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What Wuz It Like Back Then On StatNisland Robert Sheridan bobsheridan This is something of a mind experiment related to what we do when we talk back and forth about how it was in the old days when we were growing up on StatNisland. We're describing, or giving clues, as to how it was then. Obviously we think it worthwhile and fun doing so. The year, for us, now, is 2000. We can talk, some of us, about things as far back as the 1930s, say, OT and Sam. Others of us, the kids, can talk about growing up in the 1940s and 1950s. After that a lot of us left for the service or for greener pastures.

We leave little clues that some of us can recall, like the reference to the spring near the pumping station that fed the creek that supplied the water to Clove Lake, thence Martlings and Brooks Ponds, further downstream. The mere reference, as a beautiful lady, at least I think she must have been beautiful, because she wrote so beautifully, and practices art in Siena, but is from SI, once said, it's like Proust's Madeleine, the mere scent of which instantly transports you back in time and place like the magic carpet of old or the time-machine of the sci-fi books and movies.

Assume for a moment the year was 1900, then 1800, then 1700, and through the magic of the Web we could address a posting to our predecessor Islanders, and we asked them, "What was it like on the Island back then? Assume they all started posting just like we do. I wonder what they'd be talking about to give us a taste of what it was like? Would the 1900 contributors tell us about Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders of the Spanish-American War of 1898? The Civil War of 1860-1865? Why would they say they went to that war, and why was it fought. Did any of them go to see A. Lincoln make that speech at Cooper Union that put him on the national stage so effectively?

How about switching back to the 1800 channel. What would those Islanders say in response to our question about what it was like on the Island then. Did they wish for the ferry that a guy named Vanderbilt was about to start if he hadn't already (I dunno his dates). Would they reminisce about Washington marching thru SI? The British camping Hessians near Clove Lake? How come they were mostly British sympathizers? How you had to take the Richmond Turnpike (later called Victory Boulevard) if you wanted to go directly from New York City to Philadelphia without going through the stinking mosquito-laden swamps of New Jersey where they later built Secaucus. Would they tell us about the slave trading that occurred on StatNisland, and the slaves who lived there? What? Slaves on StatNisland who didn't work in the Acme Market? You goddabekiddin.' I ain't.

How about the 1700 channel? What were those guys thinkin'? They musta been thinking something to be living on StatNisland. Musta been some good farmland, fishing, and clamming. They had a spring in Tompkinsville, I think it was, called the Watering Place, where the ships leaving the Harbor stopped to fill the barrels for the voyage across the Atlantic or up and down the coast to Boston and Philadelphia and Charleston. What would they tell us about the Dutch, the English, the Huguenots, and going to school in "the old days" at the Voorlezer's house in Richmondtown? Was you dere, Gina? You were, Oldtimer, I know that. Blivet was in the stocks. Harry was writing jokes on the wall. Nobody could catch Ladieu. Donna was up on witchcraft charges. The rest of you were laughing.

I hesitate to punch the 1600 button because I don't speak Algonquian or Leni-Lenape, but I bet those guys could tell us an earful about the Iroquois you had to watch out for.

What would they tell us about themselves, their place, and their time, about what was going on, and the choices they had to make. Like why they got on that boat to come over, and what they found when they got here, and why they moved on, some of them, or their kids.

How would they say it? Would they tell us about how it was to try to get to Manhattan? Or describe the history of transportation and give us an overview of world politics?

Which leads me to the next question. When our successors in the year 2100 look back and see what we write, and they want to know what were things like on StatNisland based on what we put here, how much are they going to be able to tell about how it was for us, then, say, during the Depression, and during WWII, and the Cold War era and following. Notice we have a gap in our century because we don't have direct experience with WWI. Do we have any handed down memories that we can post?

If you were going to tell the folks in 2100 about what it was like, would you add anything? Describe anything differently? Tell how you felt? About some choice you, or your family was forced to make? We had a Civil Rights movement if I'm not mistaken. Did it ever touch SI? Did SI ever touch it? How about the space program? Were we always clam-diggers or did we ever reach for the stars?

How was it for you?


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