PORT WASHINGTON COMMUNITY ORAL
THE REMINISCENCES OF CHARLES HENDERSON
The following interview is one of a series of tape-recorded
memoirs in the Port Washington Public Library Community Oral History
Program. This series was developed in order to systematically gather
historical information about the important themes in Port Washington's
history from before the turn of the century until the present time.
This interview focuses on sandmining in Port Washington, and was part
of a New York Council for the Humanities Project, "Sands of Port,"
conducted by the Public Library in 1981-82.
This interview was conducted for the Port Washington Public Library
by Elly Shodell with Charles Henderson on January 12, 1982.
The reader is asked to bear in mind that he is reading a transcript
of the spoken, rather than the written, word. Editorial corrections
have been inserted by hand, when required, to help preserve the authenticity
of the verbatim transcript. Permission to quote for publication must
be obtained from the Port Washington Public Library or from the oral
authors, their heirs or forebears.
Port Washington Public Library
Oral History Program Director
Funded by the New York Council for the Humanities
(c)PORT WASHINGTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
Charles Henderson(CH) interviewed by Elly
Shodell(ES), January 12, 1982
Click here for index
ES: I wanted to ask you to describe the
area that you live in.
CH: Well, I was born and raised in Henderson
Avenue. That avenue was named after my grandfather. He was a builder
in Port Washington. I lived up there and I attended the old Sands Point
School which is gone now. And, at fourteen years old I had to get out
of school and go to work and help my father working for Mr. John Wagner
on the farm. And walking behind a team of horses all day plowin'. So
that's the way I started was on a farm.
ES: Can you describe Henderson Avenue?
CH: Well, my grandfather owned the property
around Henderson Avenue, Number 3, Number 5, and so on up. And I guess
there was nothing but a cow path through there, you might say. And,
of course, he built Henderson Avenue and built a series of houses up
there. Also on Avenue B and Avenue A.
ES: Do you remember what Henderson Avenue
CH: Well, when I was a boy, maybe seven,
eight years old, it was a dirt road, very narrow.
ES: How many houses?
CH: Oh, he must've had at least ten or
twelve houses in that area. He owned from Avenue A right across to Henderson
ES: What was his occupation?
CH: He was a carpenter and builder. He
done quite a bit of building around the old places in Sands Point. And
also up in Port Washington.
ES: What was his connection with the sandbanks?
CH: He had no connection with the sandbanks
at all. My grandfather he was just a builder.
ES: Did he use any of the materials from
CH: Well, I would imagine they used material
in them days you'd call ordinary "bank run." He would go in
the sandbank and it wasn't screened, it was gravel, sand and grit 'n
everything was mixed together. And they poured foundations out of that.
In fact, the house I live in in Mill Pond Road, that foundation is poured
out of "bank run." See, that's the way they did it years ago.
ES: And could anyone go and get this "bank
CH: If you dug a cellar for a house all
up there, if you would dig through a couple of feet of topsoil, then
you'd begin to go into the sand and gravel. So, they'd use that sand
and gravel out of the cellar to pour the foundation. See? So it didn't
cost 'em anything for sand and gravel. You know what I mean?
ES: How did the sand and gravel companies
fit into that?
CH: When he was in building, when I was
a child, there was sand land gravel companies around. I can name a few
of them, if you'd like. Manorhaven, that was the Goodwin Sand and Gravel
Corporation. They mined all of Manorhaven. Now Manorhaven Boulevard,
if I remember right, was nothing but a dirt road. And everything in
them days was mined with a steam shovel. And they had locomotives to
tow the cars back and forth. And somebody... I don't know where it was
started... they was given the name of a "dinky." In other
words, that was a steam locomotive. It was a small thing. Just a four-wheel
drive steam engine. Now I remember trains going across Manorhaven Boulevard
when I was a kid. Back in the bank, the steam locomotive, it would take
the cars back to the steam shovel and they would load it. Well, that
steam locomotive pulled them cars in them days. But going across the
road, the steam locomotives would push them cars in front. Now out along
where town park is, there was what you call, like two ferry slips in
there, and overhead was a crack. The locomotives would push the cars
out, the barge would be in the ferry slip and then the bottom of the
car would open up
and dump the sand on the scow. Now that was Goodwin sand bank.
ES: Where did the sand go?
CH: It went to New York.
ES: Do you know where in New York?
CH: No, I don't know where. I guess all
parts of New York. In the old days, they used to call this area "Cow
Bay Sand" because it was noted as "Cow Bay" one time.
ES: When you were young, how did it feel
going to see the sand bank operation?
CH: When I was around ten years old, we
used to hitch a ride on the express wagon where the man delivered express
down there, on the tail board. And that place, you might say, had two,
three or four steam locomotives probably used like the steel mills in
Pittsburgh, you know? There was quite a bit of smoke around in them
ES: What year would you place that in?
CH: Oh, 1902. I'd say maybe 1911 or '12.
I was born in 1902.
ES: Did you have any friends who worked
CH: The only way you would get to know
them is to give a friendly wave to them; I didn't know their names.
I knew a man in town, his name was Ed Bedell (?). And if I remember
right he used to run one of them steam engines. I think he run one in
the old Crescent Sandbank. Now, down at Philip Sousa School on Cow Neck
Road, a concrete bridge goes under the Sands Point Road. That bridge
was built and they started to dig out that property where Philip Sousa
School is. And for some reason or other, they stopped. In other words,
it was all mined out.
ES: Who was "they?"
CH: I don't know if it was the Town of
North Hempstead or a company that gave up digging there and went out
ES: Do you remember anything about a "sand
trust" in the 1920s, a group of citizens opposed to the sand mining
operations? It was written up in the Port Washington News.
CH: No. I don't remember anything like
that going on. The Crescent Sand Company was about between Albert Wood
and Five Sons and Thompson Industry. There was the same thing there
in that creek going up past Lewis Oil Company.
ES: Was that Sheet's Creek?
CH: Sheet's Creek. Yeah I think it was.
They had the same thing there. Where the scow would go in like a ferry
slip and there used to be a concrete abutment across the road where
Thompson is. And one on the other side of Old Shore Road. And the tracks
run off on top of that. And the locomotives would push the cars which
would dump the sand on the barges, or scows, whatever you want to call
'em. We always called 'em scows. And they would dump and do the same
thing. Now back, just beyond the wall, there was a second track and
that would come up like a double track. My brother, Perry, used to tend
the switch there, that would switch the locomotive from one track to
the other. See? And they would go back and forth and dump sand on them,
and gravel, what they called "grit," see?
ES: How old was your brother, Perry, when
he worked there?
CH: Oh, I would say he was 18, 19 years
ES: Did he enjoy what he did?
CH: Yeah, oh yeah. It was work in them
days. He was a carpenter in town. After awhile, he went into the carpenter
business. And he done quite a bit of work around Port Washington...
Now, up in the banks, there was what they called the "bullring"
in there. The track was a circular track going around the bank. One
locomotive would be down to shovel for two cars or three. They'd load
them three cars. He'd start out, come up to the hopper to dump it in,
the other locomotive would be down behind him loading up the shovel
while he was dumping in the hopper. You see? And that's what they called
it, the "bullring."
ES: It sounds like dangerous work.
CH: Well, you had to know your 'ps and
'qs as to what you were doing. You couldn't go too fast. I doubt if
they'd go five, ten miles an hour. They only went very easy.
ES: Did the men work all year 'round?
CH: Oh, yeah. In fact the bay used to
get froze over with ice, I remember twelve, fourteen inches of ice on
Manhasset Bay when I was a kid. And there used to be a tug that came
in, they called it "the little wonder." And that thing would
break the ice in the channel from Sands Point, Plum Point out there.
The tug belonged to whoever the towing outfit was for the sand company.
They had to be very careful in them days, because ice and wood didn't
mix. A sand scow is nothing but emptiness in the bottom of the hull.
It was only deck loaded, you see. So you had to be very careful of the
hull. The wood, I would say, the side and the bow was about six inches
ES: How much sand did the scows hold?
CH: Oh, they'd hold about... well, three,
four hundred yards of sand on the deck.
ES: How many times a day did they go back
CH: I don't know really. They'd have maybe
four or five scows in there you know. And then the tug would come in
and pick up the four while they were loading the other three, just the
same as they do down here on Shore Road now. It was quite interesting
in them days.
ES: Were there any other companies that
CH: Oh, yeah. Let me go back. That sand
bank there, I don't really know how much they had taken out of there.
Where Soundview Village is was a farm that I used to work on for John
Wagner; that was all farm lots up there. Near about where King Kullen
market is, we used to go up a hill. We used to drive a team of horses
up a dirt road to get it up to the farm. It was farm there from, I would
say, where Soundview Drug Store is all the way to the Sands Point Golf
Club. That was all farm lots up in there.
ES: What happened to those farms?
CH: Well, they got in there and dug 'em
all out. That was another sandpit. And they finished. Now, under Pleasant
Avenue there was a belt conveyor somewhere near Lewis Oil Company tanks;
there was a concrete thing back there with about five bins in it. And
that belt conveyor used to load, and I think the sand screens was on
top. And they'd separate the dry sand, gravel, grit, and wet sand, that's
washed sand, see? And that belt used to come from down where Publishers
Clearing House is, in that area, and that was all dug out there.
ES: Did you ever stand back and look at
the sandbanks? What did you think?
CH: Well, in fact, when I went to work
at the Land Improvement, let's go into this one now. It was called the
Land Improvement and Development Corporation. It's main office was in
Pittsburgh. Where the sewer plant is now, that was a big long tunnel
in through there. We had two tractor trailers and four trucks and I
used to drive one of the tractor trailers. There was another man drove
the other one, name of Bernard Dykes, a friend of mine. And we used
to haul sand down Mill Pond Road and go in right near where Lee Johnson
lives. And there was a hopper right there. And there was a motor house
in back, right near Mill Pond Road. That ran a short belt back up to
Gildo's Old Shore Hotel. That discharged on to another belt and that
belt went out across the road. Up high there was a trestle that crossed
Shore Road. There was another big motor house out there. That belt was
about three feet wide and, if I remember right, altogether there was
1180' of belt there on that dock. That dock was up in the air. It was
as high as Aron's (?) boatyard roof. They took that down when they built
that boatyard in there. Of course, on the end of the dock, the belt
used to dump into a long shoot. It was about eight or ten feet long.
And you would control in shore, or out shore on a barge. And then they'd
move the barge along with a "windress."
ES: What is a "windress?"
CH: A windress. An electric motored windress.
They'd wrap the rope around there around three or four times and they'd
pull the barge along when they wanted more room to load the sand. And
that's the way they used to load the sand. The scows used to be down,
well along there there was pilings in the water and they tied the empty
scows up to them. And then there were pilings out the other way where
they'd tie the loaded scows. They'd load one, then (they) could put
a line on the other one, bring that in and load that. Now that bank...
if I remember right, there was a big railroad shovel, what they called
a railroad shovel; it was on railroad tracks. And it was quite a long
shovel, I'd say thirty feet long. And there was three men operating
that shovel. The fireman, the engineer, and a crane man on the bucket.
The crane man would, when they dump their bucket out into the car, the
engineer would swing it around and bring it back, he'd bring that bucket
in right up against the boom and then when they get around to dig, he'd
push it out and it was a what you called a "crowding" engine,
that's what it was. And he'd crowd that bucket into the sand and the
engineer would lift it up, to bring it around, see? And that steam shovel,
if I remember right, come in on a barge, and was loaded on the town
dock right down here, it was brought up Main Street and around Bayles
corner, down Shore Road to Harbor Road and up on the sand bank, all
on track. They'd bring it along on a
section of track. Stop it. Take the other section of track in the back.
Bring it around in front. Hook it up to that one. Then they'd move ahead
again, and so forth. Now, they had two locomotives in there. How they
brought them in I don't quite remember. But there was two, little four-wheel
drive locomotives. Now, somewhere arounds, there was a man worked in
the office, lived up on Carlton Avenue, name of Burt Lawrence. Now,
whether his family is around or not I don't know. And he used to have
some photographs of locomotives.
ES: I want to get back to your tractor
trailer experiences. What years did you drive the tractor trailer?
CH: In the '20s, '25, '26, '27.
ES: How did you get that job?
CH: I applied for it. And got it. You didn't
need any Class 1 license or anything in them days. You just got on the
ES: And your brother?
CH: My brother worked in the old Crescent
sandbank. He never worked... My father worked in one of the machine
shops at one time, but that's another one.
ES: Who owned the Land Improvement Company?
CH: It was the Land Improvement and Supply
Company, they called themselves.
ES: Was it a New York firm?
CH: No. The main office was in Pittsburgh.
How they came out here and acquired that land I don't know.
ES: How many men did they employ?
CH: Oh, there was quite a few men in there.
There was two locomotive engineers, three men on the shovel, and there
was bank men, then there was a man on a hopper that used to take care
of the cars when I come up and dump 'em, and so forth. And then the
belt used to go from there up over the top where the tunnel is there
and that would dump into a series of screens.
ES: Were there men working the screens?
CH: Yeah. There was men up in there too...
I don't know what you'd call 'em. Just a job attending the screens.
ES: What was considered the most dangerous
CH: The most dangerous job in the bank
was the cavemen. They had a long pole and when a steam shovel bucket
would dig into a bank, 'course the bank wouldn't come down by itself.
There was one man on one side and one on the other and they had a light
pole, maybe 25-30 feet long with a spear on the end. And they cave,
you see. Those men would poke that spear in under that sand and cave
it down. I'd say that was the more dangerous job in the bank. But they
had to be very careful.
ES: Did the Land Improvement Company have
CH: They was mostly Italian men in them
ES: How many hours a day did you work?
CH: I think it was nine hours a day.
ES: Can you describe your day?
CH: Well, we started, I think, at 7 o'clock.
We had the trailers parked on the side of Pleasant Avenue. And the trucks
parked there too. The first thing you had to do was turn the ignition
switch on, get out in front and crank 'em. You didn't have no self-starter
or nothing in them days. Then we'd start. And in the tunnel there was
a series of gates
with a handle on it you, you know. And there was a man worked in that
tunnel. You'd come down and you'd stop the cab. There was an arrow on
the wall. Then the buckets would be directly under the gate. He'd pull
'em two levers and they was tied together. He would load the two buckets
on the trailer alone. There was like a "v" bucket thing, you
know. It was set on a half roller with pins in it. And when we used
to come down to the hopper, there was a man down there working. And
on the side was a chain with a big piece of steel and an eye and it
would dump the bucket, because they were balanced, you know.
ES: How many loads a day would you do?
CH: Oh, my God, I don't know. Maybe we'd
make sixty, seventy, eighty loads a day down there. Each load was ten
yards, five yards in each bucket. And then the trucks was five yards
ES: What were your wages?
CH: It wasn't too much.' I don't remember
what we used to get.' Ah, you got twenty-five, thirty bucks a week you
was lucky. Yep. In them days.
ES: Was that enough to live on?
CH: Oh, God, you could live like a king.
Sugar was five cents a pound, porkchops might be fifteen cents.
ES: How much did the sand sell for?
CH: I don't know. I don't think it was
much more. Maybe a dollar and a half to two dollars a yard, maybe less.
Maybe a dollar a yard. 'Cause that was bulk, see?
ES: How did you feel about your work?
CH: It was alright. I enjoyed it.
ES: What did you like about it?
CH: Well, driving the trailer. And, of
course, when you were in the tunnel, all you did was drive through water.
Leaking through the gates, you know, coming down the gravel pen and
the grit and the wet sand bank.
ES: Was your health affected?
CH: No, no. I feel alright. And I tell
you, you'd never believe it, but I drove a trailer up and down Mill
Pond Road, one of them big trailers, and never known what it was to
have a brake on it. You had a five-speed transmission and when you got
down to the end of Mill Pond Road,
you'd go up a little ramp, to go past Lee Johnson's little house. You
gauged your speed. And up at the end where you stopped was a 12 x 12
timber and you go slow enough and your front wheels would hit that timber
and stop. And then when you backed off the hopper, you had to be very
careful what you were doing 'cause you had to back off and then swing
your trailer around towards Shore Road and get it straightened out to
go up Mill Pond Road again.
ES: How come there were no brakes?
CH: They couldn't keep 'em on. The sand.
There was open drums. The drum and brake shoe was wide open. And that
wet sand used to get in there and chew the lining right off.
ES: And there were no accidents?
CH: Well, there wasn't any traffic in
them days. You might see a car coming once an hour, an old Model T Ford.
CH: Mostly all of us in them days were
friends. You never had any trouble with anybody. In fact, when a scow
was loaded and there wasn't anymore, we'd get laid off for the day and
I used to get on a locomotive with Gale Steiner and I'd run her up and
down the track with the two cars. I was a railroad engineer. (laughter)
So, you learn everything. And then after a while they had a Bosiris-Erie(?)
diesel shovel come in there. That was run by a diesel engine. Dick Steiner
(sic) used to run that. And once in a while I'd get on that. And in
the wintertime the sandbank would shut down. Very little scow loading
was done. And then, that's when all the overhauling come in, see? Rebuilding
the washer, and him and I used to work on that shovel, I think it was
a big heavy 100 power, horse power diesel. And we'd overhaul that from
A to Z. And get that in order.
ES: Was there a foreman?
CH: Oh, yeah. We had a foreman and a superintendent
of the bank. And Ed Tailfero was the foreman. He used to live up in
Port Washington Park. But we got along. We done our work.
ES: Was there ever any desire for a union?
CH: Union? You never heard of a union
in them days. There was no such thing. The only thing in them days might
be the carpenters' union. Their headquarters was here on Washington
Street, one of the old buildings there. They called it the Mechanics
Hall. Just this side of the Protection Engine Company. My father belonged
to that. What could you do with four dollars a day as a carpenter? Now,
if you don't think that was rough living with six kids in the family,
three boys and three girls, and him making four dollars a day.
ES: Where did you live at the time you
drove the tractor trailer?
CH: I lived, let's see, I got married at
that time. I lived in Manhasset, I know. And then the people moved out
of Lee Johnson's little house, number 5, and then I rented that house
from the company. So I lived in a company house and drove the trailer.
ES: What was the rent?
CH: I was paying thirty dollars a month.
And then we got out of work, I couldn't pay no rent so the company went
along with it and they cut my rent down to fifteen dollars a month and
I told 'em with God's help I would pay them every nickel I owed 'em.
And I couldn't pay fifteen dollars so they cut it down to five.
That's when the sandbank shut down. Then I wound up on the WPA for
the Long Island State Park Company for twelve dollars a week, 1931,
I think. 'Cause '29 the Crash come, you know. That's when you broke
up a lot of old friends. Yup.
ES: What other benefits did the company
offer aside from the housing?
CH: Nothin'. You had no benefits in them
ES: What kind of social activities, like
CH: You might get together with friends,
that's all. Have a talk or a little meeting. You had all you could do
to take care of your family. I had two children.
ES: How did you have to be to work in the
CH: To work in the sand, you had to be
a well, able-bodied man. Because besides driving a trailer, there was
labor work up at the banks: moving the track for the locomotive engineer,
and moving the track for the steam shovel. Now the new shovel was on
a catch, you know, like a tractor so you didn't have to move anything
on that, only the track for the locomotive to run on. And you had odd
jobs in the bank. Like when the scows was loaded. I was sent
down one time to tend a switch, one locomotive was coming on one side,
and one locomotive on the other. And they'd do that for awhile. Then,
I don't know what happened, but a fella was firing the boiler, the crane
man, I think he quit, or something like that, and a fireman was put
up onto the crane boom and I was elected to fire the boiler and didn't
know how to fire the boiler any more than I could fire here to the moon.
(laughter) But anyhow, I did it. And you learned a lot of things to
do. Tractor trailer. Once in a while, like I said, you run the locomotive
up and down. And I used to work in the shop with the mechanic, the trucks,
and moving track. That is where the development is dug out on Sandy
Hollow Road. And then they went around the old cemetery up on the hill.
And went back toward Cow Bay Apartments, up there, you know? You would
take and pick out the side of a bank, and it would be quite long...
like from here up to Knowles. And the steam shovel would go along and
dig all that sand out in one cut. Maybe they'd make a cut of say twenty-five
or thirty feet. And then he'd have to back the shovel down, we'd have
to shove the track over toward the bank, and then he'd come back in,
start another cut. And you made one cut after the other, see. 'Til it
was dug out.
ES: When you saw the sandbank, was it
CH: No. You thought nothing of it. It
was a sandbank, that's all. Yup, I'd say the bank, it was thirty or
forty or fifty feet high from the bottom.
ES: How did you feel when you looked up?
CH: Nothin'. The only time I got more or
less fear of heights is when we were rebuilding the washer. We'd have
to rebuild that whole thing out of 12 x 12 timbers. Now that's twelve
inches square. And to walk one of them beams for twenty-five, thirty
feet, I'd get down on my hands and knees and crawl across there. I wasn't
about to stand up. And, of course, you were looking down. Fifty feet
ES: How do you feel when you pass by all
CH: Well, you kind of remember back. The
sandbank was there. And you worked back in there. Like where Lion's
Field is. That was all sandbank.
ES: Did you ever think the sandbanks were
CH: Well, if you go down to Shore Road,
where the County owns all that park, it's going back to nature and things
have grown up after they dug the sand out and everything.
In fact, where the landfill is, I hope they didn't bury it up; there's
a tree growin' down there and I took a picture of it, it's ailanthus
tree. It come up out of the ground about four feet, it bent over, went
down about three feet, turned, and went straight back up again and growed.
I call it my crooked tree. You oughta see that thing. Now, down there...
ES: What were some of the happiest moments
you had working?
CH: It was all fairly good, you know. There
was no trouble in them days. You drove your trailer up and down the
road, come in the tunnel, the man loaded it and you went back down the
road again, then come back again for another load, that's all there
was to it... the Old Free Church, my grandfather built that church.
And then there's a little schoolhouse that goes through, that was boarded
up. I guess that was one of the first schoolhouses in Port Washington.
I have an old school book from around one hundred years ago. And there's
two names in it. James L. Kelly and Minnie Dodge. Whether that's Marie
Dodge's great-grandmother, I don't know. Probably could be. Or her grandmother.
ES: What do you think the meaning of the
sandbanks is to the history of Port Washington?
CH: Well, you could say that Cow Bay,
or Port Washington, was noted for Cow Bay sand, which was one of the
finest sands in this area. Once in a while you would get into hardpan,
or clay. Now if you mixed that with sand, you might as well put that
down in the dump somewhere, because it was no good. And Cow Bay was
noted for Cow Bay sand.
ES: Is it important for the young to know
the history of the sandbanks?
CH: It would be, yes.
ES: What did you feel when you heard the
library was doing a program on the sandbanks?
CH: Well, Lee Johnson told me that you
would like to talk to me on it, that's the only thing I knew about it...
out across from Smull Place in the bay, there's a pile of rock out there,
and it's into the piling out there, in a square form. That was a sandbank.
There was a sand hopper out there that used to load the scows, one on
ES: What company?
CH: That was the Titus Sand and Gravel
Corporation. They dug out the little bank behind Lewis Oil, back to
the Montessori School. I didn't work in that one. If you take where
the town garage is in Smull Place, that used to be the machine shop
for that sandbank.
My father worked in there with a man named Will Lockman. And what they
did is they made the screens in that machine shop.
ES: Was one company considered better than
another to work for?
CH: No, no, I don't think so. People in
them days more or less worked together. You know what I mean? You had
your job, and each man done his job, and once in a while you'd be bound
to be sent out to help do something and you done it. There was no squabble
about it, or anything. The only thing was with Dykes. I used to get
ahead of him every once in a while and then he'd get a little peeved
at me (laughs). It was fun. (Re-tells "no brake"stories).
The little office for the sandbank used to be right on the corner where
the model boat yacht club used to be, up further, right on the corner.
ES: What was in the office?
CH: Well, Burt Lawrence worked in there
as a secretary, or whatever, and Mr. Wilson was the superintendent.
ES: Laura told me that you found some
fossils under your house.
CH: Well, in them days there was no garbage
collection like there is today. You only buried the bottles and cans.
There wasn't much garbage, 'cause what mama cooked today was made into
hash tomorrow. Now I would imagine that Manhasset Bay, if a fellow was
to go out there with a clam rake, he'd rake up some old bottles. And
if you dug around Henderson Avenue, you would find old bottles.
ES: Did the Land Improvement Company really
improve the land?
CH: Oh, yeah. Look at the nice development
they have in there now. And Soundview Village.
ES: What would you like to see done with
the twelve hundred acres on the other side of Port Washington?
CH: Down in Shore Road? Well, I often
thought about it. The County, I understand, is gonna build a golf course
in there when they get around to it... I think the County should build
some pre-fab houses down there, get in some tomato plants, and it would
make a beautiful senior citizens little housing in there. Do we need
more golf courses? That's what I'd do with it if I had my way, yeah.
CH: I remember in Baxter Estates when
they dug that out, it had something to do with wheelbarrows. Now if
you go down Shadyside Avenue, when the tide is out, you will see some
pilings stickin' up out of the dirt. That used to be the old Baxter
Estates loading dock for the scows. That's where they used to load the
scows when they dug up Baxter Estates. That was another little sandbank.
That was quite a beautiful dock to go swimming off. Of course, this
Shore Road is a four-lane highway. When I remember that, it was a wagon
path. One wagon was wide enough to pass one horse and wagon coming up
or down. Capi Thatcher (?), first he brought in an old ship, sunken...
(Discusses technicalities of eight auto cars which came in after tractor
CH: The company wanted to built a belt
under Mill Pond Road when the trucks got old. (Someone objected) so
new auto cars were brought in. You drove one of 'em up and down Mill
Pond Road; they had a double differential. When you drove up and down
Mill Pond Road, you couldn't hear yourself think, with them rear ends
growling on them autocars. He'd have been better off, and everybody
on Mill Pond Road would've been better off if they let the company build
the belt down there. And it would have only been there maybe three or
I remember one time our foreman come out, and he was a hustler, I tell
you. And he come out down the hopper to the walkway across. "Jimmy,"
he used to call me "Jimmy," "you're gonna make a few
more loads down the corner, it's OK." So I'd rouse it up a little
bit, Dykes would have to rouse it up a little bit. Well, I made three
loads and he got in on the other side of the cab to ride up to the sandbank
with me and I says, "Well, Ed, I'll make a few loads," kidding
around, you know. And when I come up the road, and went in that road
to go through that tunnel I was moving. He looked at me, looked at that
tunnel, looked at me, and looked at that tunnel, as if I was gonna make
it or not. I got down to the end loading dry sand, whadya think he said
to me? "Jimmy," he says, "you better slow down comin'
in there." First he wants you to speed up, then slow down. You
see what I'm trying to tell you? It was fun in the old days. You knew
what you was doing. I knew a tractor trailer from A to Z.
ES: How did you learn to drive the locomotive?
CH: I knew the engineer, a very good friend
of mine, and I got on the locomotive with him and I had a set of engineer's
and mechanic's guides, which I have home yet. And I read 'em and read
'em and read 'em. So I got in and took the thing back to the shovel.
And I got in and, of course, you have three controls, what they call
the Johnson bar, in backwards, you had your rear brake on the side of
the locomotive cab and then, of course, you had the throttle. I pulled
the Johnson bar back, let the air brake off, pulled the throttle out
and started down the sandbank. The engineer wanted to know how I learned
to run a locomotive. I went through all the actions as you would in
one of 'em books. I run it quite a few times with him after that.
(Description of diesel engine)
ES: Who ordered the equipment that was
CH: The superintendent or the main office
in Pittsburgh. Through the foreman, then the superintendent.
ES: How did you know the main office was
CH: I knew it from working for the company.
There were two bosses used to come out, Mr. Trowers (?) and Mr. Brewer.
In fact he and my Uncle William was once in the office talking to Mr.
Wilson and he was there and they got to talking about me being out of
work and he said, "Before I see that boy move out of that house,
I'll give it to him rent free." And I owed him $450 and I paid
every nickel back to the company. And when I was working for twelve
dollars a week, I'd pay him a month's rent every once in a while. It
was a nice little house.
ES: Can you describe it?
CH: It was two rooms downstairs, and three
rooms upstairs, two bedrooms and a big bedroom in front. And then after
that there was a man boarder and he took a small bedroom and made a
bathroom, No. 5 Mill Pond Road.
ES: When the two bosses visited from Pittsburgh,
what did they do?
CH: To look the sandbank over, general
construction, talk about what was going on and what had to be done,
and so forth and so on.
ES: How often did they come?
CH: Not too often. Everything was going
good. And Mr. Wilson would send reports. When they'd come would be in
the fall of the year when the repairs was going on; everything had to
be overhauled, gravel screens fixed, sand screen. When that belt come
up on the hopper, the first screen it went through was what they called
a scalper screen. That took 4, 5, 6 inch cobblestones out. What went
through that screen was sand, gravel and grit. The sand, all that would
go out over the dry sand screen and a man used to work on that sweeping,
with a big broom, to keep 'em free. Then it went from there into the
gravel screen and then the gravel used to come out, that would go from
there into another, smaller screen and that would separate the little
grit and then from there the gravel was washed in steady running water,
one of 'em went into the wet sand bin. Now that was built like two tanks
and the water and sand used to go in there. The good sand would settle
to the bottom and whatever bit of topsoil or clay was flowing on top
of the water would go down into the reclaim basin. There was a regular
lake down there, full of water. The gravel screens were rotary screens.
We used to go up there and watch them.
ES: Were the men proud of what they produced?
CH: Oh, yeah. Nice gravel, nice sand.
Now the washed sand was always wet. There were two or three men used
to level off the scows. Where the sand dumped on there'd be little hills
They'd have to level that all off, strip it down the side, like that,
so it would look nice going into New York. But they don't do that no
more. They just load 'em and leave 'em go at that. There were two or
three men down there doing that, beside Mr. John Goodwin. He was a nice
ES: Did you know what the sand was being
CH: Oh, sure. Poured concrete, gravel,
puttin' some of the old buildings down there in New York, Brooklyn,
Long Island City. Some of it used to go up in Mamaroneck, up in there.
It went all around, you know. I used to see it when I worked on a tug
at Lewis going down with a barge for oil. Then you'd see some of the
sand scows. Down below the Whitestone Bridge or in the Whitestone Bridge
area. There was what they called a stake boat in there. That was anchored
on an enormous hunk of concrete. The sand scows would go out of Port
Washington, go the stake boat and be all tied up. And then, as they
got an order for a scow load of sand, they'd come up there and pick
it up and take it to the dock where they had to unload it. A scow is,
I'd say, nine or ten foot deep out of the water. And when they were
loaded, it was almost to the marine line, decks too. There was only
about a foot out of water. Five, six hundred yards of sand was on top.
We had one down there, the Olive Wilson, that Mr. Wilson owned, that
held seven hundred forty yards of sand. Yup.
ES: Was there any pattern to naming the
CH: They all had names.
ES: Did the names have a meaning?
CH: They was named after, probably, family,
friends, daughters, fathers. Now the Olive Wilson, I think, was named
after Mrs. Wilson. The Christy-8 used to come in. I don't know if they
had a few named after the owners of the bank or not. And, of course,
they all had a number that was cut out with a chisel. Now, people used
to live on these things. There was a regular cabin on the back, with
a cook stove an everything in there.
ES: Was that considered a good job to have?
CH: Oh, yeah. There was a man there by
the name of Fred. He was on a scow for years. What they had to be careful
of is, they had lifeboats on top, going from Port Washington or up from
Hempstead Harbor down through Long Island Sound. If you had a storm
come up, or had any
wind, and big waves could wash that sand overboard, which some of 'em
did. What they had to be careful of is turning the scow bottom side
up. I've seen 'em turned upside down. In fact, two of 'em came into
our dock turned upside down. And they took 'em over to the Town Dock
and they brought a crane down there and you take a cable, go down underneath
the scow all underneath and come up the other side and then there was
two big enormous steel hooks in L shape and that was hooked to the cable.
Two men would bring that up, the crane would start to lift and the scow
would start to tip and then they'd get her up so far. All of a sudden,
the wind suction would come out of the scow and "vroom," she'd
roll over on the fore (laughter).
ES: What did the scow captain do?
CH: If he went overboard, a tug would get
ES: Were there any songs connected to the
CH: No, I don't remember any songs.
ES: What about nicknames?
CH: No, not that I remember. When you
mentioned Dykes, you mentioned "Dyksie." My name was Charles
Henderson, but they called me "Jim," or "Jimmy."
ES: I want to get your chronology again.
CH: My grandfather hauled horses; my father
went into the concrete business. He used to manufacture concrete blocks
and in order to get the sand for the blocks, before we start to buy
any, we dug holes out in the backyard and went down underneath. There
was beautiful sand and gravel down in there. And we screened that, on
a hand screen. That was in '24, '25, '23 maybe, '21.
ES: We were talking about McCormack before...
They don't need cavers anymore?
CH: The old Colonial sandbank, which is
now McCormack, now back in the bank they have a big crane back there,
it's diesel operated, everything's diesel today. And there's a drag
line bucket on it. They pitch this bucket back in the sand, the front
cable pulls it, they slack the back cable off, loads it up with sand,
it holds a good three or four yards.
Then that pulling cable lifts it up in the front, the man lifts up
the back cable along with it, like tipped a ``little bit off level,
he swings that around and he dumps that in the hopper. And there's a
big screen on top of that hopper to take the big cobblestone out, so
that they don't go down on the belt. Then there's a belt underneath
that hopper and I think, I'd be willing to bet, that that belt must
be three quarters of a mile long down there. And then that sand comes
from there up into the washer, and then it's all processed there, gravel,
sand, and so forth. If you could get somebody with a camera to go down
there, you have to ask permission, to take you back to that crane, take
a picture of that crane loading the sand. Then after you take a picture
of that long belt coming up to the plant, get a picture of it going
up to the washer, you'll have to have a flashgun there to go inside.
Then you take a picture of the sand dumping down on the screens, maybe
a little processing going on. Then you take a picture of a sand pile.
Turn around, walk right across Shore Road when the belts runnin' and
take a picture of the belt bringing the sand out to the scows. You go
near the dock and you see the sand coming out of the chute and dumping
onto the scows. Then after they get loaded, if you would go down to
Bar Beach, you will get a picture of a tugboat and three or four scows
going around Bar Beach. Then you say the sand is on the way to New York.
Or wherever. So here's your picture story on sand, see? Where it's
mined, where it's processed, where it's loaded, where it's towed out,
you could even get a picture in the County Park of a stake boat out
there. And that would be a nice sequenced story of pictures in the library.
You see what I'm after?
ES: Perfect. I'm taking you with me.
CH: And there's no more need for the cavers.
The black bucket takes care of that. The sand will cave down by itself.
ES: Thank you so much, Mr. Henderson, for
participating in this program.
CH: I'm glad to help you.
(More info on the Steiners - they had a place out in the back. Harry,
I think, used to sleep in the attic room, Dick and Gale had a room upstairs,
and Clarence had a building out in the back he built by himself. He
was living like a hobo. Right behind Lee Johnson's house. Right in the
backyard. Right near the hopper.)
ES: Did the foreman live in town?
CH: Yeah. He lived on Fairview Avenue.
Mr. Wilson lived on Longview Road... Joe Marino would sell coal to the
people living in the houses. He'd order it and they'd have to pay him
a dollar a ton extra. Everybody knew each other, not like today. Like
when the Dykes lived up on Avenue B next to my grandfather, Fred Davis
lived on the other side... my grandfather owned that house. Fred Davis,
he grew about three or four pigs every year. And there was an old colored
man living down on Harbor Road there, named Bob Mitchell. He was the
head hog killer in them days. And we'd cook 'em in Uncle Jake Cock's
Return to page 1
Avenue A (PW) 1, 2
Avenue B (PW) 1, 38
Bar Beach 36
Baxter Estates 27
Bayles corner (PW) 11
Berkel, Ed 5
Brewer, Mr. 30
"bull ring" 7
Carlton Avenue (PW) 12
Cocks, Jake 38
Colonial Sand Co. 35
Cow Bay sand 4, 24
Cow Neck Road (PW) 5
Crescent Sand Co. 5, 6, 12
Davis, Fred 38
Dodge, Marie 23
Dodge, Minnie 23
Dykes, Bernard 10, 25, 28, 38
Five Sons 6
Gildo's Shore Hotel 10
Goodwin, John 32
Goodwin Sand & Gravel Co. 3, 4
Harbor Road (PW) 11
Henderson Avenue (PW) 1, 2, 26
Henderson, Perry 6
Johnson, Lee 10, 17, 19, 24, 37
Kelly, James L. 23
Henderson, Charles (cont'd)
Land Improvement & Development Corp. (Pittsburgh) 10, 13, 26
Lawrence, Burt 12, 25
Lewis Oil Co. 6, 9, 24
Lion's Field 22
Lockman, Will 25
Main Street (PW) 11
Manhasset Bay 8, 26
Marino, Joe 38
McCormack Sand Co. 35
Mechanics Hall 19
Mill Pond Road (PW) 2, 10, 16, 17, 27, 30
Mitchell, Bob 38
Montessori School 24
North Hempstead, Town of 5
Old Free Church 23
Pleasant Avenue (PW) 9, 14
Plum Point 8
Port Washington News 5
Publishers Clearing House 9
Sands Point 2, 5, 8
Sands Point Golf Club 9
Sands Point School 1
Sandy Hollow Road (PW) 21
Sheet's Creek 6
Shore Road (PW) 8, 10, 11, 17, 22, 26, 36
Smull Place (PW) 24
Soundview Village 9, 26
Sousa School 5
Steiner, Dick 18, 37
Steiner, Gale 18, 37
Talifero, Ed 18
Thatcher, Capi 27
Thompson Industry 6
Titus Sand & Gravel Co. 24
Trowers (?), Mr. 30
Wagner, John 1
Wilson, Mr. 25, 30, 31, 38
Wilson, Olive 33
Wood, Albert 6