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My Turn: Summer days at West Neck Beach

Norma and Gustave Zeis of Huntington in 1960

Norma and Gustave Zeis of Huntington in 1960 with their daughter, Priscilla, and four of their five sons: Darrell, Thomas, Wayne and Randy. Credit: Priscilla Jahier

There were five of us kids still living at home in Huntington in the early ’60s. My oldest brother had left home to join the Air Force and then married. Those still living with Mom and Dad ranged in age from 6 to 14, three boys and one girl (me). In the summer my dad would come home from working at Grumman in Bethpage as a foreman in Plant 33.

He left for work quite early each morning, and we eagerly awaited his arrival home each afternoon. He would find us all lined up at the door, clad in our swimsuits and clutching our towels. After he changed into his swimsuit, he would kiss Mom goodbye and we would pile into her Chevrolet Biscayne station wagon for the 15-minute drive to West Neck Beach. This was Mom’s chance for some quiet time, to put her feet up and rest a bit, so she almost never went with us.

We raced from the car across the sand, dumping our towels in a heap. We couldn’t wait to plunge into the refreshing water of Cold Spring Harbor. All of us, that is, except Tom, who hated to swim and was totally content to wade in the water up to his knees. Dad would quickly follow us in and made a great show of diving under the cool water. He would come up doing the back stroke and spewing water from his mouth. We would giggle and splash and thoroughly enjoy our time together.

We took turns diving from my father’s shoulders, skipping rocks across the flat surface of the water and looking for starfish and horseshoe crabs. We were like fish and never left the water until my father whistled for us from up on the beach. We never complained as we withdrew ourselves from the bay.

We would shower off the salt water under the freezing cold spray of the pull-string shower heads, making quite a big deal of squealing and dancing under the needlelike onslaught. Gingerly we walked back to the car, so as not to get too much sand back on our rinsed feet. We were refreshed and tired and content to get home to have our dinner.

Mom would be waiting for us to quickly change and join the family at the backyard picnic table. Huge pitchers of sun tea and lemonade were poured into our jelly jar glasses depicting cartoon characters, and we heaped our plates with homemade potato salad while Dad barbecued hot dogs or burgers. We would play whiffle ball or hide-and-seek, catch lightning bugs in Mason jars until we were called in to wash our faces, brush our teeth and go to bed. Always, a good-night kiss was followed by tucking in by Mom. We would fall asleep to the whirring of the fan and my parents hushed conversation on the back patio as they ended their day, alone at last.

Priscilla Jahier,

South Huntington

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