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)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Saltaire Impression from Mid Twentieth Century

There have been, of course, lots of interesting people and plenty of terrific events and stories in Saltaire’s 100 years.
Most are forgotten now.

Saltaire has just two written histories: Saltaire Historian Ruth Bryan Brewster Dobie’s "History of the Incorporated Village of Saltaire" (1952), and "Saltaire" by the SCAA (1977). That's it.
Maybe somebody will put some stuff together for the Centennial of Saltaire.

But at any rate, below is an excerpt from Ms. Dobie’s history: Two folks, as she saw them in 1950. Photos added.

From: “Saltaire Personality.” By Saltaire Village Historian Ruth Bryan Brewster Dobie in “History of the Incorporated Village of Saltaire, Fire Island New York.”1952.


“Our Village Carpenter, and his Helper”

"No history of Saltaire could be complete without mention of Michael J. Coffey, our village carpenter.

Mike, as he is affectionately called, first came over to Saltaire in 1913 to work with the construction company, which was developing Saltaire. He later married and had three fine children who were born here. They leave in the Saltaire all during their childhood, attending the Saltaire school and the Ocean Beach school and then over to Bayshore for their high school education. His older daughter, Ann became a trained nurse. His son John served in the US Army overseas in the Second World War. Kathleen, the youngest, became a secretary. Today, all three are happily married, and Mike is blessed with several grandchildren.

Mike is one of the oldest residents of Saltaire. He started in business for himself in 1914, and today in 1951 he is the only builder in Saltaire, in fact he is known as the official builder of salt they are. The beautiful Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, a village hall, and numerous houses are the products of his craftsmanship. All of “Mike’s houses” are known for their fine construction.

Money seems to be a secondary and Mike’s plans. One of his idiosyncrasies, is that if you would like to have a certain improvement made in your property and Mike doesn’t think that it is necessary, I am afraid that he just will not tackle it at any price. Another thing is that he has no set time to send out his bills. Once a year, or whenever the spirit moves him, he seems in no hurry to be paid. He has a heart of pure gold, and will do anything for you in case of sickness, old folks in the family, or children. In these cases, he will do anything to oblige in the way of repairs, improvements, etc. His honesty and integrity are beyond reproach.

Several years ago, a fire suddenly destroyed Mike’s a large workshop, which contained valuable tool equipment, as well as a large stock of materials… all gradually collected over the long years. While this was a deep blow of sadness and disappointment, as well as a serious financial loss, Mike, undaunted, and with courageous heart, literally began all over again to reconstruct his workshop, and strive with redoubled effort, to forge ahead. Surely, he has given us proof that “you can’t keep a good man down.”

In 1924, a young lad came over to Saltaire to work for Mike. He is identified and known as “Henry, Mike’s helper.” Henry is one man who seems perfectly content and happy with his lot in life. When he leaves the island even for a day, it is a big event, for he doesn’t go more than twice during the year.
A familiar sight in Saltaire for many years was Henry, pushing his two wheeled lumber cart, faithfully followed by his ever present companion “Beauty,” a nondescript, fuzzy short legged doggie.
Beauty finally left this world, and Henry was very lonesome. Eventually, he appeared with a new canine companion, Herman, a friendly mongrel of confused ancestry, but beaming with a personality that makes his popularity obvious. His joyful bark is a sign that Henry is in the vicinity at work. His zenith of dog happiness is reached when he is riding in Mike Coffey’s Ford truck with Henry aboard.
Henry is a hard worker, and “never heard of union hours.” Early risers often encounter him on his way to a job, before sunrise, and those who walk on moonlight nights frequently see Henry repairing a roof or doing some other chore, as he stretches the day as far as it may. His work is a joy of his life, that is, his work and his pal, once “Beauty,” and now “Herman.”

We all love Mike, Henry,… Beauty and Herman."

--- Village Historian Ruth Bryan Brewster Dobie, 1952

Henry Sutherland 1966 (r) Mike Coffey, 1955 (l)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is this your BEST JIM????

I was expecting more of the Golden years -
Please include ferries so I can rejoin the conversation or Great South Bay trivia.
Your comments column speak for themselves.