By Steve Rideout
To this day she can’t look at the picture without silently recharging the emotions her mother captured on that warmEast Hamptonsummer day in 1946. Sand pail by her bare feet, her cotton summer dress pressed against her back, she faced the sea she would come to love so much. Barely two and half, the wonder of the salt water, sand, and sea life became the foundation of her life-long affair with beaches and the ocean, especially on the South Fork. Beryle Huntting Stanley born 1904 onEast Hampton’sCedar Streetadded the year and title “The Wind!” sensing the love of place her daughter, Carol, was developing on these summer vacations at Jud Banister’sThreeMileHarborcamp.
Jud, into his tenth year as Village Mayor, enjoyed the company of his only niece’s child, especially delighting her with Three Mile Harbor and Gardiner’s Bay seafood bounty, shucking clams and oysters in his camp basement. But for young Carol the ocean’s edge held the strongest affection. Standing on a rock, her tiny arms and hands outstretched to catch the wind like the seagulls, she gazed out to sea lost in the world about her.
Jud built the camp in 1919 shortly after he and five local young businessmen each bought adjoining lots onThreeMileHarbor’s east shoreline from John Edwards. Carl Reutershan was Jud’s neighbor to the south and Black Marsh to the north, home for years to Juan Trippe’s seaplane before he created Pan American Airways, was sold to the Grom brothers and developed as Shagwong Marina. These camps became the scene of many joyous parties and social events for locals often wrapping up late in the evening after devouring memory etching seashore meals and watching sunsets of painter’s dreams.
Within a few short years Jud’s budding local political career was being honed on seashore feasts he hosted for the Maidstone District Fire Department’s Hook and Ladder Company beginning that summer of 1921. Although he didn’t join the East Hampton Fire Department until 1919, within two years he was elected Captain of the largest company covering the Fire District, the boundaries defining most of today’s Village as distinct from the Town.
Inheriting his father’s mechanical skills and interests, he concocted a large outdoor concrete oven capable of holding an outsized kettle for steaming huge batches of lobsters, steamers, corn or any delicious items expected in a seashore spread. His first dinner that June became a much anticipated annual event. He was starting to win the hearts and minds of his men and some day would reap their votes for his dedication and diligence.
But for young Carol and her parents and later her baby brother it was simply heaven on earth. Each summer as August approached she strained in anticipation during the ferry ride fromNew Londonto Orient Point and then the tortuously long drive through Riverhead toEast Hampton. The ride was never quick enough and the trip home always came too soon. But in between was the stuff of dreams, built all winter and spring, coiled in her mind waiting to unwind from that glorious camp.
Jud docked his belovedJerseyboat, the Kema at the head of the harbor ready to take his anxious great niece and nephew out fishing in nearby Gardiner’s Bay. The mystery of what she would pull up on her handline or of Jud teasing her with a freshly shucked oyster on the end of his pen knife later in the camp basement remain memories engraved in joy. She never adapted to the slimy oysters as Jud teased her claiming “These get $3 apiece in the City”. Those special moments became riveted forever in her psyche.
From her small upstairs bedroom window she could see the Texaco sign down Harbor and begin those first night dreams softened by the sound of lapping waves, seagull cries and the muffled noise of boats on the Harbor. Oh what wondrous days lay ahead. Sun filled days followed with sand-filled pails to create castles on the beach atMaidstoneParkorMainBeachwith her good friend Nancy Parsons. Equally, she loved exploring sea shore creatures at low tide, finding that special smooth stone or piece of sea glass, often her reward for walking down the steep stairs from Jud’s camp to the dock and shore. But in the end, each season was added to the wondrous mosaic of memories from that special place, a place where a little girl could let her mind wander forever as the breeze at her back held her hands aloft once again captured… by the wind!