James Bradshaw talks about meeting his wife, Charlotte.
Charlotte Lederman and I met at Hullabaloo, a dance club in Northport, on June 24, 1967. I was 17 and graduating from Deer Park High School the next day. Charlotte was turning 16 and just completed her sophomore year at Kings Park High School. My friend John and I were there to hear a popular band at the time, The Vagrants. John spotted a girl he had been interested in. With her was a girlfriend with long hair to whom I was instantly attracted. We went over, and I introduced myself. We hit it off instantly and spent the next few hours talking and dancing.
Charlotte gave me her number, and I called the next week. Her mother answered and said Charlotte was away, but her mom said she hoped I would call back. I took that as a positive sign and called the next week. Our first date was seeing “A Guide for the Married Man” at a Babylon movie theater. The night was not without incident. We had a car accident on the way home. No one was hurt, but I thought Charlotte’s mother would be reluctant to let Charlotte see me again. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. We were inseparable that summer. I would drive to Kings Park to pick up Charlotte and head to Gilgo Beach for a day of surfing and a stop at Wetson's in West Islip for hamburgers on the way home.
That fall I started college at Adelphi Suffolk, which later became Dowling College. Charlotte was in her junior year of high school. In addition to attending classes, I worked for my father as a milkman, waking at 3 a.m. several mornings a week. As a result, it wasn’t unusual for me to fall asleep in a movie theater during dates. Charlotte was always a good sport, understanding why I was tired.
We dated for two years and became engaged in May 1969, three weeks before Charlotte finished high school. We were married June 21, 1970, at Kings Park Methodist Church. Our reception was at the Thatched Cottage in Centerport. We were young. Charlotte turned 19 during our Poconos honeymoon, and since I wasn’t 21 yet, I needed permission from a parent to get married (women only needed permission if they were under 18). We moved into a small apartment in Babylon. Charlotte worked as a secretary at the high school while I continued my education. Our son, Chris, was born the next July, followed by the birth of our daughter, Meredith, four years later.
After college I taught social studies for 13 years at Deer Park High School before taking an administrative position. Later I became a financial planner, working alongside my son to establish Main Street Financial Group in Kings Park. I retired in 2010. Charlotte worked for 28 years as a nursing assistant at St. Johnland Nursing Home in Kings Park. She retired in 2001 to help my son and his wife take care of their young daughter, whom they adopted from Russia.
Three years ago, I surprised Charlotte with a visit to where we first met. It’s now a gym called NorthSport. The owners were very gracious, allowing us in to reminisce about that life-changing evening.
One of our children lives directly behind us in Kings Park and the other in Massachusetts. Each has two children. We cherish our time with them.
We planned a 50th anniversary celebration at Bella Verde in Brentwood, but COVID-19 put those plans on hold. When things return to normal, we’ll find a way to celebrate the magical years that have made up the fabric of our lives together.
— With Ann Donahue-Smukler
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