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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 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.

Elly Shodell
Port Washington Public Library
Oral History Program Director

Funded by the New York Council for the Humanities


Interview and car tour with Elizabeth Santoli(ES) by Dr. George Williams(GW), April 13, 1982.

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page 1

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 can’t 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 we’re reaching a little past the shipyard, that’s 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. There’s 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.

page 2

The playground used to be across the street at first. It’s still the same as it used to be years ago, except that big hopper wasn’t 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 Langone’s store. There may be a little piece of the Billy Goat Hill, if they didn’t 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. It’s gone, it’s gone. It was here. It’s all gone. This is where they built that... and there were homes on each side. There was the Langone’s 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 McCormack’s was here at this end. There weren’t too many homes at this end. Most of them were down where we lived.

GW: Tell us some of your impressions of the school.

ES: The school was... it was really nice, and it was just for the people that lived there. I don’t 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 don’t think it even had 400 in the whole school. It varied each year.

page 3

I don’t remember too much about it, because when I left there I was still only in - let’s see, we went up to Flower Hill, then to Daly... about 4th grade. So I can’t 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 can’t remember her first name. It’s 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 Langone’s store and Marino’s store, and Carusos at the time had a little store in their home.

GW: That was near Langone’s?

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.

page 4

There were bungalows in Bar Beach also, along the shoreline.

GW: And who lived there?

ES: There were a few families. I can’t 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 Markland’s 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 don’t remember those.

GW: You only remember the Goodwin-Gallagher house?

ES: Yes, ‘cause we used to go and hang out there. They were nice. Very nice people. They had a tennis court back there.

page 5

GW: Were there any other homes?

ES: Oh, yes. There were two other big houses. Huge. But I can’t remember who lived in them.

GW: How far away were they from the Gallagher house?

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.” That’s the way it was. Fireplaces in all the rooms. It was beautiful.

GW: When was it destroyed?

ES: Oh, it was destroyed, I’d 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.

page 6

‘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 don’t 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 didn’t speak Italian to us. My mother did. But I was only 7 when she passed away, so I really didn’t 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.

page 7

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 didn’t 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, that’s 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 don’t 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?

page 8

ES: I stayed here. I’ve 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 couldn’t 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,

page 9

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 father’s occupation?

ES: He made screens for the sandpits, for the gravel and sand to go through it. In those days they didn’t 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 didn’t work in the sandbanks themselves.

ES: Yes. He had to have his own big shed. This was done all inside. So the wire wouldn’t 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 don‘t remember what date she bought it. It was before the war. I know she was trying to make another apartment, and she couldn’t get the material. It was very scarce.
GW: Out of the four classrooms that were there they made how many rooms?

page 10

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 -- she’s 104 or 105. She put herself in a nursing home. She remembers. She’s 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. She’s in the

page 11

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. It’s amazing, that woman -- a wonderful memory. I’m sure she could tell a lot. Everything was free -- Bar Beach -- they had a Beacon Hill Pavilion where Bill’s 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 can’t remember their names. Near here they were all summer bungalows. They’re still the same as they were.

page 12

GW: And do you ever remember them mining the sandbanks themselves?

ES: We were allowed to go back there, but we didn’t 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. That’s 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 along?

ES: We got along fine. We never really thought of anything like “You’re this” or “You’re 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 they’d 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.

page 13

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 it’s where the homes in New Salem went -- someplace in that area. It’s 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 it’s Colonial and Morewood Realty. And I think now it’s under another name, the latest.

Return to page 1

Bar Beach 4, 7, 11
Beacon Hill Pavilion 11
Billy Goat Hill 2
Bocce 7
Bogart house 4
Broderick, Miss 3

Carmichael 1
Caruso 2, 3, 13
Chessa 1, 9

Daly (school) 3
Davis, Mrs. 3

Faiggiolis 1
Flower Hill (school) 3

Gallagher 4, 5, 10
Goodwin-Gallagher 1, 13
Greco 1

Hempstead Harbor School 1, 2-3, 7, 8, 9-10

Kings Lane (Port Washington) 1

Langone 2, 3

Marcus 1
Marino 3
Markland 4, 10-11, 13
Mastervideo (?) 6
Mayfair Nursing Home (Hempstead) 11
McCormack 2, 13
McMann 2
McMillan, Miss 3
Meli 1
Metropolitan (Sand Co.) 13
Morewood Realty 9, 13

Nissani 1

Romeka (?) 4
Rouse (?) 4
Royal (Port Washington) 11

Salerno, Mr. 12
Shollock (?) 1

Trinchitella, Mr. 2

Winters farm 13