The Colored Girl from Long Island

Today we talk with Sandi Brewster-walker about her life and her family’s history. Not only do the Brewsters have deep ties to North Amityville and the Native American community on Long Island but their story is intertwined with American history on multiple levels.

You’ll hear about early slavery on Long Island, letters from John Brown, spying in West Africa for the OSS during World War II, the peculiar fad for Tom Thumb’s wedding and more.

Sandi is also a practiced genealogist and we go over some of the challenges of researching Native American and African American ancestors. Beyond family research, her current efforts are directed at establishing a North Amityville Historic District and a Long Island Indigenous People & Research Center.

For more details, you can check out her book, The Colored Girl From Long Island, and her columns in the Amityville Record.

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[Update: Photos added June 18, 2017]

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Jack Ellsworth, Long Island’s Big Band Man

Jack Ellsworth, born Ellsworth Shiebler, won acclaim and a loyal following over a 60-plus year career in broadcasting on stations from WHIM to WALK and WLIM. Just as importantly, he won the respect and support of some of the biggest names of the Big Band era. Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby (to name a few) toasted Jack’s efforts to keep the music and style of the 1930s and 40s alive.

On this episode, Susan and Elissa Shiebler (Jack’s daughter and granddaughter, respectively) relate the story of Jack’s life from his early days in Brooklyn to his work as a Marine war correspondent through his glory days at WALK-FM and WLIM. Fueled by his personal connections to top-name performers and a legendary record collection, Jack’s “Memories in Melody” show enthralled audiences of all ages.

Jack Ellsworth
WALK radio ad from the Long Island Advance, Jan 25, 1962.

Beyond stories of stars such as Dick Powell and Frank Sinatra, Susan and Elissa also reveal how strongly the legacy of Jack and his wife Dot guides the family today. Grandson Matt Taylor has taken on the mantle of host, along with his own career as a performer, bringing that Big Band sound to a new age. They are now on 103.9 FM (WRCN) and LongIslandNewsRadio.com Sunday mornings 7 – 9 am.

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La Salle Military Academy

Things were changing on the south shore of Long Island in the 1920s. In the area of Oakdale, a prototypical Gold Coast, the great mansions of the last century were struggling to find a new purpose after their original owners passed on. For Frederick Bourne’s Indian Neck Hall, the future arrived from Clason Point in the Bronx and its name was the La Salle Military Academy.

The Future La Salle in 1902
Frederick Bourne’s Indian Neck Hall from Architectural Record, 1902.

The De La Salle Christian Brothers moved their all-boy Christian military academy to Oakdale in 1926 and graduated their last class in 2001. On today’s episode we’ll here from alum Denis McGee about two decades in that storied history. Denis graduated in 1974 during the tail end of the Viet Nam War. His father, Arthur McGee, graduated in 1943 and went on to serve in World War II with the 94th Infantry Division.

This episode consists of a series of excerpts of a longer oral history Denis gave as part of a project being conducted by the Oakdale Historical Society and the Connetquot Public Library. If you are an alum of La Salle or worked or taught there and would like to be a part of this project, please contact Diane Haberstroh at the Connetquot Public Library: dhaberst[at]connetquotlibrary.org.

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