History

By Heidi Sutton

The Port Jefferson Conservancy hosted a reception for the Port Jefferson Village Center’s latest exhibit, GRUMMAN ON LONG ISLAND, A Photographic Tribute, on Jan. 10, an event that attracted over 250 visitors. Former Grumman employees, family, friends and the community came out to celebrate a reunion of sorts and to reminisce about the aerospace company that employed over 20,000 people on Long Island over the decades. 

A highlight of the reception was a six-member guest panel that included Grummanites Vinny DeStefano, vice president of manufacturing; Hank Janiesch, vice president (F-14 Program); Rodger Schafer, technical adviser; Joe “Ruggs” Ruggerio, director of electronic warfare; Harold Sheprow, a flight test manager and former mayor of Port Jefferson; Jim Reynolds Sr., an ILS engineer; and Cmdr. Jim Roth, a combat pilot and aviation test pilot who was an instructor for the first Grumman A-6 Intruder squadron.

They took turns speaking about their experience at Grumman and then fielded questions from a standing room only audience. Each guest speaker echoed the same sentiment; that they had loved working for Grumman, were very proud of their career and would do it all over again.

The exhibit, which was curated by Port Jefferson historian Chris Ryon and the Village of Belle Terre historian John Hiz, boasts over 100 photos, several scale models of planes and a special test pilot section.

Mayor Margot Garant kicked off the reception, saying, “I want to recognize the outstanding work, the collaborate effort, of Chris Ryon and John Hiz. They have collectively put in at least 300 man-hours putting this exhibit together.” 

“We had no idea what we were getting into a year ago when we decided to do a Grumman exhibit,’” said Ryon. “People have been coming into our office every day [to drop off photographs] and then we ended up going to the Grumman History Center and filling a 26-foot box truck [with more memorabilia]. It’s been great.”

“This [exhibit] is basically an idea of a  photo tribute to the Grumman Aerospace and Engineering Corporation between 1929 and 1994. That was the year they were acquired by Northrop,” said Hiz. “This evening we would like to reconnect through photographs, artifacts and mainly stories with individuals, families and friends who have contributed in making Grumman a household name on Long Island, a leader in aviation and space exploration and a very important part of our Long Island heritage.”

Visitors were treated to hors d’ouevres, wine and a special cake in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. 

The exhibit runs through February at the Port Jefferson Village Center, 101A East Main St., Port Jefferson. Admission is free. For further information, call 631-802-2160.

Photos by Heidi Sutton and Beverly C. Tyler

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The Christmas party at the Setauket Neighborhood House was held every year through approximately 1957. Photo from the Three Village Historical Society

By Beverly C. Tyler

“Whitman’s chocolates offered exclusively in the Three Villages by Meister’s Pharmacy, East Setauket — The Woodbox, Stony Brook,” was how the advertisement read in December 1957. Preparations for Christmas and the holiday season were much like today in many ways. The traditions and ceremonies have not changed much over the past 61 years, but many of the images are different.

In Stony Brook, Santa arrived at the post office on Saturday morning, Dec. 14, and set up his workshop in the firehouse from Wednesday through the following Monday, Dec. 23. A party was held for the children of the community on Saturday the 21, sponsored by the fire department and the Stony Brook Teenagers Club. Children’s parties were also held at the East Setauket Fire House on Friday, Dec. 20, and at the Setauket Neighborhood House on Monday the 23. For the adults, there was a Home Outside Decorating Contest with the judging on Dec. 30 conducted by members of the Three Village Garden Club.

Christmas shopping in 1957 often included a train trip to New York City to visit Macy’s Department Store or a drive to Garden City to shop in one of the many stores there. A shorter trip might have included shopping in Swezey’s Department Store or the Bee Hive in Patchogue or a drive to Smithtown with its many shops along Main Street.

There were, of course, stores closer to home such as Moffett’s Department Store in Port Jefferson, with branches in Setauket and Stony Brook. The Stony Brook Apothecary and Meister’s in East Setauket included a soda fountain and a variety of gift items and greeting cards.

The Redfern Shop in Port Jefferson was once the place to go for gift giving during the holiday season. Photo from the Three Village Historical Society

For gift giving there was the Redfern Shop in Port Jefferson, which had a branch store in the shopping center in Stony Brook, and Woodfields, “For the best in Men’s Wear,” in Port Jefferson. The Redfern Shop, exclusively women’s wear, advertised, “P.S. to men … the Port Jefferson Redfern Shop (only) is setting aside Wednesday and Thursday evenings, December 18 and 19, as stag nights. Open each evening until 9 p.m. Let our sales girls help you in your selections. And everything will be beautifully gift wrapped.”

A purchase of jewelry, silverware, china, or watches could be made at Davis Jewelers in Port Jefferson or a piece of jewelry could be bought at Franz Kauffman and Co. also in Port Jefferson. In Stony Brook John Pastorelli advertised, “Village Barber — watch repairing — ship’s clocks — watches — jewelry.”

For a youngster, no Christmas season was complete without a trip to Port Jefferson to look around Oettinger’s Department Store with its table after table of toys, games, mittens, shoes and every imaginable gift for mother, sister or dad. In Port Jefferson, at the Gem Stores, you could see the Lionel and American Flyer trains and the new bicycles that were so much a part of Christmas. The Gem Stores always had a train set running and a large selection of new freight cars and accessories.

Remote-controlled toys were popular in 1957 as were dolls, stuffed animals, hobby kits and scale model airplanes, boats and cars. Popular children’s books that year included the new book by Dr. Seuss, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Bed-knob and Broomstick” by Mary Norton. Books on the bestseller list included “By Love Possessed” by James Cozzens, “On the Beach” by Nevil Shute and “Peyton Place” by Grace Metalious.

Not everything connected with the holidays required one leaving home to purchase it. Eggnog could be ordered from Randall Farms, Evans Amityville or Branglebrink Dairy and delivered to the doorstep along with milk, eggs, butter and cream. Grocery shopping was not as convenient as today except for “Community Grocer — Charles Wackenheim” and P.W. Smith and Son in Stony Brook, which advertised, “Choice meats of all kinds — Grocers — Fresh and frozen vegetables. Fresh fish on Friday — home-made sausage — orders delivered.” A fresh turkey could be picked up at Rudi Fischer’s Turkey Farm in Port Jefferson Station. To buy from a supermarket, residents had to travel to Port Jefferson for H.C. Bohack and Co. or A & P or to the National Food Market in Port Jefferson Station.

The images of the way we prepared for the holidays fade into the past especially as the landscape changes form. We tend to forget that where a solid area of asphalt now covers the ground alongside Route 25A between Old Town Road and Ridgeway Avenue were once open fields and woods. It seems as if there must always have been a road running past the East Setauket Post Office and down the hill to the west. Is Stony Brook University just another part of the landscape that was always there? Even the southern part of the Stony Brook Village Shopping Center must have always been there. Yet, decades ago none of these existed. Near where the Village Market stands in Stony Brook was a magnificent three-story Victorian home, the Whitford house. Where the state university rises through the trees were only woods and trails.

Some parts of our landscape have existed longer — 50 years, 100, some even over 200 — and they help us to remember our past and especially the traditions and ceremonies that are so important in our lives.

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.

Priya Kapoor. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

Priya Kapoor came to the Smithtown Historical Society in 2016 as the director of development and public relations. This January she was made interim executive director and was confirmed as the permanent executive director of the society in March. Her responsibilities include overseeing the 22-acre property and the buildings on the campus, as well as organizing and managing over 100 fundraising and community events held by the society each year. I recently had the opportunity to interview Ms. Kapoor about her new position.

How is Smithtown rich with history? 

Smithtown is one of the oldest towns on Long Island, and we’re very fortunate to have a lot of that history still available to us. 

The founding of Smithtown can be dated back to 1665; Richard Smith, town founder, was said to have made a deal with a local Native-American chief that any land Smith could encircle while riding a bull in one day would be his. By choosing the longest day of the year, Smith acquired the land known today as Smithtown. He was also granted land patents by the English government in 1665 and 1675.

Over 20 buildings throughout the Town of Smithtown are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a rare treat to be able to walk down the street and see the same buildings your grandparents and great grandparents grew up with!

What are some things the historical society does?

The historical society puts on 100 events a year — everything from adult education classes (cooking and crafting, for example) to summer camp programs, annual fairs like the Heritage Fair every September, and we host a monthly Historical Book Club as well. Not to mention our Farm Program, maintaining our historical buildings, etc.

What kind of events does the society offer to the community?

Each event is a little different. We host events like the President’s Valentine Brunch and the Holiday Luncheon — opportunities for our members and the community at large to celebrate holidays with us. And, of course, our annual fairs: the Spring Farm Festival, the Heritage Fair and the Heritage Country Christmas Fair. Again, it’s all about bringing our community together in a way that honors our history — we try to have traditional craftspeople like spinners, weavers, blacksmiths, etc. at all our fairs.

What types of programs does the society offer?

Our adult education classes often focus on crafting (we had a felt dryer ball making class, for example) or cooking (I taught two Indian cooking classes) — something educational in nature that our community might not have a lot of experience in. These go hand in hand with our annual lecture series, in March and September/October, and exhibit openings at the Caleb Smith House Museum in March.

What event do you look forward to every year?

I’m fond of the Spring Farm Festival, an annual event that happens in late April-early May. Our sheep get sheared, we have lots of traditional craft demonstrations (wool dying, wood carving, cheese making, etc.), as well as a robust vendor area. It’s really the first sign that spring has come back, and what’s better than that!

What programs have you implemented?

We try to come up with new and exciting events each year. For example, in July 2018 we started the Water Festival, which was attended by over 100 people. The festival included sprinklers and water games for children, and we hope to grow this event in the coming years.

This past year we also hosted the Nesconset Chamber of Commerce’s Project Haunt in our Rockwell Barn Complex. Local high schoolers transformed our space into a spooky museum of horror-themed attractions, as well as gave kids a safe space to trick or treat.

We are currently in the process of restoring the Obadiah Smith House, ca. 1700, which is the oldest of our properties. We have received a grant from the Preservation League of New York State for the initial assessment, and we hope to take this project further in the coming years.

The other newest program implemented is our Patch Partnership with the Girl Scouts — available in both an online format and one where the Scout comes to the historical society. Through this program Girl Scouts learn about life on the farm and women in Long Island’s history.

What is your vision for the future in terms of new events?

We have adult education classes, we have children’s programming — I’d like to see more events that focus on families. We’ve run a few in the past where the parents help their kids build or create something, but those programs are definitely few in number compared to our other programming. In addition to new events, we also hope to come up with new initiatives to help the local community and give back to others.

Do you have a strong support system?

We couldn’t operate without one! Between our dedicated volunteers and staff, the community at large and our local government officials, we’ve got a very strong support system. We are especially thankful to our board members, for their guidance and support.

Are you looking for volunteers?

We are very fortunate to have a dedicated and hardworking volunteer base, and we express utmost gratitude to them for their efforts. But we are always looking for more volunteers to help us with our farms, grounds and events. We’re always on the lookout for volunteers. Our needs vary from mass mailings to grounds work, decorating for the holidays to manning an admissions table at one of our fairs. We’re also in the process of creating a volunteer orientation to help ease interested folks into the society. 

What historic buildings are on the property? 

We have four historic buildings on our main campus: the Roseneath Cottage (ca. 1918), the Judge John Lawrence Smith Homestead (ca. 1750), the Franklin O. Arthur Farm (ca. 1740) and the Epenetus Smith Tavern (ca. 1740). We also have the Caleb Smith House (ca. 1819) and the Obadiah Smith House (ca. 1700) under our care, though they are off-campus. 

The Roseneath Cottage, our youngest building, serves as our main office; this arts and crafts bungalow underwent a complete restoration (and renovation!) when it became our headquarters. The homestead, while originally built by the Blyndenburgh family, became the family home and office of Judge John Lawrence Smith in the 1800s. As his health declined and he got older, court was moved from Riverhead to be tried in his personal chambers. It’s currently set up as it would have been during his life, complete with his study and parlor. 

The farm and the farmhouse have undergone some change throughout their lives; while the oldest part dates from the early 18th century, additions were made throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The complex also includes a 19th-century barn (home to our sheep, pony and chickens!) and carriage house. 

The final historic home on the property would be the tavern; the pre-Revolutionary War structure was originally found on the corner of Middle Country and North Country roads in 1972, after having been moved twice before. It was a popular stop on the Brooklyn to Sag Harbor stagecoach route in the 1770s, and was used often by British soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Much like the farmhouse, the tavern has undergone some alterations throughout the centuries; the oldest bit dates to the 17th century, the main portion circa 1740; there were additions and alterations in the 19th and 20th centuries.

What is so special about Smithtown?

Smithtown is a town that really cares about its history and celebrates it. We have community members come to our events and say that it’s a tradition in their family to attend; they came as a kid with their parents and are excited to bring their own children today. The support we get from the town government also speaks to this — they’re very aware that one of the most special things about Smithtown is its history, and they go to every length to help preserve that. 

What do you love about your job?

I love that my job allows me to stay connected with the Smithtown community, while being able to add to it in a positive and impactful way.

Why is it so important to preserve our local
history?

Smithtown, up until 50 years or so ago, was pretty rural. It can be hard for today’s kids to imagine the open space, farms, etc. that used to make up their towns, especially when they get a look at Main Street today! Knowing where you come from is important; acknowledging those who came before you adds meaning to where you are now. For us to see clearly where we came from, that’s how we appreciate everything we have today.

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Three Village Historical Society office manager Sandy White helps a customer at the society’s History Center & Gift Shop. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

There are plenty of places in the historic Three Village community and surrounding areas that give a sense of place. The upcoming Christmas and winter holiday are good times to purchase a few of the wonderful gifts and books about the local area and to pay a relaxing visit to a few not-for-profit shops that deserve special support.

Three Village Historical Society History Center & Gift Shop, 93 North Country Road, Setauket

The society’s gift shop is expanded to complement the exhibit SPIES! How a Group of Long Island Patriots Helped George Washington Win the Revolution. There you will find gifts including many books, booklets and pamphlets on local history. A new children’s book “Kayleigh and Connor Detectives Inc. and King the Spy Dog” is written and illustrated by Dana Lynn Zotter. Two youngsters visiting their grandfather in Stony Brook discover an abandoned gravestone for a dog and learn about the Culper Spy Ring as they search for the black dog they think is a ghost. Another wonderful book for children is “I Survived the American Revolution, 1776” by Lauren Tarshis, illustrated by Scott Dawson and published by Scholastic Inc. This is the best book for youth I’ve ever read on the Battle of Brooklyn. Here we follow a young boy who is caught up in the battle. Both of these books are thoroughly researched, well-written and illustrated. The gift shop is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the gift shop and exhibits are open every Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. (Closed from Dec. 20 to Jan. 2.) For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.threevillagehistoricalsociety.org.

Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket

Gallery North is diagonally across the street from the historical society. It is easy to park at one and walk across the street to the other. The entire gallery is a gift shop with many wonderful paintings and gift pieces by local artists for sale. The current exhibit is Deck the Halls. Local artists and artisans have created beautiful paintings, drawings, handmade jewelry, pottery, glass, decorations and much more. Gallery North also is showcasing a diverse range of Long Island art and has Holiday POP-UP Shopping. On Thursdays, Dec. 13 and 20, from 4 to 7 p.m., join them for a glass of wine and refreshment while you meet the artists and shop. Each Thursday evening a different selection of artists and artisans will be offering their handcrafted gifts, jewelry, art and more.

Gallery North is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Deck the Halls exhibit through Dec 22. For more information, call 631-751-2676 or visit www.gallerynorth.org.

The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook

The gift shop in the Visitors Center includes books and prints on The Long Island Museum’s exhibits and permanent collections. There are also jewelry, pottery and hand-blown glass items made by local artists as well as hand-turned wood items by local artist Harry Wicks. The Visitors Center includes children’s Revolutionary War era gift items. The current exhibition, Elias Pelletreau: Long Island Silversmith & Entrepreneur, will close Dec. 30, along with the companion exhibition Shaping Silver: Contemporary Metalsmithing. The museum, Visitors Center and gift shop are open Thursday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 pm. (Closed Dec. 24 and 25 and Jan.1.) Visit www. longislandmuseum.org for more information.

Reboli Center, 64 Main St., Stony Brook

The Reboli Center has a large collection of wonderful paintings by Joe Reboli. Around the Reboli Center are four sculptures by Long Island artist/sculptor David Haussler. The current exhibit The Gift of Art celebrates the amazing contribution to civilization that art gives, the wonderful gift to friends and family of a piece of art and the generous donors of this year’s gifts to the Reboli Center art collection. In the Reboli Center, wonderful art and crafts are available for visitors to enjoy; and in the Design Shop, paintings, folk art, craft and sculpture are available for purchase as gifts or to decorate your home for this or any season. The Reboli Center is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m. (Closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.) For more information, call 631-751-7707, or visit the Reboli website at www.rebolicenter.org.

St. James General Store, 516 Moriches Road, St. James

This “old-fashioned” general store is run by the Suffolk County Parks Department, Division of Historical Services. Here are two floors of 19th- and 20th-century goods and lots of homemade goodies. They have an extensive collection of old-style candies, many brands dating back to the 19th century. Be sure to try one of their delicious molasses pops. On the second floor are books on Long Island covering many local communities, as well as lots of wonderful children’s books. This is now one good, close, independent bookstore. The back room has an extensive collection of ornaments, some of which are reproductions of antique decorations. Back on the first floor, there is a large selection of toys, dolls and games for children that also harken back to the 19th century. The St. James General Store is open every day 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 and open until 3 p.m. Dec. 24 and Dec. 31.) For more information, call 631-854-3740 or visit www.facebook.com/St.JamesGeneralStore.

There are lots of unusual gifts at these five gift shops. If you are buying a gift for someone, you will almost certainly find something to suit every taste. There are many other wonderful local shops in the Stony Brook Village Shopping Center and in Setauket and East Setauket.

In the Village of Port Jefferson, along and around Main Street and East Main Street are many wonderful and unusual shops and restaurants. A special one in Port Jefferson is Secret Garden Tea Room on Main Street. Have a cup of tea, maybe a scone and jam or a delicious lunch and look over their selection of unusual and tea-based gifts. Open 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. For more information or reservations, call 631-476-8327 or visit www.thesecretgardentearoom.com.

Finding a special or unusual gift is not only a good idea, it also supports our local businesses and brings us closer together as a community. And you never know who you will run into by shopping locally.

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.

The Three Village Historical Society hosted its annual Candlelight House Tour on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of this annual holiday event, the tour featured six locations, which included five residences, each individually decorated by a talented local interior designer, and a rare look inside the Setauket Grist Mill. Participants also had the option of attending an evening reception at the Old Field Club or breakfast at the Stony Brook Yacht Club,

Decked out in holiday splendor, every location welcomed an unprecedented number of visitors and was staffed by a rotation of dedicated volunteers. Though presented through a fresh vision, tours of yesteryear were acknowledged through the inclusion of certain houses that had been previously featured.

Additionally, Eva Glaser and Liz Tyler Carey, who were inaugural event chairs, returned as decorators for one of the homes, which also featured a pop-up holiday boutique consisting of unique gift items. All proceeds from those sales went to the planned restoration of the Dominic Crawford Barn.

The nearly sold out event raised a significant amount of money for the Three Village Historical Society’s Education Fund. Many people gave of their talents, time and services to create the festive fundraiser.

This beloved seasonal tradition would not exist without the generosity of the event chairs, Patty Cain and Patty Yantz, as well as the food and beverage sponsors, homeowners, Three Village Historical Society administrative staff, house chairs, decorators, volunteers, members, supporters and community at large.

All photos by Pam Botway

A Coast Guard Auxiliary boat. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard

By Herb Herman

On a cold evening in the fall of 2003 a few people got together in Port Jefferson to form a flotilla of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Fifteen years later, Flotilla 14-22-06, the Port Jefferson Flotilla, is still among the most active auxiliary groups in the country. Thousands of Americans volunteer as U.S. Coast Guard auxiliarists, many of whom are still actively engaged in various professions. Their common motives for joining are love of the water and wanting to participate in an activity that has great regional and national importance.

The Port Jefferson USCG Auxiliary Flotilla, 1st Southern District 14, Division 22, Flotilla 06, was founded in 2003 and now has 33 members. Since its founding, the flotilla has been active in boater education and in patrols within the Long Island Sound and in the Port Jefferson Harbor and Mount Sinai areas. Additionally, in this era of deep concern about terrorism, the flotilla engages in a program to inspect the marine-related facilities and the Port Jefferson Harbor infrastructure in order to discover and to report to the Coast Guard any vulnerability in the marine area. The Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry is of particular interest to the Coast Guard and to the auxiliary.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, created by an act of Congress in 1939, is an all-volunteer civilian branch of the Coast Guard, acting as a “force multiplier,” where auxiliary members, both men and women, frequently aid the Coast Guard in wide-ranging activities. At Coast Guard stations around the country, auxiliary members carry out watch standing, that is, they will engage in communication management for a Coast Guard station. Frequently, they work in the stations’ kitchens, helping in food preparation and service. Many auxiliary members are talented craftspeople and will frequently work to support and improve Coast Guard station facilities.

Some 28,000 auxiliary members contribute over 4.5 million hours of service each year and complete nearly 500,000 boating safety patrol missions to support the Coast Guard. Every year auxiliarists help to save some 500 lives, assist 15,000 distressed boaters, and provide boater safety instruction to over 500,000 students, adults and children alike. In total, the Coast Guard Auxiliary saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Auxiliary members commonly conduct safety patrols on local waterways, assist in search and rescue, teach boating safety classes, conduct free vessel safety checks for the public, as well as many other activities related to recreational boating safety. Appropriate training of our members is key to a dynamic and effective organization. Training enables auxiliary members to become valuable partners with the Coast Guard, helping them meet mission objectives. Also, we meet our commitment to be of service not only to the maritime community but the community as a whole.

In particular, the Vessel Examination Program is a major part of the Port Jefferson Flotilla activity. Nationally, the auxiliary annually performs over 150,000 safety inspections of recreational vessels. This program provides a free vessel safety check (VSC) service to boaters to educate them on boating safety and on the equipment they are required to carry in order to be compliant with federal, state and local regulations.

The auxiliary is prevented by statute from direct participation in the Coast Guard’s military or law enforcement activities. Other than that, the auxiliary has most of the positions of the active duty Coast Guard and trains for them using essentially the same materials and standards. There are some jobs that a new auxiliarist can begin after a few weeks while there are others, such as auxiliary boat crew, that will take a year or so to gather the training and experience to pass a qualification exam. During that time a new member can be out on active auxiliary boat patrols.

The Port Jefferson Flotilla, as well as the other six flotillas in Division 22 on Long Island, is actively recruiting men and women of all ages who want to serve their community and country in this unique way. Interested parties are invited to attend our meetings, which are held on the second Wednesday of each month at the Port Jefferson Yacht Club on Surf Road at Port Jefferson Harbor. Doors open at 7 p.m. and call to order is at 7:30 p.m. For more information on the activities of the Port Jefferson Flotilla visit www.cgapj.org, email info@cgapj.org or call  631-938-1705.

Herb Herman is the flotilla staff officer for public affairs, Port Jefferson Auxiliary Flotilla 14-22-06.

Don Law has carved more than 5000 decoys over the years. Photo from LIM
Sarah Broadwell

Take a break from all the holiday preparations and come on down to Stony Brook for the Long Island Museum’s Open House and Decoy Day celebration on Sunday, Dec. 2 from 1 to 4 p.m!  The day includes decoy carving demonstrations, a discussion about fishing on Long Island and live music.  You’ll meet:

  • Captain Don Law a full-time charter boat captain from Hampton Bays who began carving decoys in the 8th grade!
  • George Rigby, Jr., a descendant of baymen who settled on LI in the early 1900s.
  • Don Bennet, whose family has worked the LI waters for more than 100 years.
  • Sarah Broadwell, a full-time fishing captain with the Viking Fleet based in Montauk, who works with students, teachers and recreational fishermen, lecturing about responsible fishing.
  • Stuart Markus, a fixture on Long Island’s folk and acoustic scene.
  • Traditional folk singer Larry Moser.
  • Max Rowland, banjo master and folk musician, who’s family history includes several sea captains.
DEMONSTRATIONS AND MUSIC FROM 1 – 4 P.M.
Free admission all day.
The Long Island Museum is located at 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. For more information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

The society’s Conklin House is decked out for the Historical Holiday House Tour on Dec. 2. Photo from Huntington Historical Society

By Heidi Sutton

A beloved tradition returns to the Town of Huntington as the Huntington Historical Society gears up for its 13th annual Historical Holiday House Tour this weekend. Five gracious homeowners from Huntington Village, Lloyd Neck, Cold Spring Harbor and Lloyd Harbor will open their festively decorated homes on Sunday, Dec. 2, from noon to 4 p.m.

The yearly fundraiser “helps us with our mission of preserving Huntington’s history for future generations,” said Huntington Historical Society’s Executive Director Tracy Pfaff Smith in a recent interview.

After visiting the private homes, Pfaff Smith encourages ticketholders to visit the historical society’s 1795 Dr. Daniel Kissam House Museum at 434 Park Ave., featuring a gorgeous lace exhibit titled Poetry in Thread, and the 1750 David Conklin Farmhouse Museum at 2 High St. Both properties will be decorated for the season.

“The Conklin Barn will have its usual scrumptious array of refreshments, and the much-loved Antiques and Collectibles Shop on the Kissam property will be open and fully stocked with unique gift items,” said Pfaff Smith, adding that the Arsenal (1740), located directly across the street from the Kissam property, will also be open for tours. Managed by the Town of Huntington, “The Arsenal is rarely open [to visitors] so this is a special occasion,” she said.

Advance tickets are $35 for members and $40 for nonmembers. A tour map with house locations will be available at the society’s Trade School building at 209 Main St. If available, remaining tickets will be sold the day of the event at the Conklin Barn for $40 for members and $45 for nonmembers.

For more information or to purchase tickets call 631-427-7045, ext. 401, or visit www.huntingtonhistoricalsociety.org.

Erase Racism is holding events across Long Island. Photo from Erase Racism website

A Syosset nonprofit and a Stony Brook University department are teaming up to open up a public dialogue pertaining to one of Long Island and America’s oldest societal problems.

ERASE Racism, a regional organization founded in 2001 that advocates for public policy to promote racial equality in housing, education and more, and SBU’s Center for the Study of Inequalities, Social Justice, and Policy, a department founded in 2017 that provides a forum for the promotion of various forms of student and faculty engagement on the same issues, will co-host the first of a series of forums meant to jump start a community conversation on racial inequality.

The series of forums, entitled How Do We Build a Just Long Island? will kick off at the Hilton Garden Inn on the SBU campus Nov. 29 at 6 p.m.

“This whole thing is premised on the fact that everybody can educate themselves,” ERASE Racism President Elaine Gross said in an interview. “It’s not about anyone calling anyone a racist. It’s not a blame and shame kind of thing. Let’s make sure we have all the facts, let’s make sure we understand the context.”

Gross said so far about 400 people have registered to attend the event. She said from the organization’s inception its goal has been to identify institutional and structural racism and seek to educate the public about the history that has led to places like Long Island being so racially segregated today.

“It is embedded — it doesn’t require that all of the players be racist people, or bad people, it only requires that people go along with the business as usual,” she said.

Christopher Sellers, SBU history professor and director of the center, said part of the thinking behind the forums is to frame the conversation in a way for people not exposed to racial inequality or injustice on a daily basis to see barriers and exclusions they may not have viewed as such. He said the goal is to ultimately expand the discussion from the confines of the campus and into the community. He called Long Island the perfect place to begin this dialogue.

“Demographic change causes people to get more defensive and fall back on these racializing tool kits they may have picked up from their own past,” he said, adding that data suggests Long Island has become more racially diverse during recent decades, specifically seeing an increase in those of Hispanic descent.

Sellers said he feels a sense of urgency to begin a wide discussion on racial intolerance despite the perception from many that in the decades since the civil rights movement society has made sufficient progress in creating a just America for all. In “Hate Crime Statistics, 2017” released Nov. 13, the FBI reported a 17 percent increase in incidents identified as hate crimes from 2016 to 2017, with nearly 60 percent of those incidents being motivated by racial or ethnic bias. From 2015 to 2016 there was a roughly 5 percent increase in these incidents. From 2014 to 2015, hate crimes went up by about 7 percent.

“We need as a university to do something, we as academics can no longer sit on our hands,” Sellers said. “This is maybe a more urgent matter than we’ve considered before.”

Gross said the aim of the events is education.

“We didn’t plan to be doing this at a time when the country is so divided and there’s so much overtly biased comments, racist comments being said at the highest levels,” Gross said. “We planned this because we felt that even though with all of the work that we’ve done, we felt that was really needed was a regional public discussion and understanding of how things are connected.”

To register for the event and to get more information on the remainder of the forums — slated for Riverhead, Hempstead, Melville and Hauppauge — visit www.eraseracismny.org.

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A photo of a partly destroyed French church was taken by Lt. Marco C. Smith Jr. in 1918. Photo from the Smith family

By Beverly C. Tyler

On Nov. 15, 1918, Lt. Marco Carmelich Smith Jr. wrote to his grandmother Eliza Tyler from France: “To say the least, one can live somewhat in peace, now that the Armistice is signed. Beforehand we had had rumors of one but as old Lame Rumor is always present we passed it off as such until the official notice came. We all had our watches out at 11 a.m. on [Nov.] 11th and it was very noticeable that cannon that had been thundering away all morning ceased firing exactly on the hour. So now, as I say, we can live in peace. No more gas masks or helmets, and at night we can have all the light we want.”

A 1918 photo of Marco C. Smith in uniform. Photo from the Smith family

Smith was born Oct. 2, 1886, at his father’s family home, called Fairholme, which was built circa 1824 and expanded circa 1860, in what is now the Village of Old Field. His great-great-grandfather, Walter Smith, a descendant of one of Setauket’s original settlers, Arthur Smith, was the Old Field Point Lighthouse keeper from 1827 to 1830. Marco Smith’s father, the first Marco C. Smith married Mary Amelia Tyler, daughter of Charles and Eliza Tyler, this writer’s great-grandfather and great-grandmother.

Marco Smith Jr. enlisted in the U.S. Army July 8, 1918, and was commissioned as 1st Lt. of Engineers, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Engineers. He was first assigned to Fort Benjamin Harrison, near Indianapolis, Indiana, and then transferred to Camp Merritt in Bergen County, New Jersey, where troops boarded ships on their way to the war in Europe.

Smith was on leave briefly July 28, when he married in Mamaroneck, Marjorie Aldrich, daughter of Capt. Clarence Aldrich and Irene Hand of East Setauket. According to a newspaper clipping, “Military orders hastened the ceremony, and the groom is now supposed to be on his way to France.”

Smith sailed for France July 31. He was assigned to the 1st Army Aug. 28, as an engineer on light railway construction for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive until the end of the war Nov. 11. He spent most of his time in the area around the village of Montigny-sur-Meuse and continued to be stationed there until March 3, 1919.

On Dec. 16, 1918, Smith wrote: “My dear Grandma, Here it is past the middle of the month and I haven’t started my usual monthly letter to you so here goes for this evening.”

Smith noted that the mail was arriving more regularly since the Armistice and that he had just received a letter from his grandmother written Oct. 18 as well as one written by his mother and dad Nov. 27. He continued the letter: “Sometimes I marvel that I am not sick as we sure are subjected to some pretty severe conditions at times. One night I just slept on the wet ground in a pouring rain and felt fine the next day. … We are very historically located too being near to Dun [Dun-sur-Meuse], Stenay and Sedan. This was sure some hard earned ground as everywhere are evidences of many battles. I believe the part where we were tho’ is about as bad as any. We sure thought so at the time. … Lord, when you see some of the shells old ‘Fritz’ uses to amuse us with, it’s no wonder we were “alarmed” at times. But after all, most of my feelings go to the poor French people who are slowly returning to their destroyed homes. … How they are going to make a go of it this winter is beyond me. … and the tales they tell of the hardships endured while prisoners. They are barely believable. I cannot write of them; they are too sad. Loads & loads & loads of love for yourself and everyone, Your loving grandson Marco — Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”

Marco C. Smith and his wife Marjorie in an undated photo. Photo from the Smith family

In his Jan. 22, 1919, letter, Smith writes: “Just now we are trying to arrange for some pleasure trips for the men. They have been my faithful workers ever since the drive began on Sept. 26th. And it has been rather tiresome and tedious to them to have seen nothing but shell torn areas since that date. The trip we are planning for them is to Sedan which is only about 25 miles from here.”

The three villages mentioned by Smith — Dun-sur-Meuse, Stenay and Sedan — are between 29 and 40 kilometers northeast of Verdun, site of the longest lasting battle of World War I. During 1916, there were more than 300,000 French and German casualties there.

Smith was reassigned to the engineers office, District of Paris, from March 10 to June 3, 1919. He returned from overseas July 11 and was discharged July 31, 1919. On Feb. 21, 1920, he was commissioned a captain in the Engineer Reserve Corps. He returned home to his wife Marjorie, with a house in Brooklyn and a job in Manhattan as an engineer with the New York Central Railroad. According to family information, Smith and his wife maintained the house in Old Field as a summer home until four months after their first child, Marco C. Smith III, was born April 25, 1927. Smith became a trustee of the Village of Old Field when it was incorporated in 1927, and he also served the village as mayor. The couple’s second and last child, Judith, was born Aug. 9, 1932. Marjorie died in 1953 and Smith died July 8, 1961.

The three letters Smith wrote to his grandmother Eliza, written between Nov. 15, 1918, and Jan. 22, 1919, and copies of the photographs he took in France will now be a part of the Three Village Historical Society archival collection.

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.

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