Around the Island

A look back: This week in Shelter Island history

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Decorating the Center Firehouse was under way in early December 1978 and it’s a sight that is repeated annually as it was this week in preparation for the tree lighting and caroling on Wednesday night. Santa Claus greeted children at the Legion Hall after the outdoor festivities.

Plea from postmaster

It was 10 years ago that Kirk Jablonsky replaced Estelle Simes as Center postmaster and with his new assignment came advice to locals to assure those with whom they were corresponding had their correct box numbers and zip codes — 11964 for the Center or 11965 for the Heights. It was the end of an era in which Islanders could count on getting their mail even if it was simply addressed to them by name or by street address, Mr. Jablonsky said. Islanders had already made the transition when it came to telephone calls in the days when Rosemary Griffing could simply connect them with anyone here or even tell them to make the call later because the person they were trying to reach was out shopping right now. Mr. Jablonsky said then that there were 200 to 400 letters a day insufficiently addressed and that was consuming staff time to try to get the mail to the recipient. Government agencies were the worst offenders in insufficiently addressing mail, he said.

Mr. Jablonsky did his best to inform residents and business owners about how their mail needed to be addressed and bulk mailers of the proper zip code for the Center. But he found little cooperation, despite his warnings that his charge to control costs of operation was being hindered by so many letters that had to be readdressed.

POSTSCRIPT: This year, many residents and business owners have stepped forward to tell postal officials they are unhappy about mail they’re not receiving because, despite their best efforts, so many databases misdirect mail. Despite efforts at both Post Offices to redirect mail between them and intervention by Congressman Tim Bishop’s staff to improve the situation, many Islanders continue to complain about important letters — bills, insurance forms, vehicle registrations and so many others — aren’t reaching them.

Road runoff a problem

Then councilman Kenneth Lewis called on his colleagues to approve two catch basins to control rainwater runoff that was flowing form Terry Drive into West Neck Harbor. Heavy rains 25 years ago were exacerbating the problem, Mr. Lewis said. Supervisor Jeffrey Simes said there was money available in Community Development Funds to tackle the project.

POSTSCRIPT: In 1990, the federal government began its push that has developed in the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems program regulated in New York State by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Today, all municipalities are participating in mitigating stormwater runoff that has been identified as a major source of pollution to waterways. Shelter Island maintains a committee to deal with the program locally.

No town Santa Claus!

A town-sponsored Christmas party that had become a tradition in 1973 was cancelled in 1978 when then supervisor Leonard Bliss said “in view of conflicts with other affairs being held,” he was calling off the annual event that had been held at the school gymnasium. But within a week, complaints led to reinstituting the party that attracted hundreds to the school to join in caroling and children receiving gifts from Santa, provided by the Lions Club. The Parent Teachers Association provided refreshments and the Police Benevolent Association and various merchants provided raffle prizes. When then supervisor Thomas Jernick instituted the parties five years earlier, it was with an eye to energy conservation. Instead of putting up Christmas lights all over town, he suggested the one large community party. In reinstituting the party just a week after Mr. Bliss said it was to be cancelled in 1978, then councilman George Walsh said the cancellation had occurred because of a misunderstanding with the PTA.

POSTSCRIPT: Today, individual organizations sponsor parties, but the major community function is the annual Christmas tree lighting and caroling in the Center.

Name the library for Kennedy
Just weeks after President John Kennedy was felled by an assassin’s bullet, there was a suggestion that the new Shelter Island Library be named for the slain leader. The argument was that it would be a fitting tribute to a president who loved reading and writing books.

POSTSCRIPT: The sentiment was sweet, but the library wasn’t renamed and remains the Shelter Island Public Library.