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.
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 “Saltaire” by 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: www.saltaire38.blogspot.com. 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, www.saltaire38.blogspot.com
Joey Lynch @1920, courtesy Larry Lynch