by St. George. “It takes approximately three months of research before the actual writing process begins,” he explained.

Gabrielle Lutz, who plays the role of talk show host Dixie Carlyle, said “I love creating a character from scratch. Dixie is fun and off-beat. You never know what she is going to do next.”

Sarah Franco tackles the role of Streisand in the show. “When Sarah auditioned and sang for us I immediately heard the sound of Barbra’s voice,” said St. George. “She is a disciplined and hard-working actor. I knew she would be able to personify the legendary singer.”

“How do you portray an icon like Barbra? I just try to master her mannerisms and vocalizations,” said Franco. “I also enjoyed the opportunity to portray the real Fanny Brice in this show. We recreate a Baby Snooks radio show.” Franco will sing many of Streisand’s hits from that time period during the 90-minute show.

Sarah Franco will portray Barbra Streisand in the show.

St. George’s son, Darren, who has been featured in numerous productions over the years, most notably as Tobias Brunt, the ruthless Bounty Hunter in “Running Scared, Running Free” and as Edgar Allan Poe, has the role of Danny DeLuca. “This is one of the most ambitious shows we have ever mounted. The finale will surprise and delight you. It was a challenge to produce, but it is all there onstage for the audience to enjoy,” said Darren.

After the performance, participants will be treated to a high tea luncheon featuring finger sandwiches (tuna, cucumber and chicken), assorted pastries, coffee and tea provided by Fratelli’s Italian Eatery of Stony Brook along with a meet and greet with the actors.

For Sal St. George, he’s already planning the next show. “This is our sixteenth year producing programs for the WMHO. Soon we will be preparing for our holiday program. The special guest has not yet been finalized. But we are looking to do the story of another successful female entertainer and icon — a very famous country western star.” Stay tuned.

Partially sponsored by Roosevelt Investments, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook will present a musical tribute to Barbra Streisand on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m., and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. Available dates at press time are May 17, 19, 23, 30, 31, June 2, 7, 9, 10, 13 and 14. Admission, which includes lunch, is $50 adults, $48 seniors and $43 for groups of 20 or more. To make reservations, call 631-689-5888. For more information, visit www.wmho.org.

Social

9,202FansLike
1,089FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe