Pines People- Bobby Bonanno
Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society President
I have always been blessed to live near the water. The beach has always been a constant in my life. As a child in the summer I would travel from our home in the Bronx out to Shirley Long Island to my grandmothers house. There we would go to a place called Fire Island.
After my family moved to Long Island I would hear about a different kind of Fire Island. A place where I could be who I was born to be, a gay man. I found my way to Cherry Grove. A place… filled with freedom. Freedom to do drag, have sex, experiment, and more.
Years later I traveled nearby to the Pines where you were surrounded by glamorous homes and people, and you were lead like the pied piper to what they called the Tea Dance. The music set you free. I had found my beach, and I was home…
Throughout the mid 1980’s I would daytrip to my favorite beach. Never knowing the impact this place would have on my life. In the late 80’s I moved to the Hamptons, and did not come back to the Pines until 1991. I had missed much, but I was back to the beach I loved.
Through friends I met a man who would change my life in the Pines. His name was George Bolender and he was the Postmaster of the Pines. George owned a home at Ocean and Sky. He invited me to be part of this house. I would finally know what it was like to live in the Pines. In Georges house he ran it like you were part of his family, and that is what I became.
Throughout the 2000’s I enjoyed a different life as I became part of the community through George. His home truly was where Ocean met Sky. He passed in 2013. I will forever be grateful to him. I dedicate this history to him
In 2010 on a ride over on a early season ferry I overheard that the new owners were planning much including changing the name of the Blue Whale. I thought to myself “how could they change the name of a place where so much history happened?” The Tea Dance was created there in 1966. I decided to go onto a new thing called Social media named Facebook. There I contacted the owners and voiced my concerns. Well the name never changed and I like to think I changed the course of history (just maybe).
Later that season there was an event involving the historic DJs and music of the past. I went and met some of the people who created the soundtrack to Fire Island history.
It was then and there I decided to start on Facebook Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society. In 2011 with help we created pineshistory.org our virtual museum for everything Pines. With a board of well known supporters we move forward with this incredible privilige.
I have met the most amazing people who have become friends and Fire Island Family. It has become my passion project. Some attempts were made in the past, but none that were addressing the emerging younger population and in the technology that would be their own language. A language that we all have come to use called Social media and the internet. Hidden away in a closet was our history. We , the Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society have taken it out of the closet and it are giving it the rightful place among all gay history…