Could everyone write one simple essay about something that once happened in Saltaire…that they saw or were a part of…and put it on one big website? Somebody should collect a lot of stories before we all forget. Otherwise it is like a line in “On The Beach” : The history of the war that now would never be written.” -(JO'H)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Massive Centennial Celebration at Saltaire August 26, 2017 Starting at the Yacht Club in The Morning, Going all day and Evening.

Well, this is what we said back in 2011:
The Saltaire Centennial Starts Here

The Saltaire Centennial Starts here-- if you want it to.
A hundred years ago-- 1911-- the first “paper houses” went up to start a summer “bungalow colony” that they named “Saltaire.” They had lots of good ideas-- a reasonably priced cottage for a family with kids. A great place to raise that “Happy Healthy Saltaire Youngster” that they posted in their promotional literature.
But some of the finer details were overlooked at first:
Like: whose big idea was it to plow down the dunes so that everybody could have an “ocean view?”
Like: who did they think was going to repair the “seven miles of boardwalk” when they started to fall apart after a couple of years?
But ultimately the place survived through a pretty tumultuous Twentieth Century. Two World Wars and the Great Depression and prophetic storms in 1927 and 1930 that started putting the houses with the best ocean views into the ocean forever. Ocean Promenade was doomed.
These conditions were not conducive to making a big profit for the Fire Island Beach Development Company. Especially if there was always talk about plans to run a car highway right through the village. Auctions were held offering special terms and monthly payments.
And then, of course, the BIG ONE. The “hurricane of the century:” the 1938 storm that practically wiped the whole place off the map. Ocean Promenade is somewhere under water now.
You probably know some of these stories already. But those are just the tip of the iceberg. In a hundred years Saltaire has had thousands of stories. Stories about the people who lived here, visited here, worked here, grew up here. Stories of ship wrecks in Saltaire: like in 1915 and in 2011.
Stories about being a healthy, happy Saltaire youngster here. You know, like knowing the best places to crawl under the boardwalk to find coins that fell between the cracks (hint: try near the grocery store now that there aren't pay phones anymore). Like knowing where not to step on the boardwalk to if you don't want to rip your foot open. Like finding a shady spot to cool your feet because you forgot to bring your shoes and you are walking down a boardwalk that must be 150 degrees hot in the blazing noonday sun? Like, did kids ever learn to wear shoes out here?
I'll bet you can go out there right now and find a Coffey house. But can you tell us why you can't go out to find Coffey Point?
Do you know why someone once called this building “The 1954 House of Needles?”
So, there are lots of stories to tell. Lots if tales to dig up.
That's the challenge for a Saltaire Centennial-- if you want to take it up.
You would be adding to a great tradition: there have been a number of terrific Saltaire histories collected over the years. The most notable volumes are Ruth Bryan Brewster Dobie's History of the Incorporated Village of Saltaire,” and the 1972 Saltaireby the SCAA--but a lot of water has gone under the sluiceway since then.
And did you know that best chroniclers of everyday Saltaire life were a bunch of kids? It was a newsletter they called “The Salty Spray” and they wrote it and edited it and sold it every summer from 1968-1972. You can look that up. Right here in this library.
And I gotta mention that, for Saltaire history, there is nothing quite like our website: Check us out on the internet. Contribute pictures and stories any time, 24/7.

So maybe the time has come. Time to dig out old post cards and photos and race day ribbons. Can anybody find a Labor Day “cup?” A Blue and Gold Saltaire Letter “S”? Maybe you can find something cool in an old storage box; maybe hundred year old postcard in an E Bay auction. With the internet, you can research hundred year old books, newspapers, maps records, and anything else from anywhere.
But the most important sources are the original contemporary sources: the people you see every day. Collect some stories. Not just old ones. Today's goings-on. Anything that is about being a part of Saltaire. Maybe somebody will start a new “Salty Spray.”

It's like Lennon said: There are places you remember all your life. Guaranteed Saltaire will be one of them for you if you spend some time here.
But nobody will remember a song if you don't write down the words. And if nobody writes down those great Saltaire stories they will be gone forever. Just like those magnificent houses with the best ocean views.
That's why we say the Saltaire Centennial begins here.
--if you want it to.

Jim O'Hare co-founder,

Joey Lynch @1920, courtesy Larry Lynch

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Monday, May 29, 2017

Virginia O'Brien

This winter saw the passing of one of Saltaire's great personages, Ms. Virginia O'Brien.
Frank Connolly recalls:

Virginia Ryan O’Brien, who quietly slipped away from us last Monday at the tender age of 90, was many things: wife, mother, friend, first lady of the Village, commodore of the Yacht Club, and the epicenter of a group of outspoken and witty ladies who defined a lot of what Saltaire was about in the 1970s and ’80s. And did I mention that she was fun?

My memories of Virginia – after all these years, the instinct is still to call her Mrs. O’Brien – are inextricably linked to my memories of her son Hugh, who was and is one of my closest friends. Virginia always thought the world of Hugh, as well she should have, and by extension she thought the world of his friends, which at least back in the ’70s was a more debatable proposition. Even as we were all regularly engaged in the sort of genially disreputable behavior that characterized most Saltaire teenagers back in the day, Virginia saw in each of us some merit, some saving grace, that warranted not only her attention but her enthusiastic commendation.

Virginia was fiercely loyal to family and friends, and she did not talk down to friends who happened to be, well, kids. She was the first grown-up who ever spoke to me as though I were capable of adult conversation. The fact that, at the age of 15, I was capable of no such thing didn’t faze her one bit.

Saltaire was different back then: more leisurely, less structured. What passed for structure, at least back then, was the regular convening of a tight circle of mothers up at the ocean, almost every afternoon. Starting in the mid-1970s, the same group took things one step further, gathering once a week in Kismet for dinner. The Ladies’ Friendly, as the weekly confab quickly became known, endured for many years as a forum for both high-minded discussion and juicy gossip, and Virginia often found herself at its center.

For close to 60 years, Saltaire was a central part of Virginia’s life. She was a model of what we now call civic engagement; her active involvement in Village affairs began when her late husband Hugh was mayor, continued through her years as the Yacht Club’s first female commodore, and endured through her son Hugh’s long service on the Board of Trustees. Through it all she was informed, opinionated, and outspoken – but always good-natured, in a manner not always evident in today’s Village politics.

And she was, as I said, 
fun. Virginia had a dry wit that could be sharp without being nasty, and she had a big generous laugh that she employed frequently. An enduring memory of those long-ago times is of Virginia and her friends crowded around the piano in the Yacht Club after a Friday-night dinner, belting out the old standards as Ken Thompson tickled the ivories. The singing may have been a little wobbly sometimes, but the good cheer was always spot-on.

It’s always hard to say goodbye to a parent, and I’m sure this is a tough time for Hugh and his wonderful bride, Catherine. But you should take consolation in knowing that Virginia Ryan O’Brien was one of the great ladies of Saltaire, a true original who will live on in a thousand warm and vivid memories. Now listen up: somewhere in the great beyond Ken Thompson has started to play, and Virginia has once again joined the chorus.
– Frank Connolly


Virginia O'Brien and Hugh O'Brien Sr. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Ladies Circle

It would seem that the time has come to attempt to tell the story of 'The Ladies Circle' of Saltaire.  One of the last great members, Virginia O'Brien, recently passed, leaving Carol Mihaly as the last surviving member.

I must be very careful of the language I use to describe 'The Ladies Circle', for fear of offending.  I am loath to even name names, as, those that are included may take offense, as well as those that are not mentioned as members.

'The Ladies Circle' was a group of wives and mothers of my parents' generation, who sat together on the beach and discussed local matters.  This is where things get dicey.  As I recall, the group was predominantly very socially conservative, and religious.  It was always rumored that they discussed the behavior and demeanor of other residents of Saltaire.  Of course, I don't know what they actually discussed, as I certainly wasn't a member.  The closest I got to hearing the conversation was when I stopped to say hello to the Ladies, but they always stopped talking when I walked up. Perhaps they were always talking about me.  The general impression was that one did not want to be a subject of the conversations.

Now this gets into very dangerous territory.  Who were the members of 'The Circle'?  There was certainly a core group, consisting of Virginia O'Brien, Carol Mihaly, Pat Corrigan, Rita Connoly(?), Claire Marcus, Harriet Aherne...Then there was a group on the fringes, including my mother.  Who else?  This is why we have a blog.

Everyone should feel free to add names to the list, although the person who provides the name will be exposed.  Were they core members or on the fringes?  And what was really discussed.  Personally, I am afraid to ask, but it is our history.

Addendum- Grace Gallagher, Joan Gowan and Mary Fontantals were definitely on the list, and all still alive.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017


This is what we looked like in the Fifties, with an occasional shot from the Forties and Sixties. These pictures are from the camera of Bill Weinlandt.  

At the end of this photo array, there is a  "comments" section.  Please post your comments. 

Rich Greer and Billie Greer, 1951
Note the Pavilion at the top of Broadway at the Ocean. 

For a great series of Kodachrome Labor Day photos by Rich Greer, click here:
Rita Connelly, Kay Imray; Bronson Goddard to right
Kitty Goggins and the Glascocks
Note the dune line in the background. This was a dune replenishment year

1958  Chris Kartalis, Chief Lifeguard
by the way: so many outdoor shots of Saltaire vistas somehow have the water tower somewhere in the background. 

Murderers Row, 1957:
From left: Ed Weinlandt, Jack Thorp, Mike Fitzgerald, Tony Shoecraft, Bill Weinlandt, "Stick" O'Brien, Bob Marks; Larry Lynch.
Pic by W.J. Weinlandt




Captain Baldwin 1948
Hermit. Fisherman. lived in a shack in the marshes of Clam Cove. 

Captain Baldwin, 1948
for the lowdown on who Captain Baldwin was, click on the link below to one of our most popular stories:


Charley Ritch, Village Superintendent
from the 1930's through late 1950's

Frank and Kitty Goggins,  1948
Mrs. Goggins, too was one of the earliest Saltairians. Second Village Historian.

Larry Lynch

The Marks

Ladies' Softball Labor Day 1957
Left: Rita Connelly  Mary Wright at bat.

Labor Day, because one of the girls is holding a trophy. Best kid in group got "The Cup."
The Labor Day ceremony was kind of like the Academy Awards.

Ladies' Softball Labor Day 1957
Edna Wilson, Mary Wright

Cyril Schmidt, October 1954
Father Francis X. Fitzgibbon of Our Lady Star of the Sea 1954

Howard Sutherland October 1954

Lou Schmidt, Catsy Schmidt October 1954

Chuck Foster, Pie-Eating Champion. He won by diving into  the Entenmann's blueberry pie while all the other kids were trying to eat theirs.   Hands behind  backs, of course. 

Future Mayor and Fire Island Association President Norma and Tom Ervin 1951. Both had worked at the Nuremburg trials.

Charley Ludlow and his brother Jack, 1951  in the ball field. This Photo looks east.  No playground yet. 

Mike Coffey 1951

The Pipers 1951
Mrs. Piper was a fashion model in the 1950's.
Background: Looking West, Bay Prom was still boardwalk,  CC Sailboat on right. 

Paul Schmidt, former Mayor,  1951

Ruth Dobie and Mr. and Mrs Lynch, 1951
Among the earliest Saltairians. 
Mrs. Dobie eloped and got married on the beach, 1917.  A  summer resident until 1959, she was the First Village historian. 

Mrs. Lynch was working for a public health service organizations in 1918 (?) when a troop ship ran aground and she came out as part of the rescue corps. Village houses were used as emergency shelters.  She fell in love with the village; bought land and a house and stayed a summer resident. 

1951: future Mayor John Ludlow and Dan Langley

Ed Weinlandt, Eleanor Mark; Fred Mark; Helen Weinlandt; Bob Mark

Gil and Pat Bell, 1951 
There are kids jumping off the Fire Islander in the background.
Those days labor day swimming races were held in the boat basin. Eleanor Mark on right.
Dwight Isaccson, Chief Ocean Lifeguard   1964

Bob Marshalk and Gil Bell, 1951

All smiles. Pete Kuracheck at the  guarded  front door. Kids wait on line to go in for gamma globulin shots in polio epidemic, August, 1954. Notably, kids who got shots inside exited the back door so that the kids waiting to go in through the front door  would not see their tears. 

Oliver Hull, Georgiana Hull 1960

Peter W. Kuracheck, 1955
Athletic Director, swimming instructor, 1954-1964.
Wore this white zinc oxide on his nose, 1954-1964. 
  Played football at University of Kentucky, Class of 1937;  M.A.  in  Phys Ed, University of Kentucky. When the War came, Captain Kuracheck drilled  WWII fliers to be physically fit to handle combat flight.  Some say he was every bit as tough (but loving)  in teaching eight year-olds  to swim in Saltaire in the 1950's and early 1960's. Sixty years later, people remember his swimming lessons like yesterday. He would hover over fledgling swimmers with a ten foot long bamboo pole. Kuracheck was one of the most successful football coaches in New York scholastic history at Pleasantville High School.  

Yacht Club Steward and Stewardess Jim and Terry O'Connor, 1960

Beach Party. Lotta kids. Lotta families had lotta kids. July 1954

The Ahernes,  1954. Merry, Harriet, Marie and Bob. 
Note the artificially built up dunes 

Skinner Birthday Party 1950
Captain Al Skinner lived in a small apartment in what would now be the east end of the Fire House, with a porch facing the ball field.  "the Shim Shack" they called his apartment. By the terms of the contract between the Village and Fire Island Ferries, the ferry had to be berthed in Saltaire at night and Skinner had to live in Saltaire. In case of the need for any emergency evacuations. 
Note on the bulletin board in background.
Carved initials "JO'H"  and "DW"  by Jim O'Hare and Danny Weinlandt. 

Skinner, 1954

Skinner Birthday Party 1960
Skinner was an accomplished pianist, singer, accordion player, raconteur and life-long bayman.