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Sunday, May 29, 2011

We called it "Openings"

"Openings" was the name we gave to the weekend on which the bars and restaurants, closed for the winter months, re-opened. Usually on Memorial Weekend, many of the public schools would soon be closed for the summer and families were packing up and re-locating to summer homes all over the eastern portion of Long Island. Our retreat was located on a magical island accessible only by ferry boat. Shelter Island, called "the Rock" by some who did not appreciate its isolation is located in Peconic Sound between the North and the South Forks of Long Island.
With "openings" the summer would start in earnest and the season would be in full swing. Summer friends would re-connect and old timers would begin sizing up the new additions to island property owners.
Down at the Yacht Club, cotton sails would be unfurled and laid out in the grassy yard to bleach in the bright sunlight. Meanwhile, sailors and would be sailors alike, stripped, sanded and re-varnished the beautiful little dinghys we called "Wood Pussys". Unassuming crafts, these were the boats we learned to sail on. They had only one sail and because of their wide beam, they were rarely in danger of capsizing.
Long since replaced by fiberglas and dacron, the wood pussy was standard issue at the Shelter Island Yacht Club. It was not unusual to see two dozen of these little boats navigating the buoys set out for the weekly races. Racing would be an all day affair what with preparing the boats, setting sail, navigating the course and later, making a mooring and laying the sails back out to dry. Cotton sails required
thorough drying to prevent mildew and dry rot. The grown ups kept a sort of watchful eye on their offspring and waited for the sails to dry by passing time at the bar and sometimes moving on inside for dinner. The younger generation drank Cokes out of green bottles and chased each other around the docks. In an effort to entertain us and perhaps keep us out of trouble, the club ran endless screenings of John Biddle sailing adventure movies. These were celluloid, black and white films of sailing races around the world designed to excite, inspire and maintain interest in the activity and in keeping the concept of a real yacht club alive.
Wandering the docks of the club to which I did not belong but often frequented as the guest of friends who did, I remember being awed and transfixed by a world I somehow sadly knew would soon be ending for me and for so many others. These years, the mid and late 60's, were our "Golden Age".

Flags Always Fly on Their Birthdays

Memories of Memorial Days Past....
When I was young, my mother and her very dear friend, Anita Schriefer, became leaders of a group of young neighborhood girls. Together, they organized us into a Brownie troop and we met regularly in our basement playroom. There, we worked on fulfilling the requirements that would earn us the badges we wore on wide sashes across our chests. As we grew older, we "flew up" to become Girl Scouts and the uniforms we wore to meetings changed from brown cotton shirtwaists to green.
One of our annual activities was to march in the Garden City Memorial Day Parade. We practiced for weeks in the street in front of my house. Four lines of four girls across. I can still remember many of their names; Melanie Miele and Marie Russo (seen with me - center - in the photo above) Kit Bloom, Ellen Hubbell, Barbara Gilkes, Jackie Harvey, Pam Mitchum, Dorothy Schriefer, and of course, myself among a few others. Mom and "Aunt Anita" kept everyone in line and eventually, the big day would arrive and we would find ourselves somewhere on Franklin or Stewart Avenue marching along while throngs of Garden City residents, parents, relatives and visitors cheered wildly while waving little American flags.
I'm not sure if we knew why we were marching or even if we knew of the significance of the day. I just remember that that is what we did for many years.

After the parade, we went home to celebrate more than just a national holiday. It was my brothers birthday and also that of my maternal grandmother, Rose. I don't recall too much of a fuss being made over my grandmother but she would always be there, sweetly stepping into the shadows as my brother, Steven, revelled in the sunlight that always shone on him on that day. We would play in the yard while our father grilled hamburgers and hotdogs. There would be a birthday cake and I'm sure there were presents. Every year my mother would say; "The flag always flies on their birthday". And, indeed it did.

Years later, certainly by 1964, the parade was a memory. By then, we would anticipate a two hour ride to our summer home on Shelter Island for the long weekend. The Girl Scout Troop had dissolved, the scouts having become more interested in cheerleading, driving, dating and other past-times of adolescence. Now we celebrated "openings"
- the re-opening of the bars and restaurants on "the Rock" after a long and often cold and dreary winter.