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)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Sneaky Pete of the Wharf Rats

We have written in the past about Saltaire’s Bay Shore crew: the Wharf rats. The were parking lot attendants, ferry captains like Al skinner, and other Fire Island Ferries crewmen and and hangers on. See this link: Wharf rats: photos courtesy Frank Mina

One of the most popular was an old pal of Skinners who ran a water taxi, worked the parking lot, and had a picturesque past, like so many of the other baymen and boatmen who had their own culture on the bay for ages. Here, deckhand/ captain Beaver recalls SNEAKY PETE:

I am sure that many of you remember Sneaky Pete and Larry, who ran the Saltaire Parking lot from the mid 1960’s to maybe the early 1970’s.

Sneaky Pete was a big bear of a man, with a set of snaggy teeth, and a bitingly sarcastic sense of humor – always at someone else’s expense. So let’s cut to the chase and retell my two favorite Sneaky Pete tales.

Sneaky Pet’s father was a very successful contractor in the Islip area in the teens and early 1920’s. Unfortunately, he died young, leaving Pete with a lot of money and little responsibility. Sneaky proceeded to fritter away most of his money on airplanes, booze and good times. Pete spend many hours at Roosevelt Airfield on Long Island associating with early pioneers of flight—Amelia Earhart, Wiley Post, Lindberg and others. Pete possessed Pilot license #13. He flew booze in
from Canada during Prohibition.

Despite his early attempts at success and notoriety, he somehow ended up as the parking lot attendant for the Village of Saltaire.

Among his talents, Sneaky was a gourmet cook, and on Sunday afternoons he would set up shop in the parking lot and cook up a feast for the Maple Avenue wharf rats.
Pete would always invite a select few of his favorite Saltairians—like Oliver Hull, George Fontanals (Sr) Larry Marcus and some of their fellow miscreants. One Sunday afternoon George saunters up to the parking lot shack. Not having noticed George come over on the ferry, Pete asked George “How did you get here?” George answers: “I swam.” Alluding to George’s ample girth at that time, Pete responds: You fat whale, you are lucky someone did not harpoon you.”

Pete was capable of drinking copious quantities of alcohol. The Parking Shack was always stocked with booze, and Gil Clark’s was within staggering distance should the shack’s supply run out.

One time Sneaky went on a three day drunk. He would drink himself into oblivion and then go over to Gil Clark’s, then stumble back to sleep on the couch in the parking shack. After three days, his wife calls. There was a phone in the shack. We hear him tell his wife: “yes dear, I know I have not been home for three days. I have been busy here working the parking lot…what was that dear? .. you are making dinner tonight?…what are you making for dinner?—what was that dear, you’re making shit? Well then, just make out a portion for yourself—I won’t be home for dinner.” Pete then poured another drink.

Pete also ran a water taxi, the “Sneaky Pete.” One Sunday morning we were coming over to Bayshore on the Fire Islander. About halfway across the bay Capt. Al Skinner looks east and says “Holy shit; Sneaky’s aground on the flats.” It turns out that Pete had run a party over to Ocean Beach Saturday night and he decided to spend his fare in the Ocean Beach Bars. Around 3 of 4 o’clock he goers roaring out of Ocean Beach, taking the shorter route, east of West Fire Island. Skinner used to tell us “There’s a lot of water in the Great South Bay but in spots it is spread out kind of thin.” Sneaky had hit a real thin spot and ran aground hard. He spent a couple days until the tide rose high enough to for him to be pulled off the flats.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember Sneaky Pete and Larry well. Back in '73 Frank Mina fired both of them after many years. Can't remember the reason- Jimmy, please ask Frank why he did that. Frank then called me to see if I wanted to run the parking lot for the rest of the Summer. Frank wanted someone who knew the people in Saltaire. I always wanted a job with Fire Island Ferries, as Frank knew, the draw back was that I lived on the beach and to work on the ferries meant different shifts to get me over from the beach using the ferry schedule. This was the closet thing to working for the ferry- so I took the job. I commuted from Saltaire daily and usually I did the afternoon shift-home on the 9pm boat to Kismet.
The first day I got there- at about 5pm everyday an employee from Flynns restaurant would come out of the kitchen and ask -"are you ready for dinner?' I asked"what do you mean? well the employee said we feed you dinner for watching our cars-between Maple Ave and the shack. So out came a full fried seafood platter - steak one day, chicken the next. Soon it was lunch. If there were two of on duty-two dinners. When I went into the restaurant for a sit down meal and expect to pay for it- when I asked for the check the waiter would come over and say this is "OTH" (on the house) Larry and Pete had them trained.
Justin Zizes, Jr.