1950’s Halcyon days in Fire Island Pines
with Peter Bennett.
I spent my childhood Summers on Fire Island, the Pines for the most part. They are some of my happiest memories: the beach; the dunes; digging for clams in the Bay; and even getting splinters on the boardwalk are the things childhoods are made of. There were no cars (a few jeeps) or even sidewalks in the Pines, I doubt that’s changed even now.
In the early fifties, just before I was born and our house was built on Ozone Walk, my parents and grandparents would camp out in the dunes with their friends. Some of these people, like my father’s friend Hildegarde, built shacks out of driftwood nestled in the dunes just a few feet from the beach. Protected from the winds but close enough for an early morning swim in the Atlantic.
Evenings would be centered around a bonfire where the days catch of clams and crabs would be devoured with some good wine and beer. It must have been a great time to be out there, no houses, no real estate, just endless miles of beach, dunes, sky and water. Halcyon days living only in memories and these photos I found a few years ago.
Fire Island Pines is all wooden boardwalks, no concrete at all. My friends, Scott, Jeannie and I decided to build our own boardwalk one day and got to work with our tool chest full of hammers and nails. I learned how to build things from my Father whom I noticed after hammering a nail would yell “fuck!”, evidently a reaction from either hitting his finger, or just bending the nail as it went in. Not knowing the reasons for his expletives, I figured this is just how you do it, and would myself scream “fuck” after hitting every nail, causing much consternation amongst the neighbors and my friend’s parents. Out boardwalk to nowhere was eventually demolished as some people bought the lot it was on. Such is the way of gentrification.
My best friend for several summers was Amy Fonda, actor Henry Fonda’s adopted daughter.
We had a good time together, but she has a propensity for expressing her affection through biting, myself being the most convenient target for her oral expressiveness. Nonetheless, we had a good time making mud soup in my red flyer wagon and lolling around on our neighbor’s porch. I was developing a bad food allergy at the time to tree nuts, and had the misfortune to find out just how bad it was one day at Henry’s house, barfing up chunks of my Chunky bar all over his kitchen. The Fonda’s were very gracious about my unfortunate reaction and subsequent mess, but I don’t recall being invited back there after that.
Peter Bennett now lives in California and works as a Photo organizer and trainer at Fotoflow Solutions, Teacher at Los Angeles Center of Photography and Photographer at Citizen of the Planet.