History

Joseph Lloyd Manor. Photo courtesy of Preservation Long Island

Preservation Long Island, a regional preservation advocacy nonprofit based out of Cold Spring Harbor, recently announced the launch of The Jupiter Hammon Project, an initiative that aims to expand interpretive and educational programming at the Joseph Lloyd Manor, an 18th-century Long Island manor house owned and operated by Preservation Long Island.

The goal is to engage the site more fully to reflect the multiple events, perspectives, and people that shaped the house’s history including Jupiter Hammon (1711– ca.1806), the first published African American author who was enslaved by the Lloyd family and whose work was published during his lifetime.

Jupiter Hammon’s life and writings offer an exceptionally nuanced view of slavery and freedom on Long Island before and after the American Revolution. His works are especially significant because most literature and historical documents from the eighteenth century were not written from an enslaved person’s point of view. Consequently, Hammon’s writings provide powerful insights into the experience of the enslaved, as well as the social and moral conflicts slavery raised in the newly formed United States.

The Project will include a series of collaborative roundtables discussing the legacy of enslavement on Long Island and the life of Jupiter Hammon. Three public roundtable events have been tentatively scheduled during the summer of this year. Moderated by Cordell Reaves, Historic Preservation and Interpretation Analyst, New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the discussions will be held at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn on June 20; the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead on July 11; and the Joseph Lloyd Manor in Huntington on August 8 in an effort to bring together scholars and professionals with local residents, descendent communities, and other diverse stakeholders across Long Island. 

These discussions will help develop a new interpretive direction for the historic Joseph Lloyd Manor that encourages responsible, rigorous, and relevant encounters with Long Island’s history of enslavement and its impact on society today.

This innovative project will also provide educational content for the development of revised school curricula and serve as a model approach to program development for other sites of enslavement in the region. It will foster collaborative relationships with local descendants and community stakeholders so that their voices continue to shape PLI’s mission of stewardship, advocacy, and education.

Kicking off the Jupiter Hammon Project is the Literary Landmark Ceremony tentatively scheduled for Saturday, May 30. United for Libraries and the Empire State Center for the Book will recognize the house where Jupiter Hammon lived and wrote (the Joseph Lloyd Manor) as a Literary Landmark. The unveiling of the bronze plaque recognizing Jupiter Hammon and the significance of the Joseph Lloyd Manor will take place as well as poetry readings and tours of the house.

For more information or to register for this free event, call 631-692-4664 or visit www.preservationlongisland.org.

Mia Goth, left, as Harriet Smith with Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma Woodhouse in a scene from the film. Photo courtesy of Focus Features

By Jeffrey Sanzel

Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma is a sardonic comedy of manners that swirls around issues of love, marriage and social status. While perhaps not as popular as Pride and Prejudice, it has seen multiple stage, screen and television adaptations, most notably with the Emmas of Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Beckinsale and Alicia Silverstone (renamed Cher) in Clueless, which moved the action to 1990s California. While its mischievous wit is unmatchable, there is a real commentary about human nature that underlies its humor. 

Directed by Autumn de Wilde, from a screenplay by Eleanor Catton, Emma. has arrived, complete with a full-stop at the end of its title. (This is to indicate it is a “period” piece.) It is lush and rich and comical, with just a hint of a modern sensibility to separate it from its predecessors.  

Austen opens the novel with a description of her complicated heroine:

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

This tongue-in-cheek portrait sets up one of the most meddling characters in all of English literature. Following closely to the book, the film opens with Emma having just succeeded at matchmaking her governess. With a taste for this endeavor, she now sets her sites on marrying off her friend Harriet Smith, a simple girl who is easily swayed by Emma’s every suggestion. What follows is a series of courtships and broken engagements, mismatches and misunderstandings, almost all due to Emma’s destructive and misplaced interferences. Like most comedic novels of this nature, it ends happily with multiple pairings, marriage being the ultimate goal.

The film’s peripatetic beginning has an almost farcical feel. The scenes are short, clipped and over-the-top. There are a good many laughs but it takes at least 20 minutes to land for more than a few moments. Ultimately, this is an intentional device. As the film progresses, this whimsical conceit shifts to an earnestness that matches Emma’s maturity. From childishly frenetic to wisely focused, the film and its protagonist grow. The true turning point comes when an off-hand barb wounds deeply. Confronted for her behavior, she realizes that it is time to look beyond herself. It is amazing that as the film begins to breathe in its journey, it picks up momentum: It slows to go quickly.

The performances are uniformly excellent. Emma’s father, who is equally afraid of drafts as he is of being alone, is played with perfect understatement by the redoubtable Bill Nighy; with the simple raise of an eyebrow, he manages to steal every scene in which he appears. Callum Turner avoids the clichés as he finds dimension in the seemingly narcistic Frank Churchill. Chloe Pirrie as Emma’s sister and Oliver Chris as her brother-in-law are one of cinema’s most hilariously unhappy couples. Myra McFayden’s chatterbox of a Mrs. Bates reveals painful dimension in her humility. Rupert Graves as the jolly if slightly flustered Mr. Weston is matched by Gemma Whelan as his self-assured wife. Mia Goth hits the right notes of naivete as Harriet Smith, the unfortunate object of Emma’s machinations. Josh O’Connor and Tanya Reynolds are amusingly vulgar as the minister and his new bride. Amber Anderson does the best she can with the underwritten Jane Fairfax. Connor Swindells’ innocent gentleman farmer infuses his few moments with genuine sweetness.  

At the center of the film is Anya Taylor-Joy, luminous and wholly engaging as Emma. Taylor-Joy manages to be both insufferable and charming at the outset and then finds a natural and touching shift to self-awareness, ultimately embracing her adulthood. Even in stillness, there is a sense of Emma’s ever whirring brain. Johnny Flynn’s George Knightley is appropriately wry and astute, the pain in his growing love for Emma becoming the film’s center.

Christopher Blauvelt’s sumptuous cinematography has made every frame a celebration of Regency England. The film is lavish and credit must be given to the design team: Kave Quinn (production design), Alice Sutton (art direction), Stella Fox (set decoration) and, especially, Alexandra Byrne (for flawless and Oscar-bait costume design).

This Emma. is wonderfully conceived and thoroughly entertaining. It is a reminder of why Jane Austen is a cinematic favorite and why her works — and insights — are still fresh 200 years later. Rated PG.

Holocaust Survivor Werner Reich's passport with a large red “J” for Jew. File photo by Victoria Espinoza.

By Rich Acritelli

This past January marked the 75th anniversary of the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz Extermination Camp in Poland. Like that of the horrific surprise of the American and British military forces that freed the western and central European camps in the spring of 1945, the average Soviet soldier who entered this camp never knew what its main purpose was before they walked into Auschwitz. They unknowingly freed the largest extermination camp that the Germans built some five months before the war ended.  

‘Here heaven and earth are on fire

I speak to you as a man, who 50 years and nine days ago had no name, no hope, no future and was known only by his number, A7713

I speak as a Jew who has seen what humanity has done to itself by trying to exterminate an entire people and inflict suffering and humiliation and death on so many others.’

—Auschwitz Survivor and Writer Elie Wiesel 

As Auschwitz was not known by most of the Allied combat soldiers, it was understood to be the final stop for many Jews, gypsies, political opposition, homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, etc. In 1941, Hitler began to authorize the deportation of the Jews to Poland. While Germany had its own concentration camp system, the later killings of Jews and other “enemies of the state,” took place mostly in the east. As the German military continued to show its dominance against every nation that it fought against, more Jews came under their control. Although the Nazis always needed additional workers, they did not provide any decency to those groups that were deemed to be “inferior” populations against the German Reich.

The SS, under the direction of Heinrich Himmler, was determined to capture and kill every Jew in Europe. Most of these plans were to be carried out at Auschwitz, which was located 50 miles southwest of Krakow. This western area of Poland was originally known as Oswiecim, a sparsely populated town that had 12,000 citizens and included some 5,000 Jews. At first, this camp was created to handle the flow of Polish prisoners of war and partisans who opposed this German occupation. During the Jan. 20, 1942, Wannsee Conference that was chaired by SS leader Reinhard Heydrich and representatives of 15 departments of the German government, they met to decide the final fate of the “Jewish Question,” which resided within their conquered territories.

Heydrich, who was later killed by Czechoslovakian-British commandos, was the driving force to carry out the orders of Hitler and Himmler to transport and kill the estimated 11 million Jews in Europe. He worked with the bureaucracy of his government to ensure that there would be enough resources and logistics to follow Hitler’s directives to destroy these self-proclaimed enemies of the regime. 

Auschwitz was established for this exact purpose. Even through the massive fighting that Germans had to wage on every front, Hitler demanded that his orders of the “Final Solution” were to be followed through the creation of other smaller centers at Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. The first victims at Auschwitz were 850 Soviet military political prisoners of war that were killed by Zyklon B gas. This chemical was primarily used to deter rodents and it later was utilized by the SS to kill almost one million people at Auschwitz.  

This massive area constructed by Germany was broken into two separate places for the prisoners. Birkenau held most of the gas chambers and crematoriums for those people that were selected right away for death. The other portions of Auschwitz were built for massive slave labor where their prisoners worked within factories established inside and outside of this camp. As some were chosen to live, the Germans calculated the minimum number of calories that were needed to survive. These people were expected to eventually die from the spring of 1942 to the fall of 1944. People from all over the German-occupied land, ranging from France on the Atlantic Ocean to the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, were deported to Auschwitz.  

By the end of the war, when Hitler was all but assured that the Allies would defeat his armies, the killing continued at a faster rate against the Hungarian Jews. This was one of the few Jewish populations that were still protected by their own government. But after a regime change that supported the Nazis, many Jews were deported right away to Auschwitz. Adolph Eichmann, who was later captured by Israeli agents in Argentina in 1961, was driven to capture as many Hungarian Jews and deport them to their death. Swedish diplomat Raul Wallenberg was sent to Hungary through the indirect support of the United States. When it became apparent that the Germans would not stop, this was a last-ditch attempt to save these Eastern European Jews who were not yet targeted by the Nazis.

Wallenberg bribed Hungarian officials and issued Swedish passes that made these Jews citizens of his nation. Even as he was engaged within this vital humanitarian mission, Wallenberg met with the Soviet military after they liberated Hungary. The diplomat, who regularly risked his own life, was believed to be an American spy by the Soviet KGB. Wallenberg was taken by the Soviets and never seen again.

A main question that people have pondered since 1945 is why the Allies did not do more to limit the extent of the Holocaust. Around the clock, American and British bombers targeted every military and industrial location in Germany. Auschwitz was located near the eastern part of Germany and it was within the range of Allied aircraft that operated from English, Italian and later French military bases. Early in the war, when evidence was sent to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, they initially refused to believe that the Germans were committing wide-scale mass murder. But as the war continued, increased stories emerged from the people who escaped from the death camps looked to identify to the world the true intentions of Hitler.  

Werner Hess shows students the passport Germans required he carry around as a young boy. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

When it was completely proven to Roosevelt and Churchill that the Germans would never halt this policy, the Western Allied leaders did little to stop this genocidal policy. Since 1945, many of the inmates of Auschwitz openly stated that they would rather have died from aerial bombs seeking to destroy this factory of death than by being personally led to the gas chambers. Information was smuggled out of Auschwitz that described the location of the railroad lines, gas chambers and crematoriums that were later analyzed by Allied leaders. Both Roosevelt and Churchill believed that the only way to end the Holocaust was not to divert any major resources from quickly winning the war. The issue with this policy was that there was not even a limited effort to thwart the carrying out of the Holocaust.

Captain Witold Pilecki was a Catholic Polish cavalry officer who gathered intelligence for his government. The Polish were in hiding after their country was taken over by the Germans. When rumors continued to circulate about the true intentions of Auschwitz, he volunteered to purposely get arrested and be sent to the camp. He spent almost two years at Auschwitz, where he smuggled out reports that were read by western leaders. Pilecki organized the under-ground resistance efforts to possibly take over the camp. He believed that if this facility was attacked from the outside by either the Polish resistance or the Allies, that his men were able to control the interior from the Germans. When he realized that help was not coming, Pilecki escaped from Auschwitz. He later fought against the Nazis and was again taken as a prisoner, but he survived the war. After Poland was liberated, he returned home to oppose the communists, and he was later killed by his own government as being an accused spy that supported the democratic government that was in exile in England.

At the end of the war, as American forces were destroying the German army on the Western Front, additional camps were discovered by the U.S. military. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, along with generals Omar N. Bradley and George S. Patton, were sickened at the sight of Hitler’s “Final Solution” in Western Europe. Under the orders of Eisenhower, he directed large parts of his army to personally observe camps like Berga, Dachau, Mauthausen and Ohrdruf. It was his belief that current and future people would deny the existence and purpose of this organized terror. Today, as many Holocaust survivors are well into their 90s, they fear that resentment is at heightened levels toward many different religious and ethnic groups. And like the concerns that Eisenhower presented some 75 years ago, many of these survivors believe that the lessons of the Holocaust are being forgotten, and that there are more Holocaust deniers around the world who seek to suppress the knowledge of these crimes against humanity.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College. 

by -
0 376

Village Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning in East Setauket hosted a historic evening with Holocaust survivor Irving Roth  Feb. 23. The 91-year-old Roth, who survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, shared his story to a sold-out crowd.

“Over 300 people packed our ballroom at Village Chabad to hear Mr. Irving Roth. You could hear a pin drop in the room for over an hour as he shared his fascinating personal story of survival and courage. He left everyone inspired by his unshakable faith in God, his uncompromising hope in humanity, and most importantly, his calling to each of us to do our part to increase goodness and kindness in our world every day,” said Rabbi Motti Grossbaum.

The event also included a performance by violinist Wendy Fogel of the Sound Symphony Orchestra and was followed by a book signing of Roth and his son Edward’s novel, “Bondi’s Brother: A Story of Love, Loss, Betrayal and Liberation.”

by -
0 447

Bethel AME Church and Higher Ground prepare to restore historic house

The Rev. David and Mary Baker-Eato House, circa 1984. File photo from Preservation Long Island

During the past 15 years, initiatives by Higher Ground Intercultural and Heritage Association  to increase protection of the district include: obtaining a Town of Brookhaven Landmark citation for Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Setauket; obtaining a districtwide Endangered Site nomination by Preservation League of New York; hosting A Long Time Coming Archaeological Project; starting a benchmark Cultural Resource Survey; and registering the district on state and national registers of historic sites in November 2017. In the same year, the Old Bethel Cemetery, which belongs to Bethel AME Church, was nominated to state and national registers of historic places through the remarkable efforts of Vivian Nicholson Mueller and Simira Tobias.

The home of one of Bethel AME Church’s first pastors Photo from Preservation Long Island

In a joint collaboration to preserve historic inventory, and to expand the historical significance of the district, Bethel AME and Higher Ground are working together to restore the historic Rev. David and Mary Baker-Eato House, which is located within the historic district.

Research has indicated the house was probably built between 1900 and 1917. Recently, several grants opened a new window of opportunity to Higher Ground that boosted the restoration project. The organization recently received a $1,220 grant award from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook; a $3,000 award from New York Landmarks Conservancy which was directed to Bethel AME Church; and a $25,000 grant award from the Gerry Charitable Trust in October 2019.

With this fresh infusion of funds, the joint Eato House restoration project plans to start preliminary activities to build organizational capacity in the spring of this year, followed by planning the first stages of restoration at a later date. With sincere appreciation, Higher Ground acknowledges that the first funding to create and protect the BCALH District, between 2009 to 2015, was made possible by grants awards from The National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University and The Preservation League of New York State.

While there is only little information about the origin and date the Eato House structure was built, the historically significant occupants, the Rev. David Eato and his wife Mary L. Baker-Eato, offer us an alternate view of a portion of American history. Eato was born in August 1854 in Roslyn, where many members of the Eato family remained. He was the fourth of nine children of Peter Eato and Charlotte Corse.

In the early 1840s, before Eato’s birth, his father worked as a sailor on the sloop Andrew Jackson, a merchant vessel that served shore communities in New York and New Jersey. On March 12, 1840, Capt. Jacob M. Kirby listed 21 employees, including “Peter Eato or Etoo.” Captain Kirby paid his employees with some cash but also by bartering such items as watch repair, powder and shot, watermelons, boots and trousers. In later census records, Peter Eato was listed as a laborer or farm laborer. He died of cancer Nov. 19, 1899, age 87.

David Eato was heavily handicapped during his ministry with dropsy (vascular edema). In spite of his disability, he spent his life as pastor of several small AME congregations on Long Island. Beginning in Roslyn, he spent much of his service at Mt. Olive AME Church in Elmhurst, where he dedicated a new church worth $9,000 Thanksgiving Day, 1907. In 1906, he also served the Union AME Church (later St. Mark) in Jackson Heights. In 1908, he moved to the Mount Olive AME Church in Mount (Port) Washington. He may have served both the Port Washington Church and the Setauket Church simultaneously, since there is a note about his work in Setauket in 1911 and another reference to his work as a pastor at Port Washington in 1913.

Around 1915-16, he moved to Setauket with his second wife Mary Lucinda Baker-Eato. In Port Washington June 29, 1913, Eato married Mary, who played piano and organ at the Mount Olive AME Church.

Baker-Eato was born in 1868 in South Carolina, the daughter of Oliver Baker and Catharine Buite-Baker. Catharine Baker (called Grandma Kitty by her family) was born on the Baker plantation in Troy, South Carolina. It is presumed Mary Lucinda Baker, Catherine’s only known child, was born on the Baker plantation.

Baker-Eato graduated from Allen University in Colombia, South Carolina. Allen University was established by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cokesbury, South Carolina, in 1870, and later moved to Columbia. She may have majored in music, since she later taught piano and organ. While she was still living in Troy, she married Robert Wydeman. Together, they had five daughters, Jessie, Katie, Josephine, Mary Louise and Frances. In 1901, Baker-Eato, her five daughters and Grandma Kitty all moved north to Port Washington. Eato-Baker worked as a cook (perhaps in a restaurant), gave music lessons, and played piano and organ in the Port Washington AME Church.

After the Eatos married in 1913, they were still living in Elmhurst in 1915 (according to the New York State census), taking care of one of her daughters from her first marriage, Katie Weidman, and granddaughter Helen Coleman. By 1917, they were living in Setauket, where the Hyde map listed David Eato’s name beside the Eato house. In 1920, the census noted that the Eato family rented a house on Locust Avenue, where they lived with Baker-Eato’s grandchildren Helen Coleman, 11, and Adolph Blake, 3.

In 1925, the census recorded David Eato, age 70, living with his wife Mary Eato, age 57; Arthur T. Blake, age 15; and Adolph J. Blake, age 8. Mary Eato bought the Eato house from R.W. Hawkins and Carrie Hawkins in 1928 and became one of several African American women who owned homes in this area.

In 1930, David Eato was not listed in the census. Mostly likely he died between 1925 and 1928, when Mary Eato purchased this house. Although sources of information about the reverend and his wife reveal the life of two individuals who left a vision and hope for their descendants, their lives are representative of the many thousands of African Americans who survived slavery in America and made their way to Long Island.

Those other lives, not recorded, represent stories lost and gone forever because of the erection and maintenance of an ages old framework of historical narrative largely unchanged in America, since the end of the 19th century. It is as though revelations of Native American and Afro-American history, their history in the Americas and throughout the world, have been intentionally buried.

Today, we are learning that a significant portion of the history of Afro-Americans in America is being revealed through scientific research and recent archaeological and anthropological discoveries. In recent years public activism, local and national preservation organizations and state and federal legislation have acted to conduct new research; to render a revised and more complete history of Afro-Americans, and fully integrate it into a more inclusive history of America. At the present time, a new coalition of 21st-century researchers have been on the forefront to revise this forgotten history, as opposed to educators and scientists that pandered to biased academia from the 17th century, lasting through most of the 20th century.

There is ample evidence that there are hundreds of Afro-American cultural sites with similar stories, such as the Eatos and their home on Christian Avenue, that give the viewer an opportunity to see history differently. When descriptions of the structure, site and occupants of historic cultural origin are joined together, they become a comprehensive story in stark revelation. They become a doorway — an entryway to the truth of a cultural legacy connected to an ancient time, 3,000 years ago. However, the complex paradigm of intractable narratives of American history that remain as a pedagogy, since post-Civil War Reconstruction is a gate still standing; gradually being broken down by people who want to know the truth.

We can begin at the gate by saying: “Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo) did not discover the Americas.” From that observation, we are thus able to see misconceptions in the cultural and racial dynamics of history; to posit arguments against the old theories; engage in conversations that realize there is an imperative to rewrite a significant portion of American history. The huge number of obscured Afro-American communities, such as the Bethel Christian Avenue, Laurel Hill Historic District, their historic inventory and structures such as the Eato House have enormous importance, not only to America’s history, but that they are integral toward a revision that transmits truth into our education systems.

Robert Lewis is the president of Higher Ground Intercultural and Heritage Association.

'Black Opal,' acrylic on canvas, by Bill Durham

By Melissa Arnold

Running a museum is far from simple. Consider this: The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook is home to more than 2,500 pieces of artwork done on paper, 500 paintings and 100 pieces of three-dimensional art. Each piece must be catalogued, maintained, protected and stored. It’s a delicate and meticulous process that takes a lot of work.

Recently, the LIM received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts to expand and upgrade its storage facilities. They’ll need to clear out some of their existing storage space to prepare for renovation, and fortunately its visitors will reap the rewards of the process.

From Feb. 22 to June 26, the museum will present Off the Rack: Building and Preserving LIM’s Art Treasures, an exhibit of approximately 90 works of art from its permanent collection, in the main gallery of its Art Museum. Many pieces in the exhibit are only put on view rarely, if at all.

‘Dance of the Haymakers,’ 1845, oil on canvas mounted on wood, by William Sidney Mount

“We could have taken the artwork to off-site storage, but we thought, ‘Why not put it on display?’ In order to make more space, we thought this would be a great time to assess the state of the collection and share its history and highlights with our visitors,” said LIM Deputy Director and Curator Joshua Ruff. “This is an opportunity for people to see things they may not have seen before.”

Ruff said that choosing pieces for Off the Rack was a team effort by the museum staff, who sought to put together a cohesive story of how the museum’s collection has grown and evolved over the years.

Visitors will be able to explore a time line of the LIM’s conservation efforts. In addition, each work in the exhibit will include its accession number, which will help teach visitors how the museum keeps track of each piece.

Off the Rack is divided into loose sections celebrating particular themes and standout artists. Not to be missed is a section dedicated to one of the museum’s “anchor” artists, William Sidney Mount. Among Mount’s included works are an 1841 painting of Crane Neck Marsh, which Ruff says is “an example of his extremely detailed craftsmanship while creating a natural setting,” and “Dance of the Haymakers,” a painting of a fiddler playing music for dancing farmhands, which made Mount a household name in 1845. 

Other high-profile artists with dedicated spaces in the exhibit include Arnold Hoffman, Samuel Rothport, Winslow Homer, Joe Reboli and Helen Torr, among others.

There are also sections of artwork focused on coastal and marine environments, abstract work and contemporary artists, including some local Long Islanders like Janet Culbertson, Bruce Lieberman and Dan Pollera.

Ty Stroudsburg of Southold also has artwork at the LIM — her 2000 oil painting on linen “Pumpkin Field at Sunset” is one of many views that have caught her eye on the North Fork.

“I love color. I used to drive around with a sketch pad in my car, and it was always color that would lead me to pull over and either do quick sketches with pastels or take a photograph to use for later,” said Stroudsburg, whose work has hung in exhibits and museums throughout New York and New Jersey for more than 60 years. 

“I didn’t strive for notoriety, I just painted because I love to paint and it keeps me going. I feel extremely fortunate that curators believe my art is worth being a part of their museums,” she added.

For LIM Executive Director Neil Watson, Off the Rack provides the chance to see their continuously evolving collection in a new light.

“As we began to do the work required for the renovations and take pieces out of storage, there were things in the collection I hadn’t seen in several years, and even some pieces I didn’t even know we had,” he recalled. 

“That’s the beauty of this exhibit -— we get to share parts of our collection that people may have never even seen before. Of course, there will be plenty of ‘old friends,’ like the work from William Sidney Mount, but there is so much more to see. Ours is a living collection — it’s not sealed or stagnant, and it continues to grow.”

The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook presents Off the Rack: Building and Preserving LIM’s Art Treasures, from Feb. 22 through June 26. The museum is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission for adults is $10; discounts are available for children, college students, seniors and the disabled. For more information, visit www.longislandmuseum.org or call 631-751-0066.

George Mackay as Lance Cpl. Schofield in a scene from the film Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

By Daniel Dunaief

The film “1917” is a good news, bad news movie experience.

In a race against time, World War I soldiers Lance Cpl. Blake (played by Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Cpl. Schofield (George MacKay) maneuver through dangerous, German-controlled territory to stop an attack by the British that is destined to fail.

The good news for the Universal Pictures movie, which was written by Krysty Wilson-Cairns and Sam Mendes, is that it is a tour de force in direction and cinematography. Audiences track the movements of Schofield and Blake, who has a vested interest in completing a mission that will also likely save his brother, so closely that they feel as if they are on the battlefield. The soldiers trudge through mud, hunch low to avoid incoming bullets, and wade through icy cold water during their difficult mission.

The relatively unknown actors do an incredible job as everymen, portraying the soldiers asked to do the impossible with resources often limited to their survival instincts and their reliance on each other.

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

Directed by Mendes, the movie includes a few heart-stopping moments, as audience members in a packed theater hold their breaths along with the actors to avoid giving away their position to the unseen but omnipresent enemy.

Even the scenes that don’t involve bullets and combat have a gritty feel. The camera moves through cramped trenches, where the spaces narrow in some areas to places where barely two people can fit shoulder to shoulder.

The film succeeds in portraying so many elements of the horrors of the battlefield. The enormous responsibility of saving 1,600 men weighs heavily on the two soldiers. The film immerses the audience completely in the time period, the action and the goal.

The bad news is that the script is noticeably thin. We don’t know much about either character and, apart from the set up lines uttered by Colin Firth as Gen. Erinmore and Benedict Cumberbatch as Col. Mackenzie, the script isn’t nearly as memorable as the visuals.

Indeed, apart from compelling music, which includes an original score from Thomas Newman that was nominated for an Oscar, the movie could easily have been a silent film with a few subtitles sprinkled between the visuals.

As a movie watching experience, “1917” is immersive and compelling, but its visuals show a better story than its thin script.

Moving from one horrifying and dangerous scene to another, we feel as if we’re running alongside strangers we would like to succeed, if only to reach their important destination and save other troops for whom we have almost as much information as the two lance corporals.

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

At times, the R-rated movie has overtones with other war films, like “Gallipoli,” a Mel Gibson film with a far superior script, and even with “Saving Private Ryan,” the Steven Spielberg directed epic with Tom Hanks.

In many scenes in “1917,” the effort, amid raining bullets and bombs that fall everywhere, make it seem impossible to survive. Some of the bullet and bomb dodging strains credibility.

The film also includes a quietly touching scene between Schofield and a random French woman, who is caring for an infant. The dialog, however, doesn’t make much sense, though, as she speaks only French and he speaks English, and yet they seem to understand each other.

Looking past the shortcomings of “1917,” the film offers an engaging visual experience, even if we don’t become invested in the characters whose singular mission forms the action and scenery-driven plot.

Winner of 3 Academy Awards (Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visiual Effects), “1917” is now playing in local theaters.

Irving Roth, circled, at liberation Photo from Village Chabad

Local residents are invited to the Village Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning  in East Setauket Feb. 23 to hear the firsthand account of Irving Roth, 90, who survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. Readers of TBR News Media can also receive discounted tickets to the event when ordered Feb. 13 through 16.

“Irving Roth is a true survivor,” said Rabbi Motti Grossbaum of the Village Chabad. “Not only did he physically survive the terrors of WWII, but he lived on with his heart and hope intact. Roth’s presentation is sure to be moving, inspiring and educational for all who attend.”

Roth was just 10 years old when Nazi Germany invaded his native country of Czechoslovakia. He suffered through the horrific conditions of Auschwitz and Buchenwald and miraculously survived, emigrating to the United States in 1947. During the first time he returned to Auschwitz in 1998, Roth realized the importance of sharing his story with today’s generation. He has since devoted all his efforts to educating young and old about the perils of anti-Semitism and prejudice.

The evening is catered to all ages and will include a question and answer session following the main presentation.

“It is an honor for us to host Mr. Roth, and we are so fortunate that he has agreed to come to the Three Village area to share his riveting story,” said Grossbaum. “I encourage everyone who can — young and old — to come hear this remarkable person tell his incredible story of courage, faith, and survival.”

Due to limited space, advance ticket purchase is highly recommended and can be purchased at www.myvillagechabad.com. Tickets fees are $20 for advance tickets and $15 for students. A VIP option is also available that includes a reception with Roth, an autographed book and premium seating. Roth will also have copies of his book on sale.

TBR News Media readers can enter code TBR2020 when ordering tickets Feb. 13 to 16 to get a discounted $10 ticket.

Call 631-585-0521 or visit www.myvillagechabad.com for more information.

 The center is located at 360 Nicolls Road, East Setauket. The event begins at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. 

Ruth Gracey and Dr. H. Jean Berger are to be honored later this year by the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame. Photos from Michelle Dougherty

Two women from the Port Jefferson and Three Village school districts have been posthumously named to the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2020 for their work organizing girls sports athletics.

Dr. H. Jean Berger and Ruth Gracey were named along with two other women for developing and organizing the Suffolk County Girls Athletic Association in 1949, 23 years prior to federal Title IX legislation, which established no discrimination of participation based on sex.

The hall of fame is naming them due to their “persistence and dedication,” which effectively jump-started women’s ability to participate in and coach school athletics throughout the county.

Berger and Gracey, along with Annamae McKeever-Kress and Jeanette Rogers, developed the constitution, policies and rules, guidelines for scheduling and officiating games for the SCGAA. They envisioned and created a senior athletic awards program and developed the coveted Gold Key Award to recognize senior high school athletes.

“The Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame is honored to induct these four trailblazing women for all they accomplished in building a path and platform for girls to success in sports in Suffolk County,” said Chris Vaccaro, the executive director of the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame. “What they achieved, long before the passing of Title IX, is remarkable and hundreds, if not thousands, of women have dedicated their lives to athletics thanks to what they built more than 70 years ago. This is a posthumous honor for these inductees, but we know they will be with us in spirit that night.”

All four women are being honored at a ceremony May 26 during the hall of fame’s 30th anniversary celebration at Watermill Caterers, 711 Smithtown Bypass in Smithtown. Tickets are $125 for an adult and $75 for a child. More information can be found at suffolksportshof.com.

Ruth Gracey 

Gracey was born in Syracuse in 1906 and attended Syracuse University from 1926 to 1929, majoring in physical education. After, she received a master’s degree in physical education from Adelphi University. 

In 1944 she began her career as the single female physical education instructor at Port Jefferson High School. During this first year at the school, she started the Girls Leaders Club and a year later she was instrumental in creating intramural sports for girls. By the 1948 school year, she was named director of girls physical education and coached soccer, hockey, volleyball, basketball and badminton. In 1949, she helped create the Suffolk County Girls Athletic Association, specifically the constitution and by-laws, and helped to establish a girls sports awards program. She retired from Port Jefferson in 1971 and in 1996 was inducted into the Port Jefferson district’s Wall of Fame. She passed away in 1990.

Elizabeth Schwartz, Gracey’s granddaughter and former student, said her grandmother, along with her contemporaries, pioneered the sense that girls and women were just as capable in sports as anybody else. Gracey was one of the first to make field hockey an institution of Long Island sports, Schwartz said, and she also introduced programs for women in basketball and track and even an archery club. 

“She was one of the first to have the overriding idea that sports was a way to take positions of leadership,” Schwartz said, adding it was “a long time coming” to see the names of her grandmother and the other woman added to the wall.

Port Jefferson board President Ellen Boehm said that while she came into the district right after Gracey had retired, she was the one who took girls sports to the next level within the district. She said that before women like Gracey pushed for equality in sports, girls would often play just a few innings of a sport like softball with another school. 

“She was one of the trailblazers in bringing recognition to girls sports,” she said.

Schwartz remembered her grandmother’s memorial, how in a packed house with “people in the rafters” all saying the same thing, that “Ruth was a special person to them, and they were a special person to her.” They all realized, “she had that quality — to make you feel you were the most important person in the world.”

Dr. H. Jean Berger 

Berger was originally from Nebraska but moved to Erie County with her family in 1930. She graduated from Springville-Griffith Institute High School in 1941 and then from SUNY Buffalo State College in 1945 where she majored in physical education. She later attained her doctorate of education degree from New York University.

Her career started in Springville in 1946 before moving on to Bay Shore in 1949, where she developed sports activities for girls at a time when girls athletics was frowned upon.

She would spend most of her career at the Three Village Central School District, and from 1966 to 1980 she worked as teacher, athletic coordinator of girls sports, leadership teacher and clinical supervisor for the K-8 physical education, volleyball coach and adviser to the Girls Leaders Club and Girls Athletic Association. 

In 1949 she was the first president of the Suffolk County Girls Athletic Association, and in 1975-1976, she was the president of NYS Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. At various times between 1966 and 1980 she was very involved with Section XI, Suffolk County athletics: vice president, multiple committees, board of directors, volleyball chair, athletic council and Gold Key committee. 

Berger passed away in 2003.

Michele Dougherty was a coach and administrator in the Three Village school district from 1973 to 2007 and worked with Berger for several years until her retirement in 1980. Dougherty said she “had a profound influence on me professionally and on a personal level.” She added, Berger, or Dr. B as she and the students called her, not only fought for the Gold Star Award that she and other women helped introduce in 1953 but helped expand it to cover boys athletics as well.

“She has had a profound influence on girls sports through her historic efforts in developing athletic programs for girls throughout the county,” Dougherty said.

by -
0 581
The former Tyler Brothers General Store at the intersection of Main Street and Old Field Road in Setauket is an example of a third place. Locals would congregate at the store to talk about the day’s events and to keep in touch with each other Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

In the first two hundred years of English settlement in Setauket and Stony Brook, work and home were, for most residents, synonymous. Each family owned enough land to farm, and the land provided them with the necessities of life — food, clothing and shelter. The community provided the formal and informal gathering places. These places, such as the Presbyterian meeting house, the Village Green, the general stores and the mills, were at the center, at the very heart of the Setauket and Stony Brook communities. These “third places” — home and work being first and second — provided the spiritual, social and societal needs of the early settlers.

“Community keeps us accountable and compassionate. It prevents us from thinking too highly of ourselves and taking too much on. It reminds us that we need one another, that we’re not alone.”

— Rachel Held Evans

By the second half of the 20th century, following World War II, all of that changed. The deterioration of the cities combined with the lure of the country caused a new phenomenon, a building boom that created housing developments for returning veterans under the GI Bill as well as for many others. At first, these new “communities” worked. The men went off to work taking the family car with them. The women, without a car to get them out of the development, met, talked, borrowed and swapped for what they needed until the weekend when the family could shop in the new shopping centers that faced outward toward the roads rather than inward toward the community. After school, the children played together in the parks and on the streets of the development. These families, devoid of the traditional third places, created their own.

This worked for the first generation of residents in developments such as Levittown, but as different people moved in who didn’t share work and family, the developments became sterile places where neighbors no longer knew each other. They became places without soul, without the informal gathering places that define community — without third places.

“Community keeps us accountable and compassionate. It prevents us from thinking too highly of ourselves and taking too much on. It reminds us that we need one another, that we’re not alone” (blog entry by religious author Rachel Held Evans, March 1, 2017).

We have, in the Three Village area, the building blocks of community. We also have a fine school district and a university campus that can help to draw us closer together. How we care for all of these parts of our community and in turn how we care for each other determine how much of a community we are.

“The process of seeking common ground is also the process of composing good narratives in which all can find themselves represented. Only through this process can the civic enterprise proceed and communities flourish” (Robert A. Archibald, “A Place to Remember: Using History to Build Community,” 1999).

A good definition of community is offered by Richard Moe and Carter Wilkie in their book “Changing Places: Rebuilding Community in the Age of Sprawl,” 1997: “As habitats for community have eroded, so too has the true meaning of the word. Today ‘community’ more commonly describes any rootless collection of interests rather than people rooted in a place — people tied by fellowship or even kinship to one another, to a shared past, and to a common interest in the future.”

The last part may be the real key. If we really do want what is best for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren, then we do need to spend less time being concerned with our differences and more time studying and applying what we have in common, our shared past and common interest in the future. Regardless of how long we have lived here, we share in our history and are concerned about our future.

The exact opposite of community is represented most distinctly today by television shows that tout the importance and effectiveness of individual action. In these venues, community exists only as a means to demonstrate the superiority of the individual. Working together to achieve a common goal is devalued and the object, by whatever means possible, is to win everything for oneself.

Dr. Jerri Nielsen, in a “Book TV” interview about her book “Ice Bound” (2001) and her struggles with breast cancer in the Antarctic community in which she lived for many months, commented that the most special and lasting effect of her time in Antarctica was the close personal bonds that formed there and how disconnected and alone she felt after she was taken out of that community. She noted that they virtually depended on each other for their survival and became closer in a few months to vastly different people than she had been to family or lifelong friends.

“Without formal and informal gathering places where we share experiences and make common memories, and thus establish a common identity buttressed with familiarity, community is devalued and only individualism remains.”

— Robert A. Archibald

Nielsen also said that she later met senator and astronaut John Glenn for the second time in her life, and he noted the importance of unit cohesiveness (community) in the military. Glenn reportedly told her that, in the service, “We don’t throw people out, we carry them out.”

“Without formal and informal gathering places where we share experiences and make common memories, and thus establish a common identity buttressed with familiarity, community is devalued and only individualism remains” (Archibald, 1999).

The hectic pace of life has us traveling from place to place in and around our community in our closed boxes with wheels, which provides a sort of community isolation that simply did not exist on Long Island in past centuries. The automobile has become the vehicle for both separation and connection in modern society. Now, in addition, we can shop and travel on the Internet, the computer providing a wide range of products and services and adding to our community isolation.

Yet, in Setauket and Stony Brook, we value our local history and the homes, barns, farms, ponds, woods, open spaces, public buildings and businesses that are the tangible and visible representations of that history. Many are also the touchstones of our historic memory. Whether we are eight years old or 80, they define our existence at a certain time in our lives, and they help to bring into focus the relationships that we value — our family, friends, neighbors and fellow workers.

“Sandy, sandy roads and trees … just paths like Indians had … you know, through the woods … that’s the truth. Everybody walked. Didn’t matter what you owned or how much you had … you wouldn’t be surprised to see anyone on foot … that was part of daily life.” (Hazel Lewis, The Three Village Historian, “Eel Catching at Setauket,” May 1988).

Over the past century our community has grown and changed from a rural area of farms and vernacular architecture into a suburban environment of historic areas, housing developments, commercial strip developments and university complexes. What we have lost is a part of our connection to each other in the community. In the past, our local stores, schools, libraries, community gathering places and places of worship were usually within walking distance of our homes. These life-sustaining places were often an integral part of our streets or neighborhoods. In fact, in most communities a 30-minute walk would take us from one end of town to the other, and while we were walking, we would see our friends and neighbors and they would see us. We knew each other and to some extent we knew each other’s habits and relationships, likes and dislikes.

With all the changes that communities have gone through, however, we still have places where community relationships are initiated, nurtured and developed, places where we can share our experiences and explore our collective memories. These are the places that Ray Oldenburg, in his book “The Great Good Places: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Hangouts and How They Get You Through the Day” (1991), refers to as third places to distinguish them from work and home. We simply don’t always recognize them. They can be any place we come together to share our thoughts and ideas where there is, as expressed in the hit musical “Come from Away: Welcome to the Rock,” “a spirit of compassion, resourcefulness and generosity.”

In the Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador in Gander, where 38 commercial aircraft landed Sept. 11, 2001, and deposited more than 6,500 people into a town of about 10,000 residents, is written, “Contact is one of the most powerful agents of cultural change.” This quote defines what welcoming “Come-from-Away’s” (visitors) means to local residents. For five days these sudden visitors were accepted without reservation, without hesitation, by Newfoundlanders who fed their bodies as well as their souls. This is the definition of a third place.

Beverly C. Tyler is a 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.