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Our Fire Island Beach House (1950's- 60's)

by Judy Delaney
(Blue Point, Long Island, NY)

We spent the first ten summers of my life in a beach house on Fire Island situated across from Bellport Village. The area was known then as Whalehouse Point. There were only two beach houses there, somewhat near to what was once a very grand mansion, that was by then, weathered to shambles.

Our house was also very old, once used as a duck hunter's shelter, complete with small boathouse, and attached outhouse. We used oil lamps for light, a natural gas refrigerator for our food, a gas stove, and a gasoline pump that drew water from the ground.

There was no television. We children entertained ourselves by coloring, or playing board games. The adults kept busy by, either crabbing at night, or playing canasta. (a card game)

Bedtime came for us kids soon after the sun went down. Our days were filled with activities that were always related to the beach on the ocean, or boating on the bayside. I can remember one of the last July 4th nights at the beach house. We could see fireworks over Bellport, Patchogue, and Sayville, simultaneously.

Life was simple then. The summers seemed endless; the sun-drenched days, the peaceful nights; sponge baths after a day at the beach; clean laundry blowing on the breeze; my dear Mother preparing supper for all of us.

Dad would get into his boat in the morning, ride to the mainland, go to work, and come back every evening to stay with us in the beach house. We wintered in our 'real' house during the other three seasons.

The summer really began when we loaded up the station wagon with supplies and kids and headed for the boatyard. The family dog named 'Shep' got to vacation with us too.

One venture to the beach house for the season was an adventure, and a test of Dad's navigational skills. We started out of the Patchogue River just after dinner, the sun approaching the treetops in the west. A thick fog was rolling in out of the southwest, and I guess Dad thought he could get us to the beach house before it got too bad. Well, halfway across the bay, the fog was so thick that Dad had to resort to his compass. He kept his southeast heading, knowing it would bring us to where we needed to go.

The fog became so dangerously heavy that Mom and Dad decided that we couldn't continue safely. The bay was calm, and there wasn't any reason that we couldn't camp on the boat until morning light, and the lift of the fog.

Mom made us all as comfortable as she could and we children went to sleep. Dad discovered that we were in shallow water, and decided to go overboard and try to catch some crabs. He found an abundance of them with his flashlight, along the shoals, and the edge of what seemed a marsh. He figured that we had made it to Fire Island, but he had no idea just where.

He caught so many crabs, that he had to put some of them into the well near the outboard motor on our boat. The crabs started to climb out of the well, and as the story was told my Mom, were crawling precariously close to her sleeping children. We had no clue, as we were asleep, thank goodness, or there would have been mayhem, for sure...

As morning broke, lo and behold, appearing through the breaking fog was our beach house just a hundred feet to our east! Go, Daddy. Go!



Editor's note: Whalehouse Point was established on 1653 by Isaac Stratford of Babylon when he built a whaling station on Fire Island
about 3 ½ miles west of Smith Point.

Operation of the whaling station was simple: men stood watch in towers built on the dunes and when they saw a whale would shout “whale off!” Boats were launched and the whale was harpooned and brought ashore for processing. Whaling continued until the 1800's when the whales no longer came near shore.

This small community of barely more than a dozen homes was absorbed by Fire Island National Sea Shore in 1964. At that time residents were given the choice of a cash buyout or limited time option of about 20 years which expired in the mid 1980’s.

The homes are now gone and Whalehouse Point is part of the Otis Pike Wilderness area. Few traces of this community are left save an access road that occasionally bears tire marks from park service or maintenance vehicles.

-Bill Drago


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Mar 28, 2013
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Idyllic Childhood
by: Cliff Miller

What a flood of wonderful memories! I too spent entire summers of my early childhood at Whale House Point. My mother purchased a bungalow there in the 1940’s. A single long kitchen/living area; two bedrooms in the back and a big porch in front. Outhouse, hand pump and big enamel kitchen sink in which I remember getting an occasional bath. Parcheesi, dominoes and cootie bug were rainy day activities for us. I spent hours playing with Tonka toy Jeeps in the sand. I can still taste my mother’s Manhattan style clam chowder!

Feb 19, 2013
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memories and comments of years past
by: Anonymous

my grandmother had a house in this community, every fall we all went to the house to pick beach plumbs and make beach plumb jelly.the government should not have taken just this section of beach over (the biggest scam of its day)the government should have claimed the villages points west. thats allright though because now mother nature is slowly doing that instead, see all former homeowners of whalehouse point? there is sweet justice after all!

Aug 08, 2012
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Great memories
by: Brian Rowse

I also spent much of my youth at WHP. My uncle George had one of the cottages near the old Coast Guard Station and the artisan well. What a great place to grow up. Deciding what to eat for dinner only involved what you could catch in the bay that day. Boy do I miss it.

Jul 11, 2011
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GOOD OLD DAYS
by: Anonymous

great story of the good old days

Mar 28, 2011
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You'rv given me so much enjoyment!
by: Amy Peck Murphy

Judy -- loved your memoir, so much!

I grew up on Namkee Lane (south of Edwards Lane) in Blue Point, from '53 through '71. My mom bought a cottage on the canal there, for a mere $6000k. Unimaginable.

Wonderful childhood, which I treasure now. On the weekend of August 19/20, 1967, I was lucky enough to stay overnight in one of the McCarthy family guest cottages at Whalehouse Point, having walked there from Smith Point, lugging my overnight stuff.

Amazing memory of a world apart...your writing brought this lovely, forgotten, magical village to life again. Thank you for your writing talent -- what cool parents you were blessed with!!

All best,
Amy Peck Murphy, St. Marys, Georgia

Jun 21, 2009
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sweet
by: Brig

What great memories you must have. I wasn't there but I feel like I was.

I grew up in Queens, coming to LI was so far I didn't know it was LI. I was little and I thought we went upstate. When I got older I realized it was Wildwood.

We practically lived there many summers. My father would go to work in the city and come there on week-ends. He knew the manager/owner(?) and he let us stay for months.

When that man left for another state park upstate, we went there. My family recently went there camping, all of us, with all our children. It was GREAT!!!!

Thanks for sharing :-)

Jun 21, 2009
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Never closure
by: Judy Delaney

After the 'Imminent Domain' Law on Fire Island took our beach house at Whalehouse Point, going to the beach didn't bring the same excitement for any of us anymore.

We did return about 2 years after we heard of the beach house's demolition, and as we walked around reminiscing, I found a solitary chunk of red painted board that was once part of our beach house.

It lay partially hidden in the reeds, as if to say, "I'm still here...do you remember?" I cried as I carried it to the boat to leave.

~Judy Delaney~

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