SPIN YOUR GLOBE TO LONG ISLAND (Apr, 1939)
SPIN YOUR GLOBE TO LONG ISLAND
Only Six States Have More People than the Insular Empire that Ranges from a World’s Fair Through Potato Patches, Princely Estates, and Historic Shrines
By Frederick Simpich
With Illustrations from Photographs by Willard R. Culver
WHAT if a super-tugboat could cast a line about Long Island and haul it out to sea! Left exposed would be the broken ends of all the bridges and the under-river tunnels that now tie it to Manhattan.
Riding off on the runaway island would go more than 4-1/2 million people—but only if the start were made at night, for in the daytime a large share of these people work in New York.
Off on the floating island would also go about one-fourth of the sea trade of the whole United States, Uncle Sam’s Brooklyn Navy Yard, radio towers from which he talks with 34 countries overseas, his busiest coffee and sugar mart, 3,454 trains that run daily between New York and the island, shops that make navigation instruments for the whole world, strategic airports and plane factories, millionaire estates, herds of polo ponies, Forest Hills’ famous tennis courts, five million white ducks, to say nothing of Coney Island and other resorts where millions come to play, and a World’s Fair!
SHAPED LIKE A MONSTER FISH.
Look on the map and you see this island is shaped like a big fish.* Its blunt, whalelike head, capped by Brooklyn on its west end, pushes into New York’s East River. For 118 miles it stretches east, where two flukelike land points stick out into the Atlantic; they seem on stormy .days to be whipping the salt water into foam and spray, just as the split tail of a big mad fish might do.
Like a dorsal fin, its north shore is set off from Connecticut by that blue-water playground, Long Island Sound.
Finally, to clinch this figment of fancy, the island outlines show not only the fish’s form, but suggest that this leviathan has just swum in from the Gulf Stream and is nibbling at the hook of lower Manhattan.
Actually, it isn’t nibbling, but gobbling. Already Long Island has swallowed about one-third of New York State’s whole population.
Gone now is the day when Gotham comedians could get a laugh at Brooklyn’s expense, when Brooklyn Bridge was dubbed “the road to yesterday,” and Brooklyn itself was merely “New York’s bedroom.”
Long Island now has more people than most of the States in the Union, being exceeded by only six; more assessed wealth than all Texas; and more sea trade than Manhattan. While Brooklyn, politically, is a part of New York City, considered separately it is America’s second largest city, surpassed only by Chicago.
Quick, cheap, easy travel turned this tide.
As French Strother once wrote: “John A. Roebling, dying of tetanus in the home on Brooklyn Heights that he had built to overlook the construction of his ‘crazy’ suspension bridge over East River, had sealed the doom of Manhattan as the prime city of the Western World. Not westward, but eastward, the star of New York City’s empire made its way” (page 422).
751 COMMUTERS’ TRAINS A DAY.
Today truck farms turn into parks, golf courses, new homes, and business blocks.
In and about Queens you see literally square miles of new houses, laid out like London’s vast new suburbs. Beyond spreading Forest Hills and Kew Gardens sprawls Jamaica, with 751 trains a day to Brooklyn and New York. If it stood somewhere out in a Rocky Mountain State, it would be a nationally known American city; here it is only one more spot in the lengthening shadow of New York, which creeps steadily out Long Island.
Beyond this shadow, farther east, lies yet another island world, whose people still have the “island feeling”; in their 200- and 300-year-old houses and churches, and in their old flintlocks, harpoons, and spinning wheels, there’s still a hint of English settlers’ life, of Captain Kidd, and the Sag Harbor whalers.
Ride all the way round this island and you see how wild, desolate, and thinly settled its eastern tip is; yet how monuments to man’s mechanical genius fairly clutter its west end.
Between these extremes, what profound contrast! Out on storm-pounded Montauk Point, with its ancient lighthouse and lonely beaches, where the ribs of wrecked and forgotten ships stick up like camel bones on an Arab desert, you feel the full imaginative content of that word “island” that “verbal hieroglyph” for romance, piracy, and adventure (Plate XII).
But come back to Brooklyn, on the island’s west end, and you see yet another picture. Here is Western civilization, heroically sketched on a gigantic canvas, alive with glimpses of inventions—queer robots from gyroscopes and linotypes to miraculous machines that flash photographs around the world on wireless waves.
How vividly Sir Francis Bacon foresaw these wonders 316 years ago! In his essay on the civilization of the “New Atlantis,” writ- ten in 1623, he says: “We have boates for going under water. . . . Flying in the Ayre. . . . Artificial echoes reflecting the voice many times. . . . Lights of all colors. . . . Lights, which we carry to great distances.” Here are all these things: submarines, airplanes, radio telephones, neon lights, and giant searchlights.
“MOTHER OF NAVY YARDS”.
At Brooklyn Navy Yard you may see Bacon’s “boates for going under water.” With a permit to visit this “mother of all our navy yards,” you can see Uncle Sam building his “fancy war canoes,” where Indians built theirs long ago (page 425).
Since 1801 this yard has laid keels for wooden “ships of the line,” for frigates, sloops of war, paddle-wheel steamers, torpedo boats, destroyers—for many kinds of warcraft from brigs to battleships.
Read the brass name plate on any American war vessel from Miami to Manila and you may see it was launched at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
From here slid the ill-fated Maine, whose destruction in Habana Harbor was followed by our War with Spain. First of first-class battleships launched here was the old Connecticut. Years later, off Olongapo, I was aboard her at target practice, and also saw the boxing matches, after mess, when rival gun crews fought out the evening postmortem. Today some 9,000 men work here. That’s about three times as many as the whole enlisted strength of the Navy when this yard opened.
INSTRUMENTS TO STEER PLANES AND SHIPS.
Bacon foretold searchlights. Today Long Island makes them, of almost supernatural penetration, in a tightly guarded factory at the foot of Manhattan Bridge.
If you can get in, here you see not only powerful searchlights for spotting enemy airplanes on a dark night, but also other startling Jules Verne wonders of the “Mysterious Isle” kind.
How times have changed since Henry Hudson sent a shore party to explore Coney Island in 1609!* He steered uncertainly, by crude instruments. Today, in Brooklyn, the Sperry Gyroscope Company turns out sensitive gyropilots and other magic aids to navigation which are now used by vast fleets of sea and air craft moving over the wide world.
Among all colleges on this island, none has so heterogeneous a student body as the navigation school conducted by the Sperry Company. In one classroom, crowded with sailors from more than thirty different nations, you see a life-size ship’s bridge—a dummy, of course—but equipped with all the scientific navigation instruments used now on modern battleships and ocean luxury liners.
From this school more than 8,000 seamen of every nationality from Argentinian to Chinese have been graduated and licensed to handle the gyrocompass, gyro-pilot, and other Sperry marine instruments.
A corresponding aeronautical school gives similar instruction on Sperry aeronautical instruments, the “blind flying” instruments —the gyro-horizon and directional gyro— and the gyro-pilot for automatic flying. From the Sperry Company’s magic shop come also such “gadgets,” to use sailor slang, as rudder indicators, gunfire-control apparatus, searchlights (both high-intensity arc and incandescent), steering-control equipment, course recorders, and salinity indicators.
ONETIME TOY NOW SAVES LIVES.
Twenty-five years ago the gyroscope merely amused people, as a spinning toy. Today, on land, sea, and in the air, it makes travel safer. Ships of more than 170 of the world’s merchant fleets use this gyrocompass for safer and more efficient navigation.
More than 20,000 airplanes maintain flight altitude and course, under blind flying conditions, thanks to the gyro-horizon and directional gyro. By keeping the plane on its course, the gyro or “automatic” pilot relieves the human pilot of the burden of handling his controls and gives him more time for observation, navigation, radio, and engine work.
With the gyro-pilot, at sea, it is the same; in rough weather as in calm, it saves hard work at the wheel by keeping even the most heavily loaded ship straight on its course.
Out on Ryerson Street, in Brooklyn, Mergenthaler makes a typesetting machine that speeds up the world’s newspaper printing and revolutionizes the reading habits of civilization (page 427). This is no phantasy of phrasemaking; look at the facts: News that the Sioux had killed Custer and all his men, in 1876, was carried in a total newspaper circulation of only about 4,000,000.
By the time Edison had invented his practical type of electric bulb; by the time Garfield had been assassinated and the James boys were raiding across the Middle West, printing was still a slow job because all type had to be set by hand.
Then came the linotype; Whitelaw Reid so named it in 1886, when his New York Tribune was first to use the revolutionary machine. Today, American daily papers circulate more than 40,000,000, which only mechanical typesetting makes possible.
Mergenthaler’s factory exports typesetting machines so widely that it has speeded up the whole world’s reading habits. Nearly one hundred different languages and vernaculars are set on this machine, including all those using Arabic script, such as Urdu, Persian, Kurdish, and Malayan, as well as Sanskrit and all East Indian vernaculars written in the Devanagari.
Uncle Sams printing office in Washington uses 171 linotypes, and 71 foreign governments, from the Vatican City* to the Fijis, set type on this machine in any size from tiny “4-point” to big letters two inches high.
On 25 battleships of our Navy, type is set on these Long Island-built machines, which also set bills of fare and ocean newspapers on many a big liner.
Incredible almost is the feat of a teletype and a linotype working jointly. On this almost human composite of mechanical genius, one machine receives and sends the news into the linotype, which sets it up ready for the printer!
BROOKLYN WHARVES, AMERICA’S BIGGEST GROCERY.
Home port of the Seven Seas, Brooklyn water front, with pier space for 700 steamers, barters with 200 foreign ports in 71 different countries (page 423).
Strange names on ship sterns hint at far places. What you don’t see you can imagine—the Zlowtub, out of North Sea ports, or the Fling Punk Hi, from China.
You get hungry on this water front if you only walk along and smell all the exotic fruits, cloves, pepper, sage, sugar, dates, coffee, coconuts, smoked fish, cheese, cocoa, and other good things to eat that unload on this “Isle of Spice.”
“America’s biggest grocery store” is this water front. More coffee, alone, comes here than to any other spot on earth.
Here is the goal post for the annual date-ship race, which starts from the Persian Gulf. We get most of our dates from about Basra, old haunt of Sindbad the Sailor.
Dates ripen, and rival boats load, all in a brief period; then home they race, across the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Suez, Mediterranean, Atlantic, and all the way to Long Island, because the first load in sells for the highest price.
One Brooklyn shop takes bales of crude quinine bark from Peru and turns out nice clean pills and powder. Another gets big dirty chunks of beeswax from Africa to make lipstick, shoe polish, and other things.
Since Egyptians varnished their first mummy, the making of lacquer and paint has been a good business. Here, in Queens and Brooklyn, figure fans say enough paint is made every year to cover all buildings now standing in the Thirteen Original States of the Union.
Enough rope to lasso Mars has been made here. Brooklyn had eight ropewalks, but only seven churches and seven saloons in clipper ship days of the 1820’s. To fit out a full-rigged ship then took 40,000 pounds of cordage.
Today, ships don’t take so much. But hemp, jute, and sisal still pour in from fiber-growing hot lands; and besides all the hawsers, halyards, and braces made for sailors, a world of rope and cordage goes inland for use in derricks, binder twine in wheat fields, even to make rope rugs.
Today Long Island makes better rope than the Romans did, but it’s all twisted in the traditional Roman way—strands left, final rope to the right (Plate VIII).
Proximity to New York and its great harbor fostered Brooklyn’s industrial growth. Now one city complements the other.
How the Dutch bought Manhattan from the Indians is an old story. From there whites crossed East River to farm, fight the savages, build homes, and barter on Long Island.
That was the day of straw roofs, wooden chimneys, and windmills. Little remains now, except documents yellow with age, to recall that era—little except family and place names.
Brooklyn itself was then Breukelen, so changed after the English took New Amsterdam and renamed it New York for their Duke. Midwout became Flatbush, and Rust dorp changed to Jamaica.
Though the Dutch again took New York in 1672, the English won it back two years later and held it until the Revolution. In Brooklyn the British defeated American troops in that historic battle of our War for Independence (page 421).
But from that August day in 1776 the history of Long Island began as a part of the United States.
From his pulpit in Brooklyn’s famous Plymouth Church, Henry Ward Beecher sold the slave girl “Pinky” into freedom at public auction, when Abolitionists clashed with Southerners (page 415). Roosevelt landed his Rough Riders at Montauk Point after the War with Spain; at Yaphank and Roosevelt Field in World War days Uncle Sam made the greatest mobilization of man power in our history.
Go where you will on this island, past potato patches or princely estates, and you find it thick with scenes of historic events in the making of America. In one place Captain Kidd hid his treasure; in another stands the old house that inspired John Howard Payne to write “Home, Sweet Home” (Plate VIII and page 445).
GARDENS RIVAL THOSE AT VERSAILLES.
Take Route 25-A east, along the island’s North Shore, turn off now and then, and you enter another world.
Up Glen Cove way lie some of the island’s family estates. One we saw, for quiet beauty of landscape and gardens, brought to mind the royal parks at Versailles, or at Sanssouci in Potsdam. Some hatch their own game birds; others have stables and private race tracks and steeplechase courses (Plate XIII).
Turn south along Wheatley Road and the old Post Road and you come to West-bury, world polo center (Plate X).
Of all games using a stick and ball, polo is most ancient. Its name comes from the Tibetan word pulu, or ball, but Long Island got the game from England, which got it from India.* Since John Watson first brought an English team to the States in 1886, and since the first American team repaid that visit in 1902, this game has spread to all America’s “horsy” spots. Now thousands play it, including schools, universities, and a few women.
Today, without doubt, the Long Island town of Westbury is the world polo center. At famous Meadowbrook Club, locking mallets, you may see Indian rajahs, titled Britons, cattle kings from Australia and Argentina, cavalry officers from many lands.
Pony buyers swarm here, too, and since 1924 best mounts have sold for as much as $10,000 each, and more.
Wherever good polo is played, riders know the names of such famed American players as Hitchcock, Milburn, Waterbury, Bostwick, Iglehart, Gerry, Guest, Stoddard, and Stevenson.
“Meadowbrook, Long Island,” will be the date line on a great polo news story to be filed there in June, 1939; that is the schedule of the International Polo Challenge Cup Series between England and the United States, which will draw many visitors from the near-by World’s Fair Grounds.
Turn north from 25-A at East Norwich and you come to Oyster Bay. Here is an old house on whose windowpanes you can still read names cut in the glass by British officers when they were quartered here during the Revolution. Here also is the family home of Theodore Roosevelt, former President, who led the Rough Riders, gave America the Panama Canal, hunted in Africa,* sought a lost river in Brazil, and spiced up our language with such apt phrases as “the strenuous life,” “the big stick,” “weasel words,” and the “lunatic fringe.” To his simple tomb, upon a roadside hill, thousands of Americans have worn a path (pages 442, 444).
Near by is the Roosevelt Bird Sanctuary, apt tribute to that President whose interest in all wild creatures was a predominant passion. Particularly did he love the birds of Long Island.
ISLAND LIKE ONE BIG BIRDHOUSE.
So many snipe waded about here when Henry Hudson came in 1609 that this fact was noted in the Half Moon’s log.
Every sailor knows how islands attract birds. Migrating strangers stop to eat and sleep. Storms blow others ashore. Caribbean hurricanes have brought strange tropic birds to Long Island. Of the 1,420 species and subspecies found in North America north of Mexico, only about 120 nest here, but many others pay calls.
One European widgeon shot here had been banded in Iceland, says one authority; a fish hawk marked at Orient Point was found dead in Brazil; another hawk carried his band for 21 years.
On Shelter Island one September day we saw telephone wires lined with small swallows for more than a mile—tens of thousands of them.
Ospreys built such heavy nests hereabouts on telephone crossarms that they short-circuited the wires. To stop this, and yet to oblige the ospreys, the company set up other poles near by, with convenient platforms on top where these fish hawks in knee pants now build their big nests.
Bird life here changes with increasing population. Heath hens quit the sand barrens a century ago. No more Labrador ducks come to Great South Bay. One story says that in April, 1759, about 75,000 passenger pigeons were sold in New York meat shops, some at 50 for a shilling! They went away with the 19th century.
To preserve many species and perhaps to bring others back, both conservationists and island sportsmen work now to increase and improve bird sanctuaries.
Go east to Huntington and they show you a monument to the patriot, Nathan Hale; also, south of town, the house where Walt Whitman was born.
From Huntington smooth, shady roads wind around the quiet shores of blue-water bays to Northport, on east, past Sunken Meadow State Park, and so to Port Jefferson.
High steel towers of RCA’s sending station rise at Rocky Point (page 439). They recall another line from Bacon’s Atlantis essay: “We have sound houses . . . and means to convey sounds.”
Farther east, at Riverhead, is RCA’s receiving station. Taken together, the two plants form the “giant voice” and the “big ear” which converse with countries overseas. Words can be sent at speeds up to 200 a minute; these stations also bounce and catch music and speeches back and forth over the seas for distribution on broadcast programs.
TELEVISION SHOWN AT WORLD’S FAIR.
Odd, futuristic-looking sound trucks you may meet, too, with poles sticking up on top like masts. These are the RCA television trucks (page 416). At the World’s Fair of 1939, this first baby of radio takes its first step in public. Though on a very small curtain, with reception limited to points within 50 miles of the sending station, RCA will give World’s Fair visitors their first taste of television.
Think of sitting in a small theater at the fair grounds and watching a Forest Hills tennis game—seeing the players hit the ball, hearing the actual smack at the instant of impact, and hearing the crowds cheer (Plate XI); or of seeing the finish of a horse race or a boxing match; or a television broadcast of street scenes at the fair itself, with all their simultaneous sounds, picked up from some distant part of the grounds.
Long Island was the birthplace of American wireless; at Babylon town in 1901 a pioneer station first talked with ships at sea. Now, by television apparatus come news pictures from abroad for use in our daily papers. Even fingerprints have been sent by “photoradio,” to aid in identifying fugitive criminals.
Sailors far out on the ocean can see these high wireless towers.
They appreciate their importance. Men digging in the near-by potato fields or cutting cauliflower show no interest in the towers, nor their function. Of one fieldworker I asked, “Do you ever think about the millions of words—all about shipwrecks and dictators and wars—that fly over the oceans to be caught by those big towers, or try to imagine how it all works?”
He said “No,” and went on digging potatoes.
Its map spot, climate, and physiography make this island a good place for food crops. America’s biggest food market is near-by New York.
A TRUCK FARM FOR NEW YORK.
Likewise, in 1844, the Long Island Railroad, reaching east to Greenport, brought island farmers within hours of New York markets, instead of days. They began turning from hayfields and dairy herds to put their land into intensive gardening crops. New plants were introduced to build up truck farms. Any night in the harvest season you can now see long lines of trucks, with potatoes, cauliflower, asparagus, and cucumbers—and ducks—rolling into market.
Route 25 veers northeast from River-head, touching Southold, settled in 1640, and runs on through Greenport and out to Orient Point, the tip of Long Island’s northern fluke.
Moss-grown tombstones, road markers made of ballast stone from English sailing ships, museums filled with relics of whaling days, old houses and churches, all link Long Island with colonial days. Our country grew so fast in size and man power after 1776 that we are apt now to skip all too hastily over the profoundly significant pioneering of the English and other whites who founded civilization here long before the U. S. A. was ever thought of.
On Long Island these pioneers fought Indians, fished, farmed, built towns, drank, smoked, and gambled, prayed, argued politics, married, begat, and were buried through five or six generations before Washington, D. C, was even surveyed.
BACK TO COLONIAL TIMES.
Your mind goes back to colonial times when you see Gardiners Island, which lies between Orient and Montauk Points. It is not only a dramatic survival of colonial days; it shows once more how, from Rabelais’ island tales to Hollywood films of Tahiti, mutiny on the Bounty, and South Sea hurricanes, this island theme has stirred men’s souls.
When Lion Gardiner bought his island in 1639, he must have felt the same romantic nostalgia that moved Blennerhassett to settle on that Ohio River island.
Gardiner, who had built forts for the Lords Say and Brook at New London, paid for his island with a dog, a gun, some rum, and blankets. As a true baronial estate, with manor house and slaves, this domain persisted unspoiled through long generations. After 300 years, it still belongs to the Gardiners. At a society wild west show on Montauk Point, I saw a daughter of that family facetiously introduced as “a cow girl from Texas.”
This family knew Captain Kidd the pirate. He paid them an unexpected visit one day, demanded certain favors, and hid some of his loot on their island home. Later it was recovered, and Kidd was hanged on London’s Execution Dock.
Shelter Island, between the north and south flukes of Long Island, is another example. Its story centers about Nathaniel Sylvester, advocate of religious liberty. He founded its Manor House in 1651. Today’s Manor House, dating from 1735, is a fine example of Long Island colonial architecture. On the manor grounds is a wooden windmill 144 years old, still in running order.
Sylvester Manor reminds you that eastern Long Island was largely settled by religious and political zealots, some of whom were exiled from New England as “heretics.” For many years some of these early English towns on east Long Island did not acknowledge the royal authority, but ruled themselves entirely through town meetings.
As one writer says: “Of the four New York patriots who risked hanging together (or separately) by signing the Declaration of Independence, two were supplied by Long Island.” They were Francis Lewis and William Floyd.
Merely to scan quaint epitaphs on moss-grown stone; to finger rusty old harpoons or cap-and-ball pistols; or to chat with wrinkled veterans of offshore whaling days is to sense the rich color and quality of the life that was.
Today these historic sites, plus fishing, sailing, and other summer sports, form this region’s stock in trade. Many visitors hunt up the old inn at Orient Point, where James Fenimore Cooper wrote Sea Lions.
A CYCLE PATH TO CONEY ISLAND.
Here, now, is a “Pleasure Island” whose social revolution began with the Long Island Railroad. It ended isolation. Later came bicycles. From England, about 1876, we got the high-wheeled pioneer ” boneshaker.” On Long Island this new vehicle saw the rise of the L. A. W., or League of American Wheelmen. Then came the safety, with pneumatic tires.
By the 1890’s men, women, and children
all over Long Island were riding bicycles. Munsey’s Magazine for May, 1896, tells how the L. A. W. raised funds to build a cycle path from Brooklyn to Coney Island and issued 5,000 tour books.
When cheap, quick rides brought this half-wild, isolated back country close to crowded New York, it began to turn into what it is now, a colossal playground (Plate IX and page 447).
Fishing, hunting, and horse racing were pioneer American sports. But only after the Civil War, slowly, people from growing cities began to seek the outdoors and learn to play. The thirty years after the seventies saw the rise of baseball, bicycling, boating, tennis, and the beginnings of golf. Long Island was a pioneering spot in America for these games. Shinnecock Golf Club, at Southampton, was one of the first in the United States. By 1900 Long Island had 24 golf courses; and today there are listed close to 120.
Ferry from Shelter Island over to Sag Harbor and drive east to Montauk Point, and you see how man has turned the wilderness into playgrounds (Plate XII and page 448).
Facing the open Atlantic, Montauk’s luxurious hotel hints at Long Island’s kinship with the sea. In State parks other thousands motor out to camp, cook in the open, or sleep on the warm sands while the children “play Indian.”
CARRIER PIGEONS GO TO SEA ON FISHING BOATS.
Steam in from Europe any fine summer morning toward Fire Island; see how yachts, sailboats, speedboats, and fishermen scour these waters.
About 25,000 motorboats frequent Long Island waters (Plate I). Off its shores for decades famous races have been run, especially the cup contests between American and British challengers and defenders.
Every Long Island port has some kind of aquatic society. One youthful yachting group at Sayville calls itself “The Wet Pants Club.” To join, all you need is a craft resembling a sailboat and $1 for dues. In the Wet Pants Club one class is called the “Diapers,” and the emblem on their sails is a baby’s “didy pin.”
Freeport was conceived by sail and born of salt water. As a big-game-fish center, more than 1,000 boats make this their home port. “Party boats” ply for hire. Some have catwalks extending ahead like bowsprits, on which men stand to harpoon sleeping swordfish, turtles, and any other swimming monster they can hit.
Into Freeport, into Great Pond (Lake Montauk), and other bases late any summer afternoon you may see tired, sunburnt fishing parties returning, the lucky grimly exultant over a big marlin, a giant tuna, or maybe even a shark or a sea turtle.
Some shiny cruisers carry two-way radio telephones. A few others take carrier pigeons to sea; if skippers catch a prize fish or get into trouble and need help, they send word ashore by the birds.
“Sunday Morning Fish Specials” whiz out Long Island railway in summer, carrying thousands of eager men and women. Off they pour, at Peconic Bay and at Montauk Point, run for the nearest party boat, scramble in, and make for “where they are.” To keep your string fresh on the ride back at night to New York, the company helps out with a special baggage car wherein you can “check your fish on ice.” No fish anywhere get “worked over” any harder than these around Long Island, and some devotees get only fisherman’s luck— wet pants and a hungry tummy. I watched some disgusted school girls fishing near Orient. All they pulled in, time and again; was toadfish.
“Ugly mugs!” complained one girl. “I’m tired wasting good crab-meat bait on you. Let’s all quit fishing and eat some canned salmon!”
“Or eat our own bait,” said another.
SOWING AND REAPING UNDER THE SEA.
Farmers who plant and raise oysters own or lease thousands of submarine acres under Long Island bays. Clams, scallops, and mussels are also brought in by baymen and tongers; only oyster work is called “farming.” One difference between this and dirt farming is that on land you can see corn or potatoes growing, but the oyster crop is out of sight, under water.
Sea-bottom fields also have to be cleared and made ready for planting; while young oysters grow up, the farmer has to thin them, as young corn is thinned, and protect them from sea stars and other enemies, just as land plants are defended against voracious crows and other pests.
Return from Montauk to Brooklyn over Route 27, and you pass through East Hampton. High spots for sight-seers here are the old windmills, topiary hedges, and the “Home, Sweet Home” House. Here in boyhood lived John Howard Payne (Plate VIII). In Paris he wrote the words of “Home, Sweet Home” to the measure of the Ranz des Vaches and had it sung in his play, Clari, or the Maid of Milan. It opened at a Co vent Garden theater in London, and that song swept the world; after a century it is sung wherever English is known, and Easthampton people have made a shrine of Payne’s boyhood home.
On this old stagecoach road, now Route 27, lies Southampton. People here say that Job’s Lane, now a village street, was opened as a pioneer road in 1636. The town was founded in 1640. Some houses of the colonial period still stand. Venerated, vine-clad Hollyhock House was built about 1650.
Lawns as vast as smaller-city parks surround some Southampton mansions. The Beach Club here is known from Nice to Santa Barbara. Camera addicts invariably halt to photograph the dignified War Memorial at the head of Agawam Lake.
Startling in its ominous brevity, that signboard flanks the road as you near Shinnecock Canal, heaven to confirmed anglers.
Alfred E. Smith, former Governor of New York and candidate for President, was out wetting a line. “I’ve been coming here thirty-four years,” he said.
Go west, skirt Moriches Bay, and the raucous quack of infinite white ducks shatters the morning calm.
More ducks than people live on Long Island (page 446).
In a peak year 5,000,000, or over one-half as many as all wild ducks and geese shot annually in the United States, are dressed and shipped in iced barrels to a gluttonous world. On menus from Maine to Manila you find “Long Island Duckling,” some of which never saw Long Island.
Ride near a typical duck farm, with its low sheds, feeding pens, and fenced-in swimming pools, toward dusk or about sunup, and your eyes, ears, and nose join in quick recognition of it. Pass at night, and you see that lights are turned on, because young ducks thrive better that way.
People can’t throw stones between Sayville and Brookhaven because of the many glass hothouses. This business is enormous—acres and acres of glass roofs. Here they call it “the glass industry.”
Quit the cold outer air on a chill winter day and step into one of these warm, steamy, fragrant hothouses, and you feel as if you’re down in Rio de Janeiro’s botanical garden.
Switch from Route 27 to 109 at Babylon, and you come to Farmingdale. Here is more farming under glass, but of far more importance to all New York is the State Institute of Applied Agriculture. We watched a group of its ambitious young students planting an experimental garden.
“Can you place your graduates in jobs?” I asked a faculty member.
“Usually, yes, on the big estates for garden and landscape work, as well as on farms over the State.”
Airplanes have been built about Farmingdale for years. Seversky’s proving field is near by.
SPRINGBOARD FOR AIRPLANES.
Springboard for land and sea planes, Long Island and its waters swarm with aircraft. Spin your library globe and see how not only ship lanes but sky paths converge here.
Mitchell, Roosevelt, and Floyd Bennett Fields, the Aviation Country Club, the new international Air Base at North Beach, and Coast Guard stations and private test fields of Seversky, Grumman, and Fairchild factories are among the island’s busy spots.
Look up any flying day and you see planes, big and little, soaring like pelicans and gulls over a fishing fleet.
Lindbergh, Byrd, Chamberlin, Wiley Post, Amelia Earhart, Corrigan, Mollison, and many another transatlantic flyer has used this island base. From here they ventured, conquering time and space, blazing sky paths from pole to Equator, adding to the world’s history of adventure and travel, which is the history of civilization.
From here went Howard Hughes around the world in 91 hours, to land again on Long Island. Forgotten are others who flew east into gray Atlantic fog, and oblivion; for them no wreath, no statue, no welcome of the city.
West from Farmingdale, over Route 24, lies Hempstead, with a Presbyterian church organized in 1644. In St. George’s Episcopal Church here they still use a communion set given them by Queen Anne; their rector’s prayer book was a gift from George III. It holds a handwritten sheet pasted over that part of the prayer which asks God to bless “the King and all others in authority”; after independence, this was changed to read “the President of the United States,” etc.
Eat, drink, and be merry; from Brooklyn clear out to Montauk, 118 miles of cafe, casino, dance hall, and nocturnal hot spots flaunt their signs.
One sign reads “Chicken to Take Out.” Says another, “Here You Can Eat With Your Fingers.” Food costs what you can pay. In a “quick and dirty” a good fish sandwich sells for ten cents; in ultra-swanky casinos, where a doorman in field marshal’s uniform bows you in, you get a good cup of coffee for $1.50.
Ride out any night, and madhouses echo with swing music and the passionate, paid moans of blond torch singers who enchant the innocent traveler here just as sirens on another isle vamped the sailors of Odysseus coming home from Troy.
TOWERS OF BABEL AT A WORLD’S FAIR.
North from Forest Hills rises that glittering, futuristic city, the World’s Fair, “The World of Tomorrow” (pages 418-9). When yet a long way off you see its queer, polyhedric piles limned against the horizon— spheres, pylons, obelisks—an architecture as of another planet. It suggests nothing familiar, unless it be big painted gravestones, grain elevators from our western plains, round, pink gas tanks, or castles in Bryce Canyon.
Rich in fancy as was Bacon’s prophetic mind, not even he could have imagined an Atlantis Island of such breath-taking wonders as this World of Tomorrow. Here one miracle follows another so swiftly as to be almost unendurable to any ordinary man who watches too long and thinks too hard.
Supreme sensation of it all is a ride on “magic carpets” through the hollow Peri-sphere. From inside this globe you look down as if from two miles up in the sky upon an idealized “city of tomorrow.” Music fills the vast 200-foot globe. By means of adroit projection, moving pictures show legions of workers walking down out of the clouds, arms upraised, singing the “Song of Tomorrow.”
Bits of the “Auld Sod,” dug up in Ireland, are laid down on a miniature of that Emerald Isle set in the Irish Free State exhibit. Tiny lakes and rivulets are filled with water actually brought from such beloved sources as the River Shannon and the Lakes of Killarney!
Blooming in all their glory one million brilliant tulips nod to visitors on the Fair’s opening day. Planted, also, at just the right time, a field of knee-deep green wheat —the world’s most costly field, because of high value of fairground space—is also a part of the food exhibit.
Shot through the whole Fair’s brilliant pattern is a spectacular use of glass. Today glass blocks form an increasing part in a gayer, brighter, and more lavish architecture. Some surrealistic structures are almost great goldfish bowls.
Mixing Vesuvius with Niagara—blending fire, water, color, and sound—nightly extravaganzas of furious beauty are formed by leaping fountains and burning gas jets 150 feet high on Meadow Lake and Mall Lagoon.
Fantastic patterns in colored fire and water range from giant peacocks to a golden sheaf of wheat 90 feet tall!
Amplified above the roar of fireworks and fountains, music comes from a pipe organ, from brass fanfares, a carillon, and percussion instruments. Captive balloons, played on by searchlights, form a ceiling over this man-made inferno.
By ingenious valve controls, patterns can
be changed at will, from night to night, or the whole incomparable scene instantly “blacked out” by the operators.
With tremendous effect a giant, integrated color scheme also paints the whole geometric pattern of these two square miles of astonishing architecture.
As if squeezed from myriad rainbows, here float infinite vistas of color, some painted walls blending so gradually into a skylike blue that sometimes it’s hard to tell where man’s work ends and real sky begins. Across vast facades march colored murals of majestic proportions, some by American artists, some by famous painters from abroad. Many of them cover from 4,000 to 6,000 square feet; their themes range from man’s quest for food to the history of communications.
Set here and there are more than sixty pieces of heroic sculpture, much of it pure white, the work of such artists as Malvina Hoffman, Gertrude Whitney, Mahonri Young, Paul Manship, Derujinsky, Savage, Gregory, and others.
Tumbling high in air are 150 tons of water, tossed up and held there by powerful fountains.
Transplanted forests of more than 10,000 growing trees add sylvan charm and afford shady paths for strolling visitors.
Crack railway trains, including streamlined flyers from overseas, take part in the stirring pageant, “Railroads on Parade.” This exhibit covers 16 acres and includes a complete operating railway system in miniature.* From sixty foreign nations come other revealing exhibits which add their conceptions of the “World of Tomorrow.”
Designed by Norman Bel Geddes, one vast, living panorama shows what highspeed motor traffic on tomorrow’s superhighways may be like. Projected in the General Motors exhibit and known as “Highways and Horizons,” this dramatic visual demonstration reveals how progress in transportation is linked to advancing civilization.
By this ideal highway plan, crowds may move with more ease; populations may shift, with farms and cities linked more closely together. To see this road net of tomorrow, visitors sit in chairs on a moving escalator.
Nobody knows, of course, what actual form tomorrow’s highway net may assume; * See “Trains of Today—and Tomorrow,” National Geographic Magazine, November, 1936.
yet profound change is inevitable. It may come sooner than many people now imagine; certainly, in “Highways and Horizons” there is eye and brain food for plenty of fresh thinking.
Pause at Ford’s novel exhibit, and you see cars actually running over a house and around the sides of it!
One odd house in Amusement Area is formed like a giant human eye. Its pupil makes a landscape window; you walk in, look out through this big round pupil, and enjoy a panorama of the fairgrounds.
If you want to see how adventurous men in the World of Tomorrow may attempt being shot up to Mars, here’s a working model of a “Rocket Gun,” complete with a nice little cabin.
EVOLUTION OF WORLD FAIRS.
World’s Fair! What words to conjure with! For decades they hinted at the din of many bands all playing different tunes, at races and balloon ascensions, at the sweet whiff of hot grease on frying doughnuts, at side-show barkers with their bored wild men of Borneo, their scaly, tattooed women, whirling dervishes, diving horses, and earth’s heaviest hog.
Infinitely more comprehensive, symbolic of man’s conquest of Nature, are today’s colossal expositions. Now amusement walks hand in hand with instruction. Crowds love play, but also they pack the great halls where magic machines work as deftly, as surely, as if a human brain guided their motions, and even children pause to ponder the miraculous laboratory feats of chemistry.
They expect 60,000,000 paid admissions to the Fair. What a crowd! Think of the lost children, and the aching feet!
What Long Island will be 5,000 years from now nobody can say. At the World’s Fair, in an “Immortal Well,” they sank a metal “Time Capsule.” It holds samples of our civilization and millions of microfilm words, for the benefit of future archeologists—if they can find the capsule!
Meantime, Long Island gears its daily rhythm of breakfast, labor, dinner, and love to the schedule of suburban trains, shoots its mail from Brooklyn to New York in underwater pneumatic tubes, builds its planes, gyroscopes, and typesetting machines, and raises ducks; and, fulfilling the prophecies of Bacon, it sends sounds to faraway lands.