Sag O’ Harbor

Written By: Henry Letcher

I don’t know why, my Father referred to it with an O in the middle of it’s name, but from the sound of his voice, it was with a certain affection and to us, it meant that, we would soon be on our way there.

On the last day of school, with the cars loaded the night before i.e.. the Oldsmobile station wagon was packed and all of our bikes were strapped down to the rack on the top of the car. There was a two toned blue Olds coupe that held my Grand Mother and Grand Father along with picnic baskets of fried chicken, potato salad, home made rolls, pies,  a picnic thermos of cold juice and cold baked beans. There was always a good supply of my grandmother’s special recipe molasses cookies. with chocolate chips, raisins, oatmeal and walnuts. She was a master of the kitchen and my father would protect her and her domain at any intruder’s peril.

I anticipated our first stop on the Jersey Turnpike with mixed emotions. They had the best candy bar that I ever had, in the little concession stand where you paid your bill to the cashier.  I was anticipating getting one, even though it was expensive (fifty cents).  I was also dreading the rejection my family and beloved Grand Mother were about to receive, while I tried to finagle my candy bar. – First layer thick dark fudge, Second layer marshmallow, Covered in thick milk chocolate. – I had my fifty cents ready. The cashier almost always took pity on me/us and sold me one when no one was looking. While my folks tried to get a table inside the glass doors. When we approached those doors the ‘patrons’, put their forks down and turned and stared at us through the glass doors like they were in some horror movie. I really didn’t understand why my folks wanted to even go in there. Their food couldn’t be as good as Grandma’s and I had my candy bar anyway.

Grandma had a boarding house in Columbus, Ohio. My father met my mother there while he was working on his Master’s Degree in Ceramic Art at Ohio State University. Grad school students, Jessie Owens, Chester Himes and others who were lucky enough to find their way there as well. Campus housing was not available to them. Grandma’s son was the first black Fire Chief of Columbus. Uncle Herman was also an Ohio State football star. My father told me that he would carry his, would be tacklers with him across the goal line. He said half of the stadium would be cheering him on and the other half would be booing him and encouraging their team to get that (expletive).

My Dad ran track with Jesse Owens and after school and in The War he accompanied him to Germany for an audience with the Fuhrer. He was a Major in the 99th in charge of their ground transportation by then. He told me that when they were under bombardment that many of the scared young men would cry and run about and often end up running into an incoming explosive. So he decided that was useless and would lay down and go to sleep where he was. That earned him the moniker, ‘The Iron Major’. Which I thought was his way, to get me to behave and pay attention, until I saw the press clips myself.

When they entered the room for their audience, Hitler, stood up and left.

As we got closer to Sag Harbor, the road fatigue and worries began to dissipate. The feeling was palpable among us. There was no mistake we had left the ‘road’ and were now on the soft sandy pathway to our beloved sanctuary.

A summer of swimming, boat rides, friends, parties, beach time.

Sag Harbor.

It was too dark to see the beach and the bay beyond but you could smell it and hear the soft lapping of the waters on the beach. With that reassurance, we completed our journey. I took my shoes off and rarely put them back on for the rest of the summer.