It was dark outside, and so was our spirits. The four of us were crowded in a small cell of the small jail in Sound Beach. Joe, Hy, his brother Meyer and I had been arrested and charged with breaking in, and car theft. We were awakened at three in the morning, placed under arrest, and taken to the local jail.
I had manipulated my friends into going on a weekend camping trip to a picturesque location on the north shore of Long Island. Neither my friend, Joe, nor I, owned a car, but we had camping equipment, including two pup tents. Hy had been one of the friends that came to Brighten Beach, on that section of the beach known as Muscle Beach. Body builders and gymnasts congregated in a section of the beach which was midway between the water and the active area of the boardwalk. This is where the gymnasts exhibited their expertise, and oiled, glistening, muscled Adonis’s strutted and displayed their physiques. Among my muscled friends were Danny Laurie, holder of the Most Muscular Man title, Ludwig Shusterich, Mr. Universe, Hy Schaefer, weight lifting champ, and others of lesser sorts. Outsiders were ignored and made uncomfortable. Finely tuned athletic exhibitions, and well-developed bodies were the bait that attracted the girls. A few less athletic friends, like Hy, were admitted in this elitist enclave.
My craving for Edythe, whom I had met a few months earlier, was pounding in my mind. She was spending part of her vacation at her parents summer house in Sound Beach The year before, she won first prize at the Long Island Beauty Contest, held at Gutterman’s Casino. She had many admirers, and my thoughts were in a turmoil, actively jealous and drowning in a sea of emotion and passion. I wanted to see her. It would have been folly for me to bicycle almost a hundred miles from Red Hook, Brooklyn to Sound Beach on the North Fork of Long Island. My bicycle would be demeaning by comparison, against some of her admirers cars. like Hal’s Lincoln, or Ed’s Reo Royale. My needs and demands inspired me to concoct a camping trip as an excuse to see Edythe.
Joe and I had our own gymnastic act, and Hy was a friend that lived near Joe. He hung around Joe and me at the beach because it gave him a chance to see and talk to the girls that were attracted to Muscle Beach. Hy suddenly became more interesting, when he said his father let him use the family car. I interested Hy to go camping, and Joe and I would supply the camping equipment, if he could provide the transportation. Hy had never been camping, and was excited at the prospect. His father would loan Hy the car, a 1931 Chrysler sedan, if Hy’s younger, sixteen-year-old brother could go along. Early Friday morning, we loaded the car with equipment, and my BSA bike was tied over the rear bumper. Driving through Brooklyn and Queens to Nassau, we took the winding 25A route to Port Jefferson, then side roads to Sound Beach. We arrived before noon, parked on the dunes above the beach, and then Joe and I set up the tents. They looked about at the girls on the beach, but I only scanned the area hoping to see Edythe.
Sound Beach, and nearby Miller Place, had very few year round residents, but had grown within a few years with numerous vacation homes, which were summer resorts for those that could afford a second home during the Great Depression. Our tents were the only ones on the beach, and became a curiosity. Some girls, and boys, came to look at our encampment, and soon we had a nice group of swim-suited bodies engaged in conversation. When the first curious bathers arrived and asked about the tents, I was inspired and using my knowledge of geology, I told them we were writing a term paper on glaciations. Their surprised looks gave me the opportunity to explain our tents on the beach. I told them that my interest was in the mineralogy on the beaches of Long Island, which was the terminal moraine of the last placation. The south shore of Long Island consisted of sand, but the north shore consisted of varieties of rocks, brought by the glacier, from as far north as Canada. I picked up some pebbles and identified those of quartz, prenite, micashist, and others. Some of the girls picked and handed me various pebbles and stones for identification. Hy and Meyer’s eyes seemed to stare and gasp at the half mounds straining above the girls swimsuits, as they bent down to pick up pebbles. Soon we had beach friends, and we were accepted by the beach crowd, and swam in the Sound or played on the pebbled beach.
A swarthy young man was selling Eskimo Pies from a large box hanging from his shoulders. He was known as Nick the Greek, and though working for a living, he had acceptance by most of the beach crowd. He put his cold box of Eskimo Pies down and joined us in conversation. Some bought from him as we sat about in animated talk. Hy and Meyer could afford spending a dime for a frozen dessert, and purchased them from Nick. Joe and I were not that affluent and did not purchase any. I made the excuse that I did not like Eskimo Pie. Nick sensed that Joe and I were financially handicapped, and handed us Eskimo Pies, saying that his stock was made differently, and we should try his. They were different, very delicious, and they were free. As supper time approached some were leaving the beach areas, and Nick made his final circuit of the beach to try to sell his frozen desserts. Joe and I set about making supper from our stock canned food. I had not seen Edythe, and I was worried about competition. Some of the girls had mentioned that Edythe and her cousins had gone to Port Jefferson that morning. After eating a makeshift dinner, Joe, who knew my reason for coming to Sound Beach, induced Hy and Meyer, to drive to Port Jefferson to visit places the beach crowd recommended. I elected to stay on the beach, and when they left, I took the bike and pedaled to Edythe’s home.
Twenty yards from her home, I leaned the bike against the local well from which the residents took their drinking and cooking water. Edythe had told me that when her folks needed water, she would stand by the well until a boy came along whom she would induce to pump water. Next to the well was a wood-frame arch supporting the fire gong, a length of railroad rail bent into a six foot diameter circle. In emergencies, it would be struck and the local volunteer firemen would respond. From that vantage point, I sat and watched Edythe’s summer home It was dusk before Edythe came out of her home.
Adorned in beauty, she was a goddess as she smiled when I stepped into view. We walked to her porch and sat on a bench while I explained how I managed to get to Sound Beach. Her folks were busy inside listening to music on records that were played on a hand-wound Victrola. Her young brother, Howard, came out, and with barely a look at us, ran off to play with some friends. Edythe told me that with her two cousins, May and Ruth, they were driven to Port Jefferson by her friend, Eddie Spool. She became a phantom of delight in my eyes and heart when she told me that she did not care for, or favor, Eddie’s intentions. It had become dark, and inside the house, kerosene lanterns had been lit for illumination. Her mother, looking out from the window could only make out that her daughter and a boy were on the bench talking. She asked us in to have a soda, which I surmised was an excuse to see to whom Edythe was talking. She had seen me visit her daughter a few times during the past few months. I told her that with some friends we had driven from Brooklyn to spend a weekend on Sound Beach.
Hours later I pedaled back to our encampment. Much later my friends arrived and we settled into the tents for a night’s sleep. Joe and I, experienced campers, slept well on the padded blankets we laid on the pebbled beach. The next morning, Hy and his brother, complained of the uncomfortable sleeping conditions. Meyer pouted and wanted to go home. I made an extended effort that day to keep Hy and Meyer entertained, in the hope of remaining through the weekend as we had originally planned. Edythe, bringing a picnic basket, arrived on the beach with her cousins, May and Ruth. Soon we were introduced to numerous boys and girls on the beach. Nick came by on his selling rounds and overheard Hy complaining about the poor sleep he had on the pebbled beach,
Nick had the solution for the problem. He pointed to the top of the dunes to the now empty pavilion, where Nick stored his supplies, and told us that we could sleep there. The swimming and cavorting was enjoyable. Joe, well built but small of stature, was an entertaining and brilliant conversationalist. He tried to make a hit with May, Edythe’s cousin, who took second place in the beauty contest. May was a year older than Edythe, but with a callused vanity, rejected “small men.” Undeterred, Joe went ahead to try to pursue Edythe’s other cousin, Ruth. Hy and Meyer were happy just to be around girls. We lunched from Edythe’s ample picnic basket, and from other goodies that others offered. As dusk approached, Joe, Hy, and Meyer, decided to meet some of the beach crowd in Port Jefferson that night. Edythe quietly invited me to have supper with her family, and I decided to stay in Sound Beach.
When they left, with the picnic basket on my bike, we walked to Edythe’s home. Leaving my bike by the well, we went inside. We sat in the combination living room and den listening to the operatic voice of Enrico Caruso cascading from the Victrola, while Edythe’s mother called us to dinner. After setting the table in the adjacent dining area, Edythe’s folks were cordial, though inquisitive. about my intentions.
Edythe was attending the exclusive Savage School for Physical Education, and there were many established young men interested in her. I avoided mentioning that my family was poor, and that we lived in a cold-water flat in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Instead, I stressed that I was a scholarship student at Columbia University, studying archeology and anthropology. My intentions were to make a career in exploring, working in a museum, or teaching. Her parents were not impressed with my choice for a future. I did not seem to be a proper candidate for their daughter’s attention. After supper, Edythe and I sat outside on the porch, and merely holding hands had to suffice in stifling my emotions. It was difficult to rationalize in accepting the feeling that Edythe’s parents did not want me to waste their daughter’s time or future. Conversation was difficult with my mind in chaos and confusion of the fear of losing my fantasy dream girl, and the only girl I ever wanted to love, and have. After a cautious, and brief kiss, Edythe went inside and I took my bike and went to sleep at the pavilion.
My friends were still away and I undressed and lay down on my sleeping bag at one end of the row of side by side sleeping bags. Hours later, I heard a car approach and park, and then the happy voices of my friends. I did not feel like talking with them. I made out that I was asleep. I overheard fragments of their Port Jefferson visit, their descriptive opinions of the anatomical attributes of some of the girls, and their regrets that they had not scored with any of the girls. Eventually their voices trailed off as they fell asleep. We were sleeping when I felt a bright light through my eyelids, and then some heavy footsteps. When I opened my eyes the light blinded me for a moment, and then I saw the uniformed figure holding a flashlight. Glancing up, I became aware of another uniformed figure, holding a gun at the head of my sleeping bag. Joe moved, and holding a hand over his eyes, mumbled, “Put that damn light out!”
The cop at the foot of the bed kept the light focused on Joe’s face as he hit Joe’s shins with a club. Joe yelled, rubbed his shins, and stifled any further remarks when he saw the police. Hy and Meyer sat up, wide eyed and confused. We tried, but did not satisfactorily answer the two policemen’s questions, “What are you doing here? This is private property. Why did you break in? Were you the ones that have been robbing the homes? Who owns the car? etc.”
They arrested us when Hy could not produce the ownership of the Chrysler. Hy forgot to ask his father for the car’s ownership, that was why he did not have it with him. Nothing we said was accepted as an explanation. We tried to tell them we were camping, and that Nick permitted us to sleep in the pavilion. That explanation was not accepted, since Nick did not own the pavilion, which was town property. I was in a dilemma. I did not want to tell the police that the Cooper family could verify who I was. Telling them that I was arrested would make me more unacceptable. We were crowded into the police car, while one of the policeman followed us the Chrysler. We were put into a jail cell.
Until morning crept over the horizon, the frightened and confused four of us sat on two facing jail cots. With affected indifference, the local Sound Beach police ignored our requests for future information about our charges and plight. The one bulky cop that sat in the small office of the small, one cell Sound Beach Jail, glared with anger at Joe’s request for breakfast. Joe stopped his insistence that we be fed, and sat down quickly and quietly, when the bulky jailer stood up and looked at us. None of us were hungry. We were all worried as to the outcome of our situation. I was concerned about not being able to contact or see Edythe. It must have seemed odd to her, that after I visited her ,and had supper with her family, I disappeared from the scene. My image and hope for a chance to woo Edythe would further dissolve when her parents find out that I had been arrested for breaking in, and car theft.
It was midmorning when one of the arresting Sound Beach policemen and a State Trooper, came into the jail. The State Trooper interrogated us closely, as he looked over Hy’s driver’s license. With Hy and his brother in the trooper’s car, and Joe and I in the Sound Beach police car, we were driven to the State Police office in Port Jefferson, fingerprinted and put in a cell. A trooper eventually came and took us into an ante room of the office, then he brought us coffee and Danish pastries. We could see, but not hear a trooper’s telephone conversations. Unlike the Sound Beach police, the State Troopers seemed to be more active and efficient. Nick had been located, and he substantiated the fact that he told us that we could sleep in the pavilion. Within an hour, the Sound Beach policeman left after a conversation with the trooper who brought us to Port Jefferson.
It was all over within a very short time. The trooper had called Hy’s father, who informed him that his two sons, and two of their friends, had gone to Long Island on a camping trip. Hy’s father admitted that he had forgotten to give his son the car’s ownership. The license number on the ownership checked with the plates on the Chrysler. All charges were dropped. The now friendlier trooper drove us back to where the Chrysler was in Sound Beach. Smiling, he told us to go home and not show up in that area again. We were happy to be released without any further complication, but we were still somewhat shaken by the arrest. That arrest, did not arrest my ardent pursuit of Edythe, who was for me, the most wonderful girl of all Creation..