Remarks of Philip H. Dougherty on the occasion of the 50th Jubilee Dinner Dance held on July 11, 1987 at the Parish Hall. Contributed by Margaret Dougherty, Mr. Dougherty's daughter.
Considering what it means to a community the 50th Anniversary of a parish is a very special thing.
Baptisms, marriages, funerals and the Sunday Masses in the company of friends - it is, as it is intended to be, the center of a Christian life.
But I want you to know that the founding of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal parish isn't the only 50th Anniversary in town for 1987. In 1937 I graduated from All Hallows grammar school. Stan Hoolahan was graduating from All Hallows High School. But please don't tell me I look older than Stan.
More important to me than graduation, though, was that 1937 marked the year that the Doughertys, after five years of renting and despite a hellish depression, built a summer home of their very own with the help of Ralph Vail, at 66 Lynbrook Avenue, the first house built on that newly built street - the grandest avenue in a grand town.
But that was important only to my clan. I can't remember it, but the rest of the town must have been talking about being a Catholic parish at last. St. Mary of the Isle was a way to travel on Sunday. Things were to change later on. Before we had our church we had Mass in the annex to the Fire Hall that is now Ye Olde Firehouse Exchange. It was kind of cramped, but we were very hardy in those days; we even managed to survive without kneelers. And the fact that there were no kneelers turned out to be a great help to me in my first job - selling the Tablet.
For those who don't remember, the Brooklyn Tablet, as it was called in those days, was considerably to the right of Ghengis Kahn. Somehow, me and the rest of my gang, which included Joe and Jimmy Slavin from Glenwood and, I'm sure Bobbie and Howie Meny, even if they were Lutherans, were conscripted to sell the Tablet outside church. The guy who nailed us was Captain Rockford. The Captain won his navy rank in World War I in France commanding a battery of big navy guns, that were mounted on trains. he lived next door to the Hoolahans on Hewlett with his brother Russell and his sister Helen (who learned about red hair dye way before most women).
We never got paid for our work as Tablet salesmen but at the end of the season the captain threw us a beach party out in the dunes. And my friends, the dunes were really dunes in those days. What I was referring to about the kneelers was the sales pitch to the churchgoers. It went like this. "Get your Tablet here. You don't have to read it, but you can kneel on it. Get your Tablet." That's how I got interested in the Ad game. I guess Captain Rockford could be considered a Character. we had our share of them.
A real favorite was Smelly Sam, who lived with his horses out in the dunes and used them, hooked up to a scoop, to dig foundations for new houses. He also used them to pull his wagon on street-cleaning duty.
Piccolo Pete with his bike was certainly an annual summers-only character. And who can remember Jazzbo, the black man who lived across the bay and could row a boat with the speed of an outboard, or at least that's the way I remember it.
And please let us not forget beloved Tom Dyer, our postmaster, who always managed to get the letters in the right boxes despite his broken eyeglasses.
And in his own way, too, Father Butler, holy as he was, was a bit of a Character himself. Who can forget him taking up the collection solo in order to supervise our charitable inclinations. And there was no saving the cheapskate who might want to slip some lowly coin into the side of the basket. Father used a felt-covered plate on which coins stood out in all their horrid smallness. It was always clean and receptive since he emptied it after every row. Of course, Father seemed not to be looking. His eyes appeared to be closed, and frequently he seemed in reverie as he sang along with his favorite recorded hymn on the P.A. System. It could well have been Ava Maria since he ad recordings of it by both Bing Crosby and Perry Como. Then there was another hymn that I was convinced was by Jerry Callon. "Keep me from stain of sin just for today."
As I recall it - and remember these are the memories of an aging youth - Father had a keen interest in currencies of the world. If the gospel of the day mentioned an ancient coin like a drachma or groat the pastor would give an inordinate amount of time to discussing the worth of such a coin, even going so far as to compare its value to the Swiss franc of the day. I loved some of those New Testament words by the way: Would you give me a groat for a firkin of nard? Or, nard by the firkin, one groat. That's advertising.
Compared to the age of the earth - 40 billion years - give or take - 50 years isn't much. And, given the unfathomable size of the universe, Point Lookout is smaller than the smallest gnats kazoo in the big picture. But the Good Lord really blessed this place. The sand, the water, and sometimes the Sun. Great. No wonder those Stuyvesant Town refugees think they're in Heaven. But love it the way they do, they don't know the Point Lookout of my memory - that's the Point Lookout where I could run from Lynbrook to Parkside without every taking to a Drive, a Street or a Boulevard. No fences, and almost no grass. Scully's Weeping Willow was on Freeport, already a giant, while Mr. Scully was still chief of the Fire Department and head of the ushers. And it's not hard to remember peeking through the windows at Savages on the corner of Lido Boulevard and Baldwin, and watching grown-ups dancing away to a real live band. What about bands up at the Point Lookout Bathing Beach long before the first beach club? And remember the fund-raising bash that Father Butler had up there?
In my mind's eye I see Lauders down here on the corner. Snappers were great off the pier there. And they weren't bad off Old Town Dock either. That's before we built the ball field where the Parish Hall parking lot is now.
I see many faces here tonight that I've said Hi to, shook hands with, and even danced the Lindy with - a lot right here in this building, as in our church where we have shared many important times, in our Parish Hall, we have enjoyed some great parties. Speaking of which, will you ever forget Jerry Galvin's Spectagalas. If they weren't the parties to end all parties. They had to be the best of all for all time.
One last thing. Let me say that when beloved pastor, A.K.A. Father Gallagher, asked me to speak tonight I was truly honored - considering that in his day - Father Butler would probably have asked me to leave town instead.
In any event, to get myself immersed in the feel of 50 years ago this very day, I went back to the New York Times files and found some interesting stuff.
John Davids was selling suits for $22 and white shirts for $1.95. George Gershwin died in Hollywood, and three Russians took off in bad weather from Moscow to be the first to fly over the Pole to New York. I don't know if they made it, but at least they didn't have to worry about radar or missiles. Patricia Bowman (whoever she was) and the Fokine Ballet (whoever they were) wowed the crowds at the Jones Beach Stadium, and the Giants took the Dodgers in both games of a double header.
And here's the one that really boggled my mind. On July 11th 50 years ago, a five-day heat wave ended that was responsible for 38 deaths in the Metropolitan Area - and the temperature never went above 89 degrees.
Maybe we weren't so tough after all.