Dr. Boardman chronicles this period, during most of which (1920-1960) he served as a key figure in the Oceanside School District:
Prior to the Civil War, Long Beach was simply a sand bar beyond the marshes. In the 1870's Senator Reynolds visioned it as a seaside resort along the lines of Atlantic City, giving the project both financial and political backing. In 1880, a plank road was constructed connecting Long Beach and Barnum's Island with Oceanside. A spur line of the railroad from Lynbrook to Long Beach was constructed at about the same time. Both served to help bring the rather isolated community then called Oceanville into the orbit of public affairs.
Incidentally, as the channel from East Rockaway north to Rockville Centre was navigable water, a hand-cranked railroad drawbridge stood near were the present trestle occurs in East Rockaway. Mr. Benjamin Simonson was one of the two men employed to operate the device when a boat wished to pass through.
There was a strong movement to have the channel improved so that freight-carrying boats could travel to docks well north of the present Sunrise Highway. It failed, perhaps because of the enthusiastic support being given to the railroad at the time. Eventually, East Rockaway became the terminal of navigable waters.
The decade from 1895 to 1905, sometimes referred to as "The turn of the century," saw the beginnings of Oceanside as we know it today.
In about 1900, a trolley line was extended from Jamaica through Lynbrook to Oceanside, Baldwin, Freeport and Hempstead. The line came from Lynbrook across Mill River and along Woods Avenue to Davison Avenue. It continued on to Baldwin by way of Brower Avenue, where it followed Atlantic Avenue to Freeport. The Oceanside station was officially "Stop 102". It was at what is not the "Triangle" where the police booth stands. For a time, the community was almost as well known as "Stop 102" as Ocean Side. The impact of this new means of communication was indeed great. The trolley brought the long-time residents more closely in touch with the outside world and opened the way for suburban type homes to come in.
New stores built up around "Stop 102" while the older centers at Oceanside Road and Mott's Dock declined. The "Old order changeth, making way for new" was indeed true. New institutions such as the Fire Department came at the beginning of the period and the high school organization at its center. (1899) instead of following the development of these in a strictly chronological order, these institutions will be treated separately showing their origin and growth to 1950.
THE OCEANSIDE SCHOOLS
An excellent history of the Oceanside schools was published in mimeograph form in 1949. "Fifty Years in Union Free School District #11" was prepared by Mr. George V. Lascher, then Director of the Oceanside Adult School. Much of the material on the schools being presented in this overall story of Oceanside comes from that production.
The school of Revolutionary times and for a half century afterward was not a "public" school as we know it today. It was financed through some form of tuition and any public charge was under what would now be considered "welfare." Of that school, we know very little except that it did serve as the educational opportunity for an area much larger than the Oceanside School District of later times.
The first truly authentic record of the "public" school is to be found in the March 1, 1842 issue of The Long Island Farmer in which is given notice of the days and times when the superintendent of schools would visit the various schools in the townships of Queens County. "Hempstead District #11 at Christian Hook on Thursday, April 7th at 10:00 AM" is the reference. It is known that Bethel (Baldwin) was made School District #10 in 1832 and Near Rockaway District #19 in 1842. It is, therefore, safe to estimate that Christian Hook became School District #11 in 1833.
The school that was "dusted and polished" for that official visit on April 7, 1842 stood on what is now the northwest corner of Oceanside and Foxhurst Roads. It had only one room with an attic. In 1860, more space was needed and the attic was finished off to be used for the infant class. It is interesting that one hundred years ago there was such improvisation to provide space for the "growing school enrollment."
By 1880, overcrowding was again so acute that a larger building was necessary. Apparently they thought the site too small, (the school stood at the very edge of the road) so land where the Central Elementary now stands was acquired and the new structure was put up on what is now the front lawn of that school. Perhaps it should be added that this site did not include the land behind the present building but only to the depth of the back wall of the auditorium. Some of those who were students at the time later recalled the excitement when pupils and supplies were taken from the old building to the new.
Incidentally, the old school of 1842-1880 was moved to a site just south of Merrick Road on what is now Washington Avenue, where it still serves as a private dwelling.
Fourteen years later, the three-room building had become so inadequate that a new "modern" school was authorized. The outmoded building was sold to Mr. Philip Martini, the sculptor. It was moved to a location near the present Terrell Avenue School where it served as his studio. There, many of his famous works were designed.
In 1894, the Town of Hempstead made Ocean Side a "Common School District" under the jurisdiction of the Second Supervisory District. In August 1899, just after the creation of Nassau County, Ocean Side became Union Free School District #11, as it is known today, except that it included what is now Atlantic Beach, Long Beach, Point Lookout and Island Park. The territory to the north had been separated before that time to form District #21 which is Rockville Centre. Quite obviously, travel to and from school was a problem for children and parents in the outlying areas. Even the section near Mott's Dock felt the burden of travel, and since there was no transportation provided it was up to the parents. Mr. Mott secured a tutor for his children and permitted several others in the neighborhood to take advantage of the instruction.
In 1895, a new building was erected on the site of the one sold to Philip Martini. It was an almost square, two story affair making something of a grade organization possible. Recollections of a typical day for all except the "infant" class was significant. The lower classes would file into the large room where the older students worked, for an assembly. Student recitations including quotations such as "Know Thyself" and "A Word to the Wise is Sufficient" were followed by announcements and admonitions as to the serious responsibilities of life. There was always the reading of excerpts from the Bible by the principal, also prayer. After assembly, the younger children returned to their classrooms and the older children took up their study. The manner of conducting classes would not meet with current approval. All of the higher classes were held in one large room. Each class was called to the front for approximately twenty minutes of recitation in which the students reported upon what they had learned. The rest had the discipline of attending to business and paying no attention to what was going on in the front. Thus in the course of the school day which ran from nine in the morning until three-thirty in the afternoon with an hour for lunch and a fifteen minute recess, many classed could be heard by one teacher.
With the District's reorganization as a Union Free School District in 1899, the way was cleared for the beginning of high school subjects.
In June 1903, the first high school commencement was held. Bertha Pettit and Julia Shea had completed a two year course then authorized and went on to Rockville Centre for completion of the work required for a Regents diploma.
In June 1909, The South Side Observer carried the following program presented in "Fireman's Hall" (Salamander Hall):
Recitation - How Winning Cup Won the Race Eleanor Pearsall Oration - International Arbitration Frederick W. Shaw Piano Solo - Old Black Joe Edith McIntosh
Recitation Ada L. Bassett
The prize for the highest percentage in the Academic Department went to Eleanor Pearsall.
Those who lived in Oceanside for many years fondly recall Eleanor Pearsall as the wife of Mr. Frederick W. Shaw. That distinguished gentleman has been a lifetime key figure in affairs of the community. He served as President of the Board of Education and then for more than a quarter of a century as its attorney. He continues to hold the position of President of the Oceanside National Bank and is a respected attorney. Edith McIntosh is well known for her music studio where her musical talent has been transmitted to many a youngster of Oceanside and Rockville Centre.
The compulsory education laws and a growing population soon filled the school to capacity. By 1911, the people were faced with the necessity of providing a much larger building to house the four hundred elementary and fifty high school children registered. While these numbers now seem small, it must be remembered that, a generation before, the total population of the District was less than this number. That registration, even then, placed the District among the larger school systems of the State, exclusive of the big cities.
A new brick school costing the great sum of seventy-five thousand dollars was authorized and constructed on the school site immediately behind the square wooden structure of 1895. This new building, with coal furnace and central heating system, included laboratories for the teaching of science. There were no auditorium or gymnasium facilities.
When the building was completed, the old structure was sold to Mr. John Terrell who moved it to Davison Avenue, remodeled the second floor to provide an auditorium and named it Terrell Hall. It stands across the street just west of the Oceanside Free Library.
The sea-side community of Long Beach had, by this time, grown to be a distinct center of population. There had been a small school constructed near the present railroad station but it became inadequate for the growing number of children. Since the District had recently voted seventy-five thousand for a new school in Oceanside, the residents felt that a corresponding structure was due them and petitioned the Board for a fifty thousand dollar building. The Board decided upon a twenty thousand dollar building and Long Beach petitioned the Commission of Education in Albany to form a separate district. The request was granted, effective August 1, 1913.
This story has carried a few names of the people who served the School District. At this point, exception is to be made for recognition of Miss Eunice R. Pearson who came in 1912 as "Preceptress" and teacher of Latin. As the second in command from that time until after the organization of the school system as a village superintendency in 1925, she was the great stabilizing influence in a period of several administrative changes. Her work was the cornerstone in raising the academic standard to the point where it was widely known and highly respected.
SCHOOL DISTRICT BOUNDARIES
In 1913, the Oceanside and Rockville Centre Boards of Education entered into negotiations on the redrawing of the boundary between the two Districts. The area south of Merrick Road near the railroad station was building up rapidly and the people there wished to become a part of the Rockville Centre School District. The Oceanside Board agreed to this with the compensating shift of the line north of the railroad and east of Long Beach Road. This took in the "Dry Reservoir" that is now Greystone. The line adopted then is the current boundary.
(The City of New York had once acquired this tract for the purpose of making a water reservoir. It included land from the railroad to Seaman Avenue between Long Beach Road and Parsonage Creek. There was a pumping station just east of what is now the Borden's Milk Plant. After building at great cost, it was found that the reservoir would not hold water due to the sandy soil beneath. The property was resold and gradually dismantled. Later it became the modern Greystone residential development.)
WORLD WAR I
World War I brought its tensions and uncertainties to Ocean Side. There were the Liberty Bond sales, the Red Cross drives and food preservation projects. Salamander Hall was used for the preparation of hot lunches for the school children. A "Home and School Association" was formed to bring parents and teachers into closer relationship. Later this worthy organization changed its name to "Parents and Teachers Association" and became affiliated with that national organization. Among the founders of this Home and School Association were: Mrs. Christian Binner, Mrs. Edwin Burmester, Mrs. Herman Intemann, Mrs. Harry Baumann, Mrs. John Park, Mrs. Winfield Sweezy and Mrs. Kathryn Strang.
S. TAYLOR JOHNSON
Not by coincidence, but the fortunate selection of a new principal, the School District entered upon a period of stability and sound growth. Mr. S. Taylor Johnson, then a veteran school administrator, came in 1918. He often told that, after his appointment as principal, friends of his predecessor sent him a telegram telling him not to come. He came. His courage and statesmanship gradually won over the opposition and he became the great leader of the school system.
The northwest area began to build rapidly for it was within walking distance of the railroad station. There was soon need for more school space and, in 1920, an eight room building was voted for a site on Terrell Avenue. This time a small playground was also considered necessary.
THE GREAT FIRE
On the night of May 27, 1921, fire was discovered in the school. While in the outer walls of this building of 1911-1912 had been constructed of solid brick, the interior was of wood and apparently designed without thought for fire control. As a result, the fire which was of undetermined origin burned fiercely. So fast and so hot were the flames that a bell in the tower melted but ivy on the outside wall was not entirely killed.
The event is well remembered by many residents. However the story published in The Observer of the following day is most revealing in some aspects that are little discussed. According to the account, and as might be expected, neighboring fire departments rushed to the scene. Upon arrival, that of another community took command from the Oceanside Department and directed activities. This account further states that "an unidentified man" endeavored to enter the building but the fire hose was diverted to give him a good soaking. In fact, this was Mr. Johnson who had rushed to the scene and was courageously endeavoring to save the records of the District. In later years he stated that he could have succeeded had it not been for this unfortunate circumstance. That loss of records has proven tragic in the years since, for it has been impossible to substantiate vital claims of both children and teachers.
Following the fire, pupils were quartered in fire halls and churches. A public meeting quickly authorized rebuilding the structure, using the walls standing but making interior improvements in design both for fire control and utility. At Thanksgiving time in 1922, part time was ended when the school being constructed on Terrell Avenue was ready for use. In September 1923, the redesigned building was ready and the high school pupils now had a building with an auditorium, gymnasium and nurse's office.
The "move to the suburbs" that has characterized the years since World War I now began to reach Oceanside, changing completely the pattern of life. In no respect was this more acutely felt than in the school system.
Incidentally, shortly after his arrival in the community, Mr. Johnson started a campaign to change the spelling of the name to a single word, OCEANSIDE. While no record is found of such formal action, it has, by common consent and usage been adopted and recognized.
For a time, because of crowded conditions, the few children residing in Island Park were sent to Long Beach free of charge. In 1925, that District refused to accept them and temporary bus service to Oceanside was provided.
At the same time, a small school costing $20,000.00 was approved for Island Park.
THE "VILLAGE" SCHOOL SYSTEM
In 1925, the Board of Education made application to the Commissioner of Education for the status of a "Village Superintendency." By way of explanation, all Nassau County was divided in two supervisory districts, each under a superintendent with responsibility to the Commissioner for matters in all local districts under his jurisdiction. When these component districts acquired a population in excess of 4,500 and met certain requirements as to program, they could become independent units with their own superintendent. These were and are called "Village Superintendencies." In this action, Oceanside was following the pattern established in other growing communities such as Freeport, Baldwin and Rockville Centre. The Commissioner approved the application and the district assumed the form of administration it now maintains.
In 1926, it was apparent that more schools were needed. On the basis that the population center was near the existing high school, and that lands to the south and east would never be more than sparsely built up, eight-room schools were proposed for sites upon Fortesque Avenue and South Oceanside Road.
At the Annual Meeting in August 1926, the people were asked to approve an appropriation of $15,000 to purchase the property in the rear of the high school and all of the land between it and Long Beach to the west. This was defeated but approval was given to spend $6,900 for property between the school site and the homes on the north side of Castleton Court.
In December of 1927, a proposal to approve $535,000 for a new high school was defeated and a long period of part time education on the secondary level soon followed.
The responsibilities of superintendent and high school principal had become too complex for one man. In 1927, the separate positions of "Principal of the High School" (Grades 9-12) and "Principal of Junior High School" (Grades 7-8) were created. Walter S. Boardman, then Supervising Principal at Staatsburgh, N.Y. was appointed to the high school position and Miss Anna D. Haertter, who was serving with distinction as a teacher in the upper grades, was appointed principal of the Junior High.
In December 1927, Island Park petitioned to withdraw from the District. The Oceanside Board gave its consent and a separate district (Common School District #31) was created. High school pupils continued to attend Oceanside High School as tuition students. This arrangement proved to be mutually satisfactory, providing a maximum of local autonomy and at the same time offering the Island Park students the advantages of the larger high school program.
Though rejecting the proposal to construct a new high school, bond issues for the addition of eight classrooms, an auditorium and gymnasium at Terrell Avenue together with the erection of a new elementary school on North Oceanside Road were approved.
In the early years of the Great Depression, several proposals for a new high school were defeated. Finally a proposal to purchase about eight acres of "interior" land that is now the site of the Junior High, and to build the first unit of a modern high school thereon at the cost of $414,000 was approved. At about the same time, the reorganization of the secondary school instruction on the seventh, eighth and ninth grades as an accredited Junior High School was approved by the Commissioner of Education. In this step, Oceanside was the first on Long Island to gear its organization to the needs and interests of youth.
The standards of achievement began to rise rapidly. The elementary work under the inspired leadership of Miss Winifred A. Barry, who had been appointed as supervisor of the lower grades, was widely cited for its excellence. Sports championships including County Football in 1938 came one after the other. Scholarship winners became common.
In June 1940, Mr. S. Taylor Johns retired and Walter S. Boardman was appointed to succeed him. Mr. Charles R. Mosback, who had proven his ability as teacher-coach and Director of Health and Physical Education, became the new High School Principal.
The Board of Education, under the outstanding leadership of Mr. Thomas S. Fetherston, began the careful study of problems, debated issues privately and without bias until a unity of view could be reached. Then all, the Board and administrators, united in wholehearted support of the policies established. Night after night, Board members and Superintendent went before groups of citizens to discuss issues and explain fully what was being done. In turn, the best community thinking was brought to bear upon questions. The Parents and Teachers Associations worked closely with the Administration in this endeavor to reach complete understanding.
In May 1941, at the Annual Meeting the two members of the Board, Mr. Andrew S. Southard and Mr. Andrew R. Fritz, running for reelection were unopposed. This was an unprecedented change in public action. The many years of inter-group strife came to an end. The way was then open for solid constructive work in the best interests of children, parents, taxpayers and employed staff.
The Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor brought new problems. Air raid drills, civil defense and rationing shared in the time and effort of everyone connected with the schools. Principals and teachers worked earnestly to allay the fears of children and to assure them of a normal, happy childhood. At the same time, their responsibility as young citizens to their nation in its desperate struggle were outlined and they were helped to meet these challenges.
The close of the War ushered in a new and overwhelming population growth. From a point near ten thousand at the close of hostilities, it doubled by 1950. As the percentage of child was higher than in former years, this meant the need for more than twice the school facilities that had operated beyond their normal capacity in the War Years.
Beginning with the Fortesque Avenue School in 1947, the facilities there and at the two buildings on Oceanside Road were brought up to sixteen classrooms with lunch and playroom space in the basements. By 1950, it became apparent that the secondary schools would require more drastic expansion than the two buildings on adjoining sites would permit. After consultation with real estate people, the Board concluded that a new large site for a senior high school must be found at once. It also seemed necessary to secure the location for another elementary school in the southwest. After study, the thirty-five acres of the golf course that lay west of Skillman and north of Waukena Avenues was selected. A ten-acre tract of marsh land south of what is now Moore Avenue was selected as the ground for the additional elementary school. There was some objection for it seemed to be at the very edge of habitable territory.
A special election was called for December 11, 1951. Both were approved by a wide margin though a very substantial number of citizens felt that such facilities would never be needed. So rapid was the enrollment growth that even those close to the situation began to differ in their estimates as to where it would all end.
As a check upon its own estimates, the Board employed the Governmental Statistics Corporation to assist with the census the following summer and to present to the Board its estimates on population trends with potential limits.
On the basis of its findings and all other available date, a series of proposals were presented to the voters. These were to (1) bring the existing high school building to 63 classrooms and convert it to junior high purpose, (2) overhaul the old junior high school and adapt it to elementary school, (3) erect a new modern high school on the 35 acre site and (4) construct a new elementary school on Fulton Avenue. These, the Board stated, would provide adequate classroom space unless houses were built on the marshes, a thing then regarded as quite out of the question.
Even as buildings were being put up, the situation changed. Houses were built on garden plots and in back yards where it had never been anticipated they would be built. Plots whose owners had assured investigators that they would never sell for development did so.
New and easier Township regulations on building plus new techniques for fill made it profitable to build on the marshes and houses were put up by the hundreds. Schools, even as they were built, proved totally inadequate. To the frustration of parents over this situation was added the concern over the inflationary rise in the cost of education. It mattered not that the per pupil cost was one of the lowest in the county. Many say only that the tax rate was going up and they could not understand the reasons. Voices of dissension became a chorus and the period of harmony came to an end.
THE OCEANSIDE FIRE DEPARTMENT
The finest example of volunteer service in the public interest is to be found in the Oceanside Fire Department. Its beginnings were in that period termed "The Turn of the Century" and its companies have grown with the years. The first two units have since been augmented by others and by specialized services. Each has kept its individual identity, carrying on its business and social activities with zest and pride, yet working together as one smoothly functioning organization when emergency calls.
The writer is indebted to Mr. Oscar Combs for the source material without which this account would have been difficult to prepare.
The companies now included are as follows:
Salamander Hook Bucket & Ladder Co. March 2, 1902 Columbia Engineer Company #1 February 18, 1903 Evergreen Hose Company #1 April 6, 1906 Southside Hose Company #2 December 6, 1928 Terrace Hose Company #3 January 5, 1929 Rescue Company #1 November 1, 1947
The names of two first two organizations are significant. Ladders are still part of equipment though supplemented by power operated truck mounted devices. The buckets were for carrying water and were another matter. It seems there was quite an art in passing a bucket of water from man to man on line and still have some water in the bucket when the last man emptied it upon the fire. "Columbia Engine" represented a long step forward in fire fighting.
Quotations from past programs of these organizations tell their story:
"The Salamander Hook, Ladder and Bucket Company was organized on March 2, 1902. The first meeting being held in the home of Thomas T. Ramsden, who resided at 136 Oceanside Road, Oceanside. About one year later, January 15, 1903, the company's charter was granted by the State of New York. Placed upon the charter are the names of the twenty-six members of the company at that time.
"The members of the company purchased and brought to Oceanside the first fire apparatus in the year 1903. This truck being a hand-drawn hook, ladder and bucket type which served the community for over twenty years. This treasured relic has been kept in fine condition and is on display in our truckroom on the first floor of this building.
"The year of 1906 was another banner year for those members who strived so hard in years gone by, when they erected the present Salamander Hall. The town of Oceanside needed this type of building which has been proven many, many times. It has been used as a basketball court, meeting room for fraternal and political organizations, elections, weddings, school rooms, church services and many social events. Today, the American Red Cross is using the hall for a sewing room.
"The Salamander Hook, Ladder and Bucket Company will always point with great pride at the number of members who served our country during the First World War. Today, we are engaged in another World War and some of our members have already answered the call of our country; and many more will as time goes on.
"The present personnel of the company is forty-two active and twenty-two associate members who are inspired by that same spirit of loyalty that has been the predominating factor to the success of the Salamander Hook, Ladder and Bucket Company from 1902 to 1942.
"The Columbia Engine Company was organized in the fall of the year 1902. Mr. Sanford Davison and his associates applied to the State of New York for a charter on Nov. 1, 1902.
"The First Official meeting recorded was held on December 6, 1902 and the Company's Charter of Incorporation was granted on February 18, 1903.
"On April 3, 1903, purchase of a hand and/or horse drawn double tank chemical engine was arranged. Efficiency of operation of this early century engine was proven when the members won first prize at the Tournament at Hempstead on June 16, 1904. Their performance was bettered at the Southern New York Association Tournament held at Rockaway Beach on October 20, 1904, the members extinguishing a fire in the time of 14 seconds.
"May 11, 1905 Mr. and Mrs. Richard Poole and Stanley Poole donated to the Company a triangular piece of land in the center of the Village at Lower Lincoln Avenue and the L.I. Traction Co., ROW (Davison Ave.) A contract was let on June 16, 1905 for erection of a building to house the equipment, the upper floor (Hall) with its cozy club-like atmosphere was used to conduct meetings and utilized by various local organizations for social events, card parties, church services, etc.
"On March 19, 1913, a Mathewson Hose Wagon was purchased, the Company having then the honor of employing the first unit of motorized fire equipment ever employed on the South Shore for the extinguishment of fires.
"With rapid growth of the Village during the 1920's the members again cast their eyes and efforts toward the future and on Nov. 23, 1931 purchase of a plot of land on Smith Street was arranged. In the next decade the problem of housing equipment became very acute due to the inadequacy of Columbia's building and arrangements were made in 1951 to erect a modern spacious building on the Smith Street property. Our new building suitably appointed, houses the Office of the Chief of the Department, the District's modern Fire Alarm Telegraph System and Dispatcher's quarters and is designated Oceanside Fire Department Headquarters."
The three hose companies were area geographic divisions that have served as local social centers and functioned well as integral parts of the whole fire department.
Over the years, the best in equipment, highly efficient headquarters and modern communications have been reflected in the excellent protection record the community has enjoyed.
The Rescue Company represents a specialization beyond fire protection. As injured persons were often part of fire disasters, first aid became a part of the fireman's work. Adequate equipment such as oxygen, stretchers and medical facilities sometimes meant life itself. An ambulance with equipment naturally became part of the total organization. Highly specialized training in rescue work led to the establishment of a separate company. Since that time, many victims of gas poisoning, heart attack, or accident where no fire was involved have been saved by these men who drop everything to answer the call. State and even national championships in competition have been won by this highly efficient team. This is but further evidence of the quality of service of those who answer the air horn signal "2-2-2."
As Columbia Engine Company, in its early days, took awards if firematic competition, so have their successors in all companies maintained top rate performance over the years. Award winning seems to be in the very blood of these men whose list of trophies would fill many pages. These represent speed, efficiency, appearance and by no means least, the well-known Oceanside Fire Department Band.
Oceanside may well be proud of its great Volunteer Fire Department.
THE OCEANSIDE FREE LIBRARY
The development of this very important community service is quoted directly from a typewritten history without author which is on file in the library.
"On March 8, 1937, at a Parent-Teacher meeting in the Terrell Avenue School, the topic, "What can the P.T.A. do for the Community?" was being discussed. The Reverend Humphrey Walz, one of the speakers, suggested starting a library. The suggestions met with instant enthusiasm.
"On April 6, 1973, at the Terrell Avenue School, a meeting of P.T.A. members, representatives of the National Youth Administration, and interested citizens gathered to make plans to start a library; Mrs. Oliver Wright acted as Chairman. It was at this meeting that the Oceanside Free Library Association was actually formed. A representative group was appointed to inquire about rentals, etc. Mr. Rufus Smith, at that time President of the Oceanside National Bank, offered a small building on the corner of Court Street and Atlantic Avenue which he had used several years before as a real estate office. Mr. Abraham Levin offered the location on Poole Street. The building was moved to the property owned by the Levin brothers by the Highway Maintenance Corporation.
"An appeal for books was sent out through the schools and local newspapers. More and more books were brought to the office rooms in the bank building. Permission was given by the Trustees of the Oceanside National Bank to use three office rooms without rental for the preparation of the books. Mrs. Marion Sager, a trained librarian, volunteered her services and assorted and classified the books as they were received. Two youths from the National Youth Administration aided the committee in the preparing of these books for circulation. The small building on Poole Street was reconditioned by other N.Y.A. workers.
"At a meeting held January 19, 1938, the first trustees of the Oceanside Free Library were elected by the Oceanside Library Association. Mrs. Oliver Wright, Miss Viola Stewart, Mrs. Stanley P. Stanley, Mr. Rufus Smith, Mr. S. Taylor Johnson, Mr. Abraham Levin, and Mr. Frederick W. Shaw comprised the Board.
"Our Library was opened Washington's Birthday, February 22, 1938. The book stock at that time was about 2,000 volumes; most of these books were ones which had been donated by people in the community.
"At the May 3, 1938 election, the first budget for the maintenance of the Oceanside Free Library was passed by the voters of Oceanside School District #11.
"It soon became apparent that the community would have to provide larger housing facilities for the fast growing library. With this thought in mind, a drive for funds was started September 1, 1939. This drive brought in almost $500.00. These funds made possible the purchase of a plot of ground (40 x 100) on Davison Avenue, costing $360.00, and purchased from Nassau County.
"The next step in our Library's History was the decision made to ask the voters of the School District to provide $5,000.00 for the erection of a new library building on the library property on Davison Avenue. On May 7, 1940 the Oceanside School District voted "Yes" on the proposition.
"Several interested local Oceanside architects submitted plans for the new library without cost. Mr. Perrin Bomberg's plans were chosen; Masten and Wicht, Inc. was given the building contract. On December 5, 1940 ground was broken and the work proceeded.
"On Washington's birthday, February 22, 1941 the dedication of the completed new library building took place. This day also marked the Library's third birthday.
"In May 1949, the School District voted on the proposition for $25,000 for an addition to the library building. On February 22, 1950 the addition, which doubled the size of the Library, was dedicated. This day marked the Library's 12th birthday.
"In May 1955, the School District approved the purchase of six lots adjoining the site for library expansion at a cost of $8,500.00."
This ended the account quoted and, as it takes the Library to the point of recent events, it is terminated here as is the case in this story of other phases of community life since 1950.
THE GROWTH OF RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS IN OCEANSIDE
It has been pointed out that Oceanside was founded by people of strong religious convictions. "The Parsonage Farm" and "Christian Hook" are names not given by chance, but rather signifying a deep undercurrent of feeling of spiritual nature. The development of modern churches and synagogues is therefore a reflection of an earlier high purpose in life. From a review of the past, it may be confidently predicted that will be very influential in trends of the future.
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
As the first White settlers here were part of the first Presbyterian congregation in America, it is most fitting that our first established church was of that faith. In 1844, when the Millerites were numerous and when the Mormon faith was gaining converts in the Township, Miss Maria Pine established a Presbyterian Church School. She did so with the support of the pastor of the Hempstead Church who was doubtless greatly concerned over the number of people who were turning to other sects.
In the twenty-three years that followed, the established churches of Hempstead and Freeport continued to support a program of religious and general education in the community. There were breaks, as when Miss Pine married and gave up her work with the school, but it was picked up and carried on.
In 1867, it was reorganized under the name of "The Christian Hook Mission Sunday School" supported by the Presbyterian Church of Freeport. Soon afterwards the Reverend M. Burr began holding adult classes also. It followed that religious services were held in the school house on the corner of what is now Oceanside and Foxhurst Roads.
Until this time, adults were attending services either in Hempstead or Freeport. The faithful were expected to come to church both morning and evening. It was also contrary to their convictions to work their horses on the Sabbath, so the only way to get there was on foot. Two such trips on Sunday was indeed a demonstration of deep religious conviction! It can be assumed that the establishment of a church of their own met with enthusiastic support.
Naturally, the first question was the matter of a site. On May 23, 1871, Mr. Townsend F. Southard deeded a corner of his farm to the congregation and the way was open for a church building. This was officially the "First Presbyterian Church of Christian Hook." It is to be noted that the name "Christian Hook" was used even though business had adopted another and "Oceanville" oysters were a premium product upon the market.
In 1914, the church building was completed remodeled with its interior design from the small chapel at Union Theological Seminary of New York.
Another great step forward was taken in 1928 when the community hall or parish house was built at the side and rear of the church itself. This afforded better space for the Sunday School and church social affairs.
An annual dinner and church fair was, in those earlier years, one of the outstanding features of the fall season. When farming still existed as such, there was price and competition in the fine produce donated by the farmers and sold for the benefit of the church funds.
Under the able leadership of a series of young ministers, the church has gone forward with the changing times. In 1951, a residence for the minister was built upon the Amos Avenue side of the property.
THE FIRST METHODIST CHURCH IN OCEANSIDE
Early gatherings of Methodists in the southern part of Hempstead Township were the Bethel Church of Baldwin and the Sand Hole Church of Lynbrook. Soon after the development of Rockville Centre, St. Marks was established, drawing a substantial number from the Lynbrook membership.
Dr. William H. Carr who was pastor of the Lynbrook Church later told how, when he was pastor there, two men drove up in a buggy and announced,
"We have bought a lot in Oceanside and are building a Methodist Episcopal Church and want to lay the cornerstone on Sunday. However, for some reason or other it is impossible to get a Methodist minister. Can you help us?"
Dr. Carr helped them get in touch with the presiding Elder of the District who assisted in laying the cornerstone.
Behind that anecdote is the story of the founding of the second church of Oceanside. The Sand Hole Church was quite a distance away and there was felt to be a need for a Sunday School nearer by. People gather for the purpose.
In 1895, adults began meeting for worship in the hall above the store of George Wood on the corner of Nassau Road and Atlantic Avenue. They were led by Joseph McCouan, a local preacher.
The incident related by Reverend Carr happened in 1896 and the church was completed that year. It continues to serve on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Davison Street. Dr. C. S. Wing, the Presiding Elder of the Brooklyn-Long Island South District, not only assisted with the cornerstone but sent Reverend R. Stanley Povey as Pastor.
Three years later, a parsonage was erected on a site donated by Mr. Nathaniel Terrell. It stands on Davison Street opposite the point where Pearl Street comes in from the west.
Early accounts tell of over-capacity attendance and certainly the speed with which things were accomplished in building gives evidence of vigor of action.
In 1926, the church was renovated and the memorial windows dedicated. Again, in 1941, other improvements were made.
As it now goes into the sixth decade of its existence, an ambitious program of building expansion is under way.
ST. ANDREWS CHURCH (EPISCOPAL)
Third in the order of their establishment was St. Andrews Church. The initiative came from the Reverend Frederick H. Handsfield who made a house-to-house canvass of the community and issued the call. It came into being as a "parochial mission" out of the Church of the Ascension in Rockville Centre.
The first service was held September 12, 1926 in Columbia Engine Company Hall.
Mrs. A. A. Pearsall and her children donated a site on Anchor Avenue and, on September 11, 1927, the church building was dedicated.
For a number of years it continued to grow as a mission under the oversight of the Rockville Centre Church with Reverend Handsfield and later Reverend S. G. Sherwood serving as Rector. Prior to 1940, it was transferred to oversight of the Diocese with the Rector serving on a part-time basis.
In October 1946, Reverend George T. Cook was appointed as Rector. He continues to serve the parish and the community with distinction.
In the fall of 1947, a three-year drive for funds was inaugurated which culminated in the erection of the present church building in 1951. The dedication took place in November of that year.
In 1954, the mission was considered of sufficient strength by the Bishop to permit incorporation proceedings to start. These were completed in early 1955 and the new parish was received into the union with the Diocese in May of that year.
In 1956, the educational wing connecting the original building and the new church was completed; and the Parish Day School opened its doors in the fall of 1957. The Day School is the first parochial school in the community of Oceanside and the second Episcopal one to be established on the South Shore of Nassau County.
ST. ANTHONY'S SHRINE CHURCH
The creation of St. Anthony's Shrine is the story of a man and his vision. Reverend Robert E. Barrett was sent to Oceanside in 1927 to establish a Catholic Church. He found about thirty persons of the faith in a strongly Protestant community. There was no substantial source of funds for the great undertaking.
Worship services were held in Salamander Hall and plans were formulated for fulfilling his assignment. A site on Lower Lincoln Avenue and Windsor Parkway, then the fringe of the community, had been donated by a real estate company. A shrine, partly underground with the roof hidden in shrubbery and whose interior resembled the catacombs of Rome, was opened three years ago. By inheritance, Father Barrett was a wealthy man and his entire fortune was devoted to the collection of works of art and of religious significance to grace his beloved shrine. By architecture and decoration, he created a religious motif that was both impressive and deeply appealing. As its wonders became known, people from New York and even from hundreds of miles away came in ever increasing numbers. As the years went by, it became known and was visited by those from all over America. On many a Sunday, their numbers were in the thousands.
With the rapid growth of the congregation, resources also increased and an extensive building program was carried out. In addition to the original shrine, three beautiful chapels – The Sacred Heart, The Miraculous Medal and The Mother Cabrini – were erected. The site was extended across Anchor Avenue along Lower Lincoln Avenue almost to the corner of Atlantic Avenue. In depth it touched Kenneth Place and the property of St. Andrews Episcopal Church. Besides the chapels, a fine rectory and beautiful gardens came into being. Here Father Barnett provided opportunity for quiet mediation and worship that appealed to uncounted thousands of visitors as well as the people of his parish.
At the time of his transfer to another parish in 1953, Father Barrett left far more than buildings, gardens and attendance figures. He left a congregation of devoted friends and admirers. He was respected by a community of many faiths. He had established a great, ongoing parish.
The outstanding work which Father Barrett started has been ably carried forward by the Reverend Father Dennis Finn since 1953. A school and a convent are in process.
The people of Oceanside were deeply moved by the news of Father Barrett's death in 1958.
Likewise, there was universal regret when fire seriously damaged the shrine on March 25, 1960.
THE LUTHERAN CHURCH
On January 19, 1930, a number of persons of Lutheran faith met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. William W. Horton on the corner of Lower Lincoln and Atlantic Avenues, with Dr. Frederick H. Meyer of New York. Following a worship service, plans were laid for the holding of weekly Sunday School and worship. The use of Terrell Hall on Davison Avenue was secured. Dr. Meyer consented to conduct the services until the members could make other arrangements. Later in the year, the congregation was duly incorporated under the New York State law. It was affiliated with what is now the American Lutheran Church.
The first regular pastor was Reverend T. Rene Meyer but, as he was still a student, others service briefly until he could assume his duties. He came to Oceanside at Easter time in 1931 and was installed as pastor on May 3 of that year.
Terrell Hall soon became inadequate and permanent quarters were sought. At first, a site on Atlantic Avenue, which was then part of the Horton estate, was selected. It had been willed to the church by Mrs. Horton, but legal complications developed and the location was finally abandoned in favor of the present location on Davison Avenue.
The new building was dedicated on February 23, 1936. It is an interesting fact that the first cash donation toward the building fund for the church came from Father Robert Barrett of St. Anthony's Shrine. This is both typical of the man and the spirit of mutual cooperation that has existed.
Reverend Meyer left for a new post in June of 1938. He was succeeded by Reverend Robert W. Long, then Reverend Charles W. Sandrock, and, since June 1949, by Reverend William H. Toedtman who now served the congregation.
Under Reverend Toedtman, a Sunday School building and social hall has been erected on a site facing upon Fairview Avenue behind and to the west of the church. The religious education program has been regarded as outstanding.
THE WINDSOR AVENUE BIBLE CHURCH
The Windsor Avenue Bible Church is unique in that it was founded by a young man who told the story of the Bible independently of any established church and thus founded a body based upon his convictions. In a published booked entitled "The Master Leads," the founder, Reverend Frank J. Vurture states, "We do not have a church membership, but welcome all to fellowship with us." Incidentally, Reverend Vurture holds a full time position as an employee of the County and carries on his great religious work as a spare time, volunteer effort.
As a boy, Frank Vurture aspired to be a baseball player and, as any boy would be, was thrilled when the invitation was extended to him to join one of the professional "farm teams." On his way to camp, he read a billboard saying, "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own sold?" At the time, when his dreams of being a sports figure were bright, he could not forget these words. He abandoned his plans and, in association with other young people, began holding religious meetings and discussions. The group was known as "The Christian Young People of Long Island."
Beginning in October 1933, they held meetings in a number of communities including Oceanside.
Two years later, a small building known as Beulah Mission, located on Pearl Street, was rented for Tuesday evenings. The number in attendance soon increased to the point where larger quarters were necessary. Such a building was to be found on Windsor Avenue.
It was owned by a social club then in decline and interest on the mortgage was in arrears. At first, the building was rented on Tuesday evenings, then Sunday as well. The congregation continued to grow and there were many reasons why it seemed necessary to hold full title to the property. A generous offer was made by the mortgage holder and the property was purchased.
In the meantime, it had been felt that the name of the organization implied that it was for youth only. Accordingly the new title, "Windsor Avenue Bible Church" was adopted. The church was incorporated under the laws of the state in February 1937.
Radio broadcast of the Sunday morning services and a very active Sunday School program have been the features of the work.
An examination of the annual financial statements shows two-thirds of the gross expenditure to be for support of its missionaries in other countries. The number of young people who have gone into mission or other religious work is exceptionally large.
THE OCEANSIDE JEWISH CENTER
In August 1934, a small group of men of Jewish faith met to form a club. Dr. Edore Meyer, a young physician of the community, was elected president. As with the case with the first religious organizations in Oceanside, their major concern was the religious education of their children. One month after their first meeting, a Hebrew School was established.
It also appears that the Jewish women were gathered in a Sisterhood, for early records mention plans for a joint meeting and the sharing of problems that were before them. A period of years followed in which the way must have been quite difficult. Their minutes of February 24, 1936 reflect the critical times in which the club debated whether it should continue or give up:
"Special meeting called by Dr. Meyer.
Discussion whether we shall continue with the organization.
1st. Rabbi Miller is resigning.
2nd. Can we support another Rabbi?
3rd. Should we continue with a Hebrew School:
4th. Should we continue Sunday School and Social?
5th. Should we just continue a social organization?"
It can be added, to the credit of those devoted people, that their answer was to go with school and social. Minutes and news clippings of the years that followed showed that having "turned a corner" they continued and expanded activities.
They day came when the social organization became a congregation and a religious home was possible.
In August 1948, the old Soper farm site between Oceanside Road and Brower Avenue was acquired and plans for a synagogue were formulated.
In June 1950, Rabbi Elihu Kasten was engaged as a full time spiritual leader and in July of that year the first section of the new temple was dedicated.
Almost at once, quarters were inadequate to serve the full needs of the rapidly growing congregation and the completion of the building was urgent. In 1954, the new section was completed and dedicated. It provided a synagogue, social hall, classrooms and office facilities.
For those who had struggled through the formative years, this must indeed have been a time of fulfillment.
TEMPLE AVODAH - THE REFORM JEWISH CONGREGATION IN OCEANSIDE
As the number of Jewish residents in Oceanside increased, it was to be expected that difference in practice of workshop would be reflected in separate congregations.
On September 3, 1952, a new congregation representing about fifty families met in Columbia Fire House. Eleven months later, this new assembly entered into contract to purchase a spacious old homestead on a beautiful site at the bend of Oceanside Road just north of Campbell Avenue. In September of 1953, Dr. Charles Ozer was engaged as Rabbi.
The house was quickly converted to a Sunday School. Here again, one finds a primary concern with the religious education of children.
There was an unusually fine carriage house upon the property. Fine woodwork and craftsmanship had been lavished upon it by the original owners. Plans were formulated for remodeling this building to make it a house of workshop for some years ahead. However, estimates of cost came in far above what members of the congregation felt they could afford. The problem was solved by the members dedicating their free time to a massive "do-it-yourself" project. Results were amazingly good. Men who had no experience in carpentry, masonry or plumbing, by effort and attention to directions, performed near miracles. On April 24, 1954, the remodeled and greatly extended building was dedicated.
Fire destroyed the house in August of 1956.
The Lutheran Church had opened its fine educational until not long before and responded in keeping with tradition by offering its facilities for the Avodah School. Thus, the program of education went forward despite the loss of its school building.
Plans for a new, much larger and more adequate building of multiple use were developed, problems of finance met and, in May 1959, the new temple and educational unit plus social hall was dedicated.
Gratefulness of the congregation for community assistance in their times of difficulty was reflected in the offer of use of the classroom unit to the School District at nominal cost for the relief of overcrowding in the elementary grades. As a result, hundreds of children have been on full-time program where they would otherwise have been on part-time.
YOUNG ISRAEL IN OCEANSIDE – THE ORTHODOX CONGREGATION
It is understood that the Orthodox movement is new in America and the establishment of a congregation here reflects a national expression of diversity of belief.
In 1955, a group of Orthodox viewpoint met in Terrell Hall to form a congregation in exactly the same way that earlier gatherings of other faiths had started.
Two years later, a site was acquired on the southeast corner of Oceanside Road and Waukena Avenue. Rabbi Benjamin Blech was appointed as spiritual leader and a residence headquarters established. The growing congregation is looking forward to the dedication of its synagogue in the fall of 1960.
COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS AND SERVICES
The first migration of suburbanites following World War I created the need for new public services and citizens' organizations. To secure street lights, water mains and paved streets, civic associations provided the means of collective action. After these basic needs were met, interest dropped. Since it was difficult for one body to be duly concerned with the peculiar problems of small areas, each new development formed its local civic group to meet those problems. These area civic associations flourished until the immediate needs were settled or the novelty of a voice in government wore off, then interest declined and it became an assembly of the few faithful.
A central council of civic associations was formed to coordinate effort, but this too has seemed to be ineffective.
As the community grew to be one of the largest unincorporated villages of the nation, the town government by adaption continued to function very effectively at low cost to the residents.
At first, refuse disposal was the individual homeowner's problem. To meet the serious need for municipal collection and disposal, Oceanside Sanitary District #7 was created under the Township. Under the powers of a commission, contracts with a private corporation were awarded for this collection and disposal of refuse. This private contract form of service has been superseded by District-owned equipment, disposal area and finally garage for storage and administration.
There were, in 1958, more than eighty active community organizations. They included affiliations of education and religion, service clubs, chapters of National societies, veterans, fraternal, political, commercial and cultural bodies. There was also a number of groups of a strictly local nature such as Oceanside Community Service. These have provided an outlet for human urge to collective action as well as a means of expression.