THE REMINISCENCES OF ELIZABETH SANTOLI
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PORT WASHINGTON COMMUNITY ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
PORT WASHINGTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
THE REMINISCENCES OF ELIZABETH SANTOLI
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 Washingtons 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
Dr. George Williams (with Adelia Williams) with Elizabeth Santoli in Port
Washington on April 13, 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
Interview and car tour with Elizabeth Santoli(ES)
by Dr. George Williams(GW), April 13, 1982.
Click here for index
GW: Tell us where we are right now.
ES: Right now we are down by the shipyard.
There was a road going up. It was called Kings Lane, and there were a
few homes in there.
GW: Do you know who lived there?
ES: I know the Carmichaels -- you may remember
them -- Margie Carmichael used to work in the bank in Port Washington.
And a little down further, up a hill, there were more homes. The Faiggiolis
lived there, the Nissanis...they all moved away when they started tearing
them down... this end first. I cant remember what year. It was during
the war. Cause when I moved it was 41. It was a little down
further in the old schoolhouse. It was two years after the war. Then as
were reaching a little past the shipyard, thats where I was
born. There were homes up in there on the right, up a hill. And there
were the Shollocks (?) and two Greco families, the Melis, Chessas, Marcus.
GW: Who owned the land?
ES: They were all owned by the sandpits.
Then, it was Goodwin-Gallagher. A little down further is the schoolhouse,
where it used to be. Theres a driveway that was put there when it
was made into a home. The schoolhouse was right up on a hill. It was kindergarten
and first and second grade on the first floor, and the second floor was
the third and fourth grade.
The playground used to be across the street at first. Its still
the same as it used to be years ago, except that big hopper wasnt
there at the time. It was mostly done back further into the sandpits,
as the sand came through on a belt to load the scows there where the dock
is. And as we go down further there were more homes and Langones
store. There may be a little piece of the Billy Goat Hill, if they didnt
take it away. Usually every time we come by here I see a little bit of
it down in here. Mr. Trinchitella always brought his goats to graze here.
He used to walk them every morning. Its gone, its gone. It
was here. Its all gone. This is where they built that... and there
were homes on each side. There was the Langones store over there,
and the Trinchitellas and the Carusos lived there. And off across the
street there were five bungalows. Over here there were all other homes...
the McManns... there were homes all along here. And we all went to the
Port Washington schools, first to the schoolhouse, then up. This here...
I think McCormacks was here at this end. There werent too
many homes at this end. Most of them were down where we lived.
GW: Tell us some of your impressions of
ES: The school was... it was really nice,
and it was just for the people that lived there. I dont remember
how many students there were altogether. But one teacher would teach two
classes, like one teacher would be downstairs for the first and second.
They had a separate teacher for kindergarten, and then upstairs one teacher
would teach third and fourth. She would start with one, and then go over
to the other side of the room. We were all in the same room, just divided
in half. I dont think it even had 400 in the whole school. It varied
I dont remember too much about it, because when I left there I
was still only in - lets see, we went up to Flower Hill, then to
Daly... about 4th grade. So I cant remember just how many there
were. They may have a record of that someplace.
GW: Do you remember any of your teachers?
ES: Yes. I remember Miss McMillan, Mrs.
Davis and Miss Broderick. Those are the ones I remember. Mrs. Davis was
also our principal. She was a teacher and our principal.
GW: Can you remember her first name?
ES: No. I cant remember her first
name. Its been so long.
GW: Do you remember anything about the scows
here, or the barges?
ES: There were lots of them, yes. And they
used to come up and shop in Langones store and Marinos store,
and Carusos at the time had a little store in their home.
GW: That was near Langones?
ES: Yes. Langone also lived in back. Had
the whole house, and the store. They all did. Marinos also. And whenever
the men put into port here, they always shopped there, and they made friends
with everyone. My brothers used to go on the scows. They made friends
with the scow captains. He allowed them... like they could fish off the
scows and the docks.
There were bungalows in Bar Beach also, along the shoreline.
GW: And who lived there?
ES: There were a few families. I cant
remember their names. And up in there where they have the picnic area
is where the big, main house was -- the Goodwin Gallagher -- that white
house that I showed you the picture of. The driveway led way up to it.
And down below -- this was years ago when I was a kid -- there was also
a little bathhouse where they showered and changed when they came up from
the water, right at the end by the road.
GW: Did you know any of the Gallaghers?
ES: No. I was kind of small. The Marklands
also lived near them, Mr. and Mrs. Markland. A little down further there
was like an apple orchard. It was beautiful. We used to go in there, and
the Marklands son lived in there, the Rouses (?) and the Romekas
(?) were caretakers of the Gallaghers, and way up in the back they had
their house and stables, with horses and cows. They used to get milk.
GW: Do you remember the Bogart house?
ES: No, I dont remember those.
GW: You only remember the Goodwin-Gallagher
ES: Yes, cause we used to go and hang
out there. They were nice. Very nice people. They had a tennis court back
GW: Were there any other homes?
ES: Oh, yes. There were two other big houses.
Huge. But I cant remember who lived in them.
GW: How far away were they from the Gallagher
ES: Not too far. They had a road leading
up to it. In the back. More toward the sandpit.
GW: Was the Gallagher house up on a hill?
ES: It was
right there, where the trees are. You could see it from the road. It was
really gorgeous, like one of those Southern mansions. And the stairway
was beautiful, like you see in Tara. Inside it was beautiful. At the bottom
of the stairway they had a gorgeous chandelier. The ceiling, it was really
beautiful. Just like you saw in that movie, Gone With the Wind.
Thats the way it was. Fireplaces in all the rooms. It was beautiful.
GW: When was it destroyed?
ES: Oh, it was destroyed, Id say,
20 years ago? It was after I moved away from here. It was destroyed, I
think, by fire. One night. It was made into a nursing home for a while,
and then it was made into... Mastervideo (?) took over, and it was made...
they taped music for hotels, and things like that.
Cause I used to clean their offices for them. It was made into
office buildings. Then they had moved. And after that, it was destroyed.
GW: What were some of your activities as
a kid? What were some of the activities you did with your family?
ES: They always had the annual picnic from
the sandpits. And then they had at Christmas time, we all went up to Port
Washington. It was one of the halls. I dont remember if it was the
American Legion Hall. And they gave parties at Christmas, and gave gifts
to all the children. It was very nice. And the school took us on trips
to museums. Mostly we had the water. Which we were fortunate.
GW: Were there any ethnic customs?
ES: Not really. No, no. My father came when
he was 16, so he was already speaking English. He didnt speak Italian
to us. My mother did. But I was only 7 when she passed away, so I really
didnt learn too much. It was just a little community in itself.
GW: Do you remember anything the adults
used to do when they got together?
ES: They had bocce courts and all that,
in their yards, which was a big thing in those days.
GW: Did the people in this area feel different
from the people uptown in any way?
ES: Not really. Cause once we started
going to the schools in Port Washington we mixed right in with them. I
think some of them didnt even know we existed down here till we
were transferred up there, unless they came to Bar Beach and we met them.
GW: Is there anything you remember distinctly
about the public schools up there?
ES: Not at the time, cause we never
used to go up there while we were attending this school.
GW: When you were transferred, thats
what I mean.
ES: Oh. The huge building and everything
just fascinated us. We knew about them, cause when we went up to
watch football games then we saw. Otherwise we never really went to them.
GW: Were you involved in the sandbanks in
any way? If there were accidents?
ES: No. I dont remember anything like
that. Naturally, the ambulance would just come and take them to the hospital,
or something like that.
GW: From what period to what period did
you live here?
ES: I stayed here. Ive been down here.
In fact, I just moved out of Shore Road after my husband passed away.
I lived in the schoolhouse until 1975.
GW: And the schoolhouse was then torn down?
ES: After I left.
GW: What are some of the things you remember
about going to the schoolhouse there, and some of the things that you
remember living there, because that was in the midst of the sandbank operation?
ES: My children grew up there. It was a
nice place for them. Healthy environment. We could have animals. We raised
chickens, rabbits, turkeys, pigeons, and we ended up getting a goat and
two pigs. We had huge farms. Everyone who lived down here had huge farms
because there was no such a thing as... they just paid rent to the sandpits
and there was no such a thing as my property, you know what
I mean? Everyone just made gardens all over. Just like a nice little community
in itself. So we had... everything we grew we saved for the winter. You
couldnt get out when it snowed in those days.
GW: Did you have a car?
ES: I remember I was little when my father
bought his first Model T Ford. There were very few on the road then. And
he used to go to New York to stock up on a lot of staples. In those days,
they bought by the cases, and stored it away in the cellars for the winter.
And everything we grew we canned.
GW: What was your fathers occupation?
ES: He made screens for the sandpits, for
the gravel and sand to go through it. In those days they didnt have
all this machinery. I remember they were used. In fact, we even used to
help him. Sometimes he would do them at home and sell them to other sandpits
on the side, like.
GW: He didnt work in the sandbanks
ES: Yes. He had to have his own big shed.
This was done all inside. So the wire wouldnt rust. It was very
nice living there. Then the Chessas bought, on auction. It was auctioned
off (the schoolhouse) when they bought it. And they made a two-family
house out of it. They lived downstairs until she passed away. Then the
children all got married, and the father went to live with his children.
I moved downstairs, and Morewood Realty took it over.
GW: When was the school sold?
ES: I dont remember what date she
bought it. It was before the war. I know she was trying to make another
apartment, and she couldnt get the material. It was very scarce.
GW: Out of the four classrooms that were
there they made how many rooms?
ES: We had sixteen rooms out of that. They
were huge rooms, beautiful. And the whole basement. The old furnace was
still there till the building was demolished. It was really wonderful
raising the children down here. It was just too far to get into town and
mischief. And they had the water. It was a really healthy environment.
GW: Is there anything you might recall about
either living here or the sandbanks operation?
ES: They had an awful lot of trucks going
by, almost constantly, and machinery. Everyone was really friendly and
close. It was like one big family.
GW: And this was during the 30s and 40s?
ES: Umhum. Right, right. We loved it, we
just loved growing up here.
GW: At any rate, the Gallagher house was
right over here, and two large houses were in the back?
ES: And the Marklands. You know, Mrs. Markland
is still living -- shes 104 or 105. She put herself in a nursing
home. She remembers. Shes my godmother. Her son (I should write
to him) lives in Idaho now. He may have a lot of information because his
father, Bob Markland, was a boss. So I could write to him, and he could
give you a lot of information. Shes in the
Mayfair Nursing Home in Hempstead. Because her 100th birthday, her children
gave her a big party. She remembers everything -- how, when my mother
had her stroke up in the sandpits, and the workmen found her lying there.
She used to go up there and look for wood and carry wood (because they
burned wood all the time, summer and winter). And I was a baby then and
they were going to put me in an orphanage out in Sea Cliff, but Mrs. Markland
took me, and she had all boys, and she took care of me. And she still
remembers all that when I go and visit her. Its amazing, that woman
-- a wonderful memory. Im sure she could tell a lot. Everything
was free -- Bar Beach -- they had a Beacon Hill Pavilion where Bills
boatyard is. They used to have dances every Saturday night. It was very
nice. Someone owned it. He used to own the Royal, on Main Street, years
ago, and also he had the pavilion down here, and they used to bring in
different bands. One week it would be a Hawaiian band, another week...
And they sold food -- it was like a restaurant. It was beautiful.
GW: Do you remember any other groups besides
Italian groups that lived here?
ES: Polish. German. Irish. We had every
kind. But it was great. Everyone got along so nice.
GW: Any Scandinavians?
ES: Years and years ago, they lived in Bar
Beach bungalows. And I cant remember their names. Near here they
were all summer bungalows. Theyre still the same as they were.
GW: And do you ever remember them mining
the sandbanks themselves?
ES: We were allowed to go back there, but
we didnt get too close. We knew just how far to go. They had an
awful lot of railroad tracks and trains, lots of them back there. Thats
how they carried everything out.
GW: But you did play in the sandbanks?
ES: They allowed us, they allowed us. They
were very nice. We all knew one another. But we knew enough not to touch
anything, or go near the big machinery or the railroad tracks. And they
had the cavemen, they called them.
GW: Did you ever see the cavers working?
ES: Oh, yes. We used to watch them. With
the big long poles. How they used to have to separate the big rocks. It
was dangerous because I think they lost... Mr. Salerno died that way and...
GW: Did the different ethnic groups get
ES: We got along fine. We never really thought
of anything like Youre this or Youre that.
It was great. We used to have our own little baseball teams when we came
home from school, because, like, in between the two hills where the homes
were they had where theyd dig and leave it for a while, and we called
it the diggins, our play area, where we played baseball and
went ice skating where the little ponds froze back there. It was our own
little play area.
GW: Do you remember going for polliwogs?
ES: Everything. Oh, they had a beautiful
turtle pond there. It was gorgeous. The Winters farm up there, we
used to take the short cut, Pat Caruso and I. We used to go up every morning
to get a pail of milk from the farm before we went to school.
GW: Is the Winters farm still there?
ES: No. I think its where the homes
in New Salem went -- someplace in that area. Its more toward past
where the stores were... you had to go up a driveway. Everything was so
fresh in those days that we ate.
GW: Did the
Markland boys work also in the sandbank?
ES: No. They all went to college. One became
a lawyer. Franklin Markland is in Mineola, in business. In fact, one just
passed away in Georgia. Bob was the lawyer. Irving was a State Trooper.
GW: Do you remember some of the names of
the companies that were there?
ES: McCormack, Goodwin-Gallagher. It was
renamed Metropolitan. It was written on the picture I gave. Now its
Colonial and Morewood Realty. And I think now its under another
name, the latest.
Return to page 1
Bar Beach 4, 7, 11
Beacon Hill Pavilion 11
Billy Goat Hill 2
Bogart house 4
Broderick, Miss 3
Caruso 2, 3, 13
Chessa 1, 9
Daly (school) 3
Davis, Mrs. 3
Flower Hill (school) 3
Gallagher 4, 5, 10
Goodwin-Gallagher 1, 13
Hempstead Harbor School 1, 2-3, 7, 8, 9-10
Kings Lane (Port Washington) 1
Langone 2, 3
Markland 4, 10-11, 13
Mastervideo (?) 6
Mayfair Nursing Home (Hempstead) 11
McCormack 2, 13
McMillan, Miss 3
Metropolitan (Sand Co.) 13
Morewood Realty 9, 13
Romeka (?) 4
Rouse (?) 4
Royal (Port Washington) 11
Salerno, Mr. 12
Shollock (?) 1
Trinchitella, Mr. 2
Winters farm 13