‘Eastport, Eastport — pretty hot stuff!”
That was our family’s chant in the 1950s as we drove past the sign for Exit 61 on Sunrise Highway, which meant we weren’t far from my grandmother’s summer home.
Florence Vogel, aka Nanny, lived in Greenwich Village, but spent every summer in that magical place on the South Shore. Her four-bedroom house was built decades earlier by my great grandfather. It had no electricity, running water or bathroom. We lowered food in a pail into the well to keep it cool. Kerosene fueled the stove and lamps. A small path led to the outhouse out back, which contained four holes, depending on the size of your derrière. I’m told having more than two was a status symbol.
A little history: My ancestors were among the first families from Germany and Holland to settle on Long Island, arriving in the 1700s. Among early settlers were the Tuttles, a name still common there. My great grandmother was Mary Tuttle, and my middle name is Tuttle, something I am quite proud of. The little Eastport Bible Church on Montauk Highway has a small cemetery where you will find many of my relatives.
I remember our visits vividly. We’d walk down the road to the farm of my grandmother’s best friend (we called her Mamie), where we got milk from her cows and fresh eggs from her hens. Then we stopped at Cappy’s, a market, to pick up groceries. At age 12, I learned to drive my father’s old Dodge on the back roads. My father taught us to swim in one of the two ponds near the house, and we played tag in the water.
I was always jealous of my two older brothers. As they reached their midteens, they got to leave our family home in Garden City and spend part of the summer in Eastport with Nanny. The boys worked part time at a duck ranch on South Bay Avenue and spent carefree days swimming and helping with projects. My parents and I went out to Eastport only for long weekends. They always said I was too young for an extended stay, and they were scared to death I would fall into the well. This infuriated me, as there was no place else on Earth I would rather be.
I have fond memories of going down to the dock at Seatuck Cove, where the Trumpets on the Bay restaurant now stands, for wonderful adventures on Moriches Bay in my Uncle Ruland Vogel’s boat. These visits were always too short and I cried every time I had to leave.
After Nanny died in 1969, my father sold the house. That tore my heart out. He had become tired of caring for two homes, and many times the summer house had been broken into. I promised myself that if that house ever went on the market, I would buy it back. The present owners know of my wishes, and I’m still waiting for their call.
Although Eastport has maintained its rural charm, it has become the gateway to the Hamptons. There are antique shops, restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts a mere 10 minutes from Westhampton, as well as the famous Dune Road, a beachgoer’s delight. Visit the Eastport Luncheonette for a sandwich or a burger and you’re back in the 1950s.
I go to Eastport once or twice a year now to visit the cemetery. Each time I pass Nanny’s house, I am flooded with wonderful childhood memories.
Reader Nancy Vogel lives in Port Washington.