A Dune Road Life
My earliest memory of Dune Road was fear of its proximity to the sea, unseen, just over the dunes. Looking out the bay-side, backseat window, my nose pressed against the pane, at giant houses lying eerie, empty and askew in the center of Shinnecock Bay. As if some giant had picked them up and rolled dice.
I was 9 years old; riding with the parents of a friend. Heavy equipment was still clearing sand from some parts of the road. The car would pull over from time to time to wait for traffic to clear and both adults would marvel at the destructive power of nature. Hurricane Carol’s awesome aftermath.
Successive summers were spent on the Peconic – shielded from Atlantic terrors. At thirteen, peer pressure and a growing sense of adventure led me back to Dune Road and a favorite, early teenage summer destination, Hot Dog Beach. Hot Dog is 2-1/2 miles West of the Ponquogue Bridge.
At Hot Dog, one found a beautiful, welcoming beach populated with kids one’s own age. Isolated from residences and miles from other beach parking, we could play our rock radio as loud as we liked.
At first, by watching and listening, then by trial and error, Hot Dog taught me to respect, enjoy and love the sea. Body surfing, boogie boarding, swimming, bikini watching and surf football; usually where an errant pass might lead to an impromptu introduction to a cute girl.
We grew older, a war began to thin our ranks, the Stones and the Beatles changed pop music, but the sea and the beach were timeless.
Across from Hot Dog, a dead-end street teed off Dune Road. At the end, within walking distance, an afternoon night club opened called The Barge. Live music, women and alcohol made it “hot.” A band called The Young Rascals appeared there on weekends. In the summer of ’66, they had the number one hit in the US, Good Loving, followed by Grooving the following year. The Barge and Hot Dog Beach suffered from over-popularity.
In 1966, my friends and I moved from Hot Dog, a mile east to Tiana Beach. The Tiana Beach Club had a great band every day which provided entertainment from any spot on the sand; the music drew you. Tiana was the number one Pauli Girl beer account in the U.S.
A full-time job in the city meant the Hampton’s were a weekend destination. Together with friends, I moved into a series of group rental in Hampton Bays where the diverse interests of shareholders expanded our Saturday night destinations to include the Hampton’s to the East and West. “Marrakesh” and “Scarlets” nightclubs ushered in the move from live music to Disco. Though the rental house changed, the group mostly stayed together and the “Supersuds of Rhythm” at “Summers” bucked the disco trend and tied us to Tiana Beach. On Labor Day, I danced with the beauty that would become my wife.
When our first child was expected we decided on the name, Tiana, if a girl. A son was born. It was time to move further East to the family-oriented, Ponquogue Beach.
It was time for beach reads, sun protection, catching up on missed sleep from night feedings, insurance, house buying and planning the arc of my professional career. From Ponquogue bridge you could see Southampton and imagine your hard work paying off, getting lucky and one day moving into one of those public library sized mansions on Meadow Lane. At Ponquogue, I taught my four boys to build sandcastles, swim, throw a football, play Frisbee golf, body surf, love and respect for the sea.
Now, approaching 71, my kids successful, married and out of the house; find me at the Shinnecock inlet teaching my grandson to catch Stripers. I tell him about the power of nature, of the hurricane of ’38 that cut this inlet and of seeing the houses in bay in 1954. We check weather reports on our cell phone apps.
I’m proud that I taught him to swim and ride waves and to love this very special part of the world just like I did his Dad and his Uncles. I tell him that this is where his Grandma and I first met and fell in love. How thankful I am that The Town of Southampton has managed to keep it as pristine and natural as when I was his age.
The fish are not biting today. We don’t care. He asks me to tell him another story about “the days of black and white”. Smiling, I look out to sea and squinting in the sunshine the memories materialize.
I try not to notice that I’ve moved as far east on Dune Road a