the 1950’s, when I came to live on Long Island, a whole new world for my family
and I was opened up. We had left the grime and depression of the Brooklyn
neighborhoods that were transforming before our very eyes. No longer could one
walk the streets at night without fear, elements had moved in and were turning
it into a place that we didn’t know. It was a different neighborhood than what
we were used to, so we like thousands of others, fled. Even the Dodgers would
do so eventually and for the same reasons.
|Main Street, Bellport, NY|
thing is my #1 Son often says that I remember every meal I ever had, and I do
remember the last meal I had in Brooklyn as a resident. As we waited for the
movers to come to take us away, my mother sent me down to the corner bar and
pizzeria on Hull Street and Stone Avenue and I got us a couple of meatball
heroes from their kitchen.
dirt, grime and clatter of Brooklyn, with her overhead els, car horns and the
mounting crime we went to the serenity, tranquility and charm of a sleepy
neighborhood town called Bellport. Bellport Village resembles this day a New
England village, on the water, with quiet little lanes and country roads. There
seemed to be woods everywhere, and the water was a big part of people’s lives.
sitting at home cooped up in an apartment in the city on a wintry Sunday
afternoon we went to going down to the bay and watching the sailboats on
runners, as they skimmed along the frozen stretches of water. In my mind today,
some 57 years later it all seems to be romantic in a way, like a Currier and
Ives print, complete with billowing sails and shouting children. There were
ice-skaters and crowds of them, scattered along the beach front looking out
across the Long Island Sound, and the clear crispness of the day allowed one to
see Fire Island, an almost foreign land.
beautiful, and I recall the first days living out in the sunshine of country
life. It was an uplifting spirit that took hold, as I would remember the days
in Brooklyn when we used to go to Cypress Park or Highland Park and feel the
sense of country, and how I wished I could go to Patchogue, just west of
Bellport and be with my lucky cousins who roamed that pleasant place!
summers as a young child, I would get a vacation of a few weeks and go to
Patchogue to stay with my uncle and cousins. Next door lived my aunt and more
cousins. Those days were beautiful in my eyes, the going to the country.
Suddenly, moving out to Bellport, I was on a baseball team, and playing in an
organized league, not a stick ball game dodging the traffic that flowed through
and interfered with a 2-sewer homer of Brooklyn. Every summer morning at my
uncle’s I would awaken with sleepy eyes to the soft 'toot' of the Long Island
Railroad as the trains would pass through the town, telling me I was in a
paradise. Suddenly, living in Bellport, if I listened, I could hear them run
through Bellport, and the funny thing is I took them for granted and stopped
summer day I went to the Bellport beach, laying in the sand feeling the warmth
of the grains that engulfed my feet and romping in the water of Bellport Bay,
the saltiness clearing my head as it ran up my nose or down to Duncan Avenue
and the cool waters of the lake. The hottest days found me at the lake, where
the trees covered you with shade and helped cool you down. I recall the thrill
of taking a rowboat with my friends and rowing around the lake, with the water
reflecting the shoreline trees that made it seem like a blue-green lagoon and
returning the boat after seeing a snapping turtle or some swan swim toward the
boat. We were good kids and never destructive, returning everything in its
village of Bellport with Trotter's supermarket and the bookstore became a part
of the whole scene, the fish market on the corner and the drugstore occupying
the other side corner of the street, the luncheonette in the middle of the
block and Brown’s Garage or salesroom all gave a flavor to the wonderful
village. If you went east along Main Street there stood the old white I think
Presbyterian Church and further down the old converted barn that became the
famous Gateway Playhouse. Along the north-south path: Bellport Lane that led
directly to the bay and the magnificent gazebo where the band played on 4th of
July nights was the Bellport Hotel, where I would stay during the summer months
as Mom and Dad ran the kitchen at the hotel and fed the off-Broadway actors who
came in, many who became famous later in life. There were and still are the
wonderful art shows that run along Bellport Lane, closed off to traffic on the
4th of July!
Bellport is a special place, frequented by and lived in by such notables as:
Barber, NY Giants running back, Giovanni Capitello, filmmaker, Frank
Castellano, captain of the USS Bainbridge, artist William Glackens, William
Higginbotham (1910–1994), a physicist at nearby Brookhaven National Laboratory.
He developed one of the earliest video games, Tennis for Two, Salina Maitreya
(born 1955), international photography consultant and author, Mike McAlary
(1957–1998), journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner, Samuel Irving Newhouse, Jr.
(born 1927), magazine publisher, Jacqueline Kennedy, Isabella Rossellini,
Charlie Rose, Randy Smith, (1948–2009), former NBA player, Elmer Ambrose
Sperry, inventor of gyroscope and founder of Sperry Rail Service, the first
internal rail flaw detection company, former governor of Massachusetts and New
York gubernatorial candidate, William Weld, E.B. White, (1899–1985), author and
P.G. Wodehouse's (1881–1975), English comic writer.
is small, maybe 2,000 people in all, but it is special, a gem set in the midst
of some wonderful memories for me.