LEJA Beach

1957 NY Time article  ... A Beachologist's Ten Best List / By Hans Koningsberger

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Fantastic FIRE ISLAND- LEJA Beach, on the ocean side of the thin strip of sand that runs parallel to Long Island, "would be a great beach anywhere in the world; considering its relative closeness to New York City's millions of inhabitants, its unspoiled beauty is miraculous."

The Davis Park Casino ('The Caz') at 50

This article reproduced from The Fire Island Tide, July 21, 1995 "The Davis Park Casino at 50".

First there was Mr. Davis of Blue Point who owned a tract of land on Fire Island. When he died he left most of it to the Town of Brookhaven and that eventually became Davis Park. He left some of the land to his three sons. One of the sons sold his part to four friends, Lee Coffin, Ed Sembler, Joe Gerard and Al Brown. The result of that transaction was the Casino. The grand opening took place on June 6th 1945, the same day that the Allied troops hit the beaches of Normandy. But we get ahead of ourselves.

The leading light or at least the most forceful personality in the foursome was Al Brown. When he was a year old, his parents moved to Patchogue and opened a restaurant. His father died suddenly two years later. His uncle, a maitre d’ at an elegant Manhattan restaurant, gave up his job and moved to Patchogue to help Brown’s mother run the restaurant. Money was scarce and young Al dropped out of High School to help support the family. Despite the educational setback, Brown preserved and finally graduated from a business school in Jamaica, Queen. He got his first job as an accountant with Joe Gerard’s construction company, South Shore Contractors. There he befriended two engineers, Lee Coffin and Ed Sembler.

It was Joe Gerard who came up with the idea of opening a restaurant on Fire Island, but Brown was certainly familiar with the restaurant business. Having acquired the land, the four men petitioned the Brookhaven Town Board to have the land zoned for business. The petition was granted. Al Brown said in a 1987 interview, “Gerard, Coffin, Sembler and I knew of a vacant restaurant on the water in Blue Pint (behind where Flo’s now stands) that would be perfect for our Fire Island enterprise. We brought it and hired the Davis brothers, who were in the moving business, to transport it across the bay by barge and tugboat. It was the first Building on that part of Fire Island.”

The original Casino consisted of a bar, snack bar and grocery store. The second addition came when a man called Robinson died. He owned a building East of Davis Park and the consortium got permission to move it. It was used to build what is now the Casino bar. Business was slow to begin with and there were teething problems with the generator that supplied the electricity and the well that provided the water. More serious was the relative lack of access. Only sail boats could make a decent mooring. A few years after the Casino’ opening, however, the Town of Brookhaven built an open pile dock and that meant that there was mooring for motor boats. Business began to build. The partners wanted a name for their part of the beach to distinguish it from the Brookhaven Town holding and ran a contest in the local papers. A young lady submitted the name Leja. It was composed of the first initials of Partners’ first names – Lee Coffin, Ed Sembler, Joe Gerard and Al Brown 'LEJA'. Leja Beach was officially born. Though business was still slow, the men felt that the area would grow and they had positioned themselves well. A ferry boat would obviously help. Gerard retired from the contracting business and sold it to the other three. He started a ferry company with one boat, the ‘Joseph E. Gerard’. As the need grew, he bought several other boats and then sold that business to Fred Sherman and Hobby Miller. Davis Park was being developed and Gerard decided that he wanted to be part of it. He relinquished this interest in the Casino in return for property in Davis Park. The Casino in turn, expanded by removing the grocery store and rebuilding it closer to the harbor.

Hobby Miller, in his spare time, assisted Gerard in building houses in Davis Park. He was responsible for building many of the homes in Davis Park and Ocean Ridge, as well as the Church of the Most Precious Blood that stands in the middle of what locals now call 'Hobbyville'. Brown, reminiscing recalled that, “In the old days, Sunday service was held at the Casino bar. A sheet was thrown over the top of the bar and a little altar was set up. A priest would come over from Patchogue to say Mass.”

John P. "Hobby" Miller

MILLER-John P. "HOBBY", of Patchogue, age 84, died peacefully at home on Friday, April 7, 2006 after a long illness. Mr. Miller was a veteran of WWII, serving in the Marines as a Lieutenant, He was the owner of J.P. Miller, Inc. Builders for over 50 years. Mr. Miller was born in the Dominican Republic on September 7,1921, and grew up in Washington, DC. He was a lifeguard at Jones Beach in the 1930's, and in 1947 founded the Davis Park Ferry Company with his brother-in-law, the late Fred Sherman. Hobby developed and built most of the homes in Davis Park and Ocean Ridge, Fire Island, and homes in East Hampton. Mr. Miller was predeceased by his wife, Murray C. Miller, and daughter Patricia Miller. He is survived by his children Paula (Philip) Murphy. John P. (Kathryn), Thomas (Jody), Megan (Stephen) Goldsmith, Gervaise Miller-Baker, Peter, Quentin Helke, Andrew (Christine) and Luke Lownds (Winnie). He also leaves a brother, George Donald Miller, and twelve grandchildren, Kiliaen, Evan, Brendan and Regan Murphy, Erin King, Tyler and Peter Baker, Perry Goldsmith, Kyle and Margaret Helke, Alexander Miller, and Andrew Lownds, and his two great-grandchildren, Hannah and Miller King.

Online Tribute to 'Hobby'Land: LINK 

Fire Island Fun / May 20th, 2015

 ... Tagged "hobby miller" ...from online food blog "HUNGRY GERALD"

HUNGRY GERALD "HG" /BSK’s summer retreat during the 1960’s and early 1970’s was Fire Island, the long, slim, always hurricane threatened barrier beach between the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island’s Great South Bay. Fire Island was dotted with about a score of beach communities, each with a very distinctive personality ranging from overtly gay Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines (pioneers in out of the closet behavior) and prim and proper Point O’Woods. There were family oriented communities and those specializing in boy-meets-girl activities. HG/BSK had a house perched on a sand dune in Ocean Ridge, a community directly across the Bay from Patchogue, L.I.. Big, expansive windows and spacious front and rear decks. Spectacular ocean views and blazing sunset panoramas. Ocean Ridge was mixed: Some families. Lots of ad men and women. Journalists. Musicians. And, boys and girls playing the mating game. Booze and marijuana were very popular. Surprisingly, there were many outstanding cooks in Ocean Ridge (and Davis Park, a neighboring area). What made the culinary heights surprising was that there was only a bare bones convenience store in Ocean Ridge. Everything else had to come by ferry from Patchogue. There, Shand’s Market provided the basic foodstuffs. This was augmented by Karl Ehmer’s (sublime sausages and other German pork products); a fish store with Peconic Bay scallops and oysters and an Italian delicatessen (Mozzarella and many other good things). No autos on Fire Island (that’s why it was a paradise for the HG/BSK kids). Youngsters made spending money by meeting ferries at the dock and delivering food in their ubiquitous little red wagons. Here are some feasts HG remembers: Spectacular smorgasbord organized by New York Times journalist Glenn Fowler (and his Swedish girl friend). Catalonian fish barbecue by Catalonian sculptor Joan Junyer (friend and contemporary of Picasso). Joan and his wife, Dolores, grilled whole, gutted fish over blazing charcoal. Splashed the fish with crushed garlic, olive oil and paprika. Indonesian Rijstaffel cooked by two (names forgotten) Madison Avenue copywriters (and their wives). At least twenty dishes, all wondrously savory. Hobby Miller’s annual fish fry. Hobby was the developer of Ocean Ridge and operated as a real estate agent/builder and beloved unofficial Mayor. Manning some huge cast iron pans filled with hot oil, Hobby sizzled flour dusted fish fillets. The fish had just been pulled from the Bay and Ocean. A chic woman who had spent some years in Paris would issue an impromptu invitation to a mussel orgy. Big pots of mussels steamed in white wine, garlic, onions, parsley accompanied by crusty baguettes for dipping and icy, white jug wine. Yes, there were some misses. An eccentric woman gave a shrimp curry party. The curry was incendiary. Nothing to drink. Some bowls of yogurt. The yogurt will soothe the heat, assured the madwoman. It did not. Yes, lots of wonderful summer eating but the ultimate was HG/BSK’s platters of Clams Casino and linguine in white clam sauce, both made with hundreds of cherrystone clams plucked from the muddy bottom of Great South Bay by the HG/BSK family and their friends.

Partying on Fire Island / July 28th, 2013

  ... Tagged "hobby miller" ...from online food blog "HUNGRY GERALD"

HUNGRY GERALD "HG" /The Davis Park/Ocean Ridge section of eastern Fire Island (the long barrier beach south of Long Island,N.Y.) was battered by Hurricane Sandy but survives. Many years ago, HG/BSK had a house there perched atop a sand dune with spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Great South Bay on the other. The duo plus daughter Lesley and SJ spent every weekend there from late March to early October (BSK and kids were there full time for July and August while HG steamed in New York). Those days were brought back to HG/BSK last night when they dove into some big bowls of BSK’s special linguini in white clam sauce. Weekends on Fire Island featured great food and drink, much appreciated by appetites sharpened by the sun and salt air. Here are some of the memorable dishes served up by HG/BSK’s Fire Island friends and neighbors: Gravlax with a pungent mustard and dill dressing (made by the late Willa Z.). Perfect sirloin steaks grilled in the oven by the late John A. who hated the barbecue with its unreliable levels of heat. The late Glenn F.’s Swedish smorgasbord with a dozen varieties of herring washed down with Aakavit and beer. The 20-dish rijstaffel prepared in a tiny kitchen by two guys whose names HG can’t recall. The Normandy-style steamed mussels prepared by a woman (name also forgotten) who had previously summered in France. The roast lamb that cooked all day over a wood and charcoal fire (supervised by a fellow with an Armenian background). Omelettes and Bloody Marys for brunch at a pretty blonde’s house. Spaghetti Carbonara at (the late) Veronika H.’s. The late Hobby Miller’s community fish fry with corn meal coated filets sizzling in hot oil. The best-of-all fish dishes prepared on the barbecue by the late Catalan sculptor Joan Junyer (friend and compatriot of Picasso) . He would toss whole fish on the barbecue for brief cooking. Then off the grill for a quick de-boning. The firm, juicy and slightly smoky filets got a pour of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Magic. (Sorry to describe so many people with the adjective “late” but time and fate are inexorable.) HG and BSK hosted many a great cocktail party on their rear deck with the sun setting over Long Island. With clams HG and BSK (sometimes with the help of SJ and Daughter Lesley) had just plucked from the Great South Bay, HG would prepare clams casino to nosh on while those who stayed for dinner had, naturally, BSK’s signature clams and linguini. But, one of the most memorable Fire Island meals HG can recall took place in the bleak years before HG met BSK. A large group of Fire Islanders — very much under the influence of prodigious quantities of martinis and marijuana — mused that a meal of great Chinese food would really hit the spot. Good fortune. One of their number was a wealthy, young Chinese guy (tungsten, HG believes, was the source of his fortune). He called his office in New York City and gave some rapid orders in Cantonese. In 90 minutes, a seaplane landed in the Bay. Two Chinese gentlemen emerged carrying huge, metal tureens of duck, lobster, shrimp, fish, pork, beef, bean curd, noodles, vegetables, and more — all from Chinatown’s best restaurant. In moments, the hungry crowd was feasting on their dreams. HG realized then that there are some tangible benefits attached to wealth.

The Davis Park Ferry Turns 25  

  25th anniversary ( 1972 ) of the Davis Park Ferry

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email Questions? ... Contact:  dpa@davispark.org