Montauk Memories

Written By: Albert  Kramer
The bright summer sun shown through the dirty car window as i sat in the passenger seat of my fathers work van as he drove towards Montauk Station. He being a mechanist on the Long Island Rail Road, was assigned duty at what he lovingly called the “End of the Line” and had decided to take me along with him to work on a warm summer Saturday morning to get me out of the house and out of my Mother’s hair.
It was the Summer of 1996 and i was fresh out of summer school. Being the Nerdy 13 year old  kid i was, my parents feared that i would waste the summer in my bedroom, nose deep in a book, or playing with my action figures, and never get outside to actually enjoy the time off from school and soak up some sunlight, and my father decided to drag me along with him to work, thus making this trip mandatory.
It had already been an active summer. Earlier, i had taken a trip that my mother had signed me up for with the Mastic Moriches and Shirley Community library to the World Trade Center. 
Having only seen the city from afar as we passed it over the Verrazano Bride on our way towards Virginia to see my mothers side of the family.
Before that day, i had only been within the city once to see the USS Intrepid with a local boy scout troop and up until then that had been the highlight of my young life, going onboard the grand Aircraft Carrier and seeing all the exhibits.
But The World Trade Center beat that trip by far. I remember vividly entering the grand lobby, standing in line to go into the elevators to the observation deck, feeling my ears pop as the elevator rose, then watching the doors open as they reached the lobby floor and seeing the city laid out beyond through the narrow slit windows.
In the rush of excitement to see the city i recall running towards the windows to get a glimpse at the vastness of the city, only to overlook the step into a narrow viewing “pit”, and falling forward towards the narrow glass window and watching all of manhattan rush up to me before the tip of my nose hit the glass.
It was at that moment i learned i was scared of heights.  Having let out a yell, i turned around, slightly embarrassed, and adjusted my footing and continued to look out the window at the great city beyond.
Later on i would go up on top of the 2nd world trade center (the one without the antenna) and i recall the first time i felt the very building move slightly in the wind as i fixated on the Antenna on the first building. To some, it would make nauseous. To me, i wondered if it felt the same as a ship rising and falling with the waves out to sea.
In my excitement, i had forgotten to take photos and recall going though my knapsack on the way home the disposable camera i had to take pictures with with almost an empty reel of film. “Oh well” i thought, “I’ll just have to come back and take pictures next time”
But next time would never come…
Ironically that night of the trip to the World Trade Center was the crash of TWA 800. Living not but a mile away from Smith Point Beach, i recall the strange feeling of seeing so many Police and Coast Guard at the beach, and seeing the Smith Point Bridge closed off to oncoming traffic as the Rescue Workers searched the sea for survivors. 
But now weeks later that all seemed like a distant memory as i stared out the window of my fathers van as he drove towards Montauk.
At the time, Summers on long island wasn’t a big deal outside of being out of school. To my young 13 year old self, i never really appreciated the weather or the scenery of the island, having lived in the same house all my life, i just grew jaded to it i suppose.
I always lived a sheltered life within the safe confines of my home, having become heavyset and socially awkward, outside was always where everyone else was. Having been picked on  for my weight endlessly, i often stayed indoors with my face in a book or a sketchpad, away from the rest of the kids ready to pick and tease me.
I guess my parents grew tired of me constantly sitting inside and thus my father decided it be good for me to go with him to Montauk and get some sunlight. 
It wasn’t my first time on the East End. The previous summer i had been to camp Quinipet and i had fond memories of the trip out there, seeing the various towns along the way and feeling a sense of history among them as we passed through. 
We had reached the Train Station and parked in the back where the tracks ended and i recall seeing for the first time Montauk Manor overlooking the small station. The building in my mind was massive. More like a castle then a manor, and just one look at it i could tell it was not of my time. 
Having a life long love of Ocean Liners and the early 20th century, i instantly liked it and part of me hoped i could go explore it while i was within its site, but alas, i was restricted to the old Workers Trailer across from the end of the station where my father would rest when he wasn’t fixing trains.
The inside of the trailer was small, confined. There, my old couch and refrigerator from my childhood resided still as i sat within the trailer, my nose still buried in my all-time favorite childhood book, Dr Robert D Ballard’s Exploring the Titanic.
I would also read about the other great ocean liners, Titanic sister ships the “Olympic” and Britannic. Her Cunard Line Rivals RMS Mauritania and her infamous sister ship RMS Lusitania, sunk by a German U-boat in 1915 off the coast of Ireland.
I also read about the Queen Mary and other ocean liners of the 1920s and the Montauk Manor, having been built in the same era (1926), almost called to me.
But Alas, my father had work to do and there was no way he would let me go up to the Manor myself, so i resigned myself to just staring at it out the window, wondering what it must have been like within.
Before i knew it, a few hours had passed and it was lunch time. My Father and A Co worker had taken me to a nearby Deli where we got Hero’s. I recall the small layout of the store with an open back facing the beach and remember thinking this place had a history to it. It felt old, worn, but well loved and cared for.
I recall walking towards the beach, and seeing the summer light shine off the blue ocean beyond and seeing the lighthouse not to far away.
I knew id never get to see it up close on this trip, but it left a lasting impression on me.

I often wondered about the countless people who saw it out at sea…The Titanic Survivors aboard the RMS Carpathia as they saw it for the first time, or the Sailors onboard American Warships, Sailing to transport troops and equipment to fight the World Wars. Or the Sailors and Fisherman returning home, knowing land was in sight after a long voyage.
Although i never visited it, it was in my mind too. Every time i would have a panic attack or suffer from bouts of Depression, i would always picture in my mind the day i had my own ship, the “Olympic” and i would sail from Long Island towards Europe or Australia to avoid the harsh winters. 

Or seeing it in mid spring as i sailed back, seeing it through a morning fog as the warm spring sunlight hit its red and orange shape, knowing i had at long last, returned home!