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This week in Shelter Island history

Old, open book with a damaged cover.


A group of Black Panthers led by Bobby Seale entered the California State Legislature openly armed to protest gun legislation aimed at denying them rights to carry guns to protect themselves and their neighborhoods.

Bernard Malamud won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel, “The Fixer” based on a true story of a Jew falsely arrested in Kiev for the murder of a Christian and focusing on the growing anti-Semitism at the time in Russia.

The Toronto Mapleleafs won the Stanley Cup beating the Montreal Canadiens four games to two.

Nancy Sinatra’s “Something Stupid” was a popular song with Americans.

And on Shelter Island . . .


Athletic facilities overshadow school costs

It was a record budget of $491,646 the Board of Education was proposing  in May 1967, but that seemed of little concern to residents. What did concern them was development of athletic fields along Bateman Road and plans for a gymnasium.

Principal Michael Chiaramonte outlined plans for the fields that were to include three basketball courts and a full-sized baseball diamond. As for the gymnasium, board president Andrew Fiske said it was still in the planning stage since the board and architect worked to find common ground about what was needed and the cost.

POSTSCRIPT: A week and a half away from the May 16 budget vote, there has been little comment about the proposed $11.3 million proposal.

As for that gymnasium, it’s long since been up and running and that field along Bateman Road is now Fiske Field, home to school teams as well as the collegiate Shelter Island Bucks baseball team that returns shortly for another season.


Sign of the times

In early May 1987, Ram Island residents asked the Town Board to make a request for a telephone booth to be installed at the Manhansett Firehouse on Cobbetts Lane. They suggested that $18,000 in revenue sharing from the federal government be used to cover the cost of the installation.

The need was to provide access to a public phone in the event of any emergency.

Councilman Louis Price, who was also a fire commissioner, said he thought the fire district would cover the cost of installation, providing it was reasonable.

Town Board members agreed that pay phone booths should be installed in various parts of the Island where houses are scarce, especially during winter months. But Supervisor Jeffrey Simes suggested installation of police call boxes for such purposes.

POSTSCRIPT: Today’s debate is over whether to allow installation of a cell tower at the Cobbetts Lane Firehouse, both to facilitate cellphone calls and improve communications for firefighters who have said there are areas where members are unable to call for assistance if they’re called on to fight a blaze in that area.

They are awaiting action on a special permit needed for installation of a new tower.


Remembering the Shelter Island Resort Motel

It was at this time that Charlie and Celia Kraus, who had operated the Shelter Island Resort Motel since they built it in 1974 and later expanded the restaurant, decided to sell the property to André Balazs and Dick Tarlow.

The pair, who were part-time Island residents undertook a major overhaul of the structure.

POSTSCRIPT: If the family ran the motel as a meeting place for Islanders, the new owners quickly gained a reputation by attracting celebrities and jet-setters.

Rumors have swirled from time to time about a sale of  Sunset Beach, but Mr. Balazs continues to hold the keys to the place.


Date set to open new highway barn

One of the major controversies on Shelter Island several years ago was where to locate a new Highway Department barn. There were strong arguments on both sides from those who favored building the new structure on the same site where the old barn sat on Route 114 and those who thought the site on Bowditch Road would be best.

Ultimately, the Bowditch Road site was selected, but construction went slowly with Councilwoman Chris Lewis regularly asking then Highway Superintendent Mark Ketcham when the building would be ready for occupancy. Finally, in early May of 1967, Mr. Ketcham set an early June date for occupying the new space.

POSTSCRIPT: Despite criticisms during the site election process, the new barn has operated effectively during the past decade.

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