This is the beginning of the end. I titled this paper the end because, for me, it’s the end of an era on the East End of Long Island. For the past fifty years I have managed to make the East End a part of my life. When I first discovered it I was in my teens. When I really had a chance to explore it’s character, beauty and ambiance I was in my twenties.
In 1963 I joined the NYSP, and as a Trooper, was stationed in Riverhead. The barracks covered both forks of the East End of Long Island. While working a daily tour of duty I had the opportunity to explore every nook and cranny of the eastern forks. I patrolled the potato fields of the North folk and the then baron lands of the south fork. I covered the main and secondary roads many of which, in those days, were dirt roads.
As the years past I was given promotions and new assignments while employed by the NYSP. Somehow I had been captivated by the area and I made it a point to stay connected with the East End. In 1973 the bride and I bought a house in Hampton Bays. We became summer residents. Twenty-five years later we bought a house on Sinnecock Bay and became year round residents.
I believe that I was more aware of the changes to the East End, especially the south-fork, primarily because we were summer residents. When things change on a daily basis they are less noticeable than when you leave, for ten months, and then return to notice the difference.
Presently, with the exception of a few winter months that we spend in Florida, we are year round resident of Hampton Bays. Ironically, In the past as a summer resident my thoughts throughout the year were focused on; fishing, clamming, going to the beach, smelling the salty air and taking an outdoor shower. Now as a year round resident, having daily access to the joys of the East End, a certain amount of desire has been lost. I still love the East End but my passion and yearning are far less than what they were when we were summer residents.
As with most things in life nothing ever stays the same. Fifty years ago I was there to see: The Big Duck, The Blue Bird, The Oliver Twist Inn, The Eye, The Canoe Place Inn, John Duck’s, The Post House, Sag Harbor, The Montauk Lighthouse, Gardiners Island, The National, Gurneys, The Deep Hollow Ranch, Montauk Marine Basin, and a myriad of other places too long to list but all of which have the same thing in common. They all have changed.
Those were the days of the East Hampton haul-seiners. There were swordfish and white sharks a mile off the beach. The surrounding waters were abundant with marine life. The land, the bays, the sea all seemed boundless. The hamlets were quaint and non-commercialized and the vast majority of the people were year-round Long Islanders. The land was open and because it remained untouched, it gave off a magnificent feeling of freedom. It was a time when you had to look hard to find a fence or a fifteen-foot hedge. There weren’t any substantial traffic problems and the LIRR went all the way to the end which was also called Montauk. None of the above exists today.
Today I’m concerned about the future of Long Island’s East End. I know that change is simply part of a natural phenomenon but when I view how dramatic it’s become especially the population, it’s disturbing. I’m very grateful to have lived the experiences of the East End as it was during the past five decades. It was an irreplaceable era that was fantastically special.
Presently there are too many cars, too much technology, too many people and just so many problems that did not exist in the past when life seemed less complicated. Years ago the car ride to the East End was a pleasure. Today it is a calamity. Prime vacant land is hard to find and the existing structures are subjected to so many regulations that it’s remarkable that any of them still exist. The lesson to be learned from this analysis is to preserve what we have because it is quickly disappearing.
As our Eastern Long Island population grew it reached a point where the entire structure of the south fork changed. People fenced their properties, took more than they needed from the surrounding waters and gave little consideration as to things like water, sewage and conservation. Right now I’m filled up with a bunch of negatives but its 4:00 PM and unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for the reader, the time has arrived for me to spend some time on the bay. I’ll check back with this writing in a few hours.
Now it’s 6:00 PM and I have just returned from my daily scheduled time on the bay. I enjoyed a swim and then scratch-raked ten chowder-size clams in fifteen minutes. After putting them in the freezer, I walked the beach in front of my house and picked up the plastic bags, fishing line, and refuse discarded by those people who are not much to my liking. Often when I do this, I’ll have the feelings of anger and sorrow at the same time. The bay needs to receive tender loving care from everyone.
After forty minutes passed, I opened the clams so my bride of forty-five years could start preparing dinner. On the menu tonight was spaghetti with clam sauce and Arthur Avenue Bread from the freezer. My bride, Susan, is the best cook in the world.
My next move was a part of the joy I experience daily. It’s the pounding massage of an outside shower that I personally built to my own specifications. I’ve had an outside shower for almost forty years but this one is only twelve years old and it’s the best. I have ten, correct, shower heads and they all work. Some are homemade, some are expensive, some are cheap, some are standard but they all do a specific job. My shower was great and as usual the best cook in the world again made an excellent dinner.
Tomorrow I’ll try for a fluke in the bay. The fluke come and go as they always have but nowadays there are just too many boats on what is a relatively small bay. Unfortunately there are many anglers who take not what they need, but what they can. If I’m lucky, and catch, I will keep but one fish because that is all I need for the bride to prepare a panko crumb gourmet meal. After dinner I’ll put my thoughts of the day on paper. The above, last few paragraphs, describes but a small part of the closeness I have with the East End.
I have many lifetime endeavors but writing is one I never explored until I suffered severe hearing loss at the age of 70. I started writing and just never stopped. I write for the love of it and all of my writings to a storage place on my computer. In addition to many stories I have sent two books there. At the age of 75 my enjoyment lye’s solely in writing and for that reason I have never considered promoting these books.
Writing about the memories of a lifetime is my way of reliving those experiences that I cherish more as each day passes. I know that at times I’m far from grammatically correct but I’m usually captivated, to the extent that I enter into a certain mood, and write script using whatever colloquial jargon I feel at the time. My inspiration comes from the days when I: worked undercover narcotics in NYC, spent a week at The Woodstock Festival (1969), served in the military, lived in Colorado and Montana, had a Coast Guard charter license, commercially fished in Montauk and ran a very successful business. My stories of undercover Law Enforcement work and fishing are limitless.
I find the East End to be a thought provoking place to write especially when I’m near the ocean. What I have written thus far hardly touches on the myriad of persons, places and things I have experienced while out East. I hope I have prompted the readers not to think only of their futures but to consider the futures of their grandchildren and the challenges they will face. I wrote The End in hopes that its message might be a beginning for the next generation.
I can explain my own perspective in these few words. No one knows what the future holds but I believe that if you plant the saplings of knowledge and let them age in the orchards of experience, you will reap a harvest from the trees of wisdom.
The End by Richard Scholer