Nov 11, 1956
This page, just like this entire website which started from a handfull of childhood stories about growing up in Mastic Beach, NY in the 1950's, was sparked this morning by the memory of driving twenty miles in our '50 Ford Country Squire station wagon to what was then known as MacArthur Airport in Bohemia, Long Island on Veterans Day for the festivities they would hold there.
Today the airport is nothing like it was back in the 1950's , as it is now a major hub for Southeast Airlines. Back then it was just a general aviation airport with the biggest general being the name of the man whose name is now relegated almost as an afterthought. I believe the main designation used for it by the airlines is ISP short for Islip, which is the much larger township it sits in. Even the postal address is Ronkonkoma, which is really a few miles away. The actual area it was built in was Bohemia, but I 'm showing my age here.
There was a strong resurgence of patriotism at our house in the mid '50's. My sister's fiance, Dennis Kiernan, had recently joined the Coast Guard not long after graduation from Center Moriches High, and our father had signed up for the Coast Guard Reserve in Patchogue. I think they had to give him an age waiver, as Pop had first entered the National Guard in the late '30's mainly as way to get to ride horses more than he could afford to as a mere civilian. When his guard hitch was up, WW2 came along so he joined the Navy and became a Sea Bee in the South Pacific.
I recall getting into the military act by wearing Pop's old Navy dress blue uniform top back then. He could no longer fit into it, but I could ( I was around 8 or 9 and fairly tall for my age) ..... I can still smell the mothballs that preserved the fine wool it was made out of. Of course our 48 Star Old Glory flew regularly and properly from our flagpole on the corner of Elm & McKinley in Mastic Beach and Butchie and I would often argue over who would get to raise and lower it. We had several decals on the rear side window of the Country Squire (much like some folks had travel decals) of the different branches of the service reserves that all met in the old wooden Baily Lumber building used as a recruiting office across the street from the Patchogue train station.
That particular trip to MacArthur airport that Veterans Day though resonated with me the strongest over two big surprises. We got to board an airliner! It may of been a DC-3 or it may of been a newer model . I know it was a prop plane. The two things about it that I most recall , were being allowed to go into the cockpit and gaze at all those dials and controls, (look but don't touch) They were much like the airplane parts we hauled out of Knapps barn when were real little kids. The other was the rear lounge that had a large U shaped sofa like seat in the tail section much like you would see in a cocktail lounge. Seated back there were the Captain and the Flight Crew all taking it easy .... HEY WHO'S FLYING THE PLANE?
And then there was the really big surprise . Butchie & Me got to meet one of the members of the Blue Angels and climb up the ladder and look in his jet. For some reason I don't recall if the whole team was there that day to put on a show, but just shaking hands with one of them was a major deal for me, and I wish I knew that major's name.
So with those memories of 52 years ago, I offer up these few glimpses of folks that are connected in various ways to this entire website today, Tuesday November 11, 2008 and to all out there in cyber space who share the common thread of Veteran.
THE GENERAL'S RESTING PLACE. NEIGHBORHOOD ROAD MASTIC BEACH
I CAN'T THINK OF A BETTER PLACE TO START THAN WITH GENERAL NATHANIAL WOODHULL. THE FIRST VETERAN OF MASTIC, WHO GAVE IT ALL HE HAD, HE DIED FROM SEVERE INJURIES SUFFERED JUST A MONTH AFTER THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE WAS INITIALLY SIGNED. THAT WAS 173 YEARS BEFORE PRESIDENT WILSON SIGNED THIS PROCLAMATION IN NOVEMBER OF 1919 & OVER 232 YEARS AGO TODAY ............
"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations...."
Of course Wilson was thinking WW1 was the "War To End All Wars " ...... and so change was called for ..... and so
IKE CHANGES A FEW MORE THINGS
On June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" which stated: "In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible."
And Now A Few Salutes To Some Special People Associated With So Much That's On This Website
Ensign Archibald G. McIlwaine In 1917
"Chip" McIlwaine Was A Navy Flier From The First Yale Unit And Was In Combat In France
He Was A Stepson To J. P. Knapp
SOUTHAMPTON, NY 2005
As Seen Over There By The French
SOUTHAMPTON NY 2005
Lt jg Joseph F. Knapp aka " Dodi " Naval Aviator 1917- 1919
Archibald G. McIlwaine II
Like Father Like Son AG Was A Navy Pilot In WW2
And Like General Woodhull He Gave All
Charles Above Arthur Below
The American Legion Post In Mastic Beach Is Named For Arthur
The Pateras Of Mastic Acres
Mr. Patera who passed away in June of 2007, was one of the few survivng members of Merrill's Marauders campaign in Burma I went all through school with his daughter Alicia who is a contributor and reader of the website and a ringer for her mother.
Leslie Paul Bernstein William Floyd High Class Of '63
Died In Vietnam March 1967
And A Big Salute Too For Some Vets We Are Fortunate To Have Still With Us
Sgt Fred Gillespie "SOMEWHERE" In Europe 1944
Fred was born in "Tangier" That's What I Call Early Shirley, in 1916
Fred Helped Me Solve A BIG KNAPP mystery in 2005. He Celebrated his 92 Birthday Last Month !
Sgt Phil Van Tassel At Ft. Polk. La 1964
My Official Big Brother and member of the first Floyd High School Class of 1960
Jack Rutigliano aka "Rut" Vietnam 1965
Jack was born and grew up in Mastic Beach
We Go WAY Back Together & Reconnected Here After 40 Years
Lt. Col Kathy LaSauce of Yaphank, NY
My Second Couisin Kathy & The First Woman Jet Pilot In The USAF
Lt Col Ray Smith, US Army ret. Pictured Here In 1956
My newest friend whom I met a few days ago via internet. Watch for some fascinating stories about early Mastic to come from Ray. He lived there from 1936 - 1944 , graduated from Moriches Grammar School, The One I Call The Annex . His Mother was a teacher at the one room Poospatuck Indian School in the late 1930's
There will be more to come on this page too as I gather some more photos. This was a sort of woke up this morning and what shall I do today thing? It is now 5 :15 in the evening here in Nashville.
I will bow out now with something I think is very appropriate. This song "The Evening Train", I wrote with the late Walter Hyatt. It was first broadcast live on NPR Radio here in Nashville on Veterans Day in 1992 a few weeks after we wrote it. This is The Original Demo Of The Song and still my favorite version. It has since been recorded several times.