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, April 15, 2018

Elisabeth Elkind: Saltaire's Finest Observer.

Elisabeth Elkind, 1956  to 2018. Saltaire's  Perceptive  Observer.

Back in 1970, a Saltaire Planning Commission report on the state of the Village commented that a trustee should be delegated as a liaison with the Fire Island News to ensure publication of matters affecting homeowners. "It is ironic," the report stated, "that more news of Saltaire is covered via a children's newspaper than in the Fire Island News."

That “children's newspaper” The Salty Spray, was started in 1968 by then 11-year-old Elisabeth Elkind. But the Planning Commission didn't really get it right. The Salty Spray was written and edited by Elisabeth and a bunch of girls, but was never just a “children's newspaper.” Over five summers The Salty Spray covered everything from kids cutting their feet to sessions of the Saltaire Village Court; from news about day camp and sailing races, to Saltaire history; to village births, marriages, and deaths and everything in between. In fact, in the 110 years of Saltaire history there has been no better chronicler of Saltaire day-to-day life than Elisabeth Elkind's The Salty Spray.

Years later, Elizabeth would write "we were emboldened by the experience of newspaper reporting. We became comfortable knocking on the doors of adult strangers (in twos and threes), our notebooks and pencils in hand, to ask them for personal information and quotable statements. Did nobody mind finding himself in print, tangled in a bicycle and off the boardwalk? “

They ran catchy headlines like:
Cunningham Hijacked to Cuba”
Mrs. Lyon Writes Book”
Storm Hits Saltaire”
Mrs. Bitzer Talks of Travel
Build Castles in Sand”
Fresh Air Funders Return”
Its a Bloody Story”

Girls Picket Boys” "Maura Corrigan, Sally Disipio and Kim Ludlow recently picketed the boys who would not let them play football. They marched through the field with a sign and, when thrown off, yelled about women's rights from their bicycles. Finally the boys gave in and four boys played four girls in football. The boys won 6 to 4.

The Salty Spray had straight reporting as well as observations that would do Dorothy Parker proud:
On Saturday, July 6 the married men played the single men in a game of touch football. This paper cannot report the final score since the two sides could not agree on what happened.”

Who does the wash?”
"Interested in how Saltaire husbands handle their laundry problems when their wives are at the beach, The Salty Spray has interviewed a number of summer bachelors. "Mort Elkind, Larry Marcus, Sid Rappaport and Dick Starkey all bring their dirty clothes out to Saltaire in attache cases for their wives to wash. Mort Elkind and Harry Scanlan move from bed to bed in their winter houses as the sheets get dirty. Fred Shapiro said "I wash my own God damn dainties.” When he needs clean sheets, he buys them.

Bert Pogrebin commutes to Saltaire every night and he has no summer laundry problems. His wife, strong in Women's Lib, says that she handles it "because he doesn't ask me.”


On Sunday, July 27, (1969) at 3 p.m., just half an hour late, a roaring game of softball was played by the women of the west side of Saltaire against the women living on the east side of town.
The captain of the east side was Marie Bitzer. 

Before the game started, her team assembled at Mary Jane Scanlan’s house. There is a rumor that whisky sours were served.

The captain of the west side players was Florence McManus and she invited her teammates to her house. More rumors.
Before the game started, two east side children, Steve and Susan LeMay, armed with pads and pencils, tried to spy on the west side women—to learn their strategy.
When the teams met at 3 p.m., catcher Mary Jane Scanlan of the east brought her raft. Pitching to her was Grace Gallagher. First Lady Virginia O’Brien caught for the west side and Joan Gowan pitched.

Virginia O’Brien wore red long-johns and a “Queen Elizabeth” sailor hat. Her pigtails were tied with a rope. Claire Marcus wore a football shirt numbered “21”, sweat pants and a sailor hat. Marion Scott wore a baseball shirt numbered “32”, baseball pants and navy blue knee socks.
Anne Reilly wore a pair of old fashioned men’s pajamas with a red and blue striped shirt. Her hair was braided and beribboned.
Georgie Hull wore boys’ pajamas, a sailor hat and old men’s sneakers. 

Florence McManus wore a blue Snoopy sweatshirt, a pair of old golf pants and an old golf hat.

Peggy Cunningham wore long blue jeans, her son’s track shoes and unmatched sun glass lenses. Rita Connelly wore an old lady’s dress, yellow bonnet, old men’s sneakers. She sat in a rocking chair to bat, knit, smoked a corncob pipe, and had to be pulled around in a wagon. She made a tremendous hit which led her team to the victory the west side claims.

As we reported, the West side says it won.”  

It seems to me that the most remarkable thing about Elisabeth's writing and editing (and I am not sure who authored each of the above quotes) is that in the 110 years of Saltaire's existence no other journal has given us such an accurate picture of everyday life in Saltaire in any particular time period.

And when you read Elisabeth's stuff you realize how she got one thing 100 percent right: The uniqueness of Saltaire is that when you're in Saltaire as a kid, as a grown up, or anything in between, you don't just know your best friends: you know whole families. You know a whole community. You know your best friend. But you also know, swim with, sail with, play ball with, grow up with his or her brothers and sisters. You know their fathers and mothers. Saltaire is a collection of whole families living in the same place at the same time. And you knew them all. And there were not a whole lot of secrets.

Elisabeth Elkind and her crew of Muppets painted this picture vividly over five precious summers, 1968-1972. And she put it all together with writers like India Ely, Betty Galt, Leslie Gowan, Jane Marcus, Barbara Jones. Mom Charlotte Elkind was “Editorial Adviser.”

Elisabeth Elkind, rest in peace. Your work as a kid and early teenager make you one of Saltaire's finest historians ever. And you left The Salty Spray for generations to read and appreciate and understand the way we were. Rest in peace, Elisabeth. Rest in peace.


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