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2018-05-09 / Columnists

Early years of Amityville Post 1015 - Part 3

by Sandi Brewster-walker

On Aug. 4, 1929, Jones Beach State Park, named after Thomas Jones (1665-1713), opened to the public with a causeway for automobile access from the Long Island mainland via Sunrise Highway and Wantagh Avenue. The regional papers covered the opening:

“In spite of a terrific sandstorm that whipped particles of sand with knife-like force against unprotected faces, it is estimated that more than 50,000 came to the Jones Beach State Park yesterday for its official dedication and to hear addresses by Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, former Governor Alfred E. Smith, Supervisor G. Wilbur Doughty of Nassau County and Robert H. Moses, chairman of the Long Island State Park Commission, who was chairman of the day.”

Former Governor Smith, known for spending summers in Amityville, was greeted by his famous song, “Sidewalks of New York,.” He stated, “I have witnessed a wonderful change on Long Island during the past 20 years. I once rode down here with a man who owned the only automobile in the section and who was hated by the drivers of horse vehicles. Enough attention is not being paid to developments like these and officials change so often that no one man has an opportunity to carry out a program.”

Jones Beach Traffic 1930s Jones Beach Traffic 1930s The article stressed the automobile made parks like Jones Beach State Park possible, however many Long Islanders did not own cars.

During the summer dedication of Jones Beach, the American Legion, Amityville Post 1015 was organized.

The new Amityville Post 1015 was also host to the first mobilization of all Suffolk County American Legion posts, according to the Suffolk County News (Sayville) on June 21, 1929.

Jones Beach would experience a million and a half people attend the park, and Amityville would experience a new organization. Between 1929 and 1931, the commanders, who helped grow, and set the agenda for the newly chartered Post were: Robert E. O’Connor, and Dr. Robert J. Skelly.

After the summer, the first Commander Robert E. O’Connor (1896-1950) born Fort Totten, N.Y., was elected in October. Robert and his wife, the former Florence (Cummins or Cummings), were enumerated in the 1930 and 1940 US Federal Census living on Sterling Place. He was working as an agent at the Amityville, Long Island Railroad Station.

During Commander O’Connor’s term, 15 buglers and six drummers were recruited for a new drum & bugle corp. “Buglers have begun practice under Director Thomas F. Burke,” the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 14, 1930 informed its readers.

Thomas F. Burke (1897), a veteran of the Great War served as a private in Co. F, 5th Infantry, stationed at Camp Gordon, GA until Oct. 21, 1918. Thomas served overseas Oct. 28, 1818 to March 9, 1919, and was discharged March 20, 1919. At the time, Thomas Burke was organizing the Drum & Bugle Corp, Post 1015 membership was 130 veterans, and the local legionnaires were taking community service participation very serious!

The following month, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 12, reported Post 1015 members “may become reserve police officers of the Village is seen as the result of the offer of the post to serve the Village in times of extreme emergency.” Jacque P. Le Brun, a legionnaire and Village trustee made the request.

Jacque P. LeBrun (1891), born in Greenville, N.J., was living in Far Rockaway when he completed his draft registration. By 1930, the US Federal Census enumerated Jacque and his wife Nina living on South Bay Avenue, Amityville. During the first year of the new post, Jacque was working as a real estate broker.

Amityville Train Station Amityville Train Station According to the Eagle, April 11, 1930, the new Amityville organization was known throughout Suffolk County as the “baby post.” It was already in the process of purchasing property to erect a permanent “dugout,” on Park Avenue.

It seems the property was formerly owned by Harrison “Harry” G. Nostrand (1882-1930), of Farmingdale, the son of Hewlett and Sarah P. Nostrand (also known as Van Nostrand).

When the 1900 US Federal Census was taken, Harry, a single man was living at home with his mother, and working as a plumber. Ten years later, the census enumerated Harry, a coal merchant with his wife Florence Anna living on Conklin Street, Farmingdale. When the census was taken in 1920, after the Great War, he was still living on Conklin Street with his wife, but now he was working as an agriculture merchant. Fifteen days after the Amityville Post 1015 acquired the property, Harry died April 25, and was buried in the Bethpage Cemetery.

The contract for the new legion property located on the east side of Park Avenue just north of Cedar Street was signed by the Post trustees: Jacque P. LeBrun, Emanuel Hirsch, Harold Albertson, Dominick Sarno and Frank Alers (Allers).

Emanuel Hirsch (1896), the son of immigrant parents, was inducted into the student army at Cornell University on Oct. 23, 1918. He was discharged Dec. 10, 1918, and on Oct. 29, 1924, Emanuel married Phyllis Schreiber according to the New York Marriage Records. Six years later, he was enumerated with his wife living on Ireland Place, and working as a land surveyors in Amityville.

The 23-year-old Harold Cole Albertson (1895) was born in Amityville to William and Annie Albertson. He was inducted at Fort Jay, NY into the service on Oct. 31, 1918.

Fort Jay, originally opened as Fort Columbia was located on part of Governor Island in New York Harbor. The New York Times, Nov. 20, 1964 stated, “During World War I, Gover­nors Island was a major troop embarkation point. This coun­try’s first overt action of the war was made by troops gar­risoned on the island.”

Harold Albertson was appointed sergeant with oversight of lower-ranked soldiers Jan. 21, 1919. Harold never served overseas, and was discharged on March 3, 1919. After the war, the 1920 US Federal Census enumerated Harold as single living with his parents on Broadway in Amityville, and working in the banking industry. When

Harold completed his World War II Draft Registration, he was living on Bennett Place, Amityville, and working at Chase National Bank, 40 West 34th Street, New York City. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, he died July 22, 1979 in Sarasota, Florida.

Another signer of the contract, Dominick Sarno (1887-1960) was born in Naples, Italy, the son of Joseph and Assunta Serno. He was a nationalized citizen, who arrived as a very young child in New York. Both the 1905 New York State Census, and the 1910 US Federal Census had him living with his parents on Sullivan Street, Brooklyn. He was inducted on May 26, 1918, and assigned to the main training facility at Camp Hancock, GA to Nov. 3, 1918. He was later transferred to the engineer corps, Camp Forrest, GA to Nov. 20, 1918, Co. C., 125th Engineers.

Dominick never saw service overseas, and was discharged Jan. 8, 1919. One year after Post 1015 was organized, the US Federal Census enumerated Dominick and his wife Augusta living on Richmond Avenue, Amityville. He was working as a real estate agent, and would serve two terms as commander, 1933-34, and 1934-35. Dominick died Jan. 18, 1960, and is buried in the Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale.

During the first commander O’Connor’s term, the Suffolk County News, March 14, 1930 stated, “The H. C. Bohack Company has purchased a building block on Broadway, Amityville, from the Lelang Realty Company. The Bohack Company had purchased corner sites at the Merrick Road and Broadway; also Merrick Road and Bennett Place, their third purchase make the company one of the largest holders of Amityville business property.”

By the Eagle, May 31, 1930 issue, the Amityville Post 1015 partnered with the Unqua-Corinthian Yacht Club to observe Memorial Day. The holiday events consisted of “a fleet run in which a number of yachts and power boats took part.” The fleet sailed to Babylon and back, sprinkling flowers upon the waters in memory of members of the organization who lost their lives in American’s wars.

Soon after, Post 1015 was involved in making sure all veterans had headstones! “Suitable headstones will be placed by the government on the graves of a number of war veterans in the cemeteries in Amityville, Melville and Massapequa,” reported the Patchogue Advance, Aug. 19, 1930.

The first commander Robert O’Connor was followed by Dr. Robert Douglas Skelly (1892-1931), a dentist on Oct. 16, 1930. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported, “Skelly received 35 votes to 19 for Hirsch.” The others elected were: Walter Stone (1st vice commander), Harold Albertson (2nd vice commander), H. A. Hendrickson (3rd commander), Navin Sees (adjutant), George O’Shea (assistant adjunct), A. P. D’Andrea (finance officer), Fred Nienburg (chaplain), Sidney Hendrickson (sergeant-at- arms), Dominick Sarno, J. Zasloff, Robert Haff, John J. Turner, Anthony Valenti, and Gustave Jurgensen, executive committeemen.

“County Commander M. Arthur Bosch conducted the installation ceremony which followed the election and after this the legionnaires adjourned from the Municipal building to the Amity Harbor Yacht Club, where an informal supper was served,” according to the October 18 issue of the Eagle.

Dr. Skelly received his degree from the New York Dental College, practicing nine years in Brooklyn. In 1928, he moved to Amityville, where he practiced for three years. At 26 years old, he was living still in Brooklyn when he began his service on Feb. 23, 1918, as an medical doctor, Pvt, 1st class until discharged Jan. 15, 1919. While still in service, he married Estelle M. Neidig.

The depression was growing, and local men were waiting on long lines for food and jobs! On Jan. 26, 1931, President Herbert Hoover asks the U.S. Congress to pass a $150 million public works project to increase employment and economic.

About this time, the new commander Dr. Robert Douglas Skelly, of Greene Avenue, Amityville died at the age of 39. Dr. Robert Douglas Skelly was commander for less than four months. Rev. Father John Finn held mass in St. Martin’s Roman Catholic Church followed by full military honors of Post 1015 at the North Amityville Cemetery.

Walter J. Stone, 1st vice commander was elected in a special election completing the 1930-31 term according to the Feb. 20, 1931 Amityville Record.

On March 3, 1931, the Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key was approved by President Hoover and Congress as the national anthem. Later on May 1, 1931, construction was completed on the Empire State Building in New York City, and it opened to the public.

Part 4 will discuss how in October 1931, Frank Vernon Aler, Jr. was elected the commander and would serve during the worst year of the Great Depression.

Sandi Brewster- walker is an independent historian, genealogist, freelance writer and business owner. She is the chair of the Board of Trustees and acting executive director of the Indigenous People Museum & Research Institute. She has served in President Bill Clinton’s Administration as deputy director of the Office of Communications at USDA. Winner of the Press Club of Long Island’s 2017 Media Award – 3rd Place for Narrative: Column. Readers can reach her in c/o the

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