Guest Column: Peeling off the ‘North Fork Native’ sticker after all

08/07/2016 6:00 AM |

I grew up in Southold. I loved the summer season and spending all day swimming in the Long Island Sound or just playing and making mischief, as kids do. We took delight in riding around Southold Village in the back of a neighbor’s “woodie” station wagon with the tailgate open, loudly chanting, “We’re no city slicks like you.”

When Dave Horton of Orient and I married, we settled in Greenport Village, around the corner from the hospital where we were both born.

I won’t go into the shock and awe that respective Orienters and Southolders expressed at our moving to Greenport. Today, Greenport is “hot.” When we combined forces here, it was not. The community was welcoming and I instantly felt at home.

We lived on First Street in a longstanding Horton family home, a large Queen Anne-style structure that for many years was a family-run boarding house. Many local families and working people had lived there: Jenny Mederios, who stayed at the house with us for several years, Anna Conklin, Mrs. Holton, Mr. Ono from Japan and Thomas Chamberlain from Nova Scotia. Farther south down First Street, there were three other boarding houses that provided rooms and often meals for local and transient workers. I never felt threatened by these residents walking down First Street day or night to the library or downtown to shop. A smile and a hello was how it went. The culture and ideas brought to the village were exciting to me and I have always enjoyed hearing how “outsiders” got to be here and why many of them wanted to stay.

The Long Island Rail Road joined the traditional maritime industry in 1844 as a source of tourists and supply of workers who enabled our local industries and businesses to thrive. Many settled here and were successful.

What is Greenport’s attraction? The reasons are myriad, but I believe it is the sense of history that is alive on our streets — the realization that we are truly a community of immigrants and that we all have the strength and ability to open our hearts and minds to learn from one another and contribute to the community.

By working with the Stirling Historical Society’s archives and studying Greenport’s history, I have learned much over the years about the nature of the flow of citizens visiting and often joining the community as permanent or part-time residents. I often think about the Native Americans who lost their culture and civilization as a result of European settlements.

My friends and I no longer ride around town during the summer with the car windows wide open, loudly singing “We’re no city slicks like you,” and I have recently peeled the “North Fork Native” sticker off my car.

The Greenport of today and yesterday has taught me about assimilation, the nature of change and the importance of listening honestly to one another. Also, many of those erstwhile city slicks are now my good friends.

The author is president of Stirling Historical Society in Greenport.

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