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Anniversary

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Rabbi Stephen Karol, Rabbi Sharon Sobel and Rabbi Adam Fisher celebrate. Photo from Iris Schiff

In 1965, a small group of families placed a notice in The Village Times Herald to encourage interested residents to join the new Reform Jewish Congregation. Two years later, the congregation transitioned from working out of the Setauket Neighborhood House to working at its new building, Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook.

Fifty years later, the building, its workers and congregants celebrated the Temple’s 50th from Friday Oct. 23 to Sunday Oct. 25. The festivities started with a potluck dinner at sundown as well as a special service. Alan Goodis served as the entertainment during the celebration. The weekend also included a dessert reception and a Golden Gala.

But the celebration isn’t only about celebrating another year older but also about celebrating the Temple’s founders, taking a stroll down memory lane and acknowledging the Temple beyond the celebration for the Temple’s 50th year.

“It’s really about what we do all year long and how we behave,” Rabbi Sharon Sobel said about the Temple.

In the past 50 years, the Temple established a food pantry had food and blood drives and helped give back to the community with events like Mitzvah Day, which former Board of Trustees President Iris Schiff described as a day where members of the Temple do a good deed for members of the community.

In the past, congregates and individuals who work at the Temple helped build a kitchen on the Shinnecock Reservation according to Schiff. Schiff also said the Temple held a special Mitzvah Day for the adults with disabilities who visit the Temple once or twice a week to help organize the food pantry, file documents, polish areas of the Temple’s sanctuary. According to Schiff these individuals are called “interns” at the Temple.

Sobel, who has served as the Temple’s rabbi since last year, made the suggestion to hold a Mitzvah Day in honor of their “interns.” Not only do they help the Temple, but also some of these interns gained enough experience helping the institution that they have acquired stable jobs themselves.

According to Schiff, who joined the Temple in 1975, the day was a special moment for the parents of these “interns.”

“Their parents were crying because…it was the first time ever…their children were honored for being terrific and for helping,” Schiff said. “They had never been acknowledged before because they are people with disabilities.”

The “interns” and the individuals at the Shinnecock Reservation aren’t the only people the Temple helped or intend to help on the Island. Mitzvah day is an annual event for the Temple. This year, the Temple held its 15th Mitzvah Day on Sunday, May 17. Next year, the Temple is holding the event on May 16. Schiff also added that people in the community who are not necessarily part of the Temple are also recognizing the Temple as an important part of the community. Several business donated money to the Temple in celebration of its 50th year — the money, as well as other donations and money acquired from the membership fee, helps the Temple stay afloat.

Schiff mentioned there’s been a drop in church attendance regardless of the religion. Sobel added that currently the Temple has 330 units — families, couples and singles — who are members of the Temple. She added that former members come back for special events like the Temple’s anniversaries among other events. Despite this, members of the Temple remain excited and pleased about their accomplishments.

“We’re excited [for the 50th anniversary celebration] because we feel proud of what the Temple has done all through the years and what it represents in the community,” Sobel said.

Regardless of attendance and the changes in rabbis in the past 50 years, Schiff added that the Temple has remained the same.

“What hasn’t changed is this organization. We have congregants who are genuine. They come here with really good caring hearts,” Schiff said. “To me that is what religion should really be about — doing unto others. If everybody lived by that golden rule, this [world] would be a wonderful place.”

File photo

The Crab Meadow Golf Course is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month.

The town-owned golf course in Northport hosts between 42,000 and 45,000 rounds annually, according to Don McKay, director of parks and recreation for Huntington Town.

“The playing conditions here are outstanding,” McKay said in a phone interview. “There is a very dedicated staff and I think one of the best features of this course is that you have a view of the Long Island Sound from 16 of the 18 holes on the golf course. The views are stupendous.”

McKay has been researching the history of the golf course since its beginnings in the 1920s.

Originally, Crab Meadow Golf Course was part of the Northport Country Club, which was established in the 1920s. McKay believes that world-renowned golf architect Devereux Emmet designed the original course in 1921, and that the membership then was approximately 125 people. The Northport Country Club was abandoned in the 1940s, according to McKay, and he speculates it had to do with the Great Depression.

Then in the 1960s, with Huntington Town Supervisor Robert J. Flynn, the Crab Meadow Golf Course began to develop.

“I say it all the time, if it weren’t for Flynn, we would never have the golf course today, along with many other municipal parks in Huntington,” McKay said. “His vision for Huntington was extraordinary.”

McKay said that in 1961, a $2.5 million bond was put up to vote to Huntington residents to fund a townwide park program. Included in that plan was use of the Crab Meadow property to create a new golf course. The referendum failed, but Flynn did not give up. He got more groups to back his plan, including the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, and was able to get the bond approved the following year in 1962.

Robert J. Flynn Jr. said his father’s greatest pride was knowing how many people enjoyed the town parks and Crab Meadow Golf Course.

“He believed in the importance of recreation,” Flynn said. “His vision was to establish a municipal park program that would last for decades to come.”

According to McKay, once the town made the purchase of the land, the municipality began to restore the course and alter the layout a bit.

William F. Mitchell designed the current course, which officially opened in 1965. It’s an 18-hole course that is 6,574 yards by 5,658 yards and open to the public. There are social clubs at the course, including clubs for men, women and seniors, that anyone is welcome to join. “The club members are the MVPs of the course,” McKay said. There is also a restaurant, concession stand, locker rooms and a pro golf store.

Maureen Lieb worked at the golf course at its inception in the 1960s. She started working for the town in 1964, immediately after she graduated from Suffolk County Community College.

“When the golf course was opening, they asked if I would want to work there,” Lieb said in a phone interview. “It was between being a meter maid or working on the golf course. There wasn’t any question.” She started as a cashier and eventually became the manager.

Lieb said she worked out of a trailer when she first started working for the golf course, because it took another year after the course was opened for the club to be built.

“I always loved my job,” Lieb said. “I was very lucky. I enjoyed the residents the most that came to golf. They were so nice and I’ve actually kept in touch with some I met when I first started working there.” She retired in December 1993.

The Huntington Town Board authorized a special one-day reduced tournament green fee of $25 at the course on Oct. 21, as part of the 50th anniversary celebration. The day will also feature reduced fees for golf carts, driving range and food.

Rosamund and Willie Vanderbilt aboard their 264-foot yacht Alva during a 1931 cruise around the world. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum archives

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum will celebrate the 65th anniversary of its official opening on July 6.

William K. Vanderbilt II — great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad and shipping magnate — died in 1944.  His wife Rosamund continued to live in the Vanderbilt Mansion in Centerport until her death in 1947.

He realized the potential for his sprawling estate to become a museum for what he called “the use, education and enjoyment of the general public.” That wish prompted him to leave his estate, and a trust fund to finance its operation, to Suffolk County. The county opened the museum to the public on July 6, 1950.

The anniversary coincides with Arcadia Publishing’s release of “Eagle’s Nest: The William K. Vanderbilt II Estate” by Stephanie Gress, director of curatorial services for the museum. The book is available on the Arcadia Publishing, Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites, in the Vanderbilt Museum Gift Shop and at local bookstores.

Today, the Vanderbilt estate and museum are an important part of Long Island history. It is a destination for regional visitors interested in natural history, the life of the oceans, armchair journeys through space, and the history of the privileged life on the Gold Coast from the Jazz Age through World War II.

The Vanderbilt’s Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium is another magnet for visitors. The museum decided to add a planetarium in the late 1960s. Trustees knew a planetarium would enhance the museum’s ability to carry out the science education aspect of its mission and to honor Vanderbilt’s love of science and astronomy and his interest in celestial navigation.

A planetarium also would augment the original Vanderbilt trust fund and help to ensure financial sustainability. The planetarium was opened to the public on June 28, 1971.

Vanderbilt — known to family and friends as Willie K. — loved the sea and the natural world. In his global oceanic travels, he collected fish and other marine life, birds, invertebrates and cultural artifacts for the personal museum he planned to build on his Long Island estate.

Willie Vanderbilt exhibited thousands of the marine specimens he had gathered ­— one of the world’s most extensive, privately assembled collections from the preatomic era ­— in his own marine museum, the Hall of Fishes, which he opened to the public in 1922. Wings of the mansion contain galleries of his natural-history and cultural-artifact collections, including the Habitat with its nine wild-animal and marine-life dioramas and eight more in the adjacent Stoll Wing, all created by artisans from the American Museum of Natural History.

The 43-acre waterfront museum complex counts among its extensive collections (which total more than 30,000 objects) the mansion, curator’s cottage, a seaplane hangar and boathouse, centuries-old household furnishings, rare decorative and fine art, the archives and photographic record of Vanderbilt’s circumnavigations of the globe and published books of his travels. The estate, mansion and museum are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Suffolk County Historian Peter Cohalan, flanked by New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and current and former Brookhaven Town officials, cuts a cake in honor of the town’s 360th anniversary. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Brookhaven town officials past and present along with New York’s lieutenant governor came out to celebrate the town’s 360th anniversary on Monday.

“When you think about 360 in geometrical terms, you’ve gone full circle,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said on Monday, a day before the town’s April 14, 1655 founding date. “And this town has come full circle since the day six people, one from Southold and five from New England got off a small boat and landed in Setauket and saw land they wanted to make home.”

The first town zoning map, which was created in 1936. Photo by Barbara Donlon
The first town zoning map, which was created in 1936. Photo by Barbara Donlon

The event highlighted the town’s history and featured the original Town of Brookhaven zoning map, a 1936 artifact that doesn’t see the light of day much due to its delicacy, according to Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell. Partygoers, including many local historical societies, also enjoyed a slide show of photos from historic landmarks and homes across the town.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) was also at the party and presented the town with a proclamation of appreciation from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

“I spent the entire day out in Brookhaven [National Lab] then in Stony Brook and stopping in various towns and villages,” Hochul said. “What an amazing quality of life you have here.”

Hochul reflected on celebrating her own town’s 150th anniversary and made jokes about the vast age difference.

Brookhaven Town Board members were also on hand to celebrate the event. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) who represents the district where the town was founded spoke highly of the celebration.

“Tonight was an evening of celebration and reflection on a rich history in Brookhaven,” Cartright said in an email. “I was extremely honored to be present representing CD-1 and Setauket, where much of Brookhaven’s history originated.”

Town Board members played along with Smithtown’s 350th anniversary celebration Tuesday night, dressing up in outfits similar to those when the town was first founded. Photo by Chris Mellides

By Chris Mellides

Take members of the Smithtown Town Board, dress them up in 17th century garb and the rest is history.

Officials commemorated the town of Smithtown’s 350th anniversary sponsored by the Smithtown 350 Foundation Tuesday with the opening of a time capsule and were joined by residents who braved the snow to attend the event at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts.

Town historian Bradley Harris hosted the night’s proceedings and was joined onstage by Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) and his colleagues who wore elaborate 17th century period clothing and read passages from the Richard Nicolls Patent of 1665 — which outlined instructions for governance under English rule of what are now the states of New York and New Jersey.

Throughout the presentation Harris and those town officials that participated onstage engaged in playful

Town Board members played along with Smithtown’s 350th anniversary celebration Tuesday night, dressing up in outfits similar to those when the town was first founded. Photo by Chris Mellides
Town Board members played along with Smithtown’s 350th anniversary celebration Tuesday night, dressing up in outfits similar to those when the town was first founded. Photo by Chris Mellides

banter and delivered light-hearted jokes that often got a rise out of the Long Islanders who watched from their seats.

As the night progressed, Harris often pulled from the pages of history and delivered facts about the founding of Smithtown that those in attendance might not have otherwise known.

Despite the witty quips and wisecracks exchanged in the theater room of what used to be a local cinema, the 71-year-old historian and Saint James resident was quite serious and resolute about the importance of preserving history and the passion he holds for his community.

“This town is very interesting because it started with one man’s dream to carve out a niche for himself where he would be his own master and I think that’s [Smithtown founder] Richard Smith in a lot of ways,” Harris said. “He’s left us so many things to venerate.”

During the course of the event, eyes were drawn to a 50-year-old milk can worn with age, which sat to the far right of the stage. The dirtied metal time capsule was originally buried in 1965, and thanks in large part to the town Engineering Department, which had a precise map of its location, its contents were ready to be shared for the first time with audience members.

Town officials and residents were on their feet and the excitement filling the room was palpable. With a hard crack of a hammer, the time capsule was forced open and placed on the long table, where Vecchio and his colleagues were seated.

Among the contents contained within the milk can were: two dusty hats, a phonebook, a local newspaper, a flyer advertising tercentenary pageant tickets and an assortment of aged coins.

James Potts a resident of Smithtown, who has lived in the area for 63 years, was among those in attendance. Potts’ father was the town surveyor, and, due to this, Potts claims to have a very strong knowledge of the town’s history.

Asked about the night’s presentation, Potts said he was very happy with how things shaped up.

“As you can see from how the theater filled up, it shows you the extent of the connection in this town with the residents and basically the pride in the town that they live in,” said Potts.

While he enjoyed the event, Potts expressed some disappointment with the contents of the time capsule and felt as though there could have been more items included that could have better illustrated what life was like on Long Island in the early 1960s.

Town Board members played along with Smithtown’s 350th anniversary celebration Tuesday night, dressing up in outfits similar to those when the town was first founded. Photo by Chris Mellides
Town Board members played along with Smithtown’s 350th anniversary celebration Tuesday night, dressing up in outfits similar to those when the town was first founded. Photo by Chris Mellides

Also expressing his dismay with the time capsule finds was Harris, who as a historian expected a lot more.

“It was the era of Kennedy’s assassination, and I would’ve thought there would have been some commentary on that, but there was nothing and that’s a little disappointing,” said Harris. “The guys who made up the time capsule certainly were trying to stir interest in the past and they did that, but what we learned tonight was very limited.”

School building has lasted through ups and downs in Port Jefferson Village

Port Jefferson’s old high school on Spring Street, above, was made of wood and burned down on July 4, 1913. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village Digital Archive

A lot has changed in the last century, but Port Jefferson’s Spring Street school building still stands.

BOCES social worker Christian Scott, special education teacher Patricia Dolan and Principal Chris Williams wear period clothing to celebrate the Spring Street school building's 100th birthday. Photo from BOCES
BOCES social worker Christian Scott, special education teacher Patricia Dolan and Principal Chris Williams wear period clothing to celebrate the Spring Street school building’s 100th birthday. Photo from BOCES

Eastern Suffolk BOCES, which leases the school building from the Port Jefferson school district, recently celebrated the building’s 100th birthday, with festivities that included period costumes and popular music from the era — the 1914 hit “By the Beautiful Sea” and a World War I marching song from 1915, “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag.” There was also a ribbon-cutting ceremony and lots of cake at the school at Spring and High streets, which is now officially called the Jefferson Academic Center.

Though the mood was light that day, the road leading up to the 100th birthday bash was a rocky one.

Another building, the original Port Jefferson High School, once stood in that same place, but it burned down on Independence Day in 1913.

According to the village’s historical archive, it is still a mystery what caused the fire, which started the night before. At the time, many believed that some young people broke into the building so they could ring the bell at midnight to celebrate July 4. They believed the kids started the fire by accident while using matches to light their way in the dark building.

The Spring Street school building went up in 1914. Photo by Barbara Donlon
The Spring Street school building went up in 1914. Photo by Barbara Donlon

There was also a theory that an arsonist lit up the wooden building, according to the archive. A suspect was presented to a Suffolk County grand jury, but he was not indicted.

The current Spring Street building was erected the following year, with the community laying its cornerstone on May 2.

According to Eastern Suffolk BOCES, $75,000 went toward the new brick and stone structure, which had separate entrances for boys and girls on opposite sides of the building.

“The genders may have been separated by doorways, but their education fell under the doctrine that knowledge is power, a phrase carved into the front of the building for all to see,” a press release from BOCES said.

Though the building was once home to all the grades in the school district, the district expanded and it eventually housed only middle school students. When those kids were moved into the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School building on Old Post Road, where they remain today, the historical building was left behind.

Port Jefferson’s old high school on Spring Street was made of wood and burned down on July 4, 1913. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village Digital Archive
Port Jefferson’s old high school on Spring Street was made of wood and burned down on July 4, 1913. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village Digital Archive

Eastern Suffolk BOCES stepped in during the late 1990s. Sean Leister, Port Jefferson’s assistant superintendent for business, said the school district began leasing the building to BOCES in March 1997. And according to BOCES, it has been providing special education services at the Jefferson Academic Center since 1998.

In 2007, the deteriorating Spring Street building got a little lift — district voters overwhelmingly approved a $5.2 million bond to renovate the building, which came with a renewed 10-year lease, the yearly rent of which covered the cost of the improvements. Those included replacing the gym floor, piping and the boilers; improving site drainage; doing work on the electrical system and the foundation; and making the building more handicapped-accessible with additional toilets, a wheelchair lift and an elevator.

The renovations have kept the Spring Street school going strong — it is the oldest school in Suffolk County that still operates as such.

To 100 years more.

In 125 years, Port Jefferson Fire Department has seen many changes to firefighting and the village

Volunteers from Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 of the Port Jefferson Fire Department assemble on East Main Street in 1892. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village Digital Archive

Fred Gumbus still remembers the time he burned off his eyebrows, decades ago in a brush fire.

“The wind changed” and the flames “came across a big field of grass,” Gumbus said. He goes by “Pop” at the Port Jefferson Fire Department, where he is an honorary chief and a member since 1948.

Port Jefferson firefighters work at the Sinclair bulk storage plant during a 1964 fire. The blaze kept igniting because the fuel lines had not been turned off. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village Digital Archive
Port Jefferson firefighters work at the Sinclair bulk storage plant during a 1964 fire. The blaze kept igniting because the fuel lines had not been turned off. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village Digital Archive

He and Hugh Campbell, a former chief who joined the same year, were running from the fire, but realized it was gaining on them and they couldn’t outrun it. “We have to go through,” Gumbus said, and they covered their noses and mouths with their hands.

Campbell said, “We were going to burn to death if we stayed there.”

They made it out, coughing and choking.

Gumbus said his buddy was laughing at him and when he asked what was so funny, Campbell told him he didn’t have any eyebrows. He responded that Campbell didn’t either, “and we busted out laughing.”

The pair, who were once in the first grade together in Stony Brook, were in their 20s then. Now they are in their late 80s, and still members of a department that has since seen great changes.

The Port Jefferson Fire Department marks its 125th anniversary this year, and equipment and techniques are drastically different from the days these men first joined.

Fred Gumbus, James Newcomb, Walter Baldelli and Hugh Campbell, at the Port Jefferson firehouse, talk about the toughest and most memorable calls they went on in their many years with the department. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Fred Gumbus, James Newcomb, Walter Baldelli and Hugh Campbell, at the Port Jefferson firehouse, talk about the toughest and most memorable calls they went on in their many years with the department. Photo by Elana Glowatz

James Newcomb, an honorary chief who joined almost 69 years ago, said firefighters once used something called an “Indian can,” which was a metal backpack that held five gallons of water and squirted with a hand pump. Firefighters also used to just wear a rubber coat.

Campbell said those coats would burn or melt. He also noted changes to the way firefighters work — “in the old days we had more surround and drown,” but now firefighters attack the flames, and put them out where they are. They no longer “stand outside and watch it burn.”

One fire Walter Baldelli remembers was at the O.B. Davis Furniture Store on East Main Street. Baldelli, a 93-year-old honorary chief and a member since 1948, said the department fought flames through the whole night at the old wood-floored building, and found the body of a night watchman the next day.

Campbell said he was on the stoop next door taking a break and saw the man’s toes sticking up in the bathroom of the scorched building. The watchman was flat on the floor and his body “was like it was boiled” because the water shooting in from the hoses turned to steam. The firefighters knew the man was in there somewhere because he had left his hat at the back door of the building.

Firefighters battle flames at the O.B. Davis Furniture Store on East Main Street in 1960. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village Digital Archive
Firefighters battle flames at the O.B. Davis Furniture Store on East Main Street in 1960. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village Digital Archive

Another large fire was at the post office when it was on Main Street. It was 1948, and Baldelli said hoses drafted water from the harbor to put out the flames. He could taste the saltwater in the air.

The fire had started in the cellar, Baldelli said, and when the blaze was put out and he went down there, the water came up high and it was warm. He added that an employee on the scene when the fire broke out saved all the first class mail.

At one brush fire, Newcomb was on Norwood Avenue and the fire was jumping through the treetops on both sides of him. Newcomb said it was his scariest fire and when the flames came over his head, he stuck his nose in the dirt and the explosion “sounded like a jet coming down.” He said he couldn’t breathe for about 30 seconds.

Newcomb will be the grand marshal of the department’s 125th anniversary parade, which is on June 9 at 5:30 pm. The fire department, which was established in 1887, is also holding a block party on Maple Place that evening, with a display of antique apparatus.