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Shelter Island fireworks bring back the fun, and memories

Enjoying Saturday’s wall-to-wall, day-long lollopalooza of a fireworks celebration on the Island, I sensed the presence of Casper the friendly ghost on my shoulder. A benign little buddy I recall from childhood comics, he whispered to me of years gone by, when the fireworks were the punctuation mark of every summer, with its highs and lows.

Surveying the scene of SUVs, Jeeps and pickups lined up along the length of Crescent Beach starting around 8 on Saturday morning, Casper and I recalled the family piled into a station wagon for a day at what we called Louie’s Beach, with plenty of bologna sandwiches and a thermos jug full of lemonade.

We’d play in the sand, then splash our sunburned bodies into the water for Mr. Wroble’s swimming lessons.

When you got a little older, you might venture into Charlie Kraus’ shop for a cheeseburger and a Coke. Older still, you’d take a break from the heat with the coldest beer on the Island, at the Pridwin’s bar, then sit on the dock to watch the show light up the sky over the bay.

For generations, we took the fireworks for granted, until they almost went away, save for the intervention of a group of Islanders determined to keep the tradition going. And then the pandemic made us wait, and made us put everything in perspective.

This year, there were toddlers, teenagers, grandparents and twenty-somethings all sharing the Crescent Beach sands for a day of picnicking and a night of wonder. Maybe Charlie’s old snack bar — aka Sunset Beach — was now flying a banner celebrating Hinckley Yachts; maybe set to reopen this week after a major renovation, it will be offering much more pricey fare than a cold can of beer, but there’s plenty of summer fun, and Island beauty, to go around.

Who’d have known, back in the bologna sandwich days, that our children would some day organize the fireworks, and bring their children to delight in the show? If times have changed, we should be mindful that they will change again and again, and we can do our best to be sure they change for the better.

Hang on, Casper, there’s still quite a ride ahead!