Tag Archives: Capt. Dan

Capt. Dan, part 8

Tom Blake, lifeguarding, and surfing!

After I left the tug with proper notification to Peter and Murray, and thanking them for getting me the job, I contacted my swimming friends who were now trying out for a lifeguard job at Jones Beach. I went with them, passed the tests and hired on about the end of July 1937. I was out of shape as far as swimming and legwork was concerned. It showed in the lifeguard championships at the end of August. I did poorly in the rescue races but very well in pulling boat races. It was during this first year as a lifeguard that I was introduced to surfing. The previous year (1936), Tom Blake talked Mr. Sawyer, who was the civilian head of lifeguards, into getting his paddleboards for rescue purposes. Blake showed the Lieutenants how to ride them; the Lieutenants in turn instructed the other guards how to ride the hollow 13-foot paddleboards. They were so big and cumbersome that the most we could do was ride them straight into shore.
Come Labor Day, one of the guards, Ralph Froehlich decided we would drive down to University of Alabama and try out for a football scholarship. Ralph had a 1936 Ford convertible that he had souped up. We drove from Long Island to Jacksonville, Florida in 25 hrs and 20 minutes beating the train. Roads were only two lanes wide in those days, and we had to go through all the major cities. He had a cousin in Gainesville. We visited Silver Springs then headed up to the University. Boy did those southern players work us overt, with high 90’s heat and humidity, Ralph and I decided we had better go back NY way. We did. I then got a $300 loan from my Aunt Bessie with the promise to pay her beck the summer of ’38, as I had the lifeguard job. I enrolled in NYU to become a phys ed teacher. My father wanted me to go to Fordham to become a lawyer. I am sure if I had, I would have had Costello trying to influence me by getting me appointed as a judge later on. Bobby Knapp, Ray Mullane, Harry Berr, Joe Tucker, Charley Hanniquet, Pete Carter are names I remember. Of course there was Captain Johns, the old (50) Dutchman who was Captain of the guards.
The first (freshman) year was little tough after having been away from the books for more than 4 years. I had odd jobs. I also made $5 an evening at the Elks Club, out on Queens Blvd in Elmhurst. Bobby Knapp, Ray Mullane, Tommy McDermott and I took turns playing “fish” for deep see sport fishermen. They would rig a harness around us attached their fish line. The pool was 25 yards long; we started out at the 10 yd mark, and when they said, “go” you had to try to make it down to other end of pool. Their job was to hold you from doing that. This is where I got a Nickname of “Tugboat,” as I broke more lines or made it to the end of the pool than the other swimmers.
I made NYU swim team and swam for NYAC and Flushing “Y”. It took me an hour and 15 minutes to get from home to NYU School of Ed down in Washington Square. I forgot to mention my folks had moved to 742& 45th Avenue, Elmhurst, a two family house that my father bought about 1937 having come into some dough. At the same time, he opened O’Connell’s Bar & Grill on 49th St and 8th Ave the corner of the old Madison Square Garden. I use to take my pals there for lunch once in awhile. In addition, I use to get tickets left there by scalpers for all kinds of sporting events, and other events like rodeos, circuses, etc. I also got tickets to Yankee and Polo Ground stadiums, even sat on a team bench once.
In my sophomore year, I received a Charles Hayden Scholarship for my B-plus average and athletics. In addition, I got a National Youth Administration student job working in Athletic Officer’s office, and paid $20 monthly for 40 hours work per month. Riding high in clover, I paid off my Aunt Bessie’s loan.
That summer, at the beach, Joe Tucker and I won all the events involving boats. Joe came from a fishing family while I had had lots of boat work in my life. We also won the line rescue event involving my swimming out with a line fed by Joe and another guard, when you reached the volunteer victim, girls naturally, you signaled and the two guards would pull you in. The reason we won was because Joe and I believe Ralph Froehlich ran the line clear up the steps and over the boardwalk while the other teams used the old method of each alternating taking a strain on the line. My legs were in good shape that summer what with swimming and lots of gym work. I saw my old girl friend, Regina Lyons from Bayville days, one day at the beach. She had -just graduated from college and was engaged to be married.
We had beach bunnies then as they do now, so we guards had no trouble getting dates. We use to drive out from Flushing in an old model “A” Ford each day. We met under the clock at Main Street Flushing. Guards got 50cents an hour. If it was cloudy or rainy day we were only paid $1 for showing up, which we proceeded to get rid of in card games in the bathhouse. As for eating out at the beach, we knew a German fellow who worked at the Central Mall restaurant. He would get food out to us from the restaurant to a place under the boardwalk. He never was caught. That restaurant is still there. I did my four summers at the Central Mall area beach. We had another gimmick or two to get eats. One guard would holler down to the next lifeguard stand and ask what they had and if they could spare you a sandwich. People sitting in between would hear the conversation and sure enough, a few would come up and offer you a sandwich, fruit, etc. Another gimmick was to call some little kid walking by your stand and tell him you would let him sit on your stand for a little bit if he could get you a sandwich. We saved lunch money. We had a hot plate under the boardwalk to heat eggs, soup, etc. One day I went to put a frying pan on. It touched a loose wire in the hot plate, and I got 220 volts down my right arm and body through my bare feet into the damp sand. It jolted me right off my feet and I was woozy for a while. Fortunately, one of the other guards helped me as I was knocked away from the hot plate. Charley Haniquet was Lt and Harry Borr was bosun of our beach. Bosun made $36 per month, a Lt $45.
In 1939 I made bosun at the beach and bought a used 1931 Chrysler 6 cyl. convertible for $25. I had some problems with it, but it ran okay overall. That fall I loaned it to Bobby Knapp when I went to NYU’s camp where I had to take courses in camp counseling and administration. In the contests that August, Pete Carter, who was now Lt, and I did pretty well in the decathlon for officer guards. We won the two-man boat race and two-man boat rescue. I won the row boat race over in Zach’s Bay. Because I was bosun, I only had to work 7 hours a day, five days a week. We had about 40 guards for all the beach areas on weekdays and 80 on weekends. The week-enders had jobs during the week and had been former regular guards. We were all issued a blanket and parka and two suits for the season. In addition, we got clean white duck trousers and a towel each day.
We played a good trick on old Cap’ Johns. He use to come around, especially on weekends, and take muster re-ports from the Lt. While up on the stand he would stand up and in the act of adjusting his cap he would flex his muscles for the beach dollies. Well one hot Sunday with a big beach crowd, we dug a hole about six feet deep in front of the lifeguard stand. He always approached from the sides and climbed up. When he got ready to leave, he stood, flexed his biceps while adjusting his cap, and said, “Well boys I see you later.” With that, he jumped off the stand and right into the hole, which we had camouflaged. He let out a stream of German cuss words while we all laughed. He couldn’t get out right away, as the sand kept falling in on him, as he clawed the sides. Finally, someone gave him a hand and helped him out. We all took off and hid behind the boardwalk waiting for him to cool down. Another time we stuck horsehairs in cigarettes, and when he would bum one, we gave him one with horsehair in it. He didn’t seem to notice the difference being glad to get a cigarette. We held our sides trying not to laugh. Another time we dumped a bucket of ice water on him when he was sunbathing ala nude up in the lifeguard section of the bathhouse. Another time we sawed partially through an oar. Capt. Johns challenged a newly recruited guard that had been and was on Cornell’s rowing team. Cap Johns took great pride, in that he could beat any college oarsmen in a bank skiff, the kind of boats we used for rescue purposes. We set up a race for him and the college rower. Sure enough, old Cap Johns broke his oar and went ass-over-tea-kettle in the boat. He never did find out who sabotaged the oar. He did however, on another rowing race we set up for him. We tacked a canvas drogue on the bottom of his boat, and when he saw something was wrong, he dove over the side and found the drogue.
After the lifeguard contests and the last weekend before Labor Day, we had a big blowout for the guards at a big restaurant on Sunrise Highway with lots of beer and plenty to eat. Jones Beach in those days was immaculately clean. We had State Troopers who worked for the Long Island State Park Commission. Littering would get you hauled in and fined, the same would happen if you got out of line. Bob Moses who built parks, bridges, tunnels, parkways, etc. around the area was a political powerhouse. Governors and mayors bowed to him.
We had many rescues on bad days, as most people were not use to swimming in the ocean. One of the worse: A couple of hundred people waded out to a sandbar and a series of large swells came and swept them off. The waves filled up the shallow area between the bar and beach, making the water over their heads. It fortunately happened mostly off the West Bathhouse area. Those guards that could be spared rushed there using every piece of equipment we had, resulting in the rescuing of more than fore hundred. Bank skiffs, surfboards, torpedo buoys were loaded with people. All the resuscitators were in use. Ambulances came over from towns on the mainland to help. Out of that mess, only three people drowned. One time I had four big black men hanging on to me for dear life while we were all getting hauled in on the torpedo buoy line. I was able to keep my head up enough for air. Didn’t have to hold them, they held me but not in a way to interfere with what I had to do. Rescued a big fat woman one time and as I carried her out of the water in a fireman carry her boobs were hanging out. In those days you laid people on their stomach and gave artificial respiration by straddling and pumping there back near the bottom of the rib cage. In this position, the fat gal’s boobs were not as readily seen.
We made extra money working in the water shows, and operettas held in the marine stadium. We earned $5 a night for maybe 15 minutes work being pirates, etc depending on the show. We also swan in water ballets made up of about 24 gals and 24 guys. One couldn’t help pinching a gal once in awhile in the water. In practice, they would scream thinking it was a crab that were always around, but really wouldn’t bother you. There were fire works after the shows. That summer some of us roomed at a house in Freeport and ate supper in a diner on Merrick Road, good chow and low-priced. I believe we paid $5 a week for a bed, two to a room. It saved driving back and forth to the city.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 7

In the summer of ’36, word came that the camp would be decommissioned and personnel reassigned. I had been in touch with Madge and she said she could get me a job with the WPA in NYC. I took it, office clerk. It was a project writing scripts for out-of-work actors, etc. My job was to run the stencil machine and collate the pages run off. It was boring work. In the fall of ’36 my father got me a job with the new Gallagher Bros. Sand & Gravel Co. The owners were the sons of old Pete Gallagher who had died back in ’25. They had just started up the company and had bought a WW1 Navy tug at Philadelphia. The sons, Murray and Peter, and the prospective skipper, Jack Sullivan, drove all of us down there. A tug towed the Navy tug to a dock in Philadelphia where the crew was to put it beck in operation. I worked my tail off on that tug, scraping pitch and sawdust off wooden decks, dismantling brass fire hydrants, scraping red lead off, cleaning Cosmoline off all the stainless steel in the galley area, and lots of painting. When new coils of mooring lines came aboard I thought I would make points with the skipper and splice an eye in a 7″ mooring line. Unfortunately I pulled the wrong end of the line out of the coil, spliced the eye. When he saw what I had done, I got really bawled out. The eye was ok, but when you pull the wrong end out, the line will develop kinks in it. To correct, it was necessary to stream the line astern later on, after we got underway to get all the kinks out.
When we finally got things together, we got underway for NYC via Delaware River, up along the coast and on in to NY. I got very seasick on the way, and I remember being drooped over the starboard bulwark railing with waves breaking over me. One washed me down the deck, but a fireman standing inside of a fire room half door reached out and got me by my britches to keep me from going overboard. The way I felt I didn’t care if I did. We towed scows from Port Jefferson to the city. Each weighed 1000 tons with sand or gravel. We towed from 8 to 10, one behind the other until we neared Whitestone area, at which point the tow was made up into a harbor one. This was done by reeling in the 2″ tow wire, which was about 1000′ long, and disconnecting it from the lead scow. Our tug would then whip around and come in alongside the sixth scow; if 10 were present and run a bow, spring, and stern line to it. The scow captains of the 5th and 6th scows would disconnect their mooring lines at same time. Our tug would then ease the last five scows out a bit and proceed ahead and lay them alongside the front five, which were still proceeding along due to the momentum of their weight plus currents. Scow captains would lash the two tiers together. Our tug would then move ahead and maneuver in front of the double tier, pass a bridle and haul them down through Hellgate and the East river to a dock on Newtown Creek opposite 54th Street, Manhattan. As we approached that creek, the tug took in the bridle, moved back along the portside of the tow, made up, and eased the ten scows in alongside the dock. From there we would take one or two scows to various sand & gravel docks around the Hudson, East River, and over in Staten Island and Brooklyn. We would also pick up empties and take them up to a stake scow near College Point. When 10 or so assembled, we would haul them back to Port Jefferson for a new load.
I can remember having to climb up the high sides of empty scows and crossing from one to another with snow and ice all over them to release mooring tines that were usually frozen. I got pretty good, thanks to older deck hands showing me the knack of tossing a 7″ mooring line eye onto bitts or bollards 20′ away and some 10′ or so above our deck. There were three deckhands, and we stood watches as follows: two stood six on and six off, while one was day man on call all day and anytime at night. You usually weren’t called at night unless it was an emergency while day man, or around the harbor moving scows around. One time I caught almost three days of night and day operations in NY harbor. I would catch a catnap at the base of the smoke stack in between moves. When the skipper needed me, he would toot a whistle, which was steam and would wake the dead. I got $96 a month plus keep.
We worked six days a week, after which time we would tie up the tug wherever the last job was. We got 24 hours off and had to be back at the end of that time. Sometimes you got off at some God-forsaken place and it would take an hour and a half to get home. My father and the crewmembers cautioned me in getting from docks to nearest subway always to walk in the middle of the street to avoid a mugging. Out in the middle you had a chance to run. We ate good, always had two kinds of meat with a meal. I had to help the cook peal potatoes. We had home made pies and cakes. The day man also had to clean the Captain’s and crew’s heads, splice lines, mend fenders, do some painting, grease the towing machine, and wash down the decks. These chores were divvied up with the two six on, six off watch standers. Coming down the East River with a big tow at 5A.M. always intrigued me as the city looked so quiet. Some times, we tied up at a dock and the skipper would phone our dispatcher for orders. While alongside you had to keep an eye on dock hang on types who would steal you blind. Dirtiest job was pulling in a mooring line that was in the water in Newtown Creek. I am sure it was 50% heavy crude oil and chemicals plus sewerage.
When we left Philadelphia, the end of ’36, a northeast storm off Cape May caused our steering cable to part. We all turned to with block and tackle getting the two broken ends together and putting wire clamps on. Waves were breaking all over the fantail with a lot of us being knocked down every so often. Another tricky operation I had to do was get the chafing wooden beam under the tow wire so the latter would not chafe on the metal “monkey” rail around the stern taffrail. The beam was 8’ long, cut from a length of 6×6 wood. The top was hollowed out about two inches. After the tow wire paid out to 1000′, the skipper would go ahead a bit and surge the wire. When that happened, the wire would spring up a foot or so above the monkey rail. That is when you would get the chafing beam under the wire as it came back down. When the wire was seated in the beam I secured it with four tie-ties. The wire would stay in the beam due to its weight. We would grease the monkey rail occasionally to reduce friction. When it came time to take the wire in, you would take the tie-ties off and when the skipper surged the tow wire, remove the chafing beam. You had to move fast on these. I also ran the large steam-driven towing winch.
Tides were a major factor in towing, as you had to get through Hell Gate with a favorable one. Many times old Jack would bellow down to the engine room, to give him every turn they could get on the propeller. We had a triple expansion steam engine. The oilier had to stand on the guard railing surrounding the engine to reach the various bearings that needed oiling. When the rpm got too high, the engine would throw oil all over the engine room and the oilier. Whet a mess! How they kept their footing was really something.
When we were in Philadelphia, I was painting a boat deck ventilator that led to the fire room. A Swedish engineer was below getting ready to light off the boiler, and he had an explosion. The fire and smoke came up and knocked me out of the front of the ventilator. The engineer was burned a bit but got the fire out. Damage was minor. Another learning experience for me was when I jammed a turn around the after bits. I had to use a fire axe to get the stern line loose. Old Jack really read the riot act to me. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the owners had put me aboard I am sure Jack would have put me on the beach. Another company towed scows out of Port Jefferson and a few times, we raced them to see who made it through the gate first. One time we had 10 scows to their nine and beat them, shades of Mark Twain and the stern wheelers!
I really loved the life and studied books to become a pilot. Old Jack Sullivan taught me a lot. However, it was not to be. About the beginning of July 1937, we were shifting from long to harbor tow. A foul-up in bell signals from Jack to engine room occurred that caused the tug to back into the lead scow almost killing the scow captain. Our rudder got jammed over. Old Jack did a lot of maneuvering and by going astern got the ten scows over to the stake boat at College Point. Well, it was going to be necessary to have our tug towed to a shipyard for repair and it would take sometime. We were to go on half pay. The old-timers advised me this would be a good time for me to go to college as tug boating was for people without an education so I decided to try that.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 6

The continuing autobiography of Capt. Dan

In 1934, we moved to 43rd Street and Queens Blvd in Sunnyside into a nice apartment. My father was getting back on his feet. I had a few dates with the superintendent’s daughter, Pearl. Grace Wainwright and Regina Lyons had gone off to college. I should mention a Roslyn Golding and a Marylyn Volk. . They both were in Earl Carol’s Vanities as hoofers. My friend Vinnie Guido went with Marilyn while I dated Roslyn. My friend, Vinnie Sims, also liked Marilyn. Their mothers escorted them to the shows and home. We had to meet them at their homes to go out on a date. Marilyn later on in life married Toots Shore who had a famous nightclub. I think Vinnie still carries a torch for her based on a get-together we had in 1988. I had a job the summer of ’34 taking care of the swimming pool at the Lakeville Country Club. I kept it cleaned, acted as lifeguard and gave a few lessons at $5 each. Still managed to swim at YMCA but was now on men’s team. Brooklyn Central Y was our main competitor. See my scrapbook for swimming meets, etc. About once a week, we got Boston brown bread and baked beans to go, at a Horn & Hardhartson 47th & Queens. I worked for a while in Calvary Cemetery on my own. I would paint letters on tombstones for a few dollars. Eventually, we kids were not allowed to do it any longer. I believe union workers complained to church officials.
When I lived on Ithaca Street in Elmhurst, we kids use to ride the Junction Avenue Trolley over to where La Guardia Airport is now located. There use to be a creek that came in from Flushing Bay with a wooden bridge over which the trolley ran. We use to dive and swim off the bridge. Over on the bay side were the remains of what had once been a big amusement park. La Guardia Airport is there now. We also use to go ice skating on a pond over about 94th Street near Astoria Blvd. while playing ice hockey you had to watch out for tree branches etc. sticking up through ice. After a few bad spills you developed an extra set of eyes.
In the fall of ‘34, I got a temporary job with a movie operator who went around showing I6mm movies at CCC Camps in New York and Pennsylvania. The fall colors were terrific up in the Poconos. He usually had frost on his old Buick sedan windshield in the mornings. We slept overnight in each camp. He charged 10 cents admission. I got about $2.50 per day plus chow and bunk at camps. I also worked in the Post Office sorting mail during Christmas that year.
In early 1935, we moved into a second floor apartment over a store on the corner of 93rd Street and Roosevelt Ave. My bedroom window was about 10′ from the “El” tracks. Got use to it after while. Only woke up if trains stopped running. I got a temporary clerk’s job in a Sheffield Farm store close by. Served customers, stocked shelves and made house deliveries. I continued swimming at the Flushing “Y”. (See my sports scrapbook for those days.) Aunt Mary lived on the other side of Roosevelt Ave near 94th street. Uncle Danny was also living with the Cuggys. Eddie Regan, who married my sister that year, and George Treutlein played football for a Corona team. Some of the games were at Woodside and Baxter Avenues where the Queens Hospital is now. We were still in the economic doldrums. I know my father was getting money for different political jobs for the Costello outfit, as he listed his occupation as a promoter. I played with a team in Flushing. Half of us had little football equipment and many bruises with the Fort Totten team.
Through Madge Cuggy I got a job with the CCC as a -recreation director, and was assigned to Co. 1247 at Bear Mountain State Park. The company relocated to Seneca Falls the latter part of October. It built a State Park near the camp on Lake Cayuga, and did the grading of the banks along State Route 89 on the west side of the lake. I arranged various sports; we had a championship baseball team, winning the State title for the CCC. We also ran games, etc. in camp recreation hall. The Modell Sporting Goods Co. sent a lot of stuff up to me, as my father knew the owner, Stanley. We had an Army Captain for C.O., an Army major for camp doctor, a 1st It for Exec, a construction superintendent, who wore a US Forestry uniform and had two assistants. They over-looked all the work the CCC did. The Army ran the camp. The officers, construction supers, educational counselor and the arts and crafts counselor all lived in one barrack where we each had a room to ourselves. There was a pot-bellied stove at each end of the building. The “VIP’s ate in a separate section of the mess hall. I got room and board plus $96 a month. I sent half home to my mother. I have a scrapbook with some pictures of the camp and personnel.
I bought a 1924 Chevy 2-DR sedan for $10, and made two trips to NYC and back with it, once in a blizzard. I plowed along, thanks to thin solid disk steel wheels and narrow tires. I almost froze my feet coming back from NYC when temperatures dropped to 25 below. Our CCC trucks went out a few times to rescue school kids whose bus bogged down in drifts. Cayuga Lake froze to depth of 6′. NY Central RR would come out on the frozen lake, cut up the ice, truck it to their icehouses, for use in their passenger trains, and produce cars.
In 1936, I bought a 1929 Chrysler 6 cylinder 4dr sedan from Jimmy Holmes father, who was an auto mechanic. It was in great shape with 75,000 miles on it, and took it up to CCC Camp. On my return to NYC almost ruined engine when the oil line broke and pumped out the oil. I heard a ticking noise, stopped and saw the problem. It was a Sunday morning, very early. I was able to coast down a long hill for a mile into the out-skirts of Syracuse, parked, asked around and finally found a mechanic who installed a new oil line. Fortunately, it only had one bearing with minor damage. The cold weather helped in preventing further damage.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 5

the continuing autobiography of Capt. Dan

In 1930, we rented a large bungalow in Bayville on Madison Ave. My maternal grandmother stayed with us there. I remember the Lyon’s girls who lived there all year round in a house at the corner of our avenue, Madison, and the beach. I had a crush on Regina. Her sister, Marie, was about six years older.
There were many kids my age around the neighborhood, the Lynches, McSherrys, Croaks, etc mostly Irish. In fact, a Pat Kerr owned the house we rented. The Croak family had about five brothers; one was a priest, then Babe, Tom, Phil. I can’t remember the other one. They built a beautiful home for their mother a few blocks away. Phil use to date Marie Lyons. We had a raft out off our beach where we guys and gals use to assemble. We had beach fires at night, and went canoeing at night. I use to ride my bike up to Center Island a lot. Again, we had lots of company on weekends. Regina would ride a bus from Bayville to a Catholic girls school in Jamaica. The Croaks were the only family that lived there in the winter. She went to college later on, became a chemical engineer, married and had six children. I got my driver’s permit and was allowed to drive the Chrysler to the Glen Cove theatre. There use to be a good ice cream parlor on Bayville Ave about three blocks from us. It had the best malts and sundaes. My Aunt Bessie rented a house down a lane near the bayside just down from the ice cream parlor. I remember it was loaded around her area with mosquitoes and green sand flies. When you dug for clams in the mud on the bayside, you had to keep one hand free to swat the green sand flies! We had milk delivered and Dugan’s bakery truck came by everyday. Their cup cakes were my favorites, also the French coffee cake. We went to the little Catholic Church about a mile away down the road, opposite where the Harrison Williams’ estate used to be. The red brick wall of the estate is still there. Like many of the old estates, it was subsequently sub divided.
In 1931, we rented a large bungalow on the beach right next to the home of the Lyons girls, oh boy! My maternal grandmother lived with us. We also had an Irish maid and my father had his handyman from the Press Club out occasionally to do some work around the bungalow. Tony built me a small wooden kayak type boat. He had been an Italian Naval officer in WW1. One night at the Press Club, where he lived, he shot and killed a burglar. Babe Croak, or his brother Phil, used to row a boat and coach me swimming long distance from Oak Neck Point to the ferry slip at Reinhardt’s Beach. Again, we guys and gals use to row or paddle a canoe to the freighters forming the ferry slip breakwater; and picnic aboard, swim, play an old phonograph, etc. I swam in a one and a half mile swim in Oyster Bay, finished 15th out of 140 some odd entries. All the NYAC, Dragon Club, YMCA swimmers, etc were in it. One time when Vinnie Sims spent a week with me, we took the Mandy Lee, a sport fishing cruiser out. My father had gotten a boat from a friend who owed him money. It was 55′ of wooden lap strake construction. It was anchored on the bayside of Bayville. We had to go through the bridge that connects Bayville to Oyster Bay. As we headed south on Oyster Bay, the salt water-cooling line separated at a connection, doused the engine causing it to quit. While Vinnie and I were busy trying to find out what had happened, we drifted over onto a rocky shoal off Center Island and bumped gently on top of a big boulder. Vinnie immediately got an anchor out, which we should have done sooner. Vinnie reconnected the hose fitting but couldn’t get the engine started. We signaled a passing small boat, which came over and was able to get alongside as it drew less water than us. He looked the engine over and said we would have to wait awhile and let things dry out a bit. He towed us out to deeper water. Later we got it staffed, headed for the Sound via Cold Spring Harbor area. We got around Rocky Point and headed for Bayville Beach opposite our bungalow. I took many of my friends out for a ride plus my mother, Tommy and Margaret. My father was away at the time and did not know anything about it. Vinnie and I eventually got it back to Oyster Bay and anchored it without further mishap. One weekend my father took Vinnie Sims, Vinnie Guido and my family to Fairfield, Conn. to visit his partner Tom Lynch who had a cottage there. I can remember us hanging onto a towrope getting dragged astern at 10 kts, lot of fun! We also had aquaplanes that were towed behind the boat. It was sort of a flat board with a small bridle at the front connected to a towrope. You stood on it holding onto another bridle that came up from each forward corner, lots of fun, forerunner of water skiing. Labor Day came late that year, and school started a week later, so I was able to enjoy Bayville a little longer.
My mother would pick us all up at school on Friday afternoons, and let me drive the car to Bayville; which we did each weekend until Columbus Day. How I loved those Indian summer days, warm days, cold nights! Water remained halfway warm until the end of September. On such Friday nights at Bayville, it was cold canned salmon, Franco-American spaghetti, salad, cheese, fruit, cake and milk for supper. We had to dress in the kitchen by the stove especially in October, as there was no heat in the bungalow. On July 4th everyone had fireworks on the beach. My father liked to buy the biggest fireworks to outshine the neighbors. One of his skyrockets fell over after it ignited and flew out and hit a canoe in the side putting a hole in it. He arranged to have it repaired. No one hurt. We had periods of being inundated with large jellyfish that stung like all blazes, also had horseshoe crabs. It was fun picking one up and chasing some girls with it. I rigged a rowboat out as a small windjammer one time and we sailed around Oak Point, but had to row back against the wind. I also talked an Italian kid, who had a nice outboard motor and boat, to take a trip across the Sound to Greenwich. Our parents gave us hell when we got back. We had no problems over or back. It was an all-day trip.

to be continued….

Capt. Dan, part 4: Long Island Gentry, Speakeasies, and the Stock Market Crash

The continuing autobiography of Capt. Dan.

In those days, the great wealthy families had estates on the major points of land projecting into Long Island Sound. A mile to the west of us was the Harrison William’s estate; J.P Morgan’s was off Glen Cove, Tommy Mansville, and the asbestos family across the sound at Greenwich, Vanderbilt’s out at Huntington, etc. All of them had high-speed 50′ to 60′ express cruisers that could make 50 mph. They were beautiful mahogany custom jobs. They ran like clockwork, so much so that we kids could tell what time it was in late afternoon when they were returning from Wall Street to their Long Island estates
In 1929, we did not go to Bayville. My father teamed up with a Tom Lynch, and they opened the Press Club on 45th St., between 3rd and Lexington on the north side. They had the entire 4-story tenement building. The bar, which was a speakeasy, was in the basement area. The first and second floors were dining rooms. The third floor was for gambling while his maitre de, Mario, lived on the top floor. They also had a beautiful patio setup in the backyard for the summers. The advertising, sports, and news media people hung out there. All the great comic strip artists had a small mural around the wall of the barroom depicting various characters that came there. I remember Tom Mix and Texas Guinan coming to our house on Ithaca St one time. I remember my math teacher, Mr. Young, from PS 89. I made my confirmation at St Bartholomew’s a few blocks away. We use to pick wild strawberries and apples nearby. Jackson Heights, on the other side of Roosevelt Avenue, was mostly vacant lots. We use to play baseball and football in them. Later they were filled up with apartment houses. I had a crush on a Grace Wainright. One time at a birthday party in her home, I pulled her chair aside as she sat down causing her to fell on her butt. Her mother chased me home. Later on I brought her an artificial Easter bunny filled with jellybeans, and all was forgiven. My freshman year at Newtown was in the Annex, which was the top floor of my grade school, PS 89. After that, it was in the main building located over past Corona Ave. The school had a 10,000 enrollment. Some of the classes we had to sit two to a seat. We had split sessions. I averaged B-plus. I even got 100 on State Regents exam in trigonometry. I liked school and didn’t mind homework. During the summer of ’29 1 went to Bayville with the Guide’s a few times Oh yes, getting back to 1927. I broke my collarbone playing football. My mother took me to Bellevue where they put a wrap-around cast on my chest and left arm. After a few weeks, I told my mother it hurt and still felt funny. My father got Doc Woods, who was team doctor for the Yankees to look at it. My Dad knew Doc from the Press Club. I went to St Francis Hospital where he reset it. Apparently, it was healing with one part of the bone over the other. He wired it together and it came out ok. While there, Babe Ruth came down and gave me a ball signed by the entire Yankee team. The next spring my brother Tommy took the ball, which was shellacked, out and played baseball with it, scuffing it so badly that it was destroyed. I could have killed him at the time.
In ’29, the stock market collapsed. My father’s partner, Tom Lynch, was wiped out. My father did not play the market. His money went on horses and cards. We had a new ’29 4DR Chrysler sedan. I believe we moved to 74th Street just off Woodside Ave about this time. We had a fold up pool table that my father and some of Costello’s crowd use to play on. We lived on the top floor of the two family units. A family named Rockefeller, who lived bellow us, owned the place. St Mary’s became our new parish. We would take the train up to Westchester County near White Plains to visit my sister Margaret, who was in a Catholic girl’s school. We also use to drive up once in awhile and visit Aunt Bessie who had moved to a fancy house in Scarsdale. Aunt Bessie lived with her daughter Betty and husband Louie Crone.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan: part 3

We use to hitch rides on the back of Yellow cabs. In those days, they had old-fashioned bumpers and a bar on the rear that you could hold onto. The cab driver could not see you in the right rear. When we wanted to get off we would bang on the side, the cabbie would get mad, slam on the brakes, we would hop off and run for our lives, and if he caught you, he would punch you. We also hitched rides on trolley cars by standing on a truck, where the wheels were, and held onto a ledge near the windows above. The conductor could not see us. It was easy to get off as they stopped every few blocks. We also use to take long rides in the “Elevated” trains. It was only a nickel, same for trolley, and the Staten Island Ferry.
We swam in the East River off the coal docks at 56th Street. I almost got hung up under a scow one time. I tried to fetch under the scow and ride the current. My trunks got caught on a huge splinter of wood hanging from its bottom; I had to tear the trunks off to free myself. Many times, we swam naked. We hid our clothes, when cops came we dove in and rode the current down a few blocks. Our friends who had escaped by running would come back get our clothes and bring them to us. The river was full of raw sewerage. Naturally, we were not allowed to swim in it, but our parents did not know. When the Boston steamers came by they made huge waves that we called “lollypazoozas.” We would dive into them as they reached the docks.
We had a baseball field, dirt, under the Queens Borough Bridge at 59th Street. We use to ride sleighs down the sidewalk section of the bridge in the winter starting at mid-bridge and ending up at the foot at 2nd Ave where there was s 20′ pile of ashes to prevent us from going out onto the avenue. It was a good slope and really fast.
My maternal grandmother, Mary Margaret McNamara, was a laundress to Ambassador Davies’ family up on 79th Street off 5th Ave. I used to go up to see her occasionally, to borrow money for my mother, or just to see her. The “downstairs” servants always gave me something good to eat. Mr. Davies had been Ambassador to Russia.
I was doing real well in grade school so in September of 1926, I was sent to an advanced junior high down on 12th St and 1st Ave. I rode the 2nd Ave El to get there. I would ride out and see my Aunt Bessie; who had married Louie Crone, and moved to a fancy apartment house in Jackson Heights. I also continued visiting my Aunt Mary who was living on 52nd Street between 1st and 2nd Aves. In 1927 we moved to Ithaca St in Elmhurst. This time a moving truck moved our furniture. On our previous moves in the city, our stuff was moved in an ice wagon. My brother Tom and I rode the ice wagon up to the new location. I finished out the term at the junior HS in the city and started in PS 89 just a block from where we lived. Kids I remember from there were Eddie Leonard, Placid LePanto and Vinnie Sims. The latter later moved to Chicago and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1939. I attended the graduation, and I even got to sleep in Bancroft Hall one night. Vinnie started out as a surface line officer but after his ship, the carrier LEXINGTON, sank, he applied for Naval Aviation and became a fighter pilot. He was killed after the war as a test pilot at Patuxent.
In the summer of 1927, my folks rented a bungalow on Warren Avenue in Bayville, the third house in on west side from the sound. They paid $500 to rent it. They could have bought it for $5000. They rented it again in 1928 for same amount! My father loved company. Oodles of relatives came plus many of his business associates. I remember him coming home one Friday evening in a taxi from NYC with the cab loaded with groceries and meat plus lots of spirits. It must have cost him some $50 for the cab. About this same time, my father had opened a speakeasy on Lexington Ave between 45th and 44th Streets, on the east side above a store, which served as a front. The advertising crowd and newsmen used to frequent it. He made plenty there, but gambled a great deal on horses and cards. Many times my mother would send me down there to get money from him for the house.
At Bayville, we played a lot of baseball in the parking lot of Ferry Beach, owned by the Reinhardt family. We actually had a ferry there that ran to Rye Beach on the Connecticut side. We rode it two times to go to the Playland amusement park where they had a roller coaster and other entertainment. My father use to have me row him out to Rocky Point at the east end of Bayville Beach. We left at 4 A.M. and came back about 9 A.M. I was the fastest rower around my neighborhood! We boys became “peeping Toms” as there was a “grass widow” who use to take showers in her basement ala nude, and we could see her through a rear basement window.
I had some bad sunburn the beginning of each of those summers as we were covered up in the city for 9 months of the year. I think it was 1928 when I had sunburn, with huge blisters on my arms and shoulders. My Mom had to take me to Doc’s. They punctured blisters, put salve on and some bandages. About two days after that, I was playing chase or something, and one kid chasing me grabbed me by my shoulders, causing both of us to fall with my arms and shoulders getting full of sand in the raw parts that were just starting to heal. It took a lot of washing to get all the sand out. I use to carve out boats and play for hours with them on the sand and down in the water. We had to dig deep holes in the sand of a wooded area where we had to take our garbage, as there was no service there in those days. We would cover the garbage each day with sand. To get the mail, we had to walk about quarter of a mile to the village Post Office. Two large WW1 wooden freighters were scuttled there to protect the ferry slip. They still had a good bit of super-structure on them and us kids used to climb all over them, dive off them, etc. It was a good 50′ dive off the bow. I was poking around near one of the freighters one day with a rowboat. Tommy was in the bow, I was standing up in dorying position, and we were sliding up on some 1ft wide jellyfish when we bumped into a side port of the ship. The bump caused a heavy mushroom anchor to fall off a thwart and almost cut Tommy’s big toe off. I had him hold it on while I rowed as fast as I could back to the beach. My mother got him to the Doctor and they saved the toe. Unfortunately, it didn’t save my fanny. I got a licking for that. We swam, rowed, fished, played games, etc., and before you knew it, it was time to go back to Elmhurst and school. It was a sad day for all us kids but a glad one for my mother. The Guido brothers use to walk over and play with us when they came to Ferry Beach, which was only a block or two away. We use to pick beach plums, from which my mother made jelly.

To be continued.

Capt. Dan: part 2, Rum Running, Diphtheria, and Childhood Games

This is when he teamed up with Frank Costello and company. He worked for Costello hauling whiskey up from the Caribbean, St Lawrence, and Nova Scotia areas. He told me Navy and Coast Guard Cutters would board the big rumrunner sailing vessels out beyond the 12-mile limit and their skippers would have a drink with him. Of course, they couldn’t arrest him out there. Since radar was not in use at that time, it was easy to evade patrols. Eventually, the rumrunners were stopped from getting into major harbors due to more patrol vessels, so they shifted strategy to having fast boats come out and rendezvous with a “mother ship,” pick up a load then hightail it to small inlets along the Atlantic Coast. When the government caught on to this, they began using small boats to cover the inlets. The rumrunners countered with a new tactic. The small high-speed boats would come out, pick up a load of whiskey, hightail back to a deserted beach area, and dump the whiskey just beyond the surf line. The waves would wash it onto the beach, where crews of beachcombers, clam diggers and local fishermen, would wade into the surf and recover the booze. Then it would be loaded on sand sleds pulled by a tractor to the bay side of the offshore island, reloaded onto a barge, towed to an isolated area on the mainland, and then trucked up to warehouses in Philadelphia and New York. My father got a dollar for each case that got ashore.
One time, before they resorted to inlet and beach landing operations, the Coast Guard caught him in the Race off New London. He had a large 5-masted lumber schooner at the time with lumber on deck, but the holds filled with whiskey they had picked up at Halifax. They became becalmed for two days in the Race, and since they had no power, kept going back and forth with the tides. Finally, a Coast Guard Cutter came out, boarded the vessel, “FRANCIS P. RITCHIE,” and found the whiskey. Costello’s lawyer finally got my father released from jail in Boston. In the meantime, there was a big story about the capture in the New York papers, which proved very embarrassing for my Uncle Pete Cuggy. Seems my father got Pete to sign papers showing he was the owner of the vessel. Poor old Pete, who was only an innocent worker for the Railway Express, was arrested; but again, Costello’s people got him cleared of any wrongdoing. He was sore at my father for a good time after that but eventually got over it.
When WW11 came along, the Coast Guard Admiral in New York contacted my father to see if he would take a commission and advise them on where to set up foot patrols along the coast, as they were worried about German saboteurs landing from U-Boats. The Admiral knew my father from his rum running days, and how foxy he had been escaping all the time after the Francis P. Ritchie incident; and the Admiral was aware that my father knew the coast very well. Unfortunately, Washington would not go along with the idea, due to the fact he had a felony conviction in his record from rum running. Even so, he told the Admiral where to set some of the patrols, which proved of value later on.
Naturally, during his rum running days, he was gone for a few months at a time. One stormy night he came home when we lived on 56th Street. He had his Southwester rain gear on and a big beard plus a valise full of big bills. On such occasions, he and my mother would go off for a few days with her mother minding us kids. In 1929, when we lived on 4th Street in Elmhurst, he took my mother out to some place in Montauk Point for a weekend. He told her to drive back by herself with our big Chrysler Sedan. Unbeknownst to her it was loaded down with whiskey. The seats, doors, and underneath the chassis had hollow places where the bottles with the straw around them were concealed. When he returned to our place he had a man come and move the bottles into a phony delivery truck and taken to his speakeasy, the Press Club. My mother found out about this ruse later on and was very mad.
After Pete Gallagher died in 1925, Mrs. Gallagher sold the Manhattan Sand &; Gravel Co. to Generalissimo Pope, who changed the name to Colonial Sand & Gravel. When my father was a truck driver, he had taught Pope to drive. Over the years, Pope got into publishing Italian newspapers, etc. No doubt, he stole a good bit of sand and gravel from Gallagher when he was a truck driver by dumping part of a delivery at some hidden place where he would resell it with his own truck. I knew his son Gene later, during the early fifties. Gene ran an Italian wire service, which was the prime source of all news coming from Italy. Gene later started the Enquirer newspaper.
We moved from 45th Street to 57th Street in 1925 to a five-room coldwater flat, between 1st and 2nd Aves. It was on the top, fifth floor, and was walk-up. It ran from backyard to street side. I started public school, which was only a block away on 50th between 2nd and 5th Aves. This is where I met my oldest friends, Vinnie and Dick Guido who are still around as of 1990 and whom I see on my trips back east. We had a dumbwaiter in the building that I use to have someone pull me up and down in. People used it for getting packages up to their floor or down. After St Agnes, public school was a breeze, still lots of homework though. Only thing I can remember there was being punished for dipping the blond curls of a girl in front of me in my inkwell.
In 1926 we moved to our fanciest place yet on 5oth. Street between A Avenue and Sutton PI. It had steam heat, carpeted hallways and stairs, hot water, bathroom, and a gas stove. My father was riding high with the money he was making. I played with the Guido brothers and another Italian kid, Leno. I had many a good Italian meal with them. Vinnie’s father knew my father when they fought as prizefighters. He was a middleweight while my father fought heavy weight. His father drove a horse-drawn milk wagon for Borden’s, climbing up and down tenement stairs to leave fresh milk and pick up empties. Later, in the morning, he would come around weekly to collect from customers. We still used iceboxes with icemen bringing a 50 lb or so block of ice up to your flat and putting it in the icebox. The Guido’s took me to Bayville a few times in the summer. Vinnie’s mother Rose, who was Irish, was a great Italian cook, guess she learned from Vinnie’s grandma. She also made the best sandwiches. His father, on his days off, would drive out to Montauk to go deep-sea fishing; which he did almost until the time he died in the early eighties.
We had some bad luck in the 56th Street flat. On Christmas Eve, 1926 my sister Catherine died of diphtheria. Her tonsils were too swollen for the doctor to treat her throat by painting it with silver nitrate, which was the method then in use. I came down the same day with it. Margaret and Tommy also had it but the Doctor was able to treat them. That same day the Lionel train my folks gave me shorted out, as the engine was made for AC current, while our flat was on DC current. We were in quarantine for about two months. Relatives and friends use to leave groceries, etc. at our door, which had a big quarantine sign on it, which was the law in those days. My poor mother had to stay in with us and take care of us. My father happened to be away when we started coming down with the bug, so when he returned he stayed with my Aunt Mary Cuggy.
We all went to St John’s church on the corner of 55th Street and 1st Avenue. I made a booboo there one Easter Sunday. I had my new Easter suit on and tried to climb over a picket fence to get out of going to Sunday school. In doing so, I ripped my “Plus-4 knickers” on a picket, caught hell from my mother. The old saying, “God will punish you when you are bad,” was fulfilled that day. I was shot in the eye with a hairpin; we kids were playing in my home hiding behind furniture. We were using rubber bands to shoot hairpins at each other. I looked up over the top of a chair at the wrong time, and was hit. My mother rushed me to hospital in a taxi with the hairpin sticking out of my eyeball. The doctor pulled it out, treated the eye, and made me wear a patch for six months.
Another time, my gang stole a few bottles of beer from the Peter Doelger Brewery a few blocks away. I had opened my bottle by knocking the cap off on a picket fence. One of the other kids couldn’t get his cap off so I took it and trying to knock it off, the bottle exploded due to it being warm and all the shaking. When the bottle broke, I severely cut my thumb. I ran home holding the thumb together. Again, my mother had to take me in a cab to the doctor who stitched it up. I was lucky I was not blinded from the hairpin and no lockjaw from the thumb severing.
I use to hide costume jewelry in a cigar box and climb up a stone wall at the foot of 58th St by the East River and hide the box, coming back every so often to see if it was still there. It was up a good 50′ on the wall and tricky to climb. We use to climb around the new fancy apartment houses going up on Sutton Place, and we would play chicken by going hand-over-hand hanging onto a steel beam a good 10 story above the ground. Oh yes, after the diphtheria siege, my mother put us kids in the hospital and had our tonsils removed, so that never again would she lose one of us like happened to Catherine
We use to make wagons from baby carriage wheels; using two-by-fours and a wooden box with clothesline attached to the front 2×4 with small wheels. The big wheels were in the back. We would push our wagons over to Central Park and play cowboys and Indians. The games we would play were touch football, box ball, stoop ball (you throw a rubber ball at the steps of a stoop, the ball had to get past the curb on a fly. Fielders tried to catch it; if they did, it was an out. If they didn’t it was a hit. If you got it over the last kid near the opposite curb, it was a homer, much like OTL. We also played baseball checkers, laid out 10″ squares in each corner of a sidewalk section. You started from home by shooting your checker for first base. It had to land in the 10″ first base square without touching any of the lines. If you did, you then tried to shoot it into the second base square. If you missed at anytime, the next player shot. He had choice of shooting for the next base he was heading for, or if he could hit your checker, he got another shot. When you made all the bases it was a run at which point you shot at any opponent’s checker. If you hit it, you won it. You would then try to get another one. If you missed, the next player could shoot at yours. If he had all ready been around all the bases at the time, and he shot and hit yours, he got it. We also played marbles, using “steelies,” which we rolled down along a gutter. If you hit someone’s marble, you won it. We played handball, pitched pennies (closest to wall won) roller skate hockey, chase games like one called “Ring-A-Levio.” (It must have been Italian origin). The players were split up into two sides. One side was given a good start and would hide, other side would hunt all up and down the block behind cars, trashcans, etc. When someone was caught, he was brought back and placed in a square that was the holding tank. If one of his teammates could sneak back without being caught and reach the holding tank, all “prisoners” were free to escape.
We played “Seven-up” for United Cigar Coupons, which were redeemable for merchandise. We went to movies on 55th and 3rd Avenue and to RKO Proctor, the one at 58th Street and 3rd Avenue. The latter had some vaudeville with the movie and a sing along organist. Kids up the block would make war on the kids down the block in the backyards. We would start by climbing over the fences separating the tenements. The other gang would lie in wait for us by hiding behind one of the fences. When we reached their hiding place, they would rap our hands with boards as we tried to climb the fence. We boosted each other and managed to get over somehow screaming like Indians. The other side would break and retreat. As they did so, we chased them whacking them on their butts as they climbed over a fence.

To be continued….

Autobiography of an American Surfer: Capt. Dan

This is the first installment of a series of segments from the autobiography of Capt. Dan. He was one of large group of senior surfers that called Tourmaline their home break. Each morning any number of these gentlemen (and women), many of them surfing since the 1930’s, would gather and socialize and often surf. They were and are a treasure recognized by anyone with the time to listen and the humility to understand what a valuable thing their experience is.

It is my understanding that Capt. Dan put this story down at the urging of Ron St.John, and for that, we should all be grateful. Ron has agreed to allow me to pass this story along. I’ll try to keep the segments manageable and put them up over the course of the next couple of months.

This is not necessarily a surf story, but is a story of a surfer. It is a glimpse into American history from Tammany meetings in Central Park, through prohibition and World War II into the present. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

My father and mother were married in 1914 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NY. I was the first child, born May 25, 1915 in a coldwater flat at the NW corner of 55th Street and Third Avenue. My sister Margaret was born there June l8, l9l6. Later in life, I remember my parents telling me that I almost had my fanny carved by a celebrant from either the christening reception in our flat, or from a wedding reception in the next flat. They had me on the table with a ham, roast beef, etc.
My father had odd jobs and boxed in car barns for money. One job was as a dynamiter working on Park Avenue when they were excavating to put the New York Central tracks underground, where they are today.
We moved to 335 E. 45th Street about 19l8. My sister Catherine was born there in 1919 and my brother Tom in 1920. Tommy’s birth is my earliest memory, a midwife was employed, and I could hear my mother yelling. I am sure we all came into this world at that time by way of midwives. My father went to work with the Manhattan Sand & Gravel Co. as a truck driver. The company garage was at 49th Street and the East River, and owned by the Peter C. Gallagher family.

I started school at St Agnes on 44th Street between 3rd and Lexington Avenues. The nuns gave us lots of homework and had very strict rules. You carried all your schoolbooks home every day – no lockers. Besides, you needed all of them to do your homework. There were four flats to a floor in our coldwater tenement. One toilet assigned for each two flats. We all washed in the kitchen, as there were no bathrooms. The kids got a bath every Saturday night in a galvanized tin bathtub or the soapstone washtub. I can recall having to put my head in my mother’s lap while she fine-combed my hair to make sure I had no lice. She polished the black iron coal stove on Saturday night after finishing baking and cooking. She used a scrub board and soapstone washtub to do laundry then hung it on a clothesline running from the rear window to a tall clothesline pole in the back yard.

I remember chasing horse drawn fire engines, and Uncle Pete Cuggy driving an electric-driven Railway Express truck, down Second Avenue. The dairies used horse drawn wagons, as did ice wagons, etc. We use to sleigh ride on 4lst Street between 1st and 2nd Aves. Milk was 5 cents a quart; you brought your own milk can to the grocery and ladled milk out from a large can in the store. Bread, for a pound loaf, was 7cents. There were no supermarkets then. You went to grocery, vegetable, bakery, dairy, meat, pork, coffee etc, stores for those requirements. I recall our grocer had a ledger where you could charge your purchase. He entered each item you had ordered and the cost. Most families paid him on payday, or if your father was out of work, he carried you for a time.

Modern apartment houses, occupied by United Nations employees, replaced the tenements on 45th Street after WW11, as the UN was located between 42nd and 46th Street along 1st Avenue and down to the East River. This whole area had been slaughterhouses when I lived there; we even had a brewery right behind the clothes pole in the backyard. I use to climb up the pole and watch the bottling and conveyor belt operations. A kid in my tenement tried to leap from the pole to the roof of the brewery, which was about 4 feet away. He missed and fell on a fence bellow and was killed. The brewery was one owned by Jacob Rupert who built Yankee Stadium and owned the Yankees. Movies were 10 cents at the theatre on the corner of 42nd and 3rd.

I got my head stuck in my parents’ brass bed and had to have the firefighters get me free with lots of soap. I thought sure I would end up with jug ears. I had a good fight with the Muldoon kid. We both had black eyes and bloody noses, guess you could call it a draw. The grown-ups were whooping it up for both of us. I would walk up to my Aunt Mary (Cuggy) on Sundays and mooch a cold cut sandwich and sweet bun. Uncle Pete would also give me a quarter, which was a lot back then.

On May Day, all the Irish went to Central Park for the Tammany Hall picnic. We kids got bats and balls, lots to eat and games to play there. I remember going on a few bus tours out to a lake in New Jersey and taking the excursion boat to Asbury Park, NJ, and one to Bear Mountain State Park on the Hudson. My paternal grandmother, a Kenny by birth, died in 1922. I remember visiting her a few times before that. We all had to kiss her on the forehead in the casket. The day of the funeral was cold and rainy. We rode out in horse drawn carriages and she in a horse-drawn hearse. It was a solemn occasion. She was buried next to my grandfather, Daniel, in Calvary. That same year I made my First Holy Communion at St Agnes.

In 1925, I had a hernia operation in hospital on 42nd St between 1st and 2nd Aves. I believe we started going to Port Washington in the summers starting that year. My father had become skipper of Gallager’s yacht, the AMURAY, named after his son Murray and daughter Alice. We lived in a WW 1 Army tent, divided into three rooms, with wood sidings that came up about 5 feet, above the wood were screens and canvas. We had to fetch water, cooked with a kerosene stove, and had an icebox. The outhouse was about 200′ away from the tent. Other help of the Gallagher’s on the estate had either a house, or tent like ours. The estate ran from the Port Washington Yacht Club to the Manhasset YC, and from the bay back to the main road. In later years, the estate was converted to an exclusive tract with nice homes. The original Gallagher main house was still there by the water next to the Manhasset YC in the early 1990’s. I use to lug a 5-gallon can of kerosene from the village, until I got smart and used a canoe or rowboat to cut across the curve of the bay. I think that is why my arms seemed longer in later life. One morning a cow was hung up in our tent ropes and was about to pull the tent apart. My mother got a broom and whacked the cow free, but not until all the pots and pans, etc. were knocked down inside. I remember going to Port Washington in Gallagher’s Pierce Arrow or the sport touring Maxwell sedan. From the water, the land rose to what seemed like a good hill up near the main road. One day the kids were all up there hiking when we started throwing stones at a hornet’s nest. They came after us and we all tumbled down the hill screaming our brains out. We averaged at least six stings apiece and were miserable for quite awhile.

The Gallagher’s had their dock and float in front of the main house. He belonged to the Knickerbocker YC, just beyond the Manhasset. One could say that Republicans belonged to the Manhasset and Democrats to the Knickerbocker. My father taught all of us to swim by tossing us in deep water. Two incidents come to mind in my Port Washington days. One time I caused my brother Tommy to break his leg. He was about four at the time. I had him on the end of a large boat haul out-cart that had two 8-foot wheels in the middle with a long boom or cradle on which a boat would rest. The rig was perfectly balanced so that one could tip it up or down at each end. I put Tommy on one end and then I climbed out to the other end. As I was letting Tom’s end go back down he lost his balance slightly and his leg got under the boom, so that when it hit the ground it broke his leg. I got a good whacking for that. While Tommy’s leg was in a cast, I had to push him around in a carriage. One day, I started running with the carriage, hit a bump, and out fell Tommy. Fortunately, his leg did not break again. Tommy’s howling brought my mother to investigate and another trip to the woodshed for me. It seems like I could not stay out of trouble. I had been warned not to take my youngest sister Catherine or Tommy out in the canoe. My sister Margaret talked me into taking Catherine, who had an infected arm with a big bandage on it, out in the canoe. We also had a friend of Catherine’s, who had blond hair like Tommy, with us. Tommy was not in the canoe. You guessed it. It tipped over! Well, fortunately, there were sailors diving off ships near where we had capsized. I was struggling to keep Catherine’s arm out of the water and the girls were yelling. The sailors finally got us to the beach. My mother had heard the commotion, came to the dock, saw the kid with the blond hair, and thinking it was Tommy, dove in to save him. Well, guess what it was, back to the woodshed for me! Actually, it was my sister Margaret rocking the canoe that caused it to tip.
The Gallagher sons, Peter and Murray, would take me for rides in an old model T Ford chassis. We sat on the gas tank and hung on for dear life, as they raced around the sand hill part of the estate. They also would take me for rides in their pony cart, as did Jack Nobel who was sweet on the Gallagher’s daughter Anne. They were all about 8 to 10 years older than I was. My father used to have to go up and get the Gallagher boys from the police as they would be arrested for reckless driving, or as on one occasion, they rode their horses through the village shooting at store windows with a BB gun. I am sure old man Gallagher paid plenty of hush money to keep his sons from getting booked.

One time, when the Gallagher’s were leaving on the yacht, I wanted to go with them. The sons said it would be ok, but my father, who was skipper, said no. I can remember standing on the dock crying my eyes out. They were on their way to cruise the St. Lawrence River area. They usually cruised those waters and the Maine area in the summers. My father would take the yacht south in the fall to Palm Beach where the Gallaghers had another estate. He would bring it back to Port Washington in the spring. One time he took all of us plus relatives for a cruise around Manhattan Island. We were picked up on the dock at 49th Street and the East River where they kept their trucks. I learned much about boats from those days; I rowed, paddled, shined brass, and scrubbed paintwork.

Pete Reilly was the engineer on the AMURAY. There was also a Japanese cook, by name of Willie. I used to pick berries and he would make a pie for me. One time he jumped in and saved my brother Tom, who had fallen off the float. The Gallagher sons would slip sandwiches, etc. to me through a hedge behind where their family had outdoor lunch on the patio. There was a large carriage house on the estate, a hosteller living above it. I loved the smell of harnesses, etc. It was clean as a whistle there.

Old man Gallagher had become an alcoholic. He would think nothing of having someone call from some place in Connecticut for “Jim,” my father to come and pick him up with the yacht. Actually, old Pete loved my father; I think more than he did his wild sons. My father told me in later years that Pete told him he would get the yacht when he died. One morning in 1925, my father found old Pete dead in his stateroom on the AMURAY. Many times he would go down and sleep in the yacht when he was drunk, as his wife could not stand him when he was in that condition. Since nothing was in the will saying my father would get the yacht, of course he did not. Mrs. Gallagher knew that her husband on many occasions had stated that fact. My father was bitter. He “borrowed” the yacht, went up to Nova Scotia, picked up a load of whiskey, brought it back to NY area then quietly returned the AMURAY to Manhasset Bay. From then on, he was in the rum running business.

To be continued.