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)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Uncle Rayme

click image to enlarge (and don't forget to "just look for the Three-Ring sign.")

Photo: Ray Scanlan, mid 1950's

"That man is a great lawyer. He’s an appeals man for the Brooklyn D.A."
"What's an appeals man?" I asked my father the lawyer.

"The appeals people handle all the cases after the convictions. After a man is found guilty, he has a right to an appeal his trial and sentence. The appeals people in the DA's office argue to uphold the conviction."

It was sometime in the late 1950's. I was about ten years old, walking down the boardwalk with my father after we had just stopped to talk briefly with the "appeals man." What I had noticed was that he had glasses about as thick as coke bottle bottoms, and he still didn't seem to see much. I would always see him walking carefully on the boardwalk, usually near an edge, but I never saw him fall off.

"So all he does is argue?"
"Not at all," my father, said. "Most appeals work is done in the library doing research and writing. Appeals people are the scholars of the legal profession. Reading, reading, reading, and more reading. Then writing and more writing. Then the arguments, but the research and the writing is the bulk of the work."

"But how can he do all that reading if he is blind?"

"He's a smart man. Real smart. And he works very hard."

I am ten years old in the 1950's, and amazed to hear this story. In Saltaire kids had everything, and they were rarely told that life might be difficult for people. Yet I see this man, practically totally blind, walking around, never complaining. He seems to know everybody by their voice since he can't really see them, but he calls out their names, and now I am told that he spends all his time doing reading in a library? It just seemed unfathomable to my ten year old mind that someone could overcome such obstacles.

But that was fifty years ago. So I guess we can call Ray Scanlan a pioneer who helped show us obstacles can be overcome—with the aid of fierce determination.


Raymond Scanlan passed away on September 17, 2008 after a long decline. He was eighty-eight and he left his brothers Harry Scanlan, Sr., and Richard, and scads of Scanlan nieces and nephews, most of whom we have known all our lives. He retired at age 65 from a lifetime stint as an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County. He became a full time Saltaire resident in retirement until early 2003 when he moved to assisted living facilities. Eventually he was transferred to a nursing home in Woodstock VA, to be close to his beloved brother Harry Sr. Harry Sr. and his wife Beverly toiled ceaselessly to be with Ray and provide comfort in the last years and months and days.

Harry Scanlan Jr. elaborates:

Hey Jim -

Patsy told me you were looking for info on my Uncle Rayme, as we called him. .. Uncle Rayme lost his sight at age 6 due to complications from medications he was given to treat spinal meningitis. Despite that he graduated from Manhattan College and Brooklyn Law School having memorized from textbooks read to him by his mother Louise Dixon. His entire career was at the DA's Office as an ADA and argued cases as high as the NYS Court of Appeals. He read with the aid of "coke bottle" glasses holding the materiel right against the glasses. He had slight eyesight, enough to see shadows which allowed him to read, ride a bike, travel without assistance plus more. His family began residing in Ocean Beach in the 20's and moved to Saltaire in 1947. He taught himself to play piano by ear, and regaled many a crowd in Brooklyn's Irish taverns, Goldies in Ocean Beach, and the Saltaire Yacht Club. He lived in Brooklyn his whole life until his retirement to Saltaire in 1984. This is probably more than enough, but I could go on.

Thanks, Harry.

Ed. note: These are people we remember. All our lives.

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