Bill Bleyer has a knack for finding history – or maybe it finds him. He had front row seats for Woodstock, did battle with Robert Moses, and got tear-gassed at the 1972 Republican National Convention. Now, after a decades-long career in journalism at Newsday, he writes books about the history of Long Island.
Today’s interview covers Bill’s career, his love for rock and roll, and the interesting corners of the Island’s history that he’s found over the years.
George Munkenbeck, Islip Town Historian, discusses the history of the town from it’s possibly piratical origins to its surprising connections to WW I and the Suffragist movement.
And to all our listeners – we’re back! Apologies for the gap between episodes – life had other plans over the winter. But we’re gearing up for another great round of episodes. Stay tuned for big band era broadcasters, more Long Island power ballads, tales of mass digitization and a special TURN-inspired mini-series!
From Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates (1921)Further Research
Women in most states could still not vote at the turn of the last century. The suffrage movement was stalled and icons such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were dead. So what turned things around? How did the movement revitalize itself to the point that, by 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed and women’s suffrage was the law of the land? Part of the answer lies with two women from Long Island.
On this episode we talk with Jane Swersey about her research into the lives of Rosalie Gardiner Jones of Oyster Bay and Ida Bunce Sammis of Cold Spring Harbor. Each took a different path and tactic in supporting the suffrage movement. Jones created inspired marketing opportunities like the Suffrage Hike to Albany in 1912 while Sammis worked through local organizations, becoming one of the first women elected to the New York State Assembly in 1918.
You’ll also hear abut the influence of the British suffrage movement, the difference between suffragists and suffragettes, and other luminaries such as Elisabeth Freeman, Alice Paul, and Lucy Burns. Jane also reflects on her experience teaching history in Long Island high schools for thirty-four years. Are students today more aware of the role of women in history? Listen to find out.
Cut to: Shoreham Nuclear Power Station #1. It’s the 1970s and the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) is building the first of up to eleven proposed nuclear power plants, poised to turn Long Island into a “nuclear park.” After working at the Long Island Press until its demise in 1977, Karl covers the LILCO story through local papers like the Long Island Advance, the Suffolk County News, the Southampton Press and the East Hampton Star.
In addition to Karl, the story is also being followed by Murray Barbash and Irving Like. Veterans of the Fire Island fight, Irv and Murray help form the Citizens Committee to Replace LILCO. Karl relates the various tactics they and others used to help thwart the completion of the Shoreham plant and bring about passage of the Long Island Power Act and the formation of the Long Island Power Authority.
Karl also shares his thoughts on the current state of journalism, electronic media, and what has and hasn’t changed on Long Island.
It’s 1962 and a Nor’easter has just torn through Long Island. In its wake is another storm, Long Island Parks Commissioner Robert Moses with his plan to build a road down the middle of Fire Island. It will stabilize the beach, he says. It will provide beauty and ease to the motorist, he says.
But local builder Murray Barbash notices that the road will run right through his new development of Dunewood, flattening it and pretty much anything else in its path (including Sunken Forest). Murray gets together with his brother-in-law Irving Like and the rest, if you don’t know already, is history.
Murray’s daughters Cathy and Susan knew the story but over the course of the last year they set about documenting that history. Sifting through a number of local and regional archives (including Dowling’s) they pieced together the saga of the road-that-never-was. On this episode you’ll hear from Cathy and Susan and their mother Lillian about how an unlikely coalition of Long Island “vigilantes” outwitted and outlasted the great Robert Moses.
You can soon see Cathy’s and Susan’s research for yourself when the exhibit they created is permanently installed with Seatuck at the Suffolk County Environmental Center in Islip. For now, use the handy scorecard below to keep track of who’s who in this gripping story of intrigue and power set against the natural beauty of Fire Island.
Many thanks to the Barbash family for sharing their time, memories and photos.
Scorecard for this Episode
The Long Island “Vigilantes”
Murray Barbash: builder with an eye for beauty, developer of Dunewood
Lillian Barbash: his wife
Irving Like: indomitable lawyer and Murray’s brother-in-law
Paul Townsend: “The Wizard,” publisher of the Long Island Business News
Robert Cushman Murphy: the tallest ornithologist in the world
Robert Moses: New York’s [insert your own adjective] Master Builder
Nelson Rockefeller: the not-to-be-bullied Governor of New York
Laurance Rockefeller: Nelson’s brother and noted conservationist
Long Island’s Legislators
Stuyvesant Wainwright: Congressman from New York’s 1st District, proposed a Fire Island National Seashore when no one was looking
Otis Pike: wins Wainwright’s seat with Moses’ backing, becomes reluctant sponsor of the Fire Island National Seashore bill
Stewart Udall – Secretary of the Interior, consummate insider and good guy
President John F. Kennedy: wanted National Parks in the East, dammit
Charles Collingwood: Saltaire resident and CBS newsman
Wolcott Gibbs: writer for the New Yorker and Fire Island playwright
Teddy White: Fair Harbor resident and chronicler of presidents
Julius Monk: New York cabaret impresario whom we have to thank for the classic “Slow Down Moses”
Suffolk County Historian Peter Fox Cohalan is back in session for part two of our interview. This week we get deeper into the history of Islip, traveling all the way from the bottom of the Bay (and who really owned it) back to Islip, England and the ancestral home of the Nicoll family.
We also get Peter Fox’s insight into historic preservation at the local and regional levels as well as the unique situations that can arise on Long Island.
Finally, we’ll hear about the work of the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation. As a board member, Peter Fox is involved in helping the Foundation support the study and preservation of New York history with a focus on Islip and Suffolk County.
Peter Fox Cohalan was named Suffolk County Historian in 2012 but in many ways he’s been preparing for the role his whole life. In fact, the Cohalans and history go way back. The first Cohalan in America arrived with Lafayette during the Revolution. One branch of the family led to a Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall, another to the first Catholic priest on Long Island. In his own storied career, Peter Fox has been Islip Town Supervisor, Suffolk County Executive, and State Supreme Court Judge (one of five Cohalans -including his father- to reach that position.)
With the historian’s eye for detail and the Irishman’s gift for storytelling, Peter Fox can discuss the Sayville of his youth as easily as the quarrels of the early Federalists. On this episode of the Project he recounts the Sayville of the 1930s and ’40s along with his father’s time as coach at the La Salle Military Academy in Oakdale. We’ll also hear about preservation efforts he spearheaded (like the Islip Grange in Sayville) as well as his family’s connections to the unforgettable Robert David Lion Gardiner.
James Foote has some pretty big shoes to fill but he’s been pulling it off effortlessly for decades. Starting with a close resemblance to the 26th President of the United States and adding a passion for research, James has built a career as one of the most sought-after Theodore Roosevelt re-enactors in the country. He’s portrayed Teddy at corporate events, on river boats, at the White House, and most fittingly, at the christening of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
In this interview with Connie Currie and Chris Kretz, you’ll hear how James approaches his role, the research he’s undertaken, and how he’s learned to handle everything from hecklers to heart attacks. We also discuss Theodore Roosevelt’s life, his connections to Long Island, and his enduring place in the American memory. Running time 47:43.
And mark your calendars! On Sunday, July 12th, 2015, Sagamore Hill will reopen to the public after a major three-year renovation project. James Foote will be part of the celebration at “the Summer White House” in Oyster Bay.