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This week in Shelter Island history

REPORTER FILE PHOTO One osprey nest fell but remained intact during an August 1965 storm, while another nest was blown apart by the high wants and rain.
One osprey nest fell but remained intact during an August 1965 storm, while another nest was blown apart by the high wants and rain.


President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed a law to penalize burning of draft cards that could carry up to a five-year jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.

The Beatles visited Elvis Presley at his Bel-Air home, although, at the band’s request, there were no pictures taken or recordings made.

While the streets of Watts in Los Angeles were still burning, recriminations were already emerging about what caused the summer race riots and who was to blame.

New York City was in the midst of the most serious water shortage in a century with no relief in sight.

John Coltrane recorded his album “Sun Ship” although it wasn’t released until after his death in 1971.

And on Shelter Island …

Fresh Pond closed to swimmers

In August 1975, it was reported that because there were no bathrooms or lifeguards at Fresh Pond, it had to be closed to swimmers. But Supervisor Thomas Jernick said that even if the town took steps to provide bathroom facilities and lifeguards, Fresh Pond would still be closed to swimmers because of the quality of the water.

State sanitary code stated coliform levels couldn’t exceed a monthly median of 2,400 per 100 milliliters of water. The readings at Fresh Pond then were 5,500 per 100 milliliters of water.

POSTSCRIPT: The latest report about Fresh Pond indicated low levels of blue green algae and said evidence of the blooms appeared to have disappeared. But the Reporter has been unable to get a response from the Suffolk Department of Health about whether it considers Fresh Pond safe for swimming.

First day phobias: Fuel for learning

It was a story in late August 1985 by feature editor Suzanne Rosenwasser that spoke of the mixed feelings students and their parents face as a new term is about to begin. She wrote about the excitement with which many are filled, but also the fear of the unknown that would greet students as they continued their education.

Ms. Rosenwasser wrote about the jitters new teachers brought to their classrooms as they approached changes in their own lives.

It was an essay that, no doubt, gave readers memories of their own school days and elicited understanding of how fear of the unknown can drive one’s words and actions.

POSTSCRIPT: Shelter Island administrators, teachers and other staffers, along with students and parents, are preparing for another new school term that begins in less than two weeks, but carries with it similar feelings as those experienced 30 years ago and proves that the more things change, the more basic experiences and emotions stay the same.

Island vamps battle Westhampton blaze

It wasn’t just any fire at which Shelter Island firefighters rendered mutual aid. It was the summer of 1995 when firefighters joined their counterparts from throughout the area working for days to bring the Pine Barrens fire under control. The blaze consumed more than 5,000 acres and was the state’s largest forest fire in 90 years, taking more than four days to battle.

Rumors abounded about houses and businesses lost, but when all had settled, more than 2,000 firefighters had succeeded in saving those houses and businesses where flames came, in some cases, within only a few yards from destroying them.

POSTSCRIPT: This is another dry summer on the East End when residents are being warned to be cautious to avoid a repeat of the summer of 1995.

Storm downs osprey nests

A severe August 2005 storm not only downed trees, limbs and wires, but brought down two osprey nests on the causeway between Big Ram and Little Ram. Fortunately the chicks that had grown up in those nests were ready to fledge, according to Mashomack Preserve’s Mike Laspia.

The first nest to go down blew completely off the transformer pole where it had rested. The second was further down the causeway and was completely blown apart, Mr. Laspia said.

POSTSCRIPT: This summer, in separate incidents, a driver hit a pole on the causeway, dropping it and the nest that had been home to an osprey family to the ground. PSEG installed a new pole and the young birds were returned to their nest that hadn’t been damaged. Within minutes their parents were back in the recovered nest with them.

Then an unexpected storm blew across the Island this August, downing trees, limbs and wires. Most customers had power restored within an hour or two, but some on the Island were out for several days.

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