THE TRUE CITY KIDS INVADE THE HAMPTONS
By Rich Wilkie
It is now over forty years since we invaded the Hamptons, more precisely Hampton Bays and East Quogue. This was the original bridge and tunnel crowd from the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. These baby boomers, a horde of first generation college kids of working class Irish and Italian parents, who only knew the Long Island as an occasional trip to Jones Beach. We served our time at Orchard Beach in the Bronx, Dyker Beach in Brooklyn and then graduated to Rockaway in Queens. Rockaway was an underage drinkers haven, that even a false baptism certificate or a library card could serve for proof of the then legal drinking age of eighteen.
Then the first scouts reported back about a place with no boardwalks, open beaches, cool bars and beautiful girls. We piled into used Fords and Chevys with an occasional VW Beetle, MG or Spitfire. Gas was thirty five cents, a used car could be had for around seven hundred dollars and a summer share from Memorial Day to Labor Day was less than five hundred dollars. The LIRR from Penn Station was less than three dollars. That left money to buy six packs of Bud for two dollars and fifty cents ,a case of Schmidt’s for five dollars or four dollars for quarts of vodka or rum. Many people could take the summer off, since college wasn’t that expensive, college loans were miniscule and there were available jobs waiting.
We partied at Canoe Place Inn and the Mad Hatter, now town eyesores, but for
revisiting Boomers are full of happy, dancing ghosts. Caseys was Wilson’s Garage, the new condos on West Tiana Road were once The Knotty Knee and the Oliver Twist Inn is still annoying neighbors today as the Beach Bar. Popular meeting places like Ed Bays Pub are gone and the Coach after many reincarnations is Squiretown Restaurant. The Boardy Barn remains open only on Sundays and is now a rite of passage for our kids. We heard Bronx boy, Felix Cavilere and the Rascals at the Barge, the Vagrants at the Tiana Beach Club and Pepe & Alive n Kickin belting out their hit Hold On.
The share houses had two to three people on the lease who sold shares to eight to twelve people who in turn brought friends. People slept two to a bed, shared couches, passed out on floors or if you were really lucky had the backseat of a car. Once and in awhile deluxe accommodations could be had, if someone scored with suburban girls, who had rooms in the now razed Allen Acres Hotel.
But every non-rainy day all roads led to Hot Dog Beach. Like Bogart in Casablanca, we came for the waters, but were misinformed. Few people ever swam. Thank God because there were no lifeguards People just stood up which was better for drinking, mingling and people watching. Hot Dog Beach welcomed everyone. The former madras clad surf boys now wearing long hair, beards, cut off jeans and tee shirts. This was a hard drinking crowd subsisting on beer and celebrating with garbage cans full of cold bash. Bash was a concoction of fruit juices, orange soda, rum, gin vodka and wine. That drink combined with the sun produced wild times and later painful hangovers. It beckoned hard core hippies tripping in the sun to the sounds of Jimi Hendrix and Grace
Slick. It welcomed back returning friends, who had volunteered or been drafted for Viet Nam, as they waded the waves of cultural shock.
Gradually things changed. Share houses were severely limited, bars shut down, cops became stricter and the Jersey Shore stayed a party place. The kids of the late 60’s cleaned up, got jobs, most married and started families. Many had successful careers, often took vacations out east, some bought second homes, so when people get together they always remember those simpler, fun-filled summers.