Many years ago, my father owned a bungalow at the Beacon Hill Bungalow Colony on Hempstead Harbor on the North
shore of Long Island. I spent many idealic summers there as a boy and have so many fond memories of growing up
spending my time in a bathing suit and very little else.
Recently, I had the opportunity to drive by there and see that the place still existed and that people lived there all year
long. I contacted one of the owners, who suggested that I share some of my memories with the people who live there
now. Some of these memories may have faded and some may be embellished, but I will set them down as best as I can.
To start with, my father bought the bungalow from his father who had a big hand in building it. The bungalow in
question is Old Number 30. Each bungalow was unique in its design and construction, but they all evolved around the
This first part is what I can remember hearing from my grand father and my dad. Some time after World War I, a
group of young people from New York City started frequenting a little beach in an out of the way corner of the world.
It was a wonderful place, with no one around to bother them. Soon they figured out that they could set up some tents
and stay overnight instead of driving back to the city. Many had just returned from the Great War and were used to
living in tents, which were plentiful on the surplus market. The only problem was that there was not enough beach to
accommodate everyone and the nearby woods had steep hills. Several of them figured that they could build a platform
that was near the ground on one side and on stilts on the other and have a nice flat area to set up their tent. Each group
did their own thing and left ample space between them for privacy. Many left their tents up all summer and were thus
able to enjoy more time at the beach. As the tents aged and developed leaks, some sort of roof was added to solve the
problem. It also slowed the deterioration of the platform, as this was way before treated wood and preservatives.
Well, the walls came next so that the wind was kept out also. Windows and screens were next and then doors. Many
groups changed during this time and eventually the ones that came back again and again considered them theirs.
The problem was that they did not own the land and thus were reluctant to invest much money in the structure. They
found that they had some rights by now because they were squatters. A sand and gravel company owned the land, but
did not have a use for it so they let the squatters remain. They charged them a small rental fee each year. After WWII
it was still only $50 a year. Now they at least could start spending some real money on the places, iceboxes and real
beds etc. Someone figured out how to get a water line into the complex from the water tanks on the other side of the
road and then septic tanks followed. This was way before anyone knew about permits and inspections. The electric
company was more than willing to service them no matter who owned the land and ice boxes gave way to
refrigerators and lanterns to real electric lights. As each bungalow developed and expanded, it started using up the
space between them until they almost touched each other in some cases. I remember that you could not fit in
between #29 and #30. I have no idea how they painted them in such a tight spot.
I remember that bungalow being about 30x30 with a hip roof. The wall facing the water had windows that opened
along the whole wall.
We never heard of an air conditioner, so we didn’t know we missed having one. The breeze was always wonderful
and the screens kept out most of the bugs. There were 2 bedrooms, one for my parents and one for my sister and me.
The kitchen was large with an eat-in area and then a bathroom along the north wall. A large front room took up the
whole width of the house facing the water and there was an extra bedroom and cold shower room under this part.
After a while dad put in a contraption for heating the shower water, but you had to light it with a match and then
extinguish it after you finished.
My father grew up spending his summers there and brought his friends there. He flew bi-planes there and would
always put on a show for the people and scare his mother with his simulated crashes. He had an oil line set up so he
could inject oil into the hot exhaust causing lots of smoke. He would then put the ship into a spiral or something and
pull out just above the water. He actually did crash in the water once.
During WW II, he brought his buddies and then his new wife to share in the wonderful setting.
My own memories of the place begin around 1948. I was four then and went to visit my grandmother and grandfather
many times, but I had to share it with my cousins and their parents also. I remember being in a swimming race one
Labor Day and standing on the raft ready to start. No one wore life preservers, as they were only in grownup sizes.
Some of us had inner tubes, but I stood on the deep end ready to win my first race. I was there visiting and everyone
thought that I could swim. Unfortunately swimming was not one of my strong points, yet, and at the whistle I went in
and straight to the bottom. I can still remember one of the grownups reaching down and pulling me up. I decided that
I would start learning how to swim for next year.
About 1951, my grandparents decided to sell the place and move to Florida. They offered it to each of their children for
$1000, but my father was the only one who could come up with that much cash. The only stipulation was that when he
no longer wanted it, he would offer it to his brother and sisters for the same price.
My time had come. This was before TV, but we didn’t even have a radio for entertainment at Port. The water was still
cold, but we had gas to heat it with. That meant that you went the whole summer without a bath or hot shower…who
cared. We went swimming ever day and if you were the first to get out, you got the warm water from the pipe that
ran along the sea wall.
My father had a motor boat and I remember when he went to buy the engine for it. The guy in the store asked how big
he wanted it. Dad asked what was the biggest he had and the guy said 16 horse power. “Well I guess I don’t need the
biggest, so give me the 10 HP.” He also bought a 50 pound mushroom anchor from Shields Brothers over in town and
made a big thing about having to give $5 for an anchor that was not even galvanized. That anchor is still not galvanized,
but it is painted gray and out in my yard.
He also bought me a rowboat that the state was selling. $15 was a big investment in those days and we had to replace
the rotted bottom. I remember it being a 12 foot boat and dad figured out how to replace that bottom with a 4’x8’
sheet of plywood. Boy was he smart.
That boat had all manner of propulsion on it, mostly from the wind and my arms. I remember stepping a mast to
support a wide set of Venetian Blinds. When I wanted to stop, I just opened them and the wind went right through.
Another time it was a half of a pup tent, yet another we got a mast and sail from a 20 foot boat that was broken up in a
storm. We set it up with the boat up at the high tide mark and worked like demons while the tide went out and came
back in again. As soon as the tide was high, we launched her into deeper water and she lay down and sank. Too much
rig. No matter, we still went all over with that boat.
We even sailed to Connecticut one year. Of course someone with a motor boat had to come and get us after they
figured out where we went. If we ever knew what a lifejacket was, we never saw or had one.
One day we decided to row across the bay, but the reason excapes me now. There were 5 of us and not a drop of
drinking water to be had. After all day in an open boat, rowing, our tempers were beginning to show. The boat had 4
rowing positions and a steering oar in the stern. As captain and owner I naturally fell to the steering position. The
rowing began to slack off and I decided to show my captaining skills. One of the guys said that all I had to do was sit
there and move the oar back and forth, I said that that was all the others had to do. A mutiny ensured and I found
myself in the water. A short time later the next “captain” was put over the side and eventually there were three of us
swimming for shore. Fortunately it was only about half way across and by this time we had all proven ourselves by
swimming across the bay at least once each year.
One of the most exciting things I used to do with that boat was to row out into a good Nor’easter and pop open a beach
umbrella and sail back. If it was high tide, I could time the waves just right and sail over the rock jetty at the low spot.
It was a good thing that I could not hear the shouts from the grown-ups on the land.
I was not the only kid out there. Many of the original campers came from Maspeth and two of my closest friends came
from there. Jimmy and Warren and I were inseparable as soon as we could get together for the summer. There were
others, sometimes as many as six, but we were the core group. Others were Chris ,Gary, Bobby, George. Chris and
George were older than we were, but not old enough to hang around with the older group of kids. For girls we had
Rosemary and Clairann (sisters), 2 Margarets, Pat, Sherry, Maureen and after a while Father John would bring out 6
girls from the school. We were not yet encumbered by the desires for the opposite sex and we continued in our Huck
Finn/Tom Sawyer world. Something I have always thought funny was that we gained very little local knowledge from
any of the older kids and passed very little on to the younger ones. It was like we were exploring a new world and
then had no one to tell about it.
We were always on the lookout for punks (cattails). Even the mention of where some might be, would cause us to go
into a quest mode and search for days until we either found them or proved the rumor unsupported. If we found them,
we would dry them and then “smoke” them. Actually we just held the stem in our teeth and let them smolder away.
The smoke kept the bugs and most other people away.
In those days there were two sandpits. The one right across from the Colony was just the Sandpit while another closer
to Bar Beach was the Second Sandpit. The Sandpit had been worked out years ago and was now just vacant land. Port
Washington Police had a pistol range there and we had baseball games there after the Labor Day Races. Usually the
married men played against the unmarried men.
At nine years old, I was the only one in the group who had a BB gun and was thus the big cheese. In 1955 (11 years old),
my dad figured that I was old enough for a real rifle and took me to Sears and bought a Winchester Model 67,.22 single
shot. I got my first taste of real guns over in the Sandpit and after a couple of weeks of instruction and supervision was
allowed to go over there by myself, as long as I did not have any of the guys with me. Dad was a lot smarter than I gave
him credit for. You can’t imagine how many imaginary Fuzzy Wuzzies and Wogs met their end by that rifle. I still have
that rifle and still use it and enjoy remembering the days in that Sandpit.
The Second Sandpit was a lot more intimidating. It was still in use. There was a small farm on the land in between the
two sandpits and the company could not get the farmer out of there. Probably a squatter, also. They just stopped at
the edge of his farm and started digging again on the other side.
The Second Sandpit had all kinds of good stuff in it. Steam (actually electric) shovels like they dug the Panama Canal
with, trains, all kinds of tools, a conveyor belt and lots of men on watch for kids. At the end of the workday we had the
place to ourselves and explored it all the way to Bar Beach. There was an old crane there that was not in use any more
that was so good to play tag on. Was I ever that young? Once I remember one of the guys maneuvering me out onto
the boom and he thought he had me as there was no place else to go. We worked our way out further and further until
I was at the support cables. My salvation. I worked my way back along them to the cab and was safe. I cannot imagine
the insurance liability today for having kids play on such a piece of unused equipment. They finally cut that crane up
for scrap, much to our dismay. So we just started playing on the one that they were still using.
Sometime along in here we figured out how to get motorboats. We sometimes “stole” my fathers while he was at
work and my mother was busy doing something that would keep her mind off of wondering where we were. We had
to scrounge money to buy gas and oil and use it until there was the same amount that he had left in the tank. Jimmy’s
parents were more understanding and bought him an 8 foot dinghy complete with a 3 horse power engine. We could
go anywhere now, even when the wind was not blowing. We about wore that engine out and had no trouble getting 5
guys in that boat. Still no mention of lifejackets or seat cushions or shoes or drinking water. We just got in and went.
Gas and oil were the only requirements.
This part will be hard to believe, but I have people who can verify it. Jimmy’s parents also bought a 16 foot fiberglass
speed boat. It was not long before we started skiing behind it and did we do some stuff. Well, the next step was to try
skiing behind the dinghy, and low and behold, Jimmy could get up on skis if I was driving and Warren was in the bow.
Both Warren and I were too big, but Jimmy was still only about 70 pounds soaking wet.
Once we went across the bay for some reason and found that we did not have enough gas to get back. We dove down
around the gas dock and found a couple of bottles that we could turn in for the deposit and went through the garbage
can and drained the last few drops of oil from each can. We bought 6 cents worth of gas, but still thought it was not
enough to get home, so we scoured the beach and found a broken oar and a piece of 2x4 to row with.
There were 4 of us on this trip. I was the biggest, so I got the stern and Jimmy and Warren were rowing. Gary was in
the bow. About half way back, 2 guys on a Sailfish started messing with us. I think they thought the engine was out of
commission, so they would sail up wind and sail down past us with the boom reaching way out and tried to bean us
with it. We had to duck several times. After about 6 passes, Jimmy said ”Kenny, when I tell you, start that engine”.
Sure enough, on the next pass, I started the engine and opened the throttle. We rode up onto that sailboat, and Jimmy
got up a hit one kid in the head with the 2x4. He fell off, but managed to hold on as the momentum carried them
downwind. No more trouble from that sailboat.
There were lots of islands behind Bar Beach at low tide and we used to go there a lot. That’s where the Sand and
Gravel Company took the old barges when they started to leak too much. Anyhow, we were there with the big boat.
Jimmy speculated that we could drive on one side of an island and he could ski on the other side. The first try Warren
was at the helm and Jimmy ran out of water and wound up rolling in the sand. Jimmy put me at the helm and told me to
get as close to the island as I could. I’m sure I was dragging the skeg on the next try, but Jimmy did it.
Another story did not involve us except as observers. Jimmy’s older brother and his cousin took the big boat across the
bay on the 4th of July and gassed it up. They were showing off and were sitting on the sides of the boat as they sped
toward our beach, intending to turn at the last second. They did, but both of them fell out and the boat went round and
round for about 3 hours, approximately 50 feet off the beach until the tank of gas ran out.
If it was ever a rainy Saturday, we were all (big, little, boys and girls) packed up and taken into town to go to the
movies. It didn’t matter if we wanted to go or not…we went. I guess we usually wanted to go, as the movies were a
lot better back then. We didn’t figure out why it was only on Saturday if it was raining until we had our own kids to put
up with on a rainy Saturday.
One of the main attractions of the Second Sandpit was what everyone called the BA, because bathing suits were
optional when you swam there. Actually it was the waste from when they washed the sand for use in concrete. The
dust and fine particles were washed away using fresh water and dumped into a large impoundment, maybe 50 acres in
size. The side where they deposited the stuff was muddy and hard, but as you got further away from the discharge
pipe it got softer and softer and eventually was just water. If they did not pump for several days, the particles settled
out and the water was fairly clear. It was very deep at the side farthest away from the discharge pipe. Rumor had it to
be 50 feet deep there, but we never really found out.
We often wondered what they did when that place got filled up. There were places where there were piles of very
fine sand, almost like Talcum Powder. We surmised that maybe they trucked it away to other places.
Toward the end of my time there, they took the land that the small farm was on and made one big Sandpit. By that
time we had outgrown the need for punks and were prosecutable, so we stayed away from the guys looking for kids.
We always assumed that we were the first kids to ever be in those Sandpits and that none ever followed.
Our beach bordered up to Beacon Hill Beach, which was north of ours. It tapered away almost up to the woods where
there were two big rocks up near the base of the hill. How they got there was anybody’s guess, but I always thought
they rolled down from the woods. We always referred to these two big rocks as TBRKS. These rocks were not on
Beacon Hill Beach, but probably part of Harbor Acres Beach. That was where First Pier was. They always had the best
fireworks show of the entire area on July 4th. It was always a challenge to get close as we could, but not get chased
away while the show was going on.
There was an old Pump House in the valley just north of TBRKS that was used to pump salt water up the hill for some
reason, maybe swimming pools, which abounded in Harbor Acres. There was no machinery in it any more, so we took
it over as our clubhouse. Boy, were we cool then. Maybe this was before anybody knew what being cool meant. We
had all kinds of stuff going on there and even slept overnight a couple of times.
There was a tremendous tree just up the valley from the Pump House that we figured would be great for a rope
swing. It was right at the edge of a washout so that the knot would be over the high land and swinging out put us over
the deep valley.
We managed to find some large rope from one of the barges and Jimmy climbed up to the right branch and secured it.
A large knot was made on the other end, as we did not know how to cut such a large rope. It was about two inches in
diameter. We positioned several horizontal trees between appropriate upright trees so that we could swing off of
them. Without exaggeration, when we swung out towards the water we were 75 feet off the ground. We always
speculated if we would land in the water if we let go. None of us were ever dumb enough to find out.
There was a dump farther up the valley almost to the road that we used to frequent to find lots of good stuff. You
never knew what was the thing you could find today, but it most assuredly was very important to some project we
were involved with. We usually had to put our shoes on when we went there to keep from getting stuck or cut. It was
not a garbage dump, but a trash dump.
There were always barges and tugboats coming and going. They would bring in empty sand barges and fill them with
what came out of the sandpit, and then take then somewhere. They would bring in barges full of gravel and unloaded
them to mix with more sand for concrete. In those days they had barge captains. Each barge had a guy who lived in a
small cabin at the back of the barge. They were mostly bums or what we would call homeless people today. They
referred to themselves as captain and the tugboat crew would refer to them in a like manner. They got about 15
dollars a month and were available to handle lines, keep the at-anchor lanterns fueled and pump the bilges each day, as
needed. They were a neat bunch and we could always get some extra money by bringing them a newspaper or a
tomato or orange.
Sometimes they would load up 20 barges and take them all out at once. Sometimes with 3 tugboats. It was hard for
the captains to figure out when the string was going to leave, so may of them would go into town and miss the last
barge out of the dock. That was when we would make the real money. We would stand by and pretend that our
mothers had just called us to dinner or something and would get in a lot of trouble if we took them out to the
string…but we would do it anyway, and sometimes got as much as $5. It was quite an adventure to take something out
to the last barge on a string and make friends with the captain. We would talk and joke with him as the tugs were
maneuvering the string and then we would ride out with them. The movement of the barge caused a suction that
would bring our boat along without even being tied on. We would ride out around Sands Point and keep an eye out for
a string of gravel barges coming back. When we spied one, we would say our good-byes and shove off. We would row
like crazy and try to get in front of the incoming tug. I’m sure some of those tug captains thought we were nuts to be
so far away from anything in a ROW boat. Anyway, after the tug left us close alongside we would get ready to pour on
the steam and get in back of the last barge, make friends and ride back in with them. We never worried about sexual
predators or someone doing us harm or anything like that.
Between our beach and the Sand and Gravel Company was The Canteen. It was a very large building with a bar and
dance floor and often had a band on a Friday or Saturday night. It was quite a treat to have my grand parents to take us
there for a soda or ice cream on one of our visits. You could rent row boats there and we sometimes went fishing in
one of them. This was long before my dad bought the bungalow. They had dances there on Saturday nights and
sometimes a costume or funny hat party or some such neat function. This may have been the attraction that brought
the original campers here to start with. About 1953 the place burned down and the only thing left was the pier and row
boats. A guy named Bill built a little shack and started renting boats and selling bait.
We usually had two beach parties each summer, organized by the Bungalow Association. They were great. We had
music and dancing and games and all the hot dogs and soda you could stand at 10 cents each. After a while we figured
out what was in those barrels that all the men kept hanging around. Usually as the night wound down and most people
would turn in, we would hang around and talk with the men. After a while they would let us start helping them finish
off the keg. Boy was that fun. We added so much beer to that harbor (after drinking it) that it was not funny. This was
also the night that you might get to kiss one of the girls who seemed to be interested in you.
Keep in mind, that during all this time West Shore Road was still Beacon Hill Road. It was two lanes wide and there
were two hills. Beacon Hill and then a steep depression and then another hill about the same height, before the road
tapered down towards the Colony. I can remember hitch hiking into town and seeing the cement mixer trucks and
dump trucks hauling stuff up that hill. They had chain drives. That is, a shaft coming out of the side of the transmission
with a sprocket and roller chain connected directly to the back wheels. If there was a differential, it was inside the
transmission and forget about a chain guard. These trucks were so slow, that we could walk faster than they could
drive up that hill.
About 1960, the Highway Department decided to take the second hill and put it in the depression and make the road 4
lanes wide. This project started near Beacon Hill and went all the way to Roslyn. This was a major undertaking and
took about a year to do. Of course everything was torn up and travel was very hard. One of the things that was a
result, was that the water supply was turned off and we only had what we could carry into the bungalows. This caused
adults to be very scarce for the whole summer and we were on our own. What luck. Unsupervised 16 year olds. Of
course there were some die hard grownups who remembered what it was to camp out in the old days.
The main hardship for us guys was to carry water up from the bay to flush the toilets, so we made use of the open-air
facilities around the Old Pump House and elsewhere in the area. We all knew that when the road was complete, a
portion of our world would be gone. And gone it was. My dad sold Old Number 30 to one of Warrens cousins, who
were all much older than he was. She agreed to let me still use the downstairs room when I came out there, but it was
not the same. Now we had cars and girlfriends and trips to the Sandpit came less and less frequently. My dad gave my
old rowboat the Tommy in #31 and then he moved to New Jersey. Boy, was it a pain getting to Port now.
I tried to stretch my youth several more summers, but I knew that they were not the same. Work and college were
forcing grownup-izm on me and I did not like it one bit.
I learned about machinery, and electricity, and welding and how to fix thinks like cars and guns, and what girls liked,
and what girl I liked and got married and even had 2 children of my own, who have heard so much about Port
Washington and my adventures there.
I now live on an island on South Carolina’s coast that reminds me of that place I loved so much. I still sail a small boat
and shoot my various rifles and pistols and walk around barefoot most of the summer. I’m just old, but I have a good
memory. Jimmy wound up a funeral director, married one of the Margarets and new lives in North Carolina. Warren
retired as a New York State Trooper and still lives in upstate New York. I retired as a Nuclear Engineer who worked
on submarine and aircraft carrier propulsion plants. My wife has often said that when I go to that big Sandpit in the
sky, that she will have my ashes sprinkled in that harbor so that I can spend eternity doing what I liked best.
I would enjoy talking to anyone who is making their own memories at the Colony now.
I have not included any episodes that involved the authorities or removing our bathing suits.
|Memories of the Bungalow
By Ken Korpanty