02 Jun “Golden Flashbacks”; A Sayville Alumni column by Judith Levy Leipold, Class of 1963.
“Exclusive Club Memberships”
by Judith Levy Leipold, Class of 1963
I was raised by the waters of the Connetquot River in Idle Hour, Oakdale. From my grandmother’s bulkhead, I crabbed, fished and shared tomato sandwiches with my friends. We, Gail, Diane, Joann and I, watched the Bayard Cutting Arboretum change it’s riverscape through the seasons. In our barefoot summers we hung out at the “Oakdale Beach Club,” formerly someone’s modest bayfront summer home. It was available to entire families willing to pay the $25 annual dues. For the short daily bike ride there, we swam, played ping pong, and feasted on hamburgers, pretzels, or ice cream. The OBC also offered annual Red Cross swimming lessons. Each year a new challenge, a new level of proficiency, and a new card to certify we were in some advanced stage of swimming.
Paralleling our Red Cross standing was the changing status of our school identity. The summer of 1956, we were readying ourselves to attend the newly expanded Montauk Highway Elementary School as sixth graders. In 1957, we would enter seventh grade in Sayville, as the last class to attend “Old ’88.” We’d be joining a larger student body of kids from Sayville, West Sayville, Ronkonkoma and Bohemia. In 1958, we would be moving into the “old” SHS on Greene Avenue. The “new” high school on Brook Street was opened and entering its doors would be students of classes of ’59-62.
Then came our thirteenth summer, 1959. We would be the last Oakdale kids to graduate from Sayville High School, the class of ’63. Out of the blue, my parents made me an offer, a membership to “Brightwaters Swim and Tennis Club.” I don’t know if that was the exact name, it was how it was described to me….swimming and tennis in Brightwaters. All I knew was Brightwaters was fancy. I had never been there or seen the “club.” I didn’t have any friends there. I had never owned a tennis racket or even held one. And, my answer was an absolute “NO!” I did learn that the cost for part time summer membership for one teenaged girl was in the neighborhood of $125, a fortune, in my mind. Of course, that didn’t include buying a tennis racket, or even, shoes!
My first “business” sense kicked in. I found a 14’ handmade wooden skiff that had a Mercury 7.5hp motor, equipped with a set of oars, oarlocks and a gas tank…all for $75. I was never a genius, especially in math or science, but this seemed like simple arithmetic. To my amazement, the deal was sealed. I became a very proud boat owner. Everything suddenly became up close and personal. We became proficient crabbers, clammers, and explorers. From Bubbles Falls to the Great South Bay we owned it all. Waterside paths allowed us entrance to the endless lawns and comfy Adirondack chairs of the Arboretum where we four friends established ourselves as permanent members into our own exclusive club.