August holds a special place for me, especially August 1st. Yes, it is summer, but for many of my childhood and teen years, it was when my family would leave for vacation in the Southampton Shores community on eastern Long Island. My recollections of Southampton Shores go back to the mid-1950s although my parents started going there and the general vicinity before I was born. Unlike the “old wealth” of the Southampton village oceanfront, the areas along Peconic Bay were very middle class in those days and the homes or “cottages” almost exclusively seasonal.
The anticipation for our leaving was analogous to the days right before Christmas for my older sister and me. Although the cottages we stayed in had more than the bare necessities, it seemed my mother was packing for an overseas trip of a year or more. Years later as adults, my sister and I would laugh while reminiscing how we had to be “dressed up” for the trip. One reason for this was some years we would stop for lunch at the Liberty Inn located in what was then the rural, hamlet of Ridge. Those also were different times. You were out in public and people were far more conscious of how they dressed.
On this roughly two-hour journey which was prior to expressways and parkways extending too far out on eastern Long Island, the signs and sounds of suburbia were displaced by the quiet of woods and smell of grassy fields and eventually the waters of the bays and salt ponds came into view.
In those early years, my dad rented a rowboat from the nearby marina and with our Dad’s 5 hp outboard motor along with the house owner’s smaller boat served our fishing and recreational boating needs. Eventually, my dad bought a boat and subsequently a slightly larger 16 ft. boat with a 40 hp motor in 1963.
Clearly, Southampton Shores was heaven to me. I never tired of it. There was fishing, swimming, clamming and crabbing along with trips to the ocean beaches and the docks where you might see the catches of commercial or recreational fishing boats. There was also a drive-in theater in nearby Bridgehampton which seemed like going on a camping trip.
Television? Who really needed it unless you had a rainy day when we normally did something else like a puzzle or a card game? Besides, you might get one station from Connecticut or on occasion, a second station with a fuzzy picture.
I honestly think our family dog (a beagle named Pino after the cartoon character Pinocchio) enjoyed himself as much as anyone else. This suburban canine had one month of chasing rabbits and the freedom to wander through high grass and swim with the benefit of no lease laws which weren’t necessary anyway. I would grab a fishing pole to walk down the beach to fish, and he would simply follow along.
As I approached my late teen years, I had combined my interest in marine science and boats with Southampton Shores into some sort of dream of working somewhere on eastern Long Island as a marine biologist riding around in a 26 ft. Lyman boat, but also chasing after pretty girls in bikinis.
This plan had some built-in deficiencies. First off, employment opportunities for much of anything in those years on eastern Long Island were limited. By the mid and late 1960s, few manufacturers were still building wooden boats although Lyman still did. However, a boat that size was not inexpensive! Lastly, I was shy at that age when it came to girls so I do not think the “bikini-chasing” would have worked out all that well, either.
So, let us fast-forward. I did earn degrees in Oceanography and Biology and although my professional career was about 98% involved with freshwater fish and water quality, I did get to complete a few “saltwater” projects as an environmental consultant.
My sister purchased a house in Southampton Shores in the early 1980s close to where we used to rent. Sadly, she passed away in 2015, but through some interesting circumstances, our daughter is living and working nearby. Thus, the connection to Southampton Shores dating back roughly 70 years remains.
As for the bigger boat? Alas, that never came to be. That same 16-footer, however, spent roughly 25 years in my sister’s garage, and I knew it was in fairly good shape, but I wanted to find it a home, if possible. As I stared at the boat more and more, it was like looking at an old friend. I decided to keep it and see if I could get it fixed up. It took a few phone calls and some internet surfing before I was directed to someone who wanted to do the restoration work. The work is almost complete. Sadly, I am the only family member left to know the true meaning of seeing her float again. That will be a story for another time.
Then there is the last part: the pretty girls in bikinis. That one did work out because I wound up with a very pretty, blonde in a bikini with whom I have been married the last 37 plus years. Besides sailing together briefly, this part had nothing to do with the boat being restored – not yet anyway.
Note: Today’s entry was written by my husband, Russell, who documented his favorite month of the year: August. Thank you to this talented guest blogger. He’s a pearl of great value and a romantic.