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, February 10, 2013

Saltaire in the Jazz Age: Rumrunners and the Notorious Saltaire Speakeasy

Anyone who has been around Saltaire a while will recall that Capt. Al Skinner and just about every other old captain from Fire Island Ferries had been, or claimed to have been, RUMRUNNERS during Prohibition. This we all knew.

And everyone knew that the Fire Island ferryboat “Running Wild” and many other craft still on the Bay in the 1950’s and 1960’s had been RUMRUNNER boats, those speedy boats that could outrun the Coast Guard to ferry their illegal booze all around the South Shore of Long Island. This we all knew.

Frank Mina tells us: At right: Rumrunner "Artemis," later "South Bay Courier" after gun battle USCG. It was the only fire-fight on L.I. with USCG after booze delivery to Claudio's in Greenport.
Former rumrunner "Running Wild" above as part of Pagel's Fair Harbor fleet in 1969. FI Ferries bought it and sold it to a fellow from Sayville.
--Capt. Frank
Above Pix courtesy Frank Mina
But who knew that some of those RUMRUNNERS may have been delivering their stash right here, to the staid and quiet VILLAGE OF SALTAIRE? This was first verified in print in the Saltaire Citizens Advisory Association's landmark book SALTAIRE, PAGE 13 "WE WERE VERY SWEET CHILDREN."
That’s right S-A-L-T-A-I-R-E, that wholesome village with two churches; the village said to be the ideal home for “Happy Healthy Saltaire Youngsters; ” was home to one of the best known speakeasys on the Island. That’s right, your CASINO.

“A speakeasy was an establishment which illegally sold alcoholic beverages during the period of United States history known as Prohibition (1920–1932, longer in some states). During this time, the sale, manufacture, and transportation (bootlegging) of alcoholic beverages was illegal throughout the United States.”

The excerpt below is from a publication of the Stony Brook University Press, chapter entitled “Fire Island – Historical Background-Brief Overview of Fire Island History”

click to enlarge.
Citation here:
This SUNY citation credits a fine book by Madeline C. Johnson "Fire Island, 1650's to 1980's", which in turn cites the SCAA's SALTAIRE book.
Other published works have stated that the Saltaire CASINO served alcohol during Prohibition without properly giving the SCAA book its credit. In fact, the provenance of the story is indeed SCAA's interview of Catherine Imray at page 13 of SALTAIRE

Jim- Please add as rumrunners -the Artemis (South Bay Courier, the original Fire Island Miss. I believe Frank Mina has a picture of both these vessel together on his web site- perhaps you can get a copy to put on the blog-Also the original Fire Island Flyer-started by CSS a shipbuilder - didn't make it as a rumrunner though-too late in time. There was one former ferry from Seaview that the Zegals owned- the Seaviewer. The boat ended going upstate NY somewhere. I think that Sayville Ferry owned one as well.

S -A -L -T -A -I -R -E

Thats's the place we love to drink in


Prohibition's not a problem

Pack our bags and heave a sigh

Sneak off to Saltaire on the sly

And drink until the fall.

JOH: The book, Fire Island, 1650's-1980's by Madeline Johnson has a chapter on rumrunners that credits the SCAA's Imray interview in SALTAIRE. The same chapter, "Rumrunners" extensively quotes (former Fire Island Ferries Capt. ) "Charley Byron, an admitted former rumrunner and generous Fire Islander who made several major contributions to" the book.


Anonymous said...

Furthermore- for a history of the Fire islander- built in 1942 in Miami Fla. I'm sure FXM knows that.

Anonymous said...

Captain Al continued his rumrunning, albeit legally, long after Prohibition's repeal. During the four years in the mid '60's that I was Al's deckhand there was hardly a scheduled trip that Bill Wesselhoft(owner of Wesselhoft's Liquor's) didn't drive into the Saltaire lot with a discreet wrapped brown bag(marked with the recipients name) to be delivered to the "thirsty" Saltairian.

Anonymous said...

The Artemis had 3 Silver Dolphin engines in her power to out run the revenuers. Possibly could do 30 plus knots

cosmo said...

I thought you gave up drinking.

Cosmo O