Da Ya Know What Tomorrow Is???? Robert Sheridan bobsheridan email@example.com
From '57 to '61 I had the privilege of being paid to visit Great Kills Beach and watch the swimmers when not watching the folks on the blankets.
As you know, the water is shallow, what with sandbars and a six foot tidefall. Not much call for lifeguard services, in the water, at least.
When it rained and no one came to the beach, we didn't have to "sit chairs." We either played touch football in the sand, or went clamming.
One time, in a two-on-two game, I returned the kickoff, confronted my opponent, and faked out the great Jim Albus; ran right past him and scored a touchdown. It was such a great fake, totally unexpected, we both laughed, as I could never beat him any other way and we both knew it, which is what made it funny.
To go clamming, we launched the whaleboat, a nice white 16' lapstrake longboat we kept chained to an anchor buried in the sand. We'd get out the slatted rollers, turn over the boat and pull it over the rollers down to the water. We'd throw in five oars, four to row and one for the guy in the rear who played coxswain. Since we didn't have thole pins on the stern, this was more for show than utility. We also threw a couple of oxygen tanks under the thwarts.
We'd row towards the Narrows, off Oakwood beach, drop the mushroom anchor, and hop over the side. In water 5-6' deep, we'd go diving for clams. They were embedded in the sand and not visible whether you wore a mask or not. The way you got 'em was to dig both hands into the sand with your fingers and start drawing them together. Often you hit one or two clams, anywhere from cherrystone size, an inch and a half to two inches, say, up to larger chowder clams, about 4-5 inches long.
We'd drop 'em into our bathing suits, come up for air, and dive again, repeating until our suits were full. Then we'd swim over to the boat and unload the clams into the bottom. When we got winded, we'd crack the oxygen tanks and suck up some O2, thinking we were doing something good. I can't swear it did any good, but who knows. We clammed until we had the bottom of the boat full, then we rowed back.
That afternoon, since it was raining, we'd go over someone's house and start heating water, peeling potatoes, carrots, and opening clams. There'd be a case of beer and the party was underway. We'd make a huge cauldron of chowder and either have it that evening, or for the beach party that we were always planning, sometimes with Japanese lanterns, always with a keg of beer.
Great Kills Beach was the center of social life in the summer for some of us, day or nite, on the beach, or down near the point.
Clamming off SI turned out not to be too smart, medically, although none of us were known to have suffered from it. The father of a friend of mine was the NYC medical director, Dr. Jacobs. When he heard that his son, Richie, and I, were eating locally caught clams, he blew a fuse. Something about clamming being banned by his Health Dept., for things like hepatitis.
Despite the invidious comparison made by our poetess in residence, no SI girl was deterred for long from her interest in SI boys by the sight of a few piss clams.
Come to think of it, not too many SI boys were deterred for long from their interest in SI girls by the smell of fish.
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