Okay, before you berate me, let me explain. I came from Westbury, a little town to the west. You know, just before Carle Place on the LIRR north line? So, when I was younger, around age 10, EVERY Tuesday my parents would drive out to eastern Long Island. You see, my father worked for Transit in the city as a motorman in the subway and on his day off he wanted to relax and enjoy the wonders that are the East End. For me, it meant a whole day in the backseat of the car, away from my friends, and, occasionally, having my parents debate produce procurements. More on that later.
I would take my place in the backseat of the Chevy and out east we would go. From about nine in the morning until sunset. Sometimes I had planned on playing in the sprinkler with friends or playing stickball or whatever but noooooo. But, let’s just ignore this supposition, shall we?
I remember us going out to Riverhead and driving north on a little road with lots of trees. Up ahead on the east side of the road there appeared a Big White Duck! I know it’s been mentioned countless times but, oh, what a wonder to a 10-year-old to see this site! I think they sold eggs and other such dairy items then. I thought it was the greatest thing to see this marvelous Big Duck parked on the side of the road. And it had a door! It was tremendous.
But, okay, so it was a Big Duck. And after that it got moved to Flanders.
Ah, Flanders…I remember going to Flanders often and it was always windy there! My mother would take me swimming and we had fun frolicking in the little, rippling waves. I found a silver pocket watch there with a cracked crystal and it still worked! I still have it. I remember saying that this was so much better than playing in the sprinkler at home. I loved it.
Sometimes we would drive by Tiana Bay. Oh, Tiana Bay! Do you know what I think of any time I think about Tiana Bay? A pretty blue- and-white sailboat gliding by at sunset. It was so placid, serene, and resplendent against the setting sun. I wouldn’t mind just gazing out at that right now. I relish the calming memories it still evokes. Thank you to whomever sailed that boat that day!
We’d be on to Speonk. Oh, I had one of the best times in Speonk!! You see, in our travels, we happened upon my aunt whose car had broken down in Speonk. My cousin opened the hood of the car and remarked,
“I know what’s wrong! The engine’s gone!”
Ha, I thought that was hilarious. Well, to a 10-year-old, it really was. Fortunately, the car was outside a little restaurant whose name is lost in infamy but it was small, friendly and had a jukebox. As we waited for someone to come and repair the car while our parents had a beer or two (Schaefer! Well, it IS the beer when you’re “hav-ing more than one!”), we endeavored to play some songs. My cousin said to push G-7 for “Windy,” a popular song that year by The Association, but I mistakenly pushed G-8 and we got “Please Release Me” by Engelbert Humperdinck. This was humorous at the time and I guess you had to be there. But we had so much fun in Speonk. The people in that little restaurant were so friendly and giving of their time, too, as we waited for the car to be repaired. I love Speonk!
Onto Quogue! Quogue emits a memory of ice cream. Quogue and ice cream are together in my mind and, really, that’s a good thing. I vividly remember a little Breyer’s Ice Cream green leaf logo hanging from a metal sign outside a store set back beneath giant trees. It was a grand, old, wooden store that actually looked like an antebellum home in the South. Really pretty. Anyway, my father stopped and came out with an ice cream pop. You know the kind that is just plain vanilla ice cream with a chocolate shell and if you inadvertently (or deliberately!!) bite the bottom, it starts melting unmercifully?!! Yes, yes, that’s what he got me! It was so cool and delicious and I would love one right now!
One time on the South Fork, somewhere around Shinnecock Bay, my parents took me fishing. I had a brand new Zebco reel and was so excited because it had two buttons that made for easy release of the line. I had never fished and really didn’t care about fishing but I was excited all the same to have this nifty rod and Zebco reel. I had a double hook, too, and I caught two fish right away. Sitting right there on the dock…of the bay…! We didn’t keep the fish, let them swim away. So it was a good day, hey, hey, hey!
Moving north, we often happened upon the farms and roadside stands of the North Fork along Route 25 in such towns as Jamesport, Laurel, Southold. One time my mother stopped for tomatoes at a stand outside someone’s house. The house was set back from the road and the proprietor was actually taking a nap on the front porch. The tomatoes were 25 cents for a pint and there was a cardboard box there to collect the money. My mother put in a few quarters and she yelled “thank you!” to the lady. The lady sat up, waved to us, and went back to her slumber. While I enjoyed some of the juiciest tomatoes right off the vine, I thought how trusting and wonderful the citizens were far out in eastern Long Island.
Sometimes we would stop and pick potatoes on one of the farms. It sounds so arduous but, actually, it was a lot of fun! Like looking for buried treasure. The bounty of eastern Long Island is to be relished and enjoyed and appreciated. Long Island is just the best!
Oh! Speaking of potatoes, I vividly remember going out to the Treat Potato Factory out east on the Island. Treat Potato Chips were truly Long Island’s and they were the best. Really. They were. The bags were red and blue and had ribbons as the logo. This one time, we went into the store at the Treat Potato Chip plant and my father got a big tin of freshly made, warm potato chips. Oh, how I loved those warm chips!! I had potato chips and soda and it was one of the best memories I have…of…eastern Long Island.
What else…Peaches! Yes, we also picked peaches!! Bushels and bushels of fresh peaches, right off the trees. I remember helping my mother pick luscious white and yellow peaches. The fragrance was intoxicating and I consumed many in my backseat home! My mother would later make peach pies, peach turnovers, peach jam. Wow, I loved…those…trips.
Mattituck! One time my sister came with us on our endless trips out far because she had a friend who worked as a lifeguard at Mattituck beach. My mother loved the beach and we always went to one somewhere. It was great. This particular day was extra hot and my father got me an orange popsicle. It was so refreshing after playing in the surf and sand. My sister came along and asked me for half, promising to replace it later. I relented. But, later, when I inquired about the replaced popsicle, she gave me some of her orange soda instead. She said it’s the same, just melted. I didn’t think it was the same.
Riverhead! Besides peach jam, my mother would make jam from the Beach Plums we would gather in Riverhead. She’d ask my father to stop and she and I would hurry out and gather as much as we could by the side of the road! My mother’s jam from freshly-gathered eastern Long Island Beach Plums was sublime!
Well, I could go on. Orient Point, Peconic Bay, Amagansett, Sag Harbor, The Hamptons, Shelter Island…but I think you can see what I mean about eastern Long Island. I mean…I LOVE eastern Long Island!! I was wrong!! I admit it!! The powerful memories it has for me from our Tuesday journeys are so precious. And those “tiffs” I mentioned? Now that I recall, they were usually over incidentals like “Do we really need three bushels of peaches?” And, believe me, any qualms were easily eradicated by the sumptuous peach pies and turnovers we’d enjoy later. I need to plan a trip to the East End now!
After I call my sister and settle a little orange popsicle issue.