MEMORIES OF MY CHILDHOOD
AT LONGWOOD FROM 1901
Gertrude Bayles (Mrs. Thomas Bayles)
On March 27th 1901 my father, Gilbert Benjamin, decided to leave our home in East Moriches and become superintendent of the Smith Estate at Longwood. Being a small child of four years of age, this was a big day, as we drove toward Longwood, with my two brothers driving ahead with the furniture in a large farm wagon, with hay racks on it, and our family following in a one horse carriage.
This was a long ride over a narrow, sandy road, through Manorville to Longwood, through the woods which is now part of Brookhaven National Laboratory. My first impression on arriving at Longwood was a very large white house, a smaller red house, and many sheds and a barn, In the center of the lawn was a teen age girl with a white collie dog, who I later learned was Miss Helen Smith, who was wondering what we all looked like. As we entered the little red house that was to become our home for the next twenty years, a man was standing by the old kitchen stove, building a fire. To my mother, with three children and a small baby, this cold, empty house, in the middle of the woods, must have been discouraging, but to a little girl it was a big adventure.
LIFE AT LONGWOOD
Living at Longwood in the early 1900's was quite different from today. The nearest neighbor was over two miles away at Ridge, and it was a five mile drive with horse- and wagon through narrow dirt roads to Yaphank for mail and groceries, so we only went a couple of times a week.
In summer the only way to keep food was to take it downstairs and set it on the cellar floor, though at the big house they did have a large ice box, with ice put in each day from an ice house filled in the winter from the small pond in back of the house, which is still there.
Because of the distance to the store in Yaphank, we had to lay in a stock of groceries, and bought flour and sugar by the barrel. We bought no baked goods as my mother baked her own bread, cake and pies, and we had plenty of milk and eggs. Each winter my father bought a side of beef and put it on a pulley and hoisted it to the top of the barn, where it would stay frozen all winter. When we wanted meat he would let it down and saw off a piece. There was always chickens and eggs, and we kept pigs so there was always ham and bacon. How I dislike hog killing time, the pigs squealed so when they were caught, and I got as far away as could.
There were two ways to go to Yaphank, the south way led past "rattle-smake swamp", though I never saw a snake there. The other way was over Longwood road to the Middle Island-Yaphank road and past Uncle Josie Hurtin's where there was a steep, stony hill, and the horse often stumbled there.
In those days Sunday was observed as the Lord's Day. We all attended the Presbyterian church at Middle Island in the morning. My father had to drive the Smiths in their big three seated carriage. My mother and we children went with my father's horse and buggy. The Smiths had special pews in the northeast corner of the church, facing the pulpit, and no one else but the Smith family ever sat in those seats. In the afternoon my father would drive them to the Episcopal church in Yaphank, as some of the family were members of that church. Some Sundays Miss Helen Smith would ask me over to the big house and she would read me stories and play the piano. She would always give me a pretty card with Bible verses on it to take home. My favorite past time was to line up my dolls, of which I had many and play church.
My father always said Sunday was his hardest day as he rose early to feed the animals, then drove to Middle Island & Yaphank, and then had, to take care of the animals at night.
Most interesting in summer was the haying time. There were large fields of hay that was cut and put in the barn. I would always watch the unloading as the loads were brought to the barn doors, then the large claw was fastened to a pulley in the top of the barn, and put around the bay and hauled up to the hay mow by the team of horses pulling it. Lots of hay was needed as at times there were five cows and six horses kept. The only other crops raised were corn, potatoes and a large garden.
Then there was the small pond, which we couldn't swim in but had fun rowing a large row boat around and dragging our feet in the water. My brothers and I would dig worms and fish in the pond but I doubt that we ever caught any fish.
There was an old pony on the farm, too old to do any work, but left to roam around as he liked. One day he went to the pond and got stuck in the mud. It was terrible to see him sinking down, but they got a rope on him and pulled him out with another horse.
There was one favorite tree that had a limb that grew way out over the pond and made a good seat, and I would often take a book, sit there watch the muskrats swim around the pond. Their home was near the tree. Because of the pond and swamps near by the mosquitoes were bad and the men often would wear their hats with mosquito netting on them to protect their faces.
The high light of the haying season was when my father carted the salt hay that was cut on the meadows at Smith Point, Mastic, and hauled it home, which was used for bedding in the stables. We children were allowed to go when my father carted the last load, which he wouldn't make quite so high, so we could ride on top of the load, and we had a wonderful time trying to duck branches along the road, and we took our lunch with us.
With horse and wagon the only means of travel and the nearest neighbor two miles away, we had to amuse ourselves with games, reading, etc. no radio, television or movies. There was one outstanding day in summer when Mrs. Smith had my father harness the team to the three seated carriage and take us all with all the help to the Shoreham. beach for a picnic. Another special treat when my father and his brother would hire a sail boat for the day, and with a basket packed lunch, we would leave Longwood very early in the morning and drive to East Moriches where our folks would be waiting with a sail boat and we would sail over to the ocean beach.
The Middle Island Church would have a bazaar and supper once each summer and our family and the Smiths would attend. This was a social event and we visited with friends and neighbors.
In the winter there was lots of snow and ice and we had good hills to slide on. We would start at the top of the hill by the big house kitchen door and go all the way across the pond when it was frozen. There were several sleighs, a one horse sleigh, a team sleigh and the big bob sled, which my father would have to use to "break the roads", to Yaphank, Ridge and Manorville. This we thought was great fun as we rode in the back, which was filled with straw, and we had "hot bricks" and big robes to keep us warm.
There was an ice house on the place, and this was filled from the pond. Men cut large squares of ice with special saws and it was carted to the ice house and packed with layers of salt hay between. There was a big ice box in the cellar at the big house in what was called the milk room.
Shopping for food was done at Charlie Howell's store in Yaphank, but for other things we had to go to Patchogue or Riverhead, which meant getting up very early in the morning, packing lunch and being gone all day. The real big day was when once a year we drove to Port Jefferson, put the horses in the, livery stable, and took the boat to Bridgeport, which was the shopping center for everyone in this area, as there were no big stores or shopping centers around this part of Long Island.
My brothers an I went to the little one room school in Ridge, and my father drove us up there most of the time, but in good weather in the spring we would walk the two miles. When I was about 14, I went to East Moriches and stayed with my aunt and went back and forth by train to Patchogue where I attended high school. After high school I returned to Longwood and lived there until 1916 when I married Thomas Bayles.
Ice house filling day was looked forward to with excitement, as, several men came, which seldom happened as you may guess I was on hand to see what was happening. I was only allowed to stay by the ice house One time one of the men fell in and my father had to take him to the kitchen for a change of clothes and hot drinks, quite exciting.
My dad and brothers sometimes went gunning, but I always had to stay behind, however I wouldn't be outdone , I would take my toy gun and wander around the fields. I don't believe any birds suffered.
Once in a while my parents would leave me with Mrs. Smith and I got to eat in the big house, which made me feel right important. I was always given a little table with small dishes on the right side of the big table and was waited on by the maid like the others. Once when my parents went away, I was permitted to sleep overnight and slept in Miss Helen's big bed.