Old Memories

Written By: Karen  Montalbano

“Look at this traffic! I remember when you could walk down the middle of Noyac Road.”

Mom can say that because she started vacationing in the North Sea area of Southampton back in 1938.

“You got to remember, there was a war on. We were lucky to have gas for the car.”

There were very few cars on the road then. Mom remembers her mother keeping her and her brothers occupied by telling them to count the cars on a Friday night while they waited for their father to drive out from Brooklyn. They were lucky if they saw ten an hour.

Few cars but plenty of farmland.

Mom picked cucumbers at Luchadoos farms for pennies per bushel. Returned with bushels of peaches when her mother wanted to make pie. Listened to Mr. King’s western country music through the wall every night when they rented half the house at the farm.

“My mother would tell me on a Friday afternoon to go out in the bay and get a couple of dozen clams for dinner.”

It took her less than a half hour to get them.

They also went crabbing. Once they had so many that they putt the crabs in the bathtub and one escaped, much to her mother’s surprise when she went to use the bathroom. They had to be careful near the sunken pier at the end of Peconic Bay Avenue that used to have a Casino at the end. The building which supplied the electricity still stands.  There were rowboats rented and swimming in the bay.  To save water their mother would tell them to take their bicycles and go over to “Little Fresh” to rinse off.

“The beach is really nice this year.”

The beach was always the big attraction. For decades it has been a gathering place for family and friends, starting with her mother’s generation through her generation, my generation and now my children’s generation. I still smile at the memories of the “old ladies” sitting in their chairs with tennis shoes on, putting their feet in the water. When they got too hot they would wet their wrists and the back of their necks before crouching down to their necks in the water. Then they would return to their chairs to chat. Many of my generation remember mom teaching them to swim.

We’re still sitting on the beach in chairs and chatting.

“This was all woods when I was growing up.”

There were plenty of woods to roam. My mother and her siblings, cousins and friends even found an abandoned rum runners’ house with second story balconies looking out to Little Peconic Bay. They loved the woods; their mother not so much. She refused to rent one house because it was in the woods with no one nearby and no electricity or phone.  She also drew the line on kerosene stoves and outhouses. Some things you could not ask of a girl from Brooklyn.

“I once ran into Gary Cooper on the steps of the post office on Main Street. Heddy Lamar was out here, You would see the Irish Tenor Phil Regan and the Fords at Mass at Sacred Heart”

Southampton Village was a summer town filled with celebrities and codes. You could be fined if you wore a bathing suit on the main streets. She was once stopped because her shorts were not long enough. The Rogers Memorial Library was on the corner of Jobs Lane next to the Parrish Art Museum. There were small specialty stores; Herbert’s Deli, Catena’s Meat Market.  Many of them didn’t seem crowded because they were delivering orders phoned in from the estates near the ocean. Many stores would shut down for the winter.  Since most people didn’t drive, there were deliveries from the milkman, the baker and the butcher.  Ice cream was a big treat when Mom went to town with her father when he was out on weekends.

After many years of vacationing in the area, Mom became a permanent resident in 2001.  There are woods behind her house. She enjoys seeing the deer and wild turkeys on her property. Going to the beach and swimming in the bay is a summer constant for her to this day.

“That was Mrs. Scitilla’s store. She sold only gasoline and kerosene.”

Her memories are often triggered now as we drive past familiar sites. They have become part of our family folklore and history.  I have heard them often, and now tell the stories to others.  They have been added to my own memories of the area, and told to my children.

As my mother is starting to have difficulty remembering some things, I know these memories will never be lost.