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Southampton: A Legacy of Life and Love

Please enjoy this write up that was done by one of our patrons, Marianne O'Donnell talking about her life and memories growing up in Southampton.


If you would like to contribute something to our blog feel free to reach out to me via email at Cflanagan@southamptonhistory.org.

 

Brooklyn born in 1960, I lived in my grandparents’ 18th-century farmhouse with my parents and brother. Our home was surrounded by low-rise apartment buildings on South Second Street in Williamsburg with a special escape of fig trees in the back yard that grew bountiful with the attention from my Italian grandparents. My childhood was extraordinary because of the simple things like trips to our neighborhood McCarren Park on Driggs Avenue in the hot summers to cool off by sprinklers that seemed to grow from the conglomerate surface play area, visits to Havemeyer Street for the best deals on dresses and shoes and the ritual evening trips to Hersch’s corner candy store for a Cotts grape soda, a candy necklace, and a trinket such as a lucky rabbits foot keychain or a change purse.


In the summers, my father’s side of the family would stay at the Vilken’s Cottages on East Tiana Road in Hampton Bays for about two weeks. Lounging, swimming, and fishing in Tiana Bay were the day’s pastimes and then picnic barbecues that lasted long into the night sky filled with stars and sounds of chirps from brazen crickets that seemed to grow bigger every season. We toasted marshmallows, played flashlight tag, and counted the June Bugs that hovered around the cabin’s light and buzzed along the screened-in porticos searching for an entry point. Sightseeing was left for Sundays after church at St. Rosalies in the hamlet of Hampton Bays. My aunt and my mom would stop at Davie’s Good Ground Antiques Shop and Pickwick’s Stationery for the newspaper. My brother and I were always lucky to get a box kite and a Sugar Daddy caramel candy that lasted for days of fun and frolic.


A trip to Southampton was a ritual too! We visited Lilly white’s for toy and sand buckets and shovels, Hildreth’s for extra souvenir dish towels to bring back to Brooklyn for my grandmother and Silver’s, our favorite place for BLT’s and watermelon ices. My brother and I were great at cajoling my mom and Aunt Rose to venture to Water Mill to say hello to June, the proprietor at the Penny Candy Shop. That little shop was a gem and we filled those paper bags with red licorice pipes, saltwater taffy, satellite wafers and boxes of candy cigarettes.


Later in the afternoon my uncle and aunt would coax my parent to take a drive round the new construction housing developments in Hampton Bays. My Uncle Bob would plunk down a 50-dollar binder to hold a home, but they lived in Stuyvesant Town in New York City and my Aunt Rose was a true Manhattanite. The sow life of the country would never suit her love for the fast-paced city lifestyle and her trips to D’gostino’s. My Uncle Bob must have left at least 10 unclaimed binder deposits round the town one summer, as I recall.


However, my parents did make the move by purchasing a property within in the Tiana Bay Association for $13,000! When the Dune home model was built, my family typically headed east to Hampton Bays on a Friday until Sunday when they made the trip back to Brooklyn. It was a long ride on Montauk Highway in those days when the expressway ended in Patchogue. So in 1964 my parents made the permanent move to the Hamptons and my new journey began.


For over 30 years my life flourished growing up in Hampton Bays. It was a remarkable childhood that nudged my creativity through interactions with the natural world around me in the community of Tiana Shores. I fondly remember parading on the dunes and beach grasses along the seascapes of Ponquogue Beach, picnicking in vast fields of milkweeds around the bay canal and taking those countless bike rides on well-trodden paths of leaves among wild blueberry bushes in the solitude of the local East Quogue Wildlife Sanctuary and Sears Bellows Pond. These experiences followed me well into my adult years. It was the freedom to receive the world through its beauty in people, places, and within its natural state, which I believe has cultivated my heart and joyful lens towards life.


As soon as we moved to Hampton Bays my parents enrolled my brother and me in The Sacred Hearts School of Jesus and Mary. Mrs. Kelly was my second-grade teacher, a strict but loving lay teacher. It was a truly joyful childhood as we attended this local Southampton school—the simple life of kickball in the playground, swinging on those giant swings painted hunter green with splintery seats that lined the front of the school, huddling to flip baseball cards to earn that stick of Topps Baseball gum, running to play tag and Red Light, Green light only to get skinned knees from the asphalt playground that doubled as a parking lot (those pebbles seemed to always make that skinned knee worse and always required that sticky bandaid) and finally the nuns ringing that large brass school bell with all of their might to signal that recess time was over as we lined up quickly on command! The nuns never sweated even wearing their heavy habits and their starched coifs, although I did notice a small hanky tucked by the end of their sleeves for a quick dab at their brow.


After school my classmates and I would frequent Sip ‘N Soda for a milkshake and fries. The girls, still wearing our SHS plaid pinafore uniforms and the boys in their dress pants, white shirts and plaid ties. We crowded in like sardines in the back booths of the luncheonette nearest the telephone booth and kept making room in our seats as our other classmates joined us. Later, with ice cream cones in hand, we poked around town. We walked to Gould’s Variety Store for a small toy like a Pinky Ball, then to Agawam Pond Memorial Park for a quick toss, and then to the Southampton Theater to await our rides home to Hampton Bays, Riverhead and locally for classmates who lived on Hill Street, on the farms and homes just outside of Southampton Village. My classmates and I had a special bond from sharing our milestones because we moved from one grade to the next until our final year in eighth grade. We received our communion confirmation at Sacred Hearts Church to culminate our faith-based education before each of us continued on our individual life’s journey.


Southampton was a legacy of life and love. It was the town where I landed my first job at Healy’s Drive-In. My mother would drop me off in the afternoon and pick me up in the evening. I served the ice cream and made the shakes at the iconic car hop. The owner took care of the newbies with youthful hearts trying to earn some spending money for the weekends. I also worked at Arlene’s Boutique in the tee shirt printing section of the store. They had the most unusual items, like black lights, hand-carved teak boxes with floral designs and pet rocks. The tee shirt business drew in the summer crowd, everyone wanted iron-ons with messages of “keep on Truckin’” and “Life’s a Beach” and graphics with hot-air balloons and sunsets and David Cassidy. I learned powerful lessons of responsibility, having grit, and cultivating people skills from those early work experiences.


In the early 80s my husband and I met at Gould’s Variety Store in Southampton. My husband was attending Southampton College for his fine arts degree and I was at C.W. Post in Greenvale studying to become a special education teacher, but I resided at my family home in Hampton Bays for the summers and school breaks. By happenstance, he and I landed part-time jobs working at Gould’s in its last summer before Mr. and Mrs. Arnoff decided to close the doors for good! My husband, who was my co-worker then, was the shade-cutter and I restocked the shelves with notions and stockings. It was love at first sight! Mr. Arnoff, the owner, put that shade-cutter in charge while he went to play golf at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. He was to be there for me if I needed help with inventory or to answer customer questions. My “Million Dollar Baby” made countless trips to my section which was across the store.


The shade-cutter and the notions sales clerk were married in 1985. We are in the Southampton Town Hall records because we had our blood tests taken there before we were married. In those days it was required! Gould’s is now a provision store on Main Street, and as we celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary we will recreate or moment in front of the shop that was once Gould’s Variety Store.


Southampton was special then and still holds a cherished place in my heart and in the hearts of my family. Although there have been many changes to the town, to the people and places we knew, my footprint and those of my family can still be traced and will endure in the Legacy of Life and Love in Southampton!

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