September 12th : What A Difference A Day Makes

Sounds better than 9/12 doesn't it? And a whole lot better than 9/11...that's 'cause it is better, at least around here. You see our son Erik Basil Spooner was born on that day and this year he will be 21!

Now that's a milestone for anyone isn't it? But all of it has nothing to do (or does it ?) with the September 12th date I'm about to tell you about.

Last month I was doing a little searching in the Patchogue Advance microfilm for the month of August and September in 1925 and 1926. I was looking for local stories on Joseph F. Knapp's "Miss Demure" because I had read about it in the New York Times winning lots of races in Bellport, and Moriches Bay during that period. I thought there might be more details about it in the local paper...actually there was less. Just one item about his wife Gertrude Knapp winning a race in it, However I've learned that when checking in the Advance you really need to look at all the towns reporting in their items. This one from September 11, 1925 caught my eye.

Suddenly Miss Demure sank from my thoughts because although his name is mis spelled as it often was, I thought Mr. Penny just might be Willis O. Penney. Why? because the first Ads Claire Knapp ran for her Clairedale Kennel being in Yaphank rather than Mastic were in the fall of 1925.

The next issue of the paper proved my hunch.With this item


The Paper Had Come Out On Tuesday September 15th 1925 (Back then the Advanced published on Tuesdays & Fridays) I did the simple math and it turns out that Saturday was ...

SEPTEMBER 12th 1925

They got Willis' last name right but Claire lost an i somewhere. A few other minor errors like Mr. & Mrs. Joseph P. Knapp being from Mastic.... Claire lived in Mastic (it was still a year away from becoming Mastic Beach) in the Knapp mansion her father paid for in 1916. Her mother Sylvia was in living in France and Daddy J.P. was most likely in Canada or North Carolina fishing somewhere.

The fact that it was a Justice of the Peace wedding, in Islip of all places with no family from either Knapp or Penney side, gives creedence to the story a Penney family member told me back in 2001. That J. P. and Claire's brother J. F. (Dodi) did not approve of the courtship of Willis & Claire. She had to hide Willis in the mansion and there were second story escapes of the kind we used to make out of the abandoned Knapp mansion in the mid 1950's to get away from the cops.

A week later this item appeared in the Moriches News section. I would assume it was placed by Willis' parents Merritt and Adelaide...their youngest son had gotten married.... actually re married but the paper doesn't say that.

Again a few minor typos.... Claire was still missing an i and Arthur Griffith became an Author ....I liked the items around it too. The Fehners were a yachting family btw and friends of the Libaires.... and the watermelon party sounded like good fun.

If you are interested about the Penney's new life in Yaphank you can read more about it in the "Clairedale Section"

They certainly had a nice place there, but moved to Stony Brook a few years after ,,,,,and so life goes on,,,,,

I just thought I now have something else nice to think about on September 12th and will be toasting Willis & Claire tommorrow along with 21 year old Erik Basil Spooner... I might even eat some watermelon

Willis & Claire's Yaphank Home in 1926

photo: Marty Van Lith

MARCH 2004 : I don't think Willis or Claire would be too thrilled to see it today.


The Penney's Sold it in 1929 & What is really important is .......

September 12th is a special day for both the Spooners & the Knapps !