Video support for saving history

07/22/2010 12:00 AM |

The Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council is selling a DVD on the group

Early settlers of Cutchogue and New Suffolk never would have imagined that their story would be told one day, larger than life, in a video projected on the side of the Old Schoolhouse on the Village Green.

The video, produced by the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council, tells the hamlets’ histories in honor of the council’s 50th anniversary. Screened on the side of the schoolhouse two weeks ago, it was made to promote the council’s work.

Among its projects is a garage the council hopes to build among the other historic buildings on the green to house two historic cars. Sales of the video will support that effort. The video is available for $19.95 at the Village Green’s carriage house and gift shop and on the Internet at

Made by council vice president Michael Malkush, the video features the historical research of James Grathwohl, one of the council’s founding members.

“There was a great turnout. It was a lot of fun, kind of a Hollywood premiere without the glitz and the glamour,” Mr. Grathwohl said of the screening. “It is set up so that it can be shown in the Old Schoolhouse if anyone is interested in seeing it. I think we will show it during the picnic section of the Douglas Moore concert on the green on Aug. 14 and I’m sure if someone wanted a special showing, we could arrange it.”

Mr. Malkush, a Cutchogue resident who recently retired from teaching video production in the Jericho School District, has produced several videos on North Fork history and attractions as a hobby since he left his job.

The council has just begun a push to raise $45,000 for the building project, dubbed Fleet’s Garage, which will begin with a mailing to members within the next few weeks and a dinner event this fall. Mattituck antique car collector Parker Wickham donated a 1926 Model T Ford pickup truck formerly owned by Cutchogue’s Fleet family. Mr. Grathwohl plans to donate a 1931 Willys-Knight touring car that he purchased in 1959 from Cutchogue composer Douglas Moore once he has the car restored.

Though Mr. Malkush was responsible for the production, many members of the council combed through their closets looking for old photographs and film clips of relatives and friends who were involved in the council, going back to its first official meeting on Aug. 11, 1960.

The council was formed by members of the North Fork Chamber of Commerce, who began informal meetings in 1959 when the Smithsonian Institution asked them to gather information about the Corchaug Indians.

Mr. Grathwohl provided the lion’s share of the institutional knowledge behind the video, which he narrated without a script.

“I’ve learned so much. Jim had a scrapbook that went back 50 years,” said Mr. Malkush. “I think of him as our local historian.”

“I am probably a good person to narrate it because I am the only original officer of the organization left. I carry a lot of history with me, literally off the top of my head,” said Mr. Grathwohl. “My father was the founding president and my mother was the founding chair of the antique flea market.”

Indeed, when the founders of the council began meeting, it wasn’t on the village green, but on the grounds of The Old House, across Case’s Lane where Cutchogue-New Suffolk Library’s new addition now stands. In 1960, the Village Green was a tangled mess of brambles that the council worked diligently in the following years to clear as a site for community events and historic buildings.

Mr. Malkush began his research last fall and began editing the video in late November. The project was finished just before it was first screened at the council’s antique fair on July 3.

“A lot of people don’t realize the green and the buildings are run by the historical council,” he said. The green’soldest building dates back to 1649 but there is not yet an exhibit dedicated to the history of the early 20th century.

“We’ve had new members join us just because they love old cars,” he said.

On display through Aug. 8 at the Old Schoolhouse on the green is “Travellin’ Back,” an exhibit on the council’s history comprising many of the artifacts included in Mr. Malkush’s film. The Old Schoolhouse is open Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 1 to 4 p.m.

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