LIFE’S A BEACH
By Richard Scholer
As a child I was luckier than most because I grew up poor. Invariably starting at the bottom gives you the advantage of experiencing every step of the journey with greater appreciation. I think the most ironic part about growing up poor was that I never realized we were poor until I matured. I was deprived of materialistic stuff but blessed with a loving family. I was born in Harlemin 1936. I spent my childhood years living in New York Citywith mom and dad in our cold water flat on 125th Street. When I was about six years old my dad said we were moving to the country. We moved toQueens.
The apartment my family rented in Bellerose was above the Belt Park Tavern. I lived there throughout my younger and teenage years. My room had a view that overlookedJamaica Avenue, the Shell gasoline station across the street and the Q-36 bus stop which was just fifteen feet from my bedroom window. The fumes from the gas station were usually overpowered by the diesel fumes from the Q-36 bus. At night I put up with the fights, cursing, and noise that came from the bar below. We couldn’t afford an air conditioner but I didn’t care because I was so grateful for what I had, my own room.
My mom was raised inSaint John’sNewfoundlandonSaint John’sBay. My grandfather was a Whaler and Sealer and hunted whales and seals. Mom would tell me exciting stories ofNewfoundlandand share with me the tales that my grandfather told her about his adventures at sea. She would often say these were the days of Iron men and wooden ships. It was a time when brawny men, like her father, were in theAtlantic Ocean, in small human-powered open wooden boats, using but a hand-thrown harpoon to harvest Whales. Her stories and the songs of sea-going fishermen still stay with me today.
During my life I’ve found myself continually searching for that fascinating world that Mom described to me. I became passionate about finding a place that to some extent mirrored her stories.
The years flew by as I made my way through theNYCSchoolsystem and college inColorado. I joined the New York State Police in 1962 and was the last Trooper to close the Southold barracks. While I was living at the Riverhead barracks and patrolling the south fork ofLong IslandI abruptly realized that this area was probably the closest I would ever come to finding anything similar to the world my Mom described. I started reading stories of the south fork. Its history became more endearing as each day passed.
This was my first real exposure to theEast End. It was the start of a love affair that I’ve had with theoceanofEastern Long Islandfor the past half of a century. I was becoming hopelessly attached to the area. The bay, the ocean, the fishing, the people, and the nautical atmosphere all helped to reaffirm my thoughts and feelings for theEast End. During those years I would often drive to one of the ocean beaches and enter into the world that was lodged somewhere within the confines of my internal subconscious thoughts. I became mesmerized by the ocean and often would find myself staring out into the deep and recollecting my mom’s stories and songs.
As the years passed into the late sixties and seventies my career on the NYSP advanced with assignments and promotions throughout the state. It was during the early seventies that I purchased a modest summer home in Hampton Bays. My mother’s stories continued to stimulate that intrinsic desire I had to enter into my other world near the ocean.
Over the next ten years I retired from the State Police, receive a Masters Degree from C.W. Post, a Captains license from the US Coast Guard, and spent as much time as I could, on theEast End, near the sea. For countless years I’ve fished the offshore Atlantic canyons and shorelines ofEasthamptonandSouthampton.
In the late nineties the bride and I purchased an open bay beach cottage with a view ofShinnecockBay. About a football field east of our beach house is a parcel of bay frontage calledEast Pointthat is managed by Peconic Trust. Often I’ll walk the shore-line of this scenic, native, untouched piece of nature feeling removed from today’s world as I enter a part of humanity that has somehow remained pristine, intact, almost as if it were, frozen in time. The beauty of the shoreline’s unique flowing outline is formed by the tides and currents of the nearby Shinnecock Inlet. Even though we now live on the bay, I still have an unexplained obsession to be at an ocean beach. It is the only way I can satisfy that inherent, mysterious, constant desire I have to be near the sea.
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