A Message from the Board of Education
A Message from the Superintendent
Dear Commackians and Friends of the Commack Public Schools,
Dear Friends and Neighbors, The Board of Education is pleased to present you with this centennial history of the Commack Public Schools. We are proud to honor our history and salute our administrators, teachers, staff, students, and community as we celebrate past and present in Commack. We have chosen Tess Falcetta as the honorary chairperson of the Commack Centennial. Tess has served for twenty-four years as an advisor and guide to so many trustees. Without doubt, no one represents the Commack spirit we so cherish more than Tess Falcetta. Tess' character, conscience, unerring sense of the public trust, style, and elegance remains an enduring example of service to us all. We thank our own Brad Harris, teacher and historian, author of Commack's centennial history for his profound scholarship and research. We acknowledge Hilda Hass, and the Commack Historical Committee for their invaluable personal assistance and custody of our treasured archives. We graciously thank all the committees and volunteers, as well as the corporate and personal donors who have made this great centennial remembrance and celebration a reality. Without each and every one of you it would not have been possible. Finally, we dedicate this book to the teachers and administrators of the Commack Public Schools who each day give their very best to our children and parents. We are so very fortunate to live in this place named Comac "a beautiful place" by the Native Americans who preceded us. Hopefully, our contributions will continue to make Commack a beautiful place to live as we bring the district forward into the twenty-first century.
It is with great pride in the Commack community that we have been celebrating one hundred years of public education in Commack. The vision of those who preceded us and your unerring commitment to quality education have made it possible for us to realize one hundred years of excellence in teaching and learning. Our academic community perpetuates this heritage and trust through vigorous reinforcement of the highest standards for student success. This comrnemorative centennial publication will provide you with a capsule history of our growth and accomplishments. It is only right that we recognize the Boards of Education, past and present, for their guidance and leadership. Also, members of the Centennial Omnibus Committee and all of the Centennial sub-committee members are to be commended for their selfless dedication to this memorable year of special events. Finally, sincere appreciation is extended to all members of our greater school community who provided support through their participation and generous giving of donations, personal resources, and caring spirit. Please accept this commemorative history of the Commack Public Schools as a memento of this capstone year, and a thank you for all that you have done to cherish the past, secure the present, and endow the future. I am deeply honored to serve as the Superintendent of this exceptionally fine school district on the cusp of the twenty-first century. It is my hope that you will enjoy this interesting story of Commack's first one hundred years.
James H. Hunderfund, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Mr. John Pelan
President Board of Education
Mrs. Mary Jo Masciello
Mrs. Joan S. Bosinius
Mr. Thomas L. Tornee Trustee
Comac Corners: A partial view of Comac Corners looking west down Jericho Turnpike. The Comac Hotel can be seen on the left and the Comac General Store is on the right. Further west along the north side of Jericho Turnpike is Mrs. Ketcham's candy store and a number of other homes. Notice the windmill that towers over the general store. Postcard courtesy of Joel Streich.
Comac, a Rural Village at the Turn of the Century... Too often, Commack has been called a split community that lacks an
identity of its own. With half of its residents living within the political jurisdiction of Smithtown and the other half living within the political jurisdiction of Huntington, the community has no political unity. It has no downtown, no center, and is nothing more than one sprawling shopping center after another. Commack has no history of its own, no sense of community and no identity. These are the things that people say about Commack, but nothing could be further from the truth. Commack, or “Comac” (pronounced “comic”) as it was spelled at the turn of the century, was a small country village that straddled the Smithtown/Huntington town line. Located in the little hollow created by the gently rolling hills that surrounded the intersection of Jericho Turnpike and Comac/Townline Road, it was a “cross-roads” that stretched out to the north, south, east and west from “Comac Corners.” Comac had two hotels, a general store, a candy store, a large centrally located school building, a wheelwright shop, a blacksmith, a butcher shop, a Methodist church, a Presbyterian church, a cabinet maker, sawmills, racetracks, and many large homes and farms. Comac also had its share of wealthy and influential residents. Comac at the turn of the century was a thriving, bustling, little village that had a sizeable population and a history that was already over two hundred years old. Although the remnants of Comac’s past have been all but obliterated by the intrusion of modern suburbia, an identity and a sense of community survives in today's Commack. It survives primarily because of the unity and
communality brought to the residents of Commack by its school system, a school district that now has a history that The Comac General stretches back over a hundred years of time.
In the Beginning... In the beginning, there were two small school districts that ser-
viced the Comac area. South of Jericho Turnpike was School District #18 while north of Jericho Turnpike was School District #10. Each of these school districts straddled the town line so that part of each district was in Smithtown and part was in Huntington. Each district had its own one-room schoolhouse, its own trustee, and each employed a teacher. Since both schoolhouses were less than two miles apart, and both districts were facing increased enrollments, it seemed reasonable to consolidate the two small districts into one larger district. In 1899, the school districts petitioned the School Commissioner of the 2nd District of Suffolk County for consolidation. The Commissioner, who at the time was Charles W. Fordham, granted their petition and on October 12, 1899, created a new consolidated school district that was to be known as School District # 10 of the Town of Huntington. In this way, Comac School District # 10 was born. Two days later, on October 14, 1899, a special school meeting was convened in Burr’s Hall on Burr Road in northern Comac. At 8 p.m. that evening, the legal voters of the district gathered to consider three important questions: 1) the election of three Trustees for the District, 2) the selection of the building site for a new schoolhouse, and 3) the building and financing of a new schoolhouse. Fifty voters, both men and women, attended this meeting and elected Herbert J. Harned, Carll S. Burr, Jr., and John C. Hubbs as the new District’s Trustees who, in effect, became the first Comac Board of Education. They also then voted to approve the purchase
Store: Across the street from the hotel, on the northwest corner of the crossroads was the Comac General Store. The above photograph was taken around 1905 at a time when Frank Otten owned and operated the store. At that time the store also served as the local post office. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
The Comac Frame School: Erected in 1899, the Frame School was built on the same site where the Marion Carll School was later built.
grades 1-8 and the classes were divided so that one teacher worked with the first through fourth graders, while another teacher worked with the fifth through eighth graders. Frequently there were only two teachers in the school because there were not that many students who finished seventh and eighth grades. Howard Moreland attended this school until the eighth grade. Howard Moreland was one of the few people who knew anything at all about this school, and when he passed away a few years ago, we lost the opportunity to learn more of this school from someone who had actually attended it as a child. But school board minutes, from 1899 to 1924, show that over the course of the 25 years that the building was used, a number of renovations and improvements were made. The floors were oiled, the building painted, a fire escape was added, storm windows were installed, a storm shed was built for the entrance, a flag pole was erected, and in 1919, inside toilets were installed. The days of using the outhouse were over. In 1922, the L.I. Lighting Company brought electricity to the school. This made it possible to replace the coal furnace with an oil burner to heat the school. School board members were making every effort to stay up with the rapid pace of change in the world about them. The Comac that Howard Moreland knew as a boy was vastly different from the Commack that we know today. Comac at the turn of century was a little country village that was surrounded by extensive farmlands and open fields. The heart of the village was to be found at the crossroads of Jericho Turnpike and Comac/Townline Road. On the southwest corner
of a 1/2 acre parcel of property on Jericho Turnpike for $500, and authorized the bonding of $3500 to pay the cost of building a new schoolhouse and fencing the property. (It is interesting to note that women who were property owners were recognized as â€œlegal votersâ€? at this meeting at a time when women were denied the right to vote in national elections.) The construction of a new schoolhouse was begun immediately on the crest of the hill on the southwest corner of Jericho Turnpike and Comac Road. It occupied the spot where the Marion Carll School would later be built. The new schoolhouse was known as the Frame School and was considerably larger than the old one-room schoolhouses. The name of the building came from the fact that the school was a two-story, wooden frame structure. The building had an entranceway that led into an interior vestibule that probably contained a coatroom for the students and perhaps an office for the principal. Beyond the vestibule was one large classroom. The vestibule must also have had a stairway that led to the second floor where there was a library that could double as an assembly hall, and an additional large classroom. According to Howard Moreland, who attended this school when he was a boy growing up in Comac, there were two classrooms in the building, one downstairs and one upstairs. The school served
The Comac Hotel, c. 1908-1910: Although the building was later renovated and its exterior modified, the hotel stood at Comac Corners until it was torn down in 1965. Today this corner is occupied by the Goodyear Tire Center. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
Carll S. Burr, Jr. drinking from the well on Jericho Turnpike. Mr. Henry Shea used to have a glass mug in his possession, a common drinking mug, which used to hang from a wellhouse that stood to the east of the Goldsmith Hotel on Jericho Turnpike. Thirsty travellers would stop at the well, crank up a bucket of clear, sweet, fresh water, and then use the mug to dip out a drink. In the process they certainly must have ingested more than just water from the communal drinking mug. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Hiistorical Society.
The Goldsmith Hotel: This hotel stood on the northeast corner of Jericho Turnpike and Townline Road where the White Castle Restaurant stands today. The hotel burned down in 1895. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
of this intersection stood the Comac Hotel. The photograph on page 3 shows the Comac Hotel as it looked around 1908-1910. The dirt road in the foreground of the photograph is Jericho Turnpike, and judging from the ruts in the road, the touring car occupants must have had a bumpy ride. The barn pictured in this photograph was on farm property that occupied the southeast corner of the intersection. Across the street from the hotel, on the northwest corner of the crossroads was the Comac General Store. The photograph on page 2 was taken around 1905 at a time when F.A.Otten owned and operated the store. At that time the store also served as the local post office and it was where folks purchased dry goods and picked up the mail. There aren't many people left in Commack who remember this store other than Henry Shea, who grew up in Comac. His father used to purchase gas for the family car at this store. Henry remembered that his father used to draw gas from a fifty gallon drum alongside the store. His father would fill up a gallon measure from this drum, and then he would carefully strain the gas through a chamois and pour the gas into the tank of the family car. This was done to remove water from the gasoline. Although Henry remembered his father laboring to fill the family car with gas, he didn’t have any memories of the interior of the store. Unfortunately, not much is known about the early history of this store. It is known that this store was previously owned by generations of the Whitman family and for that reason, the little hollow at the crossroads had long been known as Whitman’s Hollow. Across Townline Road from the store, on the northeast corner of the crossroads, was a vacant lot. Just before the turn of the century, a hotel was also to be found at this location. The Goldsmith family owned and operated this hotel in 1895.
Apparently a hotel had been operated from this corner for a long time. The building was originally known as the Woodhull Tavern and the east wing of the building, the small wing of the hotel seen in the photograph, was said to have dated back to the 1770's. It was in this building that Comac's first school district was organized in 1814. The Goldsmith hotel burned to the ground in 1895 and Comac lost this historic landmark. Just up Jericho Turnpike, about 200' west of the General Store on the north side of the road, was one store in Comac that every kid knew about, Mrs. Ketcham's Store. This little store, which sold ice cream and candy, was a great place for any kid who had a penny in his pocket and was looking for a place to spend it. It helped that it was conveniently located near the Frame School. These were the buildings that occupied the center of town. The Comac community was spread out over the surrounding area. Along Jericho Turnpike stood some of the largest residences and farms in the Comac community. Heading east from Comac Corners along Jericho Turnpike, one would pass the home and farm that once belonged to Caleb Smith II (1762-1831). This large house was built in 1819 by Caleb Smith II, a great-great-grandson of Richard Smythe, the founder and patentee of Smithtown. Although not very large by today's standards, the house was an impressive and substantial home in 1819. It was a befitting residence for a man of prominence in the community who had served as a Justice of the Peace, Overseer of the Poor, Overseer of Highways, Assessor, Fence Viewer, State Assemblyman, and Supervisor of Smithtown. When he built the house, Caleb cleared some two hundred and fifty acres of land to be worked as farmland. At the time, he was 56 years of age and it
Mrs. Ketcham's Store, 1905. When this photograph was taken, Mrs. Ketcham was selling ice cream, chocolates, and cigarettes from the little shop. She lived in an “old house” that was immediately to the east of the store. She ran the store with the help of her daughter Ollie. The girl in the photograph holding the cat is Lillian Corbett Wilson, born 1889. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
The Caleb Smith Homestead used to look this way when it was located on the north side of Jericho Turnpike, about 1/4 mile east of the crossroads. It stood on the corner of Ruth Blvd. and Jericho Turnpike. This large house was built in 1819 by Caleb Smith II, a great-great-grandson of Richard Smythe, the founder and patentee of Smithtown. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
is reasonable to assume that he did not clear the land and build his house by himself. He certainly must have had help from his relatives, friends and neighbors and no doubt he paid others to do the work for him. It is quite probable that some of the laborers that Caleb Smith employed on his farm in Comac were slaves that his family had owned whom he had inherited and manumitted. We do know that on his property in Comac, Caleb Smith had another small house built for his servants who were former slaves (The little house can be seen in the photograph above). There was another little house on the Caleb Smith property that stood on the hill behind the homestead. The photograph on the right shows what this house looked like in 1944 when it was still standing. This house originally stood on the north side of Burr road to the west of Smith Burr Tavern. Sometime around 1814, it was moved to Jericho Turnpike east of the Goldsmith Hotel. Here it was used as Comac’s first schoolhouse from 1814 to 1844. When the district was reorganized in 1844 and two new schoolhouses were then used - the North School and the South School - this building was then moved up on the hill behind Caleb Smith’s house. When Caleb Smith built his house in Comac, we know that his ''new house” actually had a pre-existing house incorporated into it. There is exterior evidence provided by the window spacing that the original home was only two or three bays wide and that Caleb Smith added onto the house and doubled its
size. The internal framing of the house provides additional evidence that this was done. The "original" part of the house has framing that was “hand hewn” while the addition ''has a heavy frame that was sawn." What makes this interesting is that the original home was most likely constructed sometime prior to the Revolution and this makes it one of the original homes in the Comac area. Unfortunately, we will never know this since the Caleb Smith House was moved from its original site in 1955, and no measured drawings of the foundation and other details were taken at the time that might have revealed if an earlier house was standing on the property. By the turn of the century, Robert Bailey Smith, Caleb Smith II's grandson, owned the homestead. It continued to look much as it had when Caleb Smith owned it, and the 12,000 acres of property that surrounded it were still intact. But in 1904, Robert Bailey Smith sold this house and property to Carll S. Burr Jr. who added these lands to his holdings in Comac. Beyond Caleb Smith's house, further east toward Smithtown, was the last house on the south side of Jericho Turnpike. This was the Van Brunt Mansion. It stood about 700' east of Harned Road. Hardly a mansion, it was a typical farm house where the Van Brunts lived. The last member of the family to live in this house was Minnie Van Brunt, the school mistress of the little one room schoolhouse known as the North School. Minnie Van Brunt later became a teacher and the principal of the Frame School in 1907. Beyond the Van Brunt's, acres of woodlands stretched for miles on either side of the dirt road until they reached the little village of Head of the River in Smithtown. Traveling west from Comac Corners along Jericho Turnpike at the turn of the century, one would have passed a
Comac’s first schoolhouse: Known as the “Old Slavehouse,” this building was actually Comac’s first school building. It was first erected on Smith Burr’s property on the north side of Burr road. At the time it may have been a slave’s house. Around 1814 it was moved to the north side of Jericho Turnpike, just east of the Goldsmith Hotel. Here it became Comac’s first schoolhouse. It closed in 1844 and was moved back behind Caleb Smith’s home. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
This Edward Lange drawing (1881) shows the Ira Hubbs farm on the south side of Jericho Turnpike where the Heatherwood Shopping Center stands today. The farmhouse is on the right.
County Clerk of Suffolk County, and Supervisor of the Town of Huntington. Charles Floyd was a respected lawyer and a leader in Comac society and Suffolk County. On the south side of the road where the Heatherwood Shopping Center stands today was the Ira Hubbs' Farm. Ira Hubbs originally purchased this farm and operated it with his four sons Sidney, William, Frank and Fred. The Hubbs ran a butcher shop from this property and had a prosperous farm. In 1897, Fred Hubbs and his family lived in this house. The last house in Comac on Jericho Turnpike as one travelled toward Huntington was the Shea family homestead. The house stood on the northwest corner of Larkfield Road and Jericho Turnpike. Henry Shea grew up in this house as a young boy. In the photograph of the Shea Homestead on the next page, his mother, Mrs. Mae Shea, is standing on the front porch. Mrs. Shea had the foresight to gather pictures of Comac throughout the course of her life, and many of the photographs in this book are from the Mae Shea collection that can be found in the L.I. History Room of the Smithtown Library. Travelling south out of Comac Corners along what was known then as the Babylon Road (Commack Road today), one would have passed several small homes that faced the road. On the east side of the road heading south would have been the Ketcham House, and then the Rae Cottage. The architecture of both houses suggests they were built in the eighteenth century.
number of homes and farms that were located here. One of the first houses on the south side of the road would have been the Tillotson/Beard House. The house was thought to have been over 200 years old when it was torn down in 1960. The last family to occupy this house was the Beard family, one of the few black families who lived in Commack. Further west along Jericho Turnpike, was Frank Hubbs' Farm that can be seen in the accompanying drawing. It once stood on the property where Commack Bowl is now located. Frank Hubbs, Ira’s son, was known by children in Comac as ''horse-and-buggy Hubbs” to distinguish him from the other Hubbs brothers. Frank Hubbs was still using a horse and buggy long after most horse and buggies had disappeared from Comac's roads. On the opposite side of the street was Edward Carll’s home. Further to the west of the Carll home was Stout Van Brunt’s house. As one travelled further west on Jericho Turnpike, several large farms could be found on both sides of the road. On the north side was the William Brush Farm. In the 1850’s, this was the residence of the honorable Charles A. Floyd, member of the New York State Assembly,
Minnie Van Brunt
(6) Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
TheTillotson/ Beard house stood on the south side of Jericho Turnpike opposite the Commack Firehouse. This house was one of the few surviving preRevoltionary War buildings in Commack. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Hiistorical Society.
The Village Blacksmith shop was owned by J. Keenan, a “Horse Shoer & General Blacksmith” as the sign says, who purchased a piece of property from John Ireland and built his blacksmith shop next to the carriage shop. Together Mr. Keenan and Mr. Ireland did most of the business in town outfitting and repairing horses and carriages. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
On the west side of the street, you would have seen the Consalyea House, the Velsor House, a jewelry and clock store, John Ireland's House, John Ireland’s Wheelwright Shop, and J. Keenan's Blacksmith Shop. All of these houses and shops are gone now having been torn down in the late 1960's
and early 1970's. Beyond these homes and shops, also on the west side of the road, stood the Presbyterian Church. This church actually began as the Stillwellite Methodist Church of Comac in 1831. In that year, a breakaway sect of the Comac Methodist Church brought this building from Centerport and moved it to Comac. They worshipped here for some time until interest in the church declined. Then the church became a Congregational Church and then a Presbyterian Church. At the turn of the century, it was a Presbyterian Church. In 1919, the church became a two family home. Further to the south along Comac Road stood the little one-
At the turn of the century, this Presbyterian Church stood on the west side of Comac Road as one headed south down Comac Road from Comac Corners. Photo courtesy of Joel Streich.
The South School: This school stood on the west side of Comac Road just to the north of the present day Commack Library. It was eventually moved across Commack Road to the Moreland property where it was destroyed in a fire. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
The Shea Ho mestead Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
room schoolhouse known as the South School. This school stood on the west side of Comac Road just to the north of the present day Commack Library on Hauppauge Road. This school was used until the Frame School was built in 1899. One of the last homes that one saw along Comac Road while travelling further south was the Carll Farm. This was a large and prosperous farm. The Carlls owned a huge tract of land in south Comac that had first been acquired in 1701. The Carll family passed on the ancestral home from one generation to the next and at the turn of the century, this was the home where Marion E. Carll grew up with her brothers and sisters. Today the house and surrounding property is owned by the Commack School District. The last house that one would see in Comac as one headed south down Comac Road was the Moreland Farm. The Moreland Homestead was built about 1740. It is amazing that this house is still standing and it remains one of the oldest, if not the oldest, standing structure in Commack today. Heading north along Townline Road from Comac Corners, one would come upon several homes and the Comac Methodist Church. On the east side of the road, one first encountered the parsonage of the Comac Methodist Church and then the little church itself. The little church, which still stands perilously close to the road, was built in 1789. It is believed to be the oldest Methodist Church building in its original condition in the State of
To the left is the Moreland Farm as it looked in 1966, before it was moved further back onto the Moreland property away from Sunken Meadow Parkway. It is still standing today on the east side of Commack Road just north of the New York State Highway Maintenance yard. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
The North School, as shown below, was a one room schoolhouse and was actively used until 1899 when the Frame School was built.
New York. At the turn of the century, most of the inhabitants of Comac came to Sunday services in this church. Surrounding the church was the town’s burying ground, and at the north end of the cemetery was the little one room schoolhouse known as the North School. On the west side of Townline Road as one headed north was the Goldsmith House, then “Sunshine Acres,” the Baptist Fresh Air Home, and on the southwest corner of Burr Road and Townline Road, the Burr Homestead. At the east end of Burr Road, at its intersection with Townline Road, was the Crossroads Well. This well, which stood on the northeast corner, was 90' deep and lined with brick. It was said to have had very good water.
Surrounding the Methodist Church is a cemetery which served for many years as the town’s burying ground. Photo courtesy of King Pedlar A walk through this graveyard offers us a glimpse into Comac’s past. The names on the stones are a roll call of the community’s earliest residents; Wickses, Brushes, Bunces, Cheshires, Conklins, Cuttings, Hubbses, Ketchams, Velsors, Whitmans, Browns, Sammises, Gildersleeves are all buried here. This inscription is to be found on the headstone of John Brush who died in 1806:
And further along the road on the south side, was the magnificent home of Carll S. Burr, Jr. It was the Burr family that put Comac on the map and made the town an exciting place to live at the turn of the century.
Heading further up Townline Road, one passed through horse country and open pastureland toward East Northport. If one headed east down Burr Road at this point, you immediately would come upon Smith Burr's property which was on the northside of Burr Road.
Minnie Van Brunt and her class in front of the North School in 1892.
“Stop reader and shed a mournful tear, Upon this dust which slumbers here. And while you read the fate of me, Think on the glass that runs for thee.”
The Comac Methodist Church.... Perhaps you have seen the little old Methodist
Located on the northwest corner of Burr Road and Townline Road, this well was said to have good water for drinking. This was an important well for many families who could not afford to have a well hand dug and needed a source of drinking water. The well was removed in 1936. Postcard courtesy of Joel Streich
T he Burr Family Puts Comac on the Map. . . T
he Burr family name is one that is very well known in Commack. Most residents of Commack recognize the name from Burr Road and Burr Intermediate School and they are familiar with the Burr family mansion that stands on Burr Road in the northern section of Commack. But very few residents are aware of the historical contributions that this family made to the development of thoroughbred racing and to the trotting industry. It was the Burr family who made the little village of Comac internationally known as a community where famous trotters were bred and trained. The Burr family put Comac on the map and it was horse racing that brought people to Comac from all over the country. The settlement of the Burrs in Comac seems to date from 1736. Just where the first Burr family home was built is not clear but the most likely spot would be the southwest corner of Burr Road and Townline Road. On the north side of Burr Road, Smith Burr (1803-1887) owned and operated a hotel and tavern during his lifetime. Burr Hall, as his hotel and tavern was known, was a popular place to stay for visiting horsemen. Smith Burr “began the breeding of light harness horses” and is “responsible for their association with the Burr fam-
Church that stands along the east side of Townline Road just to the north of the new Methodist Church. If you look for it, you will spot the little box-like church with its steep roof and four-posted front porch just beyond the modern Methodist Church. Here, just off the heavily travelled highway, surrounded by many weathered tombstones, stands the church that was erected by Comac Methodists in the year 1789. For over two hundred years this little church has been standing here in the midst Photo of the Commack community where it has courtesy of the Smithtown Historical served generations of Commack residents. Methodism first came to Comac in the year 1783 when a man named John Phillips delivered the first Methodist sermon heard in the community. “John Philips was a Methodist local preacher and a tailor in the English army during the Revolutionary War. He came from Huntington, where he was stationed during the war, to preach in Cow Harbor, which is now Northport. James Hubbs heard him preach in Cow Harbor and invited him to come to Comac. John Phillips accepted and preached the first Methodist sermon ever heard in Comac. This was in 1783 and it was shortly thereafter that a society was formed.” (“Focus on Religion", Smithtown News. April 21, 1983, p.l8.) In the years that followed, the Comac Methodist Society was visited by a number of itinerant Methodist preachers and the congregation grew. In 1789, the Comac Society decided they wanted a church of their own. They purchased land for the church from a Van Hadah Robbins for two pounds and five shillings and then proceeded to erect a church on this property. (“The Story of Methodism in Commack”, N.Y., by Rev. A. Roberts, Pastor of the Methodist Church in 1953, unpublished manuschpt on file in the Long Island Room, Smithtown Library.) Apparently everybody “turned out for the 'raising.’” James Hubbs and Nehemiah Brush seem to have played a major role in building the church and maintaining it. The church was very simple and plain and was built much like a Puritan meeting house. The shingled walls were exposed on the inside and on cold Sabbath mornings, the wind must have whistled through the cracks in the shingles and made the interior of the church frightfully cold. The interior of the church, which can be seen in the accompanying photograph, is quite open and has a gallery running around the interior except on the north side where the box pulpit was built. This pulpit must have been quite high because in subsequent renovations, the pulpit was twice lowered. Except for this one change the church is remarkable because it has been so little altered throughout its history. (“The Story of Methodism in Commack, N.Y." by Rev. A. Roberts, op.cit.) The construction of the little Methodist Church in the heart of Comac Community in 1789, gave residents a house of worship they could call their own. It was here on a Sabbath morning that the members of the Comac Methodist Society gathered to listen to Methodist preachers. One can just picture the people of Comac gathering in the church for services and giving thanks to the Lord for having a church of their own.
Photo courtesy of King Pedlar.
ily name.” ( John J. Del Grosso, “A Burr in the Harness, An Account of the Burr Family of Commack,” , unpublished manuscript on file in the L.I. Room, Smithtown Library, 1981, p.1.) Smith Burr “was among the first to see that a large business could be established in breeding trotting horses.” He owned two trotters named “Rhode Island” and “Betsy Bounce” and with these horses he began to establish a name as a breeder and trainer of trotters. He was one of the first trainers of trotters to use a sulky which “he improvised out of an old gig.” It was during his lifetime that the evolution of light harness racing using a sulky began and eventually the old method of riding a trotter under saddle was replaced by harness racing. (Lucille Rosen, Commack, A Look Into the Past, Commack Public Schools Publication, 1970, p.29.) It was Smith Burr who trained a horse named Engineer II, and this horse was the sire of Lady Suffolk. It is quite possible that Smith Burr helped train Lady Suffolk as a trotter, and Lady Suffolk, the Old Grey Mare of Long Island, was a truly remarkable horse (see story next page). Smith Burr established a reputation as an excellent breeder of trotters. His first big sale was that of a purebred racer named Columbus to a buyer from Detroit for the astounding price of $3,000.00. Burr’s fame with purebreds soon began to spread. A Frenchman acquainted with Burr knew Charles Louis Napoleon, the Emperor of France, and helped arrange the sale of two colts to Napoleon III. When Napoleon received these animals and rode them, “he pronounced his great admiration and respect for their breeder. This praise from European royalty enhanced the popularity of the Burr stables.” (John Del Grosso, “A Burr in the Harness,” op.cit.) Suddenly, Smith Burr became the trainer and breeder of fine trotters and his work was in demand. It was on this reputation that Smith Burr’s son, Carll S. Burr, now built what became one of the most important and influential horse training schools in the nation - The Burr Equine Educational Institution.
Carll S. Burr was born at Comac in April of 1831. He grew up on his father’s horse breeding farm. He attended the little one-room schoolhouse known as the North School. His formal education ended when he graduated from this school. It must have been at this time that his practical education in the breeding and training of trotters began. His father gave him a young filly to train named Rose of Washington. This horse’s first race came when she was two years old, and on April 27, 1854, she won the mile race in a remarkable time of 2 minutes and 30 seconds. (John Del Grosso, “A Burr in the Harness” op. cit.). Carll Burr’s work with Rose of Washington was even more remarkable when you realize that he was a young man who had just turned 21. Apparently his father was so pleased with his son’s work that he gave him additional horses to train. Two of the horses, Lady Emma and Lady Woodruff, were later sold by the Burrs for $3,000.00 each. The Burrs had discovered there was money to be made in racing. The success that Carll S. Burr enjoyed as a trainer led him to purchase his own breeding farm which he named the Indian Head Farm. The 350 acre farm that he purchased was on the south side of Burr Road where the Burr family mansion stands today. “He began to specialize in the breeding of Hambletonians, a specialized breed of
Burr Hall, 1884, by Edward Lange: The painting shows barns which were later replaced by a large two-story dance-hall operated by Smith Burr. The horse speeding along in the foreground is thought to be Lady Suffolk.
The Old Grey Mare...she ain’t what she used to be! L
ady Suffolk, the “Old Grey Mare” for whom the vintage song was composed, was a truly remarkable trotter whose career became the subject of legend. Her racing record, established during the 22 years that the horse lived from 18331855, is incredible. She appeared in 162 races and won 89 of them, placed second in 53 of the remaining races, and was out of the money in only 9 of the races in which she ran. Her winnings were estimated to have been over $35,000 and perhaps as much as $60,000 at a time when the division of stakes in a race were unreported and the average purse was under $500. If there was ever a bet in horse racing that could be classified as a sure thing, a wager on Lady Suffolk was almost guaranteed to pay off handsomely. Lady Suffolk’s incredible winning records become even more remarkable when one reads of the conditions under which Lady Suffolk raced. Lady Suffolk began her career when “trotting under saddle vied... with harness contests” in popularity as a way of racing. She was ridden under saddle nearly fifty times in the races she entered. On other occasions, Lady Suffolk was entered in mixed races which meant that she might be under saddle, or pulling a sulky, or a fourwheeled vehicle of some sort. To add to Lady Suffolk’s difficulties was the treatment she received from her owner David Bryant. In 1837, Bryant purchased Lady Suffolk for $112.50. He bought the four-year-old filly from Richard Blydenburgh who had been using the horse to pull his butcher’s wagon. What Bryant saw in the horse will never be known but he took the horse to his farm in Comac. She was put to work and rented out. She was hired by two horse-racing enthusiasts, gentlemen from the city, who were so impressed with her speed, they advised Bryant “to make a race mare out of her.” Bryant turned to his neighbor, Smith Burr, for some help in training the horse. Knowing nothing about horse training or racing, Bryant refused to allow anyone else to ride her or drive her. “When he first attempted to ride her in a saddle race..., he was so clumsy and awkward he could hardly stay on her back, and only occasionally did she manage to win in spite of him.” “As a reinsman he was chiefly noted for his heavy hands and unmerciful use of the whip. He had little judgement of pace, and would drive her to break without cause, then snatch whip and punish her. What a marvel she must have been never to sulk, rebel or fight back but always giving her speed, strength and endurance under the extreme...” In addition to racing several days in a row, occasionally twice in one day, she was used to transport her racing harness, feed, racing equipment and her owner cross-country as she went from race track to race track, state to state. Lady Suffolk was never given the lavish care and treatment that is bestowed upon modern-day trotters. (John Hervey, Lady Suffolk, The Old Grey Mare of Long Island, the Derrydale Press, N.Y., pp.19-22, 66, 77-79.) Despite the treatment Lady Suffolk received and considering all the factors about horse racing of the period, the equipment used, the condition of the tracks, the Old Grey Mare’s achievements were astounding. It was conceded that her speed for the quarter, half mile, and mile, surpassed everything previously established. After eight seasons of racing, Lady Suffolk had become the finest trotter in America, both under saddle and in harness and the fastest in the world. At 13 years of age and at the pinnacle of her career, she still had eight more years of racing before her long career came to an end. Lady Suffolk retired in 1853 to be a brood mare on a farm in Bridport, Vermont. She died at the age of 21 and her remains were purchased by a taxidermist. She was stuffed and displayed in the window of a harness maker’s shop on Broadway. ( John Del Grosso, “A Burr in the Harness - An account of the Burr Family of Commack,“ unpub-
trotters.” At the same time, he trained some of the country’s best trotters. Interest in his school picked up and he began to accept horses that were shipped to him from all over the country. Carll Burr was only able to handle 30 to 40 horses a year but he picked these horses out the 150 horses he was offered each year. Among the horses that he trained in his school was Trustee, the first Carll S. Burr horse to ever break a trotting speed of 20 miles an hour. Another horse, Prospero, at the age of three, pulled Burr and a 90-pound sulky over a measured mile in 2 minutes and 33 seconds. The horse “was promptly purchased for $20,000.00 by a William M. Parks of Brooklyn.” The fame of the Burr Equine Educational Institution now brought him wealthy and famous patrons. President Ulysses S. Grant, H.O. Havemeyer, J. Pierpont Morgan, William H. Vanderbilt, Robert Bonner, ex-Governor Leland Sanford, and Charles Backman all brought their horses to Carll S. Burr for training. “These people helped to firmly establish the Burr stables as a select breeding and training center.” Of course this patronEdward Lange’s age also ensured Burr’s financial success and with it he began to make painting (1881) improvements to his property. (John Del Grosso, “A Burr in the shows Carll S. Burr’s race track Harness,” op.cit.) and stable comOne of the improvements that Carll S. Burr made with his newplex that was found wealth was to convert his farmhouse into a larger and more fashknown as the ionable home. The painting below shows the house that was on the Indian Head Farm on the south side property when he bought the Indian Head Farm in 1857. It was to this of Burr Road house that Carll Burr brought his wife, Emma F. Case, following their behind the Burr marriage on November 26, 1857. It was in this house that the Burrs home. raised their two boys, Carll S. Burr Jr. and Tunis B. Burr. As these boys became young men, the Burrs decided to enlarge and expand their home.
This section of the Edward Lange painting (seen on the previous page) shows the original Carll S. Burr family home before renovation.
Sometime before 1885 the farmhouse was remodeled into a much larger and more fashionable residence. The house was given a mansard roof with multi-colored slate shingles, a broad front porch that ran the length of the house, and a large belvedere on the roof. The house became the mansion that can be seen in the drawing to the right and the photo, taken years later, on page 15. The house is still standing on the south side of Burr Road and looks just as impressive today. The stately home that Carll S. Burr now owned reflected the power and influence that he exerted in the community. Carll S. Burr was a Republican and was “an active member of the Suffolk County Republican Committee.“ He served as a Republican committeeman and as a delegate to Republican conventions, and as a Presidential elector, but he steadfastly refused to run for public office. Although he refused to run for political office, his son, Carll S.Burr, Jr., did run for elected office and proved to be a very popular and successful politician. Carll S. Burr, Jr., grew up in his father’s home on Burr Road. Like his father, he attended the one-room schoolhouse known as the North School. He attended the Flushing Institute to complete his secondary education. He then began his practical education in the breeding and training of trotters on his father’s farm. He learned
from his father how to judge horses and how to train and develop the trotting abilities of some of the finest horses in the country. By 1890 Carll S. Burr, Jr. had joined his father in running the Burr Equine Educational Institution. His knowledge of horses was recognized by his peers and as a young man of 34, he was asked to serve as a judge at the National Horse Show of America. He did this in 1892, 1893, 1894, and again in 1901 and 1902. He also served as a judge at the New York State Fair in 1901 and 1902. It was said of Carll S. Burr, Jr., that “he followed the example of his father and grandfather in elevating his business to the plane of honorable fair dealing and strict business integrity, and thus he has the respect and patronage of the best known lovers and owners of blooded horses of this country.” (John Del Grosso, “A Burr in the Harness,” unpublished manuscript on file in the L.I.Room of the Smithtown Library.) On November 18, 1885, as a young man of 27, Carll S. Burr, Jr. married Hanie E. Carll, the daughter of Jesse Carll of Northport. He brought her to live at his father’s house in Comac. By this time, the house had been remodelled and there were 22 rooms, so there was plenty of room for the young man and his bride. Eventually, Carll S. Burr, Jr., would build his own home across the street from his father and it was here that he would raise his own family that grew to include two children, Emma Carll Burr born on August 28, 1886, and Carll S. Burr, III, born on November 17, 1890. When Carll S. Burr, Jr. joined forces with his father in running the Burr Equine Educational Institution, one of the first things they did together was to build Suffolk County’s first onemile trotting track. The track was built just to the east of Town
The Burr Mansion: Edward Lange’s painting of Carll S. Burr’s home as it appeared after renovation. The new mansard roof and large belvedere disguised the earlier dwelling.
Photo courtesy of Anne Goldsmith Linstadt.
Island sportsmen.” One man named IsraeI Tilden of Bellport remembered attending a race at this track in the gay nineties and recalled it in a letter he sent to the Long Island Forum. “I attended a match race on the mile track. All of the New York City social elite, who spent their summers on our south shore, were there in all kinds of carriages. Autos were not even thought of in those days.” The race that he had come to see was between a team of horses owned by a Col. Payne and a team of horses owned by H.O. Havemeyer. Col Payne’s horses had been trained by the Burrs, while the Havemeyer team had been kept and trained at the Merrivale Stock Farm, another horse farm of 250 acres that was just to the south of the Burr's Indian Head Stock Farm. What made this particular race even more interesting was that the Burrs were driving the teams. Both men were large men, weighing more than 200 pounds, but this size and weight did not keep them from climbing in sulkies and racing, and in this particular race, it was father against son. “Carll S. Burr, Sr., drove Col. Payne’s team, while his son drove the Havemeyer team. It was a close race, as I remember it, but the son was defeated by his old man.” (Israel Tilden, “Remembers the Carll Burrs,” “Reader's Forum,” Long Island Forum, January 1981, p.27.) It was only fitting that Carll S. Burr, Sr. should have won. “In later years, when he was associated with his son, Mr.
Line Road on the flat land where Commack High School stands today. At the time they constructed the track, it cost them $10,000, a considerable sum in the 1890’s. The track was laid out on the western end of a farm of 342 acres that the Burrs had purchased to add to their acreage so that they might have additional room to raise horses. Apparently, it was on this acreage that the Burrs conducted the “breeding end of the business. According to Carll S. Burr, Jr., the east end of the farm was where the various buildings, box stalls, and a well equipped farmer’s house were located.” It was here that the Burrs kept their breeding stock. Although the Burrs were not extensive breeders, they did own the stallions Schuyler Colfax, by Hambletonian 10; Ridgewood by Hambletonian 10; Commac by Kentucky Prince; Favorite Leland by Leland; Merwate, 2:22 by Alcantra. This farm became known as the Indian Head Stock Farm and it was to this farm that horse-racing fans flocked each week to watch trotting races. (Carll S. Burr, Jr., “A Cradle of Trotting Horse History,” The Rider and Driver, May 13, 1916, p. 45-46.) During the weekends, trotting races were held here between “horses owned by well known New York and Long
Formal portrait of Carll S. Burr, Jr. and the horse Auditor B with ribbon, after winning a competition in 1908. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
This photograph shows the house and 1/2 mile racetrack that was to be found behind the house on Burr Road. The spectator’s stands in the front of the barn are jammed packed. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
Carll S. Burr, Jr., driving the H.O. Havemeyer team of Henrietta and Miss Lida. It was this team which lost the race that Israel Tilden remembers watching. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
In 1898, Carll S. Burr, Jr., was nominated for state Senator from the first district of the State of New York, which then included Richmond and Suffolk Counties. Unfortunately, he lost the election when the voters of Richmond County supported his Democratic opponent. For a time, Carll S. Burr, Jr. left political office and returned to the business of breeding and training trotters with his father. But he remained active in politics, and in 1904 he ran again for the state Senate as the Republican candidate from the first district, and this time he won. He would serve a total of four terms there from 1905 to 1908. As a Senator, Carll S. Burr is remembered for his fight for the Park Bill, the legislation that created Fire Island State Park in Suffolk County. His foresight in securing Fire Island for public use is something that today’s generation also appreciates and applauds. He is also remembered for his stance on betting and horse-racing. Around 1900, the New York State Legislature passed an anti-betting law which had effectively curtailed horse-race betting. Carll S. Burr, Jr. was opposed to this law since he believed that the prohibition of betting “would encourage law-breaking... and bring about disastrous results in
Burr was known in racing circles as the “grand old man of Comac.” He was to be the “grand old man of Comac” until he died in 1916 at the age of 85. Carll S. Burr, Jr., then inherited the stock farm and the tracks and continued his father’s business alone. (Barbara Marhoefer, “Carll S. Burr of Commack,” Long Island Forum, January, 1970, p.5.) Although the training and racing of horses was a business and a pastime for Carll S. Burr, Jr., he also had a distinguished career as an elected official. He first ran for office in 1895 when he ran for the New York State Assembly. With his father’s backing and the support of the Suffolk County Republican Party, he won the election. He served in the New York Assembly for three terms, 1896, 1897, and 1898. During his tenure, “he served on several important committees” and “introduced several measures of great value to the state and especially his home county of Suffolk.” The chief piece of legislation for which he was known was the Burr Water Bill. This act, which became law, prevented New York City from tapping Suffolk County's water supply and New York City had to look upstate for fresh water. The Burr Water Bill actually saved Suffolk County’s drinking water for future generations and this can certainly be appreciated by today’s residents of Suffolk County. (John Del Grosso, “A Burr in the Harness,” op. cit.).
This one mile oval Burr race track was on the property where Commack High School now stands. The view is to the east of the home stretch. The judge’s stand can be seen on the right with the timer’s stand and spectator’s benches on the left. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
This photograph of the Burr family mansion was taken around 1900. Postcard courtesy of Joel Streich.
the horse racing business (such as thievery at tracks, race fixes, and poorly run tracks).” As a result, Carll S. Burr, Jr. became a staunch supporter of the HartAgnew Race Track Bill which would have restored race-track betting. In fact, his support of this legislation became a factor in his re-election bid in 1908, and the voters turned against him at the polls and he was defeated. (John Del Grosso, "A Burr in the Harness," op. cit.) Following his defeat, Carll S. Burr, Jr. returned once again to the horse training business with his father. But much of the fun and excitement had gone out of the horse-racing business. Betting was now illegal and the public’s interest in horses waned as the horseless carriage came into use. With his father’s death in 1916, Carll S. Burr, Jr. witnessed the passing of an era. Horse-racing in Comac came to an end. Carll S. Burr, Jr. found some other interests in life. He remained active in the Republican Party, became a member of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Huntington and Trust Company, and for 50 years he was a member of the Masonic Order from the Alcyone Lodge of Northport. Just four months before his death on January 2, 1936, Carll S. Burr, Jr. and his wife, Hanie E. Burr, celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. When Carll S. Burr, Jr. passed away, he left his name, his reputation and a wonderful horse-racing legacy to his son, Carll S. Burr, III. But the horseracing tracks had succumbed to weeds, and the business of training and raising horses in Commack had disappeared. (John Del Grosso, “A Burr in the Harness,’ unpublished manuscript on file in the Long Island Room of the Smithtown Library, 1981.) The one mile track on the Indian Head Stock Farm property would be used in the summer of 1920 for motorcycle races that were sponsored by New York Cycle Clubs. And later from 19251930, the track was again used for bicycle and automobile racing, but the days of horse racing were gone forever.
World War I brings Brindley Field to the little rural village of Commack . . . With the decline in the interest of horse racing, Commack became a sleepy little rural village on the crossroads to somewhere else. But this tranquility did not last long since international events soon had a profound impact upon Commack. The great European War that had begun in Europe in 1914 seemed far away
Carll S. Burr, Jr. admires the fine lines of one of his “Hambletonians.” Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
Henry O. Havemeyer and the Merivale Stock Farm of Comac... If you travel north up Townline Road from Commack Corners, you will come to the intersection of Havemeyer Lane and Townline Road. This lane, which now leads to a
Tilden, Long Island Forum, Jan. 1981, p. 27.) It was this open space and country air that Mr. Havemeyer seemed to like about Comac. In November of 1907, Mr. Havemeyer decided that he wanted to spend a quiet Thanksgiving Day in Comac with his family. Mr. Havemeyer, his wife, his son, and his daughter all travelled to Comac for the holiday. As was his habit, Mr. Havemeyer decided to walk about his property. “Early that morning he started out with his son, and they tramped about until late in the Mr. and Mrs. Henry O. Havemeyer afternoon when they returned to the Circa 1898 house for dinner. Mr. Havemeyer ate heartily, and soon afterwards was taken ill. Dr. W.H. Ross, of Brentwood, was summoned. He diagnosed the trouble as acute indigestion. Mr. Havemeyer's New York physician, Dr. Kinnicutt, was called the next day, also Dr. Frissel. Friday night, Drs. Abbe and Delafield were called in consultation. Eight nurses were in attendance upon him. Other troubles soon developed and by Wednesday morning he grew rapidly worse. Soon after noon, one of the two automobiles which had been kept on the go continually came into Huntington and hurried back toward Comac with a supply of oxygen. Two hours later came word of his death. “Mr. Havemeyer died in his house in Comac on December 4, 1907. It was later determined that he died from a ruptured pancreas. Mr. Havemeyer's body was transported to his New York City residence immediately by a special train of two cars which took his body and members of the family to Long Island City. (The Long Islander, Huntington, New York, Dec. 10, 1907.) The Sugar King was dead at the age of 61. Following his death, the ownership of the Merivale Stock Farm and the little stone house on Burr Road passed to his son. Eventually the house and property were sold by the family and the Havemeyer name was forgotten. The only reminder today that one of the great robber barons in America's past, the Sugar King, once owned a house and 370 acres of land in Comac, is the little lane that bears his name -Havemeyer Lane.
housing development, once crossed the southern portion of the 250 acres of property that were owned by Henry 0. Havemeyer. Most of Havemeyer's 250 acres were to the north of the lane and included the property between Scholar Lane and Havemeyer Lane, from Townline Road to what is now Sunken Meadow Parkway. Mr. Havemeyer owned an additional 20+ acres on the northwest corner of Burr Road and Townline Road. It was on this property that the Merivale Stock Farm was located, and it was here that a house, barns, and numerous stables could be found. These buildings were on the west side of Townline Road just to the south of Scholar Lane. Further along Burr Road, just to the west of Carll S. Burr's property and racetrack, Mr. Havemeyer owned another 100 acres of property that straddled Burr Road. It was on this property that a small stone house of 1 and 1/2 stories was to be found and this unpretentious residence was where Henry 0. Havemeyer stayed whenever he visited Comac. The little country house that Henry 0. Havemeyer maintained in Commack was the "least pretentious" country house that he owned, and he owned several. In fact, Mr. Havemeyer, a multi-millionaire, was one of the wealthiest men of his day. Mr. Havemeyer was the President of the American Sugar Refining Company, a huge sugar conglomerate that had control over 17 of the 23 sugar refineries in America. Because of the stranglehold that his company had upon cost of food production in America, Henry O. Havemeyer became known as the “Sugar King.” The Sugar King had an enormous house on New York's Fifth Avenue that had been especially designed for him by Louis Tiffany, an estate on the shore of the Great South Bay that was valued at $250,000, and a home in Greenwich, Connecticut that was described as "one of the finest country seats on the Long Island Sound." (Prominent Families of New York, The Historical Company, New York, 1897, pg. 268.) Obviously, Mr. Havemeyer could have created an additional mansion in Comac had he chosen to do so, but he seemed to like the small stone house on Burr Road. He spent “considerable time here and seemed to enjoy the quietude” of Comac. (The Long Islander, Huntington, N.Y., Dec. 10, 1907.) He also enjoyed hunting and would tramp about on his land shooting the pheasant and quail that he had specifically raised for this purpose. According to Israel Tilden of Bellport, "the pheasant were raised on the farm, five to ten thousand a year. They would let two or three hundred loose'' when a hunting party was organized, and off Mr. Havemeyer and his party would go ”gunning” in pursuit of the birds. Since Mr. Havemeyer had also obtained "gunning rights to adjoining farms," the hunting parties had a considerable area to roam in pursuit of game. (Israel
Commack’s Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1 ... Commack was one of the first communities in Smithtown to organize its own volunteer fire fighting company. This happened on “a warm evening in August of 1906 when a small band of public spirited residents gathered” in the Commack Hotel to consider the possiblity of forming a volunteer fire department. “Ironically, it was an out-of-towner, a weekend resident from Canarsie in Brooklyn, who was the driving force behind Commack’s charter crew of volunteers. His name was Ferdinand Freschkorn and he was a big man with a bigger, black mustache; he was active in the Flatlands (Brooklyn) volunteer company when he wasn’t spending his time in Commack.” Ferdinand Freschkorn convinced the residents of Commack that they should have a volunteer department of their own. No doubt his work and experience with the Flatlands Company gave him the assurance and confidence that he needed to convince the residents of Commack that they could organize their own company. With “his persistence” and the support of those who attended the meeting, the Commack Hook and Ladder Company was born. The first problem that the newly formed fire company faced was the lack of equipment. Ferdinand Freschkorn solved this problem when he managed to secure “a one time N.Y.C. hand-drawn” fire wagon from “its retirement home in Fort Greene Park” in Brooklyn. This fire wagon, with its “heavy wooden ladders, canvas buckets and high back wheels,” was pulled to Commack by horses and became Commack’s Hook and Ladder wagon. In October of 1906, “the department was incorporated. Then the dozen or so founding fathers set out to raise money for the firehouse, mostly by dances.” Their efforts at fund-raising yielded some $300 which was used “to purchase a lot on the present Jericho Turnpike site of the department.” The only thing lacking now was a building. The first firehouse was built in 1908. “At this point, every man in the department pitched in, cutting big chestnut trees--then prevalent in this section-- and carting them over to the sawmill of William Mahler Sr., near the present post office. Mahler generously did the cutting at cost.” The men of the department then constructed a building to house their fire wagon. When they were finished, the building looked as it does in the accompanying photograph. All that was needed was a fire alarm, and the fire company solved this problem when “an old locomotive wheel was acquired and suspended in front of the firehouse.” When a fire broke out and the men were needed, “a strong-muscled vamp” would grab a sledge hammer and “wallop the improvised gong” to summon men. This rig must have worked pretty well because a “few years later, this same gong was put into use by the Hauppauge Fire Department.” In fact, the gong is still hanging in front of the Hauppauge Firehouse. and Ferdin By 1908, the Commack Hook and Ladder Company proudly had its own firehouse and fire wagon and Freschkorn stood ready to be of service to the community. The company even invested in uniforms, and each man was outfitted in a “red shirt, dark pantaloons, belt, fatique cap and black tie.” So it was that Commack became one of the best equipped and snazziest volunteer fire fighting companies in the area. (The quotations and information conPhotos courtesy of the Commack tained in these paragraphs about the Commack Hook and Ladder Company came from the 50th Anniversary Fire Department . Journal produced by the Commack Fire Department in 1956.)
Is it Comac or Commack? If you ever encounter any real old-
timers in Commack, who were born before World War I, ask them to pronounce the name of their hometown. You will hear them say that they live in Comac, and it will sound as if they said “comic.” New- comers always say they live in Commack (Co-mack). So which is it? At the turn of the century, there was only Comac. Comac is a name derived from the Algonquin word of Winnecomac which means “pleasant land” or “beautiful place” and it was the name that the native inhabitants gave to area. The name appears in several early deeds and there is even a Winnecomac Patent. Over time, Winnecomac simply became Comac. The little cross-roads village was known as Comac at the turn of the century, and then suddenly the spelling of the name changed to Commack. Why? Marion Carll provided an answer. She said it happened because the mail for Comac kept getting mixed up with the mail for Coram. The spelling of Comac was changed to Commack to end the confusion. Who was responsible for changing the name? It must have been the U.S. Postal Service since postal cancellations going as far back as 1906 contain the name Commack. Most locals resisted the change, but the change in spelling stuck when Brindley Field opened and hundreds of troops started writing home from Commack. It is interesting that the spelling changed to match the prounciation, and at the same time people started routinely mispronouncing it.
from Commack, but in 1918, the war came dramatically close to home. In the summer of 1918, the U.S. Army Air Service opened a training camp for “aero squadrons” in Commack. The facility, known as Brindley Field, was located on the northeast corner of Larkfield Road and Jericho Turnpike where Modell’s and Home Depot are now located. The airfield was built on 90 acres of level farmland that belonged to William H. Randall. “Mr. Randall’s home, on the corner” where the Barnes and Noble store stands today, “was turned into a field headquarters” and all the “farm buildings were utilized for truck and car storage and aircraft parts storage.” The Army Air Service converted the existing wheat fields into a flying field and began to construct barracks, mess halls and hangars on the property. According to Henry Shea of Commack, who remembered seeing Brindley Field, “about 1,000 men were stationed here at any one time, with approximately 20 to 30 Curtis Jenny trainers being used as well as a number of powerful DH 4’s. At the outset, for about two months, all personnel were housed in big square army tents. By late August, 20 long barracks were completed opposite the Ruland farm where the south parking field of Modell’s is now located. In addition, 5 large steel hangars were put up in a row from Larkfield Road due eastward through the area where Modell’s store now stands. A new well was driven and a large wooden stand tank for water storage was erected.” (Henry Shea, “Story of Brindley Field, Commack, L.I.”, unpublished manuscript on file in the L.I. Room of the Smithtown Library.) The airfield was named in honor of Major Oscar A. Brindley, an aviator who was killed in an aircraft accident on May 2, 1918, at Dayton, Ohio. Major Brindley had been test flying a Liberty-powCommack resident, John Wendel, poses in his WW I uniform at ered DH-4 when the plane went into a spin and
Curtis Jenny Trainer
crashed. It was in his memory that the field in Commack was named. It wasn’t long after the dedication of the airfield in Major Brindley’s honor that a similar tragic accident occurred in Commack. Flying was a risky business in the aircraft of the day and Henry Shea remembered hearing about pilots running into “the fences that surrounded the airfield” and of others having close calls with the overhead electric wires which were strung along Larkfield Road. There were dangers on the ground as well as in the air. But the fatal accident that took the lives of two young fliers happened during a training exercise when 17 aircraft were involved in mock aerial combat. On Friday, August 16, 1918, at 9:30 a.m., two men lost their lives when the JN-4H they were flying, had a wing crumble when they were at about 1,000 feet in the air. Witnesses heard a snapping noise and saw the plane break apart. Horrified onlookers saw pieces of the aircraft falling and watched as the aircraft fell to the earth. The two men who died were 2nd Lt. Harold F. Maxson, the 25 year old pilot from Los Angeles, California, and his passenger 2nd Lt. G.S. Gedeon, a 24 year old observer who came from Titusville, Pennsylvania. The actual crash site was just off Havemeyer Lane, some 300 feet east of Oakley Place. Many years after the accident, a large crater could still be seen in the hayfields at this location. The tragic loss of life deeply affected the pilots who were training at the airfield, and they showed their respect for their fellow aviators at the funeral for the two men. The Long Islander
Yaphank. John Wendel was Anne Goldsmith’s uncle. Photo courtesy of Anne Goldsmith Lindstadt.
Photo courtesy of The Cradle of Aviation Museum.
A Murder in Commack...
This World War I pilot is suited up and ready to fly his Jenny. Photo coutesy of The Cradle of Aviation Museum.
Sometime in the fall of 1920, a man named Sam Soper was found dead in his home on Jericho Turnpike in Commack. He had been shot. Sam Soper owned the house and property that eventually became Nott's real estate office and is today the west end of the Peppertree Commons shopping center. Constable Amza Biggs of Huntington was called in to investigate the murder, but no one had heard or seen anything, and the investigation was to no avail. The murder of Sam Soper became an unsolved mystery. The mystery might never have been solved if it hadn't been for the Halloween mischief of two young boys from Commack. George S. Burr, Jr. and his best friend Raymond Hubbs, both 12 years old, decided it would be fun to run a wheelbarrow up the Frame School's flagpole. So they snuck out late at night and did just that. When they finished, they decided to sneak across the street and steal the barber pole from the barbershop. The barbershop was then located in the little building that had been the Ketcham's Candy Shop. As they attempted to steal the pole, they must have made enough noise to alert someone who responded by firing several quick shots at the pranksters. This caused the two boys to run like scared rabbits all the way home. George was badly frightened and told his father what had happened and that he thought the bullets flying around him had come from the barbershop. George's father decided that he better tell Amza Biggs, the Huntington Constable, about the incident. Amaza Biggs then paid a visit to the barbershop and questioned the barber about the alleged shooting. The Italian barber, who rented the shop, claimed that he knew nothing about it and didn't even own a gun. Something must have made the Constable question the barber's veracity, because Biggs went back to Huntington, secured a search warrant, and returned with a deputy to the barbershop. When they searched the barbershop, they discovered a gun hidden beneath the floorboards of the shop. The barber was arrested and under interrogation, he broke down and confessed to shooting at the boys and to having killed his landlord Sam Soper. Apparently, Sam Soper had increased the barber's rent by $3 a month and this had enraged the barber and led him to murder. The barber must have had trouble eeking out a living and he had been brooding about his circumstances in contrast to Sam Soper's. He resented the fact that he had so little, and Sam Soper had so much, that he killed him. The barber also had plans to kill John S. Carll simply because he owned too much land and because he refused to let anyone take cordwood from his land. Fortunately for the Carlls, the barber was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in an upstate prison for the criminally insane. (This story came from Ron Burr whose father, George S. Burr, Jr., told it to him.)
reported that “all day Sunday, sympathizing friends from Commack and vicinity called at Brindley Field and left flowers at the YMCA headquarters to be used at the funeral.” On the day of the funeral, several aircraft “from the Commack camp left with the flowers and as the cortege passed from Cornell’s Chapel to the Long Island Railroad Station, the aviators flew low, doing some difficult stunts to get in position to drop the flowers on the caskets. The flowers fell squarely on the caskets, borne on the shoulders of soldiers.” The fellow pilots of the dead officers walked alongside of and behind the caskets as the funeral procession made its way to the train station where the caskets were loaded aboard a train to be sent home. (The Long Islander, August 23, 1918, p.19.) Brindley Field was intended to be a temporary flying field, a satellite field to the large installation at Mitchell Field. The aviators “rotated so that only two squadrons were on the field at any one time.” The aerial squadrons came to Brindley Field for advanced training in aerial combat, and once they finished their training at Brindley Field, they went back to Mitchell Field and shipped out from there to France. Just how many of the pilots who were trained at Commack actually saw combat in France is not known, but surely some of them did fight in France. The death of the two young men elicited a great deal of sympathy from the residents of the surrounding area. Commack residents had welcomed the young trainees to the airfield in their midst and frequently sponsored evening entertainment in the huge Knights of Columbus or YMCA tents that were set up on the airfield. Henry Shea had vivid memories of the entertainment presented by many town groups under the light of the “big carbon arc flare lamps” that were used to light up the tents. People had opened their homes to these young flyers and in some cases invited them to Sunday dinners and corresponded with them long after they left Commack. The presence of the airfield in Commack brought excitement and change to the community. Henry Shea commented
reminders that the property had ever been the site of a World War I airfield. (Information contained in an interview that Gil Tatarsky, a student at Commack High School South, had with Henry Shea in the fall of 1987. The interview is on file in the L.I. Room of the Smithtown Library.)
A. Swan Brown Hall
The A. Swan Brown Hall was originally built to serve as a YMCA building at Brindley Field and was later sold and moved to the Baptist Fresh Air Home property on Townline Road. In 1961, this property was acquired by the Town of Huntington and converted into a Town Park and the building was demolished. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
that “the creation of the large army flying field created a sensation for miles around with hundreds of sightseers coming to watch on weekends. Also at night a new effect was noticed in hitherto oil-lighted Commack, electric lights.” Power lines were extended from the end of existing service to the airfield, and the place “was ablaze with lights.” According to Henry, there were “no war-time blackouts in those days.” Another change that occurred in Commack was the closing of all of the local establishments that sold liquor. By Presidential order, military authorities closed all establishments selling liquor within a five-mile radius of this camp. It was felt that this would guarantee the sobriety and good conduct of the soldiers at the camp. So, prohibition actually came to the Commack community over a year before the rest of the country became a “dry” nation. “At the time of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, the camp was operating to capacity.” With the end of the war, “the entire facility of Brindley Field was gradually reduced and finally closed in May of 1919.” The barracks were ripped down or sold to be made into homes in the Commack area. The newly completed YMCA building was sold to the Baptist Fresh Air Home and was moved to the property on Townline Road known as Sunshine Acres. The building was rededicated as the A. Swan Brown Hall and it survived until the Fresh Air Home property was obtained by the Town of Huntington and converted into the town park. The 90 acres of farmland that made up Brindley Field were returned to Mr. Randall, the original owner. “He eventually sold the farm to a family from the Bronx named Kuzig and they started farming the entire 90 acres.” The Kuzigs farmed the property until 1943 when the property was “bought by the Johnson Bros. and during the course of repairs to the buildings in 1943, fire broke out in one of the large buildings with the result that all the buildings were destroyed except the house.” The original farmhouse on the property survived until 1951 when it was razed. By this time, there were very few
Change comes slowly to Commack... With the end of World War I, the
men of the Army Air Corps were discharged, and Brindley Field was closed down. Life in Commack went back to the way it had been before the war. The population of the little town once again was just a few hundred people. Most people were farmers trying to make a living. In all there were about 30 farms in Commack. Some of these farms were small like the one owned by the Morelands with 40 to 50 acres. Others were huge like John Carll’s farm that had over 2000 acres in southern Commack. Before the war, Commack’s farmers raised hay and grain crops. But after the war, “commercial” farmers became established in Commack and they grew vegetables such as cabbage, potatoes, corn, broccoli, and cucumbers. These crops were shipped into New York City by “solid-tired” trucks which made their appearance on Long Island after the war. According to Howard Moreland, pickles were the “big money crop” until the 1920’s when a “fungus” got into the cucumbers and made them impossible to grow. Farmers then turned to potatoes as their cash crop. The demand for potatoes led Commack farmers to look for experienced help in growing potatoes, and this led to the
The Moreland boys, Joe and Howard, help their father with lumbering on the Moreland property in south Commack. Notice the size of the log that the boys are getting ready to move. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
Commack Grammar School, which was also known as the Brick School, was named the Marion Carll School in 1957.
auditorium to house its students, that “conditions are so bad here especially in an old fire hall where one classroom is being held, that every possible effort should be made to get a new school.” Another special School Board meeting was held on the heels of this letter on May 12, 1923, and at this time the School Board proposed spending $55,000 to build a new brick six room schoolhouse. When the proposition was voted upon, 44 votes were cast and 33 were cast in favor. Construction of the new school began in the fall of 1923. One year later, at the annual school meeting in May, 1924, Ferdinand Freschkorn requested that the School Board sell the old schoolhouse to the Commack Hook and Ladder Company for $5. The Board voted to sell the school to the fire company. It was then moved across Jericho Turnpike to become the Commack firehouse. “Moving the structure in those days was accomplished by the old method of having horses walk in a slow steady circle. As a result, the schoolhouse blocked Jericho Turnpike for a couple of days, causing considerable concern among bootleggers who thought they were running into a police roadblock.” (A History of the Commack Fire District, Anniversary Journal, 1952.) The new schoolhouse that was built in l923 became known as the Commack Grammar School. The schoolhouse was made of brick and for that reason, it was often referred to as the Brick School. It was to serve the Commack School District for 66 years from 1924 until 1973 when the school property was sold to the New York Institute of Technology. It was in 1957, that the Commack Board of Education named the building the Marion E. Carll School as a way of saying thank you to Miss Carll for all that she had done for the Commack community. It happens that we know a good deal about the Brick school
influx of a number of immigrant farmers and their families into Commack. This surge in population led to an increase in the number of school-age children and pressure for a new school building. The Frame School served as Commack’s schoolhouse until 1922 when a decision was made to build a new school for the district. Crowding in the Frame School had become so bad that the School Board paid to install a blackboard and seats in the firehouse and used this building as an auxillary classroom. The Frame School was bursting at its seams. In May of 1922, the School Board voted to purchase three additional acres of land at “Commack Corners for $500 an acre.” At the same time, the Board voted to contract for plans and specifications for a new six room school building and voted to move the Frame School off the school property. The School Board which made this decision ran into a storm of protest. The voters howled at the thought, and “the Board was accused of being in the real estate business. Although the Board was upheld by District Superintendent Leonard Smith, its decision was opposed by many leading residents, including Ex-Senator Burr.” At a special School Board meeting in July, 55 property owners attended the meeting and 53 of them voted against moving the school. In a second vote, 48 voters rejected the purchase of additional land. “As a result the School Board resigned.” A new School Board was then chosen. (Lucille Rosen, Commack, A Look Into The Past, Commack Public Schools, 1970, p. 17.) The new School Board sought the advice of the New York State Department of Education about what they should do. A report from the Inspector of Buildings, a Mr. I. L. Sears, changed public opinion. He wrote that it would not pay to remodel the exisiting school because of the arrangement of rooms, that the District needed a six room building with an
The Commack Firehouse as it looked after the Frame School had been moved across the road and attached to the front of the existing firehouse. The building stood until 1963 when it was torn down to make way for the present firehouse. Photo courtesy of the Commack Fire Department.
Miss Marion E. Carll 1885-1968... Marion E. Carll was born in
The cast of the first community play to be presented at the new school auditorium in 1924 poses for the camera. Marion Carll is seen standing in back (third person on the right). Photo courtesy of Sherman Carll.
Commack on April 13, 1885, in the farmhouse that bears her name today. She grew up on this farm on Commack Road with her six brothers and sisters. She attended the Old South School, the one-room schoolhouse which used to stand on the northwest corner of Commack Road and Hauppauge Road. Subsequently she attended high school in Jamaica and then the Jamaica Normal School, a training school Marion Carll an for teachers. She then taught in d one of her po nies both Commack and New York City. In 1924 she gave up her teaching career and came back to Commack. (“Portrait of a citizen: Commack’s Leading Citizen Past, Present, and Future,” by Peggy Galvin, Smithtown News, 1964, on file in the L.I. History Room of the Smithtown Library.) Miss Carll now pursued a more active role in the Commack community. She took an interest in the local school and served as Treasurer and Census Taker for the Commack District for 25 years from 1929 to 1954. She helped organize Commack’s first P.T.A. and served as President from 1926 to 1936. She was actively involved in the Commack Fire Company Auxillary, the Commack Cemetery Board, and the Commack Methodist Church. She became involved in local historical societies and produced a map of the Commack area showing the location of historical sites within the community. This map is one of the most valuable records we have of the history of the Commack community. (Peggy Galvin, op. cit.) In 1957 the Commack School Board named the Commack Grammar School on Jericho Turnpike, the Marion E. Carll School in her honor as a token of appreciation for all her efforts on behalf of the community. It might have been this act which led Miss Carll to draft a will which deeded to the Commack School District the Marion Carll Farm. She always enjoyed having the children of Commack visit her farm where in 1964 she had “six ponies and two foals..., one goat, one sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, and guinea hens.” No doubt she envisioned that one day, the boys and girls of Commack would be living in a suburban landscape, and they would have no knowledge of farming and the animals one might find there. She must have hoped the farm would continue as a working, active farm that children of Commack would visit and enjoy. (Peggy Galvin, op. cit.) Miss Marion Carll died on November 16, 1968, at the age of eighty-three. She left behind a remarkable record of public service and the legacy of her farm for future residents to enjoy. In many ways, Miss Marion E. Carll remains one of Commack’s most important links to the past. Marion Carll photo courtesy of Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities.
which served as Commack's only school from 1924 until 1958 when Smith’s Lane School opened. Marion Carll recalled that the building "contained four classrooms and a auditorium downstairs and a fifth classroom and library upstairs. There was a small room for the principal’s use." For years, only the downstairs classrooms were used in the school. But following WWII, as the “enrollment gradually increased” a new wing was added in 1953, followed by another wing in 1956, and yet another wing in 1960. By the time the school was named in honor of Marion Carll in 1957, enrollment had increased and so had the size of the building. ("History of One-Room Schools in Commack,” by Marion Carll, unpublished manuscript on file in the Commack School District Archives, p.8.) In 1973, as the School District's enrollment declined, the Marion Carll School was sold to the New York Institute of Technology. The New York Institute of Technology organized a community college at the school and conducted classes here for a number of years. Eventually a decision was made to close the facility, and the school went back on the market. Unfortunately, the empty building was vandalized and set afire. In 1990, the building was demolished and that was when a time capsule was discovered in the cornerstone of the building. The time capsule was rescued by Commack Fire Department members John Bender and Joe DeJose, and Fire Commissioners John Minton and Jerry O'Sullivan who saw the building being The Marion Carll Farm house on Commack Road was built in 1860 and is presently owned by the Commack School District. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
razed and ran across the street, found the cornerstone, and extracted from it a soldered copper box. When this box was opened, it was found to contain "a small leather-bound Bible, a copy of the construction specifications for the school building, a mason's emblem and a program for the dedication ceremony.... There was also a 48-star American flag and a history of the school district written by Grace Hubbs, who taught third-and fourth-grade students in the building...." There were also individual class rosters which listed the names of the teachers and the names of the 120 students who attended the school when it opened in 1924. (“Blast From Commack's Past," by Bill Bleyer, Newsday, Sunday, April 26, 1992, Huntington Special, p.1 and p.6.) On May 21, 1992, the Commack Board of Education held a special reception for the students of the classes of 1924. As classmates from 68 years ago met once again, conversations focused on memories of friends, relatives, and the good times of long ago. Many of their memories drifted back to their 1924 school days:
We didn't wear jeans and no sneakers. I owned two pairs of shoes. I had to do chores before school, like milk the cow. After school, I would help my brother run the farm. We had 30 or 40 acres on Commack Road, down from the Marion Carll Farm.”
Charles Harned, who was then in the 1st and 2nd grade class recalled: "I remember the classroom was one big room with one teacher. We had reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, but no art or science. We had music too. They told me not to sing because I didn't have a good voice, but to mouth the words. They tried to teach me to play the banjo, but that didn't really work out.... Sometimes for lunch, we'd go to this little place on the corner or eat in the classroom. At recess, we would play ball. The girls would play ball, too. And some of them were better than the fellas.
Tony Michalowski, who was in the 1st
Grace L. Hubbs 1892-1957 Grace L. Hubbs was a teacher in Commack schools for almost 40 years. She began her career as a primary teacher in the Frame School in 1910 at the age of 18 years. Later on she taught 3rd and 4th grades in the Commack Grammar School as she continued to do throughout her career. Every kid in Commack knew and loved Miss Hubbs. Sherman Carll remembered that Miss Hubbs was a little woman who was barely five feet tall and weighed less than a 100 pounds. “She was fast and nimble on her feet and she could slap you quick as a wink for misbehavior and be your friend the next.”
Mamie Lamberta, who was also in the Ist and 2nd grade class, remembered: “There were 12 children in our family. I owned two dresses. You wore one and one you washed. We usually brought our lunch, but sometimes my mother would give me a dime and we would buy lunch at a little luncheonette down the road from the school. For a dime, we got a bowl of soup, and we would bring our own bread from home. The husband and wife who owned the restaurant were thrilled to see us. We were big business. We had 52 acres on what is now the Mayfair Shopping Center. We grew potatoes, spinach, corn, cucumbers, broccoli and sold it. When my father died at 59, we lost the farm and moved to Huntington. I still have ribbons I won in school running races." and 2nd grades in 1924, recalled: "There were ten children in our family; we had a farm off Wicks Road. My father was a farmer. We walked about two and a half miles one way to school. Even when there was three feet of snow, we walked. My favorite subject was spelling. I studied it by myself and we had tests. I hated arithmetic. We didn't have books. The teacher would do it on the black-
The Commack School Orchestra in 1928 with Director Claude Lounsberry: Music lessons were $.75 per week. Photo courtesy of Anne Goldsmith LIndstadt.
Teacher Gertrude Weyrauch poses with her 1st and 2nd-grade class at the Commack Grammar school in 1924. Photo courtesy of Anne Goldsmith Lindtadt.
The third and fourth grade class taught by Grace L. Hubbs in 1926 in the Commack Grammar School: Some of the children pictured in this photograph can be seen in the accompanying photographs on this page as well as on the previous page. Photo courtesy of Anne Goldsmith LIndstadt.
it snowed, we walked. Our parents never took us to school with the horse and buggy." (The preceding quotations came from "Reunion-Reception Reaffirms Commack's Historic Roots,” Commack Courier, published by the Commack Board of Education, May 1992, p.l-3.) These recollections provide insight into the school days of 1924 and show us what it was like to have attended a little village school at that time. They also tell us a great deal about the farming community of Commack in the 1920's. The federal census of 1920 shows that among the 764 people who lived in Commack, there were a number of new immigrant farm families. The kids speaking different languages in school were simply a reflection of this diversity. There were Italian, Swedish, German, Irish, Scottish, Polish, Russian, Austrian, French, and Lithiuanian families living in the little rural village of Commack. But language barriers weren't the only difficulty that one faced in getting an education in the 1920's. There was no high school in the district. "If you went to High School you paid your own tuition and furnished your own transportation. Marion Carll attended high school in Jamaica because there was free tuition.” She recalled that Joe Moreland and his sister Edith “had a Model T-Ford to go to High School. They paid their own tuition
board. I also didn't like geography. We learned reading sitting in a circle. We had some books but not too many. There were about thirty children in the class and the teacher taught two classes at one time. We had singing everyday. Each morning, we would say the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. I was very well behaved. But if you were bad, the teacher hit you on the knuckles with a ruler. She would send a note home to your parents. All the kids had to take turns cleaning the blackboards and erasers."
Helen Probish, also in the 1st and 2nd grade class, remembered: "I couldn't speak English, only Polish. I use to sit next to Frank Michalowski because the teacher paired the English-speaking kids with the non-English speaking kids. He was my interpreter. He told me if I had to go to the bathroom, hold up one or two fingers. All the kids dressed nicely. We had homemade clothes. I wore nice shoes, but I took them off when I got home. They taught us to count and to do math by counting on our fingers. We walked to school; it was a few miles; the school day was 9 to 3. We brought lunch and ate in the classroom. At recess, the girls would play hopscotch or jump rope." Stella Probish, (Helen's sister) was also in the 1st and 2nd grade class: ''There were six children in our family. We were born in Brooklyn, but we all spoke Polish. Many of the kids in school spoke different languages. I don't know how I got through those early school years. We all walked to school. Our family had a horse and buggy, but we walked, and it was a few miles. Even when
The Seventh/Eighth grade class in 1929 was taught by Emma Lounsberry who was also the principal. Photo courtesy of Anne Goldsmith LIndstadt.
The Eighth-grade graduating class of 1930 proudly poses for this picture. Photo courtesy of Anne Goldsmith LIndstadt.
Commack Harbor: On Townline Road there is a low spot near Havemeyer Lane. The surrounding terrain channels water to this area, and before a sump and drainage systems were built, this dip in the road would fill up with water creating an instant lake. Commack natives knew this lake as “Commack Harbor” and found other roads to travel when it rained. Photo courtesy of Anne Goldsmith LIndstadt.
of fifteen dollars. Marjorie Robbins who lived across from the Seven Gables Garage walked to the trolley at East Norhport to attend high school. Grace Hubbs got to high school by riding the mail stage in the morning.... Clarence Graf attended Northport High for six months. He rode with Carlton Burr in his Gold Band Ford. Getting there on time was questionable. On one occasion they had fourteen flats one morning. After six months Clarence changed to Smithtown High because he could ride mornings with the baker. He got home the best way he could.” It was only with determination, perseverance, and a real desire that a student succeeded in graduating from high school. (“Reminiscences" by Marion E. Carll at the testimonial dinner given for Joseph Moreland on his retirement from the Board of Education, 1959.) World War I brought changes to Commack, and one of the changes that outlasted the war was prohibition. With the adoption of prohibition legislation, the nation embarked on the great “social experiment” of making the sale of hard liquor and beer illegal. The era of speak-easies, near beer, bath-tub gin, and rum-running began. One speak-easy in Commack was the Deer Head Tavern, a forerunner on the site of today's Bonwit Inn. The tavern had a bar with a dance hall attached to it. There was a big dance floor that had fireplaces at both ends, and it was a very popular nightspot for young adults. Much of its popularity came from the availability of mixed drinks. The farmers of Commack, still mostly devout Methodists, didn't much care whether or not a man could buy a shot of whiskey in a local tavern. If a man wanted beer or whiskey, then he simply made it in his own still. Howard Moreland, who lived through the tough times of prohibition in Commack, remembered that a number of people had stills where they were making their own whiskey. Some of this homebrew, such as Grego's ''White Mule," was notorious throughout Commack. Howard recalled that 15 or 20 such stills were raided in Commack by revenue agents who seized the illegal brew and busted up the stills. Ron Burr's father told him of a illegal still that was set up in Burr Hall in 1931. Apparently, Jack
Nott rented Burr Hall to some city folks who were interested in the buildings. Without his knowledge, these gentlemen assembled a highly professional still in the barns and began to gather the raw materials they needed to distill whiskey. They brought in a huge quantity of sugar in 100 pound bags and stored it in the barns. But the Constable of Huntington, Amza Biggs, got wind of the operation and decided to raid the site. Before the raid went down, word leaked out that the law was coming, and Ron Burr's father, George, was told to get the sugar before the raid. So he took his Model T pick-up, went to the barns, and loaded the 100 pound bags of sugar into his truck and departed. By the time Amza Biggs arrived, the sugar had been distributed to families throughout Commack. The still was dismantled and the operation was squashed before it even began. Rum-runners used the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway and a fast car or truck to haul their contraband from secluded coves on the North Shore and the East End to drop points in Queens and Brooklyn. Authorities occasionally stopped them on the Parkway, but according to Howard Moreland, the rum-runners were "slippery characters” who frequently got away. This flouting of the law irritated many folks in Commack and made them receptive to recruitment by the Klu Klux Klan. Howard Moreland remembered the KKK was politically strong in Commack in the early 1920's. The KKK preached a message of law and order and 100% Americanism on Long Island. People were recruited and joined in
Burr Hall in 1943: Burr Hall was attached to the Smith Burr Tavern in 1890. The downstairs section of this hall was a carriage shed and upstairs was a dance hall which became a popular place to hold local dances. It was in the barn on this property that moonshiners set up their still. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society.
What people were reading about Commack as reported in The Long Islander in 1920: “Amos Harned killed a black snake 7 feet long Tuesday morning. His attention was attracted to it by the excitement of the birds." July 23, 1920 “Frank Otten, one of our few remaining Civil War veterans, died at his home here Friday noon, at the age of 78 years." July 23, 1920
Klan parades and Klan rallies, but there is no evidence that such an event ever happened in Commack. When Howard Moreland was “Mr. Trifranco’s cow was killed by lightning at asked if he knew of anyone who midnight Saturday and was found dead Sunday joined the Klan, he replied that no morning." Sept. 17, 1920 one ever knew who was involved because the members always "James Wilson was badly hurt last week while trying to catch a cow. He ran into a wire clothes wore their hoods. The Klan was line and fell, knocking out several teeth and active on Long Island until the end fracturing three ribs. He was unconscious for of the decade when its leadership several days.'' Oct. 1, 1920 ran into legal difficulties and support withered away. The stock mar"Ralph Tripany broke his arm Saturday last ket crash of 1929, and the years of while endeavoring to crank Fred Bohnenkamp’s hardship and deprivation that folcar." Nov. 5, 1920 lowed, put an end to Klan activities on Long Island. The Depression hit Long Island hard in the 1930’s and Commack experienced hard times as well. Howard Moreland, who lived through the Depression in Commack, remembered that Commack was hit “awful hard.” Farmers were “scratching for a living” and struggling to hang onto their farms. He knew a “lot of people” who lost their homes and farms. There were “five bad years of farming from 1930 to 1936.” Farmers had trouble raising their crops because there was a prolonged drought, and irrigation systems didn’t exist. When they did manage to bring a crop to harvest, there was nowhere to sell it. Sherman Carll remembered that his own grandfather would load-up a truck with vegetables that they harvested from the fields behind their house and drive the truck into New York City markets to the sell the vegetables. There were many days when he returned with the truck fully loaded and would simply discard the produce that evening. “It was tough to keep going” and hundreds of farmers on Long Island went One of the many houses in Commack that was for sale during the depression: This photo was one that was given to the Long Island Room of the Smithtown Library by a Commack real estate office. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Library.
bankrupt. To make matters worse, there were forest fires that threatened the pine barrens every spring in April and May. The extensive pine woodlands to the south of Commack would sometimes catch fire, and a raging forest fire would burn over the timber. Howard Moreland recalled several large forest fires that swept through the Commack area. In 1915 a fire blown by a southwest wind roared over the virgin timberland that once was found in the Dix Hills area. The fire began at a point just south of where the Long Island Expressway and Deer Park Avenue intersect. It headed in a northeasterly direction and burned over a huge tract of forest until it reached Commack Road. In 1918 in an effort to reduce the danger presented by runaway forest fires, the State of New York built a number of fire watch towers in the pine barrens. Fire wardens were employed to man these towers and for many years Fred Goldsmith was the Fire Warden in Commack. In spite of their efforts, the Fire Wardens couldn’t stop another huge fire from breaking out in 1928. Howard Moreland said that this fire was “the wildest fire” that he ever saw. The fire burned for five to six hours over the same general area as the 1915 fire. Whipped by a strong wind, flames leaped high in the air as the fire roared like a “freight train.” After destroying five or six homes in Brentwood, the fire burned out when it reached Commack Road. These fires destroyed much of the remaining woodland in southern Commack. Automobiles made their appearance in Commack at a very early date, but not many families owned one before WWI. Howard Moreland remembered that his family bought their first car in1912, an EMF touring car. Henry Shea remembered his father filling up his family’s 1914 Garford automobile at the
Program cover for horse races held on October 8, 1932, at ExSenator Carll S. Burr’s Race Track: These races, which included pony races, were part of a charitable event sponsored by the Sound Shore Aerie, 1815, a chapter of the Eagles, a fraternal organization dedicated to the betterment of all humanity. The money raised by these races was intended to be channeled to destitute families at Christmas time. Race program courtesy of Anne Goldsmith LIndstadt.
The Commack General Store: The gas pump to the left of the store and the Model T Ford parked in front of the store show that automobiles were becoming more common in Commack. This photo was taken about 1924 when Kelly and Kress owned the general store. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
The Goldsmith garage Photos courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
Commack General Store. In the photograph of the Commack General Store to the left, gas pumps have been installed and an open touring car is parked next to the store. Jericho Turnpike had become a major thoroughfare for automobile traffic travelling east and west on Long Island. The heavy traffic on Jericho Turnpike led to the construction of two garages in Commack. Built in 1922 the first garage, as seen in the middle photograph, was owned by the Goldsmith family and was located on the northeast corner of Jericho Turnpike and Town Line Road where the Whitecastle Restaurant stands today. On the west side of Commack, on the southeast corner of Larkfield Road and Jericho Turnpike, stood another garage. This garage, known simply as the Larkfield Garage, was built in 1927. With its four specially lighted gasoline pumps and modern repair bays, the Larkfield Garage, stood ready to service the heavy traffic on Jericho Turnpike. It was said that the hot dog vendor who did a brisk business nearby had the best hot dogs and sauerkraut that one could find anywhere. Another major traffic artery that ran east and west in south Commack was the Long Island Motor Parkway. This roadway, also referred to as the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, was the dream of William Kissam Vanderbilt, Jr. William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. was an automobile racing enthusiast. In his European travels, “Willy K” saw many auto races and this led him to sponsor a series of automobile races on Long Island that are known as the Vanderbilt Cup Races. These races were held in Nassau County, over public roadways in 1904, 1905 and 1906. Unfortunately, they were marred by accidents and fatalities and came to an end
when elected officials banned the use of public roads as raceways. This led William K. Vanderbilt to organize the Long Island Motor Parkway Corporation for the sole purpose of creating a private roadway that could be used for automobile racing. (Chris Vagts, Huntington At The Turn of the Century, “Automobiles.”) With the financial backing of men such as J. Pierpont Morgan, Jacob H. Schiff, Harry Payne Whitney, Henry Ford, and Alfred G. Vanderbilt, the Long Island Motor Parkway Corporation had no trouble raising the necessary capital to build the roadway. The original scheme was to build a limited access highway from western Queens all the way out to Riverhead, but the completed roadway never went beyond the shores of Lake Ronkonkoma. Construction of the Long Island Motor Parkway began in 1908, and by 1911 the highway reached south Commack. By 1913 its terminus on Lake Ronkonkoma had been reached and the toll road was opened. When the Motor Parkway was opened, the road was hailed as an engineering marvel of its day. This was because the Motor Parkway was unique in many ways. It was the first limited access highway, the first highway to use reinforced concrete as a roadbed, the first highway constructed with banked curves for high speed driving, and the first highway to have such safety features as non-skid surfaces, guard rails, and fencing. Since it was a private road, a $1 toll was charged to travel on it and only automobiles were permitted to use the road. The engineers who worked on the design and construction of the road were careful to preserve the natural terrain and vegetation whenever possible, and the roadway was then carefully landscaped. The finished result was a roadway which wound through a hilly, beautifully landscaped right-of-way from Horace Harding Boulevard in Flushing to Lake Ronkonkoma. It was an ideal road for automobile driving and should have been successful for its owners as well. But this did not happen and
This restaurant and gas station was located on the south side of Jericho Turnpike just to the east of Harned Road. Postcard courtesy of Joel Streich.
The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway looking west torward Redleaf Lane in Commack. Further west on the Parkway is another hill that every kid in Commack knew about. Just over the crest of that near the Commack Middle School is “Devil’s Dip,” a steep dip in the road that was the best sledding hill in Commack. When snow fell, the kids in Commack all headed for this spot. Postcard courtesy of Joel Streich.
Unfortunately, the completion of the Spur came at the same time as the stock market crash. The Depression which followed greatly reduced the revenue that the private roadway received and this eventually drove the Long Island Motor Parkway Corporation into bankruptcy. The Depression of the 1930s sounded the Parkway’s death knell. In an effort to maintain its use, tolls “were reduced from $1 to 50¢ and finally 25¢, but traffic was scarce and deficits were building up.” The roadway became more of a burden to sustain. In 1935, the L.I. Motor Parkway stopped collecting tolls and Mr. Bohnenkamp lost his job. “By 1937, the highway was little more than a tax burden for its operators, and negotiations to dispose of it were begun with the three counties through which it passed. On Easter Sunday, 1938, the Motor Parkway was closed officially to motorists.” Then on July 1, 1938, “Vanderbilt signed the deeds to the roads and transferred title to the government agencies that would now have jurisdiction over the highway.” With the stroke of a pen, Vanderbilt deeded away the rights to the $10 million Parkway “in exchange for the cancellation of the parkway’s $90,000 tax debt.” (Colleen Sullivan, “Whatever became of the Vanderbilt Parkway?”, Newsday Magazine for Long Island, April 15, 1973, p.9.) One of the factors that led to the demise of the L.I. Motor Parkway was the construction of the Northern State Parkway. The Northern State Parkway started as a germ of an idea in Robert Moses’ mind soon after he discovered a potential location for a state park on L.I.’s North Shore. This happened in 1922 when Robert Moses was prowling about Long Island looking for sites to locate public parks. In Smithtown he discovered that the Lamb Estate, with over 1000 acres, was up for sale. When he surveyed the property, he was surprised to find the extensive tidal wetlands that existed behind the north shore beach front. By 1926 Moses found the necessary capital he needed to purchase the estate and Sunken Meadow State Park was established. Now all he needed was a way of providing
the Long Island Motor Parkway came upon hard times. Initially, the Motor Parkway was very popular and was used by 150,000 cars annually in the 1920’s. Access to the Parkway was fairly easy. Toll gates were set up at intersections with the main roadways running north and south. In Commack, access to the Parkway was where Commack Road and the Parkway came together. A lodge or gatehouse was built where the Bonwit Inn stands today, and here a gateman would collect the toll for use of the Parkway. In spite of its easy access, use of the Parkway remained limited because of the tolls. In 1929, in an effort to increase the use of the Parkway, the Long Island Motor Parkway Corporation authorized the construction of the Commack Spur. The Commack Spur was built as a connecting link between the Parkway and Jericho Turnpike and today is known as Harned Road. Not too long ago, large sections of the original concrete surface of this road was still visible from the Northern State Parkway bridges to New Highway. This Commack Spur made it possible for someone driving west along Jericho Turnpike to leave the Turnpike and drive south to the Parkway entrance. Here they would pay the toll at the gatehouse, pass through the entrance gate and be on their way to Queens. Julius Bohnenkamp served as the gatekeeper and collected tolls. He lived in a house on Jericho Turnpike.
The Carll family photographed with the surveyors of the Long Island Motor Parkway in 1906: They were staying at the Carll farm while completing the survey work on the Motor Parkway. The snapshot was taken in the front parlor of the Carll family homestead on Commack Road. Surrounding Mrs. Carrie Carll (center) are her daughters Edith (left) and Marion (right). and standing behind Carrie Carll are her three sons, John, Ralph and Howard. Photo courtesy of Sherman Carll.
Commack. The explosive growth that Commack experienced occurred over a 12 year period from 1954 to 1966. “In 1954 Commack had one school, 256 pupils and a total population of less than 800.'' By 1966, Commack had "11,368 pupils, 38,000 residents, 17 schools and a district school budget of $9,964,130." In just 12 years, Commack had become a suburban community that was distinctly different from the farming village that preceded it. (Gene Gleason, “Commack, Hit by Population Burst, Takes Growth in Stride,” Nev York Herald Tribune, 1966, article on file in the L.I.Room of the Smithtown Library.) There were a number of factors that contributed to the explosive growth in Commack's population. One of these factors was World War II. The war caught the residents of Commack by surprise just as it did the rest of the nation. Most people heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor over the radio. Sherman Carll remembered that the attack on Pearl Harbor happened on a Sunday, Dec. 7th, and that on Monday, Dec. 8th, he was back in school at Northport High School. That morning, all the students gathered in the auditorium to listen to Franklin Roosevelt's war message that was broadcast over the radio. The United States was now in the war and President Roosevelt called upon all Americans to do their part in supporting the war effort. The war came terrifyingly close to home in Commack in December of 1941. Ron Burr remembered the day that the Commack Grammar School kids and teachers were in the midst of a rehearsal for their Christmas program. The entire school was in the auditorium rehearsing the Christmas caroles and special pageant that had been planned for the program. Ron recalled that his sister Carol had the lead in the play which was entitled "She Didn't Believe." In the middle of this rehearsal, there was a sudden pounding on the door of the auditorium. Mrs. Lounsberry-Phiford, who was the principal, answered the door. She returned to the auditorium visibly upset and proceeded to tell the teachers to take their students back to their classrooms and dismiss them. The kids were going home. Ron and Carol didn't know what to do since their mother
access to the park from New York City. Northern State Parkway would become that access.
The newly constructed Sunken Meadow Parkway snakes its way south through the surrounding woodlands of Sunken Meadow State Park. This photo was taken in 1958. Photo courtesy of David Flynn.
Begun in 1931, the Northern State Parkway inched its way eastward throughout the 1930’s and finally arrived in Commack about the same time that the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway was converted into a public highway. But the actual construction and completion of the Northern State and the Sunken Meadow Parkway through Commack would not happen until after WW II. Only then would Robert Moses’ dream of creating a state park on Long Island’s north shore become a reality. Just as Moses’ Sunken Meadow State Park opened up the north shore of Long Island to the families of city dwellers, the access roads would open up the little farming community of Commack to a tidal wave of new residents from Brooklyn and Queens.
Commack experiences a period of explosive growth... In the 1950's and 60's, the farming community of
Commack was transformed from a little cross-roads village into a densely populated suburban community. This happened so rapidly that it was to have a profound impact upon the character of the suburban community that emerged in
This diner was located on the southwest corner of Larkfield road and Jericho Turnpike. It was owned by two German brothers who were known for their German cuisine. Photo courtesy of the L.I. Room of the Smithtown Library.
Homeowners had their own victory gardens to support the war effort. Everyone had to deal with shortages of staples such as butter, coffee, beef and sugar. Rationing became a way of life, and everyone recycled newspapers, cans, soap, lard, tinfoil and string. Even the students of Commack Grammar School were Senator s Grandson asked to do their part for the war. They sold war is a War Casualty stamps to raise enough money to buy a jeep. It took them awhile but they raised the required First Lieutenant Carll Burr $900. MacDowell of Commack and Commack's farmers pitched in to do their Melbourne, Fla., was killed in action on Jan. 3, while fighting part and increased their production of potatoes the Germans in Belguim, according and vegetables. The government paid premium to word received last week by his prices for potatoes and stockpiled them along uncle, Carll S. Burr Jr. of Commack. He was with the 101st the north side of Burr Road near its intersection Airborne Division. with Larkfield Road. By the end of the war, there The 29-year-old parawere huge mounds of these potatoes stored out trooper was a son of the late Louis G. and Emma Burr MacDowell in the open. In an effort to preserve the potaof Melbourne, and a grandson of toes, cosmolene had been sprayed over the Mrs. Carll S. Burr Sr. of Commack and the late State Senator mounds. Fortunately, the potatoes were never Burr.... used and at the end of the war, bulldozers Lt. MacDowell was wellburied the potatoes. The stench of rotten potaknown in Commack where he spent many summers before entering the toes hung in the air for days. service. When the war ended with the announce(Reprinted from the Smithtown ment on August 14, 1945 that Japan would surStar, January 31, 1945) render, Commack's residents celebrated the coming of peace. Life slowly returned to what it had been before the war but the war had set forces in motion that would soon impact Commack. The war had forced many young people to postpone marriage or to delay their marriages. These young people now opted to get married and begin raising families. A tremendous housing shortage resulted as these newlweds began looking for homes. Another factor that contributed to Commack's population explosion was the availability of farmland. Commack's farmers were ready to sell their land. One rea-
wasn't home, so they went across the street to their aunt's house where they waited for their mother. No one understood why the kids had all been sent home. Later on, they would discover that the reason they were sent home and school was cancelled was because a report had been received that German airplanes were approaching New York City. Commackâ€™s residents did their part to support the war effort: young men enlisted, others were drafted, and women filled in for their menfolk where they could, or went to work in L.I.'s war industries. Anne Goldsmith worked in Bayshore making Dzus Fasteners for which she was paid 40Â˘ an hour, taking home $16 a week. Many people carpooled to Grumman's in Bethpage. Everyone seemed to be working in war industries. Many young men from Commack contributed to the war effort directly by serving in the armed forces. Hanging on the wall of the little Methodist Church in Commack is a "Service Roll" that includes many members of the community who served their country during World War II. It is apparent from the list that some Commack families had more than one son serving in the war. Not all of these men returned at the end of the war. The last two men on the list, Carl B. McDowell and Horace F. Burr, have gold stars next to their names indicating that they died in the service of their country. On the homefront, people pitched in to do their part.
The Hoyt’s Legacy to Commack.... If you wander along the nature trails of Hoyt
MR. AND MRS. HOYT, C. 1945
making things grow. As he expanded the commercial operation of his farm, he experimented with crops that would give him the best return on his time and money. Initially he planted potatoes, melons, corn, timothy, clover and other vegetables. He purchased cows and bred milk cows, purchased a sow and raised pigs, purchased chicks and raised egg-laying hens. But as time went by, Mr. Hoyt began to make a long range investment in fruit trees and he became more and more committed to making his farm into an orchard. About half of the 350 acre farm was woodland, and at the time the Hoyts purchased the farm, only 40 acres of the farm were under active cultivation. Mr. Hoyt immediately began to expand the acreage he had committed to orchard by planting peach trees and apple trees. Each year he added trees to his orchard so that by 1920 there were some five thousand apple trees and fifteen thousand peach trees producing fruit. The orchard supplied fruit to both local and New York City markets. Mr. Hoyt's patience, experimentation, determination, and persistence paid off handsomely and the Hoyts' gamble in 1910 proved to be a very worthwhile one for the Hoyt family. Although the farm and orchards reached the peak of production during the late 1920’s, the Hoyts continued to work their farm for almost forty years. During World War II, the Hoyts stepped up production of farm produce to meet the demands of the war effort, but following the war, Mr. Hoyt retired from professional farming. The Hoyts continued to live in Commack and made their beloved “Crooked Hill Farm” their retirement home. Mr. Hoyt lived out his life on the farm and died in October of 1954. He was eighty-one. Mrs. Hoyt continued to live at the farm in Commack after her husband's death. In 1965, Smithtown Supervisor John V.N. Klein approached Mrs. Hoyt to see if the Town of Smithtown might be able to purchase the Hoyt farm property. An agreement was reached, and in November of 1965, a proposition appeared on the general election ballot to authorize the purchase of the Hoyt property of 133 acres, with its farmhouse and associated outbuildings. All of this was to be purchased for $200,000, a fraction of the market value of the land at the time. The proposition was approved by Smithtown residents and, on June 15, 1966, the Town of Smithtown purchased Crooked Hill Farm from the Hoyts. Hoyt Farm Park is a unique survival of open land in the Commack area. It is a wildlife haven in the midst of a vastly altered suburban landscape. Today the park contains a nature center, a nature preserve and an active recreation area. Hoyt Farm remains Smithtown's largest, most intensively used park. It is truly an amazing resource for the people of Commack to have and enjoy for generations to come, and we have the Hoyt family to thank for it all.
Farm Park in the early spring and come upon the fallen trunk of a tree that has new green shoots springing to life from the dead trunk, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover a beautiful display of pink or white blossoms. Upon closer inspection, you will find that you are looking at the remains of an old apple tree or peach tree that is still struggling to survive and bear fruit. These remnants of trees that once were are a vivid reminder of the fact that Hoyt Farm Park was once the site of a large and productive apple and peach orchard. The 136 acre tract of land in Commack known as Hoyt Farm Park has a very interesting history. The acreage was part of the original land grant known as the Winnecomac Patent. In fact, the park is located on land that once was owned by the Wickes family and the Tredwell family, two of the earliest families to homestead in the Commack area. The Winnecomac Patent was first granted by the Royal Governor of the Province of New York in the year 1703 to a man named Charles Congreve. Congreve sold off his interest in the land to others and by 1740, this land came into the possession of Elnathan Wickes. The Wickes family then moved into the area and built the original Wickes homestead. The association of the Hoyt family name with the former Wicks homestead began in the year 1910. In that year, a young couple living in New York City jointly purchased the 300 acre Wicks family farm. The names of the couple were Edwin Chase Hoyt and Maria Louisa Moran Hoyt. With this transaction, the property which had been held by the Wicks family for almost 200 years, passed out of the family's ownership. The Hoyts purchased the Wicks farm as a vacation home in 1910. They were newlyweds living in New York City on East 53rd Street, where they were comfortably established in their own home. Edwin Chase Hoyt was a successful New York City lawyer. At first, the Hoyts divided their time between their home in the city and vacations on the farm in Commack. But in 1913, after two children had been born, Edwin Hoyt's dislike of the life of a city lawyer and his longing for the country, led him to give up his successful career and begin life anew as a gentleman farmer. The farmhouse that stood on the property proved to be too small for the growing Hoyt family and so they had it enlarged. In 19l2-1913, a second story was built and an east wing was added to the original building. In 1915-1916, a third floor with dormer windows was constructed and a west wing was added to the house. Slowly the house that stands on the property today began to take its present shape. When the Hoyts purchased the former Wicks farm, they gambled they could make the farm profitable. The soil on the farm was exhausted, the fruit trees were old and diseased, and the house, barn and outbuildings needed extensive repairs. All of these problems had to be addressed before the farm would become profitable. What made the venture even more risky was the fact that Edwin Hoyt knew very little about farming. In letters to others, Edwin Hoyt described himself as a "novice.'' The fact that he knew little about farming makes his change of career in mid-life even more surprising. But fortunately, Edwin Hoyt was an avid reader and a prolific letter writer. He read every farming journal, magazine, and bulletin that he could find. And when he encountered a problem, he consulted with farmers in the area and then wrote to farming experts all over the country to seek advice. Mr. Hoyt experimented with fertilizers, with seeds, with crops, with apple trees, with fruit trees, and animals He always sought to find a better way of doing things and
The Hoyt House as it looks today. The central core of this house was built in 1770. The Hoyt,s added the second and third stories to the original house built on east and west wings. Photos courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
Rows of peach trees planted by Mr. Hoyt.
The Johnson brothers plow their potato fields with new Oliver tractors. Photo courtesy of the Johnson family.
in the Commack area, the Johnsons farmed 1500 acres of potatoes. Potatoes were their cash crop and had been since the 1920's. Back in the 30's and 40's, it required a lot of hard work to bring potatoes to the markets in New York City. This was especially true when it came to harvesting the crop. Tractors plowed up the potatoes, but they had to be picked out of the soil by hand, placed in bushel baskets, and then transferred into burlap sacks. The 100 lb. sacks of potatoes then had to be lifted and packed on flatbed trucks. This incredibly hard, back-breaking labor, was done every year by all the members of the Johnson family. Migrant farm workers were brought in to help out with the task. Howard Johnson remembered that his father used to house these workers in a dwelling that stood to the east of his own home, a house that once was owned by the artist Edward Lange. Once the trucks were packed by ''the King of the Overload," as Henry Johnson was known, they were driven into New York City markets and sold. The Johnsons usually got a fair price for their potatoes since they had a reputation for consistent packaging and didn't try to cheat their buyers. In this way, the Johnsons made a living from their farms, but it all came to a screeching halt in the 1950's. In the early 50's, USDA agricultural agents identified the cysts of the dreaded golden nematode in the Commackâ€™s potato fields and put farmers out of the potato business. Since they could no longer grow potatoes, the Johnsons switched to growing wheat, rye and sweet corn. Initially, the Johnsons had difficulty in marketing these crops, but eventually opened their own vegetable
son for this was the price that developers were offering for undeveloped farmland. If a farmer had a 100 acres of land and a developer was prepared to offer him $1000 an acre, a man could make a quick $100,000 profit on his land and walk away from farming forever. A second reason that led farmers to sell their land was the threat posed by an insect pest known as the golden nematode. The golden nematode was a grub that attacked potato plants with devasting results. Once this insect became established in a farmerâ€™s fields, it proved to be almost impossible to eradicate. Fear of this nasty little grub led to the confiscation and destruction of a farmer's crops. Identification of this grub in a farmer's fields meant financial ruin and Commack's farmers were fearfully watching the gradual infestation of this pest. Some farmers had their land condemned by the Department of Agriculture and were forced to give up the raising of potatoes. Bill Linstadt remembered that the farmers along Larkfield Road began to raise wheat as an alternative crop. But most farmers were discouraged by the possibility of financial ruin and this fear led them to sell their land. One farming family that was directly impacted by the infestation of the golden nematode in their potato fields was the Johnson family of Commack. Henry Johnson, who owned a farm on Cedar Road, had potatoes planted in the surrounding fields that stretched away from his home as far the eye could see. Together with brothers, Frank Oscar, Johan Arvid, Gustaf Adolph, Carl Albert, and Alfred, the Johnsons farmed 600-700 acres on property that ran from Clay Pitts Road to Jericho Turnpike, and from Larkfield Avenue to Tamarack Street. With the other lands they leased
One hundred pound sacks of potatoes on Johnson farm property await pick-up for delivery to New York City markets. Photo courtesy of the Johnson family.
In 1954 this barn stood on the Caleb Smith property to the east of Ruth Blvd. Across Jericho Turnpike, the roof of a small model ranch house can be seen. A sign on top of the model advertises the house for the incredible price $3,995. This ranch was unfinished inside and did not come with property. But a complete home could be built for less than $10,000 in Commack. Photo courtesy of the Smithtown Planning Department.
The Johnson family clan swimming in their backyard pool around 1956: It is interesting to note the encroaching housing development on the potato fields to the north of their property. Notice the potato barn also on the horizon. Photo courtesy of the Johnson family.
News, Feb. 4, 1965, p.23) Tess and Frank Falcetta moved to Commack in 1957. They were married in 1950 and had been living in Queens. But they wanted a home of their own and began to look for a house in Suffolk County. The further east they went, the cheaper the houses proved to be. In Commack, they found houses they could afford. The home they bought was a brick, split-level in the Valmont development on a 1/4 acre plot and it cost them $16,990. Their old neighbors in Queens said they were crazy for having moved so far out into the country. When they moved into their new home in Commack, the Falcettas began to think that their old neighbors might have been right. "There was nothing in Commack.” There was no place to food shop until the A & P opened in 1959. The Falcettas shopped in North Babylon. There were no convenience stores, no department stores. There was no place to eat out and the Falcettas travelled to Centerport to dine at Linck's Log Cabin and the Thatched Cottage. There was no Catholic Church. There was no mail delivery. All of these things contributed to a feeling of being isolated and lost in the sticks. Many newcomers to Commack experienced this feeling, but within a few short years everything began to change. Mary Minutillo, who works as a secretary in the Commack School District’s Personnel Office, came to
stand and developed a local market. In addition, the Johnsons began to supply the Yellow Top Farmstand in Smithtown with fresh corn that was picked in their fields in the morning and sold from the farmstand in the afternoon. Soon the Johnsons had 40 acres of farmland devoted to growing sweet corn, but they had many acres of fallow fields. They were ready to sell off some of their acreage. Real estate developers recognized an opportunity to make a profit and scrambled to snap up the available farmland. According to Howard Moreland, the first real estate developer came to Commack in 1951 looking to buy farms that might be converted into housing subdivisons. By 1954 developers were swarming all over Commack buying up farmland for development. One after another, the farmers of Commack sold out. Almost overnight, it seemed, the pasture lands and cultivated fields of Commack simply disappeared to be replaced by one housing development after another. So many homes were being built so quickly that Commack became known as the “Levittown of Suffolk County.” Developers moved quickly to submit their subdivision plans to town agencies for review. In the 1950’s, developers did not have to meet the stringent requirements placed upon builders today and their applications for development rapidly received approval. By 1955 developers had built model homes and were offering homes for sale in places with names like Mayfair Estates, Parkview Estates, and Valmont Park. Homes were constructed as they were sold and they sold quickly. As the demand increased for homes, the prices began to rise. By 1960, homes on 1/4 acre plots were selling for $12,000, and by 1965, the Carll S. Burr, Jr. Realty was advertising a four bedroom home, on a 1/2 acre lot for $15,990. A two story home could be purchased for $16,800. (Advertisement in the Smithtown
An advertising brochure for the Burford Homes development, a 33 home subdivision off Burr Road, begun in 1955. Brochure courtesy of Marie and Paul Walter.
Mr. Joseph Heinlein’s 7th grade homeroom in 1957. Mr. Heinlein was 21 years of age and was teaching his first year in what was soon to be named the Marion Carll School. He spent eight years in the classroom and eventually became the Director of Personnel for the District. The students in his classroom came from local farm families and from families that had recently moved to Commack from the city. This created an interesting mix of students with little in common - the city kids knew nothing about farming and the farm kids knew nothing about the city.
Commack in the midst of the housing boom. Mary and her husband, Charlie, moved from Queens to Commack in 1960. They purchased their home in Commack before they were married in May of 1959, got married in September of 1959, lived with her parents until May of 1960, and then moved into their new home in Commack. They chose Commack because it was what they “could afford” and houses were more affordable than in Nassau County and Huntington. The Minutillos purchased their home, on a 1/4 acre, in Parkview Estates for $15,500. This development is on the south side of Veteran’s Highway, to the east of Harned Road. Mary remembers visiting the site when they purchased their house, and she was surprised to discover that their plot was in the middle of a potato field and there were absolutely no trees. It was a long time before the open fields disappeared in Commack, because Mary remembers that when her kids were growing up, they were always playing softball in potato fields. It was a shock for a city girl to live in Commack in 1960. There were no stores along Jericho Turnpike then. When she needed groceries, Mary shopped at the bakery and the A&P at Commack Corners. The Post Office was also located here. The Commack Inn was still standing on the southwest corner of the intersection as was the Commack General Store on the northwest corner. A Mobil service station occupied the northeast corner, just to the south of the Commack Methodist Church. But there really wasn’t much else in town in 1960.
This aerial view shows that much of the area was woodland. The white patches are cultivated fields. Commack Road/Townline Road runs north and south on the left side of the photograph. Jericho runs east to west across the center. The Commack Spur is clearly visible running from Jeicho Turnpike south to Long Island Motor Parkway. The large circle highlights the one-mile racetrack that was owned by the Burr family and is now the site of Commack High School. The smaller circle emcompasses the racetrack that was behind the Burr family mansion on Burr Road (see page 13). Photos courtesy of the Smithtown Planning Department.
1962 This aerial view shows how much the same area had changed in 30 years. The cloverleaf interesection of Sunken Meadow Parkway and Jericho Turnpike can clearly be seen in the center. By 1962 housing developments crowd the surrounding terrain and the open fields and woodlands have vanished. The large circle shows where Commack High School was then under construction. The smaller circle surrounds the Commack Arena which opened in 1959. To the left of this circle is the Commack Drive-in movie theater, a favorite entertainment spot for local families.
The Long Island Arena in Commack.... N
On November 6, 1960, on the eve of his election to the Presidency, John F. Kennedy addressed a crowd of 15,000 people at the Commack Arena. He was invited to speak in Commack by the Rosano brothers, local builders active in local Democratic politics. Photo courtesy of the Rosano Brothers of Valmont Homes.
ot long ago, the Long Island Arena was a fixture in the midst of the Commack business area. Somehow this building, which loomed above the surrounding buildings like some sort of huge aircraft hanger left over from World War II, seemed to be an integral part of the downtown Commack community. And for a long time, the Long Island Arena truly was a magnet that was drawing people together in the heart of downtown Commack. That was when the arena was the site of ice hockey matches, basketball games, wrestling matches, rock concerts, political rallies, and a whole host of other forms of entertainment. That was when the arena truly was "a center of sports -- for all the family." The Long Island arena was the pipe dream of Thomas P. Lockhart. In the early 1950's, Thomas Lockhart was the President of the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States and President of the Eastern Amateur Hockey League. He felt there was a need for an indoor sports arena on Long Island and felt that Commack was just the right spot for such a facility. The fact that Commack was almost in the geographical center of Long Island, and was fairly easy to travel to by way of Jericho Turnpike, Veterans Highway, or the Northern State Parkway, made Commack the ideal location for a sports complex. Mr. Lockhart's pipe dream began to become reality in 1954 with the construction of the arena on the 22 acre site off Veterans Highway in Commack. Although the construction started then, it took another five years before the Long Island Arena opened its doors to the public. The arena itself was "205 feet wide, 330 feet long and 65 feet high" with a floor area of 18,700 square feet. The building was designed so that it had no interior posts or pillars to obstruct the view and every seat in the house had an unobstructed view of the floor. By the time the arena opened in 1959, the seating capacity had been increased to 6700 with parking spaces for 2500 cars. When it opened, the Arena's Board of Directors announced that they planned "to present sports events such as Ice Hockey, Basketball, Boxing, Wrestling, both amateur and professional. In the entertainment field - Ice Shows, Circus, Rodeo, Horse Shows, Dog Shows, Flower and Nursery Shows, Name Band Dancing, Dramatic Performances, Public Ice Skating, etc.” The Board of Directors planned to sponsor "Civic and Commercial Conventions, Industrial Exhibitions, Trade Shows, Sales and Political Meetings, Civic and Organizational Group Activities, or any other event that can be held indoors." These were the dreams of the Board of Directors. Commack would have a sports arena that would be a mecca for sports fans from all over the island who would flock to see their favorite teams compete, and when the arena wasn't being used for a sporting event, then it would become the site for family entertainment. Mr. Lockhart's dreams went beyond the idea of just an indoor sports arena; he had visions of building an outdoor stadium where football games, automobile, motorcycle, and bicycle racing could be held. Although the outdoor sports complex never materialized, the indoor sports arena thrived throughout the 1960's and 70's. The hockey team known as the Long Island Ducks made the sports arena their home and they brought the excitement of professional hockey to Commack. Circuses, ice shows, basketball games, professional wrestling, rock concerts all added to the excitement generated by the arena. Perhaps the most memorable events staged at the Long Island Arena were the two rock shows staged by Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath and the political rally that was held for Richard Nixon. In 1960, when Vice President Nixon was running for President, he came to Commack for a Republican rally, as did John Kennedy, that drew a crowd of 15,000 supporters. 9,000 specators crowded inside the arena to hear the Vice President speak while another 6000 waited outside for a glimpse of the Presidential candidate. This was the size of the crowd that Mr. Lockhart dreamed of drawing to Commack, and his wishful thinking had really become reality. Over the last 20 years, the role that Commack's Arena played as Long Island's sports center was largely supplanted by the Nassau Coliseum. It became harder and harder to draw crowds to sporting events at the Commack Arena. Eventually, the interior of the arena was converted into a huge indoor flea market. When the entire site was developed into the huge shopping center that it is today, the flea market was closed,and the building and its adjacent roller rink were torn down. (New York Herald Tribune on February 27, 1966.)
Commack Union Free School District #10 To say that the Commack School District is a union free school district does not mean that the district is free of labor unions. The term “union free” is a designation N.Y. State has for a school system which was “formed from one or more common school districts for the express purpose of operating a high school program, which common school districts cannot do.” The Commack Common School District #10 became the Commack Union Free School District #10 on October 28, 1948. The minutes of the Board of Education indicate that on that date, a special school meeting was convened for the purpose of considering a change in the classification of Commack from Common to Union Free. The District Superintendent, A.M. Jones, whose office was located at 355 New York Avenue in Huntington, was in attendance at the meeting. The minutes indicate that they talked about the classification and what it would mean if Commack became such a district. He must have encouraged the voters in favor of the designation because after the vote, 38 out of 39 property owners who were present voted “yes” on the question and Commack became a Union Free School District. Mr. Jones once again addressed the meeting and pointed out that the new district could be administered by a school board of between three and nine members. Mr. Jones spoke in favor of five members and on a motion by Mr. George James, seconded and carried, a Board of Education with five members was created. The voters nominated and elected Herman Jurgens, Alfred Johnson, Francis Lauer, Jack Fredentough, and James Cowie. Commack now had a new five member Board of Education, just as it has today. But, it would take another fifteen years before the State of New York would permit the District to open its own high school.
The Marion Carll School faculty in the 1958-59 school year.
Miss Mildred Beck’s 5th grade class in the Turnpike School, the soon to be named Marion Carll School, and previously known as the Commack Grammar School. The photo was taken in 1958
That same year, the Mayfair Shopping Center opened and Grand Union and Woolworth’s moved in. Mary Minutillo remembered attending Catholic services in the Mayfair Movie Theater and then later in the basement of Gimbel’s, long before a Catholic church was built. Grand Union, Food Fair, Grant’s and the Chinese Restaurant would open up in 1963 and 1964 as the commercial property along Veteran’s Highway and Jericho Turnpike began to develop. In the 60’s and 70’s this commercial development would intensify and include Commack Road. The houses that fronted these main arteries slowly disappeared before the onslaught of commercial development that followed on the heels of an incredible housing boom. The impact of all this upon the surrounding area can be most readily appreciated by comparing the aerial photographs of Commack in the 1932 and 1962 as seen on the previous page. In a little over a decade the rural village of Commack with its open farm fields and woodlands had been obliterated by the sprawl of housing developments. The sudden creation of a suburban community in the midst of rural Suffolk County was to have a dramatic impact upon the Commack School District. Some of this impact upon the community can be gleaned from the fourth annual report of the District Principal in December of 1963. Entitled “Commack, A School District Under Explosive Growth,” the report opens with these words: "Few school districts in the United States have experienced the fantastic growth seen in Commack during the last four years. Within this period the school district has moved from a small semi-rural community with two and one-half buildings, thirtythree hundred pupils, and forty-six classrooms to Suffolk's County's third largest school district with thirteen schools, nine thousand
pupils, and three hundred and forty-one classrooms." The 1963 report is interesting because it highlights what happened in four short years from 1959 to 1963. The report notes that: ''In December 1959, the Commack School District housed 3,052 children in crowded and only partially adequate facilities. Only part-time education was available to each child in the fifteen room Marion Carll School, the four rented classrooms in the Commack Methodist Church building; and in the Kindergarten, first, and second grades of Smiths Lane School. Only the 551 youngsters in grades seven and eight at Smiths Lane School had a full time program of education." Four years later, the Commack School District had 13 schools and 9000 students who were all receiving a full time educational program. Starting with just the Marion Carll and Smith's Lane Schools, the School District began a remarkable building program that was to see the addition of eleven new schools in five years. By the end of 1963, the School District was keeping pace with the population growth in the community and had three more schools under construction with another two in the planning stages. With the opening of Commack High School in 1962, Commack finally had its own high school. The lack of a high school in Commmack had become more of an acute problem in the 1950’s as the number of high school aged youngsters increased. Surrounding school districts with high schools increased their School Year Opened Winnecomac (K-6) 1958 tuition and finally ran out Cedar Road (K-6) 1960 of room. The need for a Green Fields (K-6) 1961 high school of its own Wood Park (K-6) 1961 finally forced the New York North Ridge (K-6) 1962 State Educational officials Commack H.S. (7-12) 1962 into granting permission to Circle Hill (K-6) 1963 the Commack School Long Acres (K-6) 1963 District to establish its own South Ridge (K-6) 1963 high school. Starting with Old Farms (K-6) 1963 the school year of 1959Green Meadows J.H.S. (&-9) 1963 1960, the State allowed
Mrs. Ketcham’s fourthgrade class in the Townline School. In 1958 the District was renting classroom space in the Commack Methodist Church building on Townline Road (the present-day site of Pumpkin Patch Nursery). Through the windows of the classroom can be seen the house that once served as the Methodist Church’s parsonage. The house was torn down when the modern Methodist Church was constructed.
Commack High School South opened its doors in September, 1968 to meet the demands of the mushrooming secondary student population. Twenty years later, with the secondary student population plummeting as fast as it had mushroomed, it became Commack Middle School.
the School District to create ninth grade classes. Tenth grade classes were created the next year. By the fall of 1962, when Commack High School opened its doors, 9th, 10th, and 11th grade classes were enrolled. In the school year of 1963-64, Commack High School proudly graduated its first class of 12th graders. It doesn’t seem possible, but the Commack School District has only had a high school for 36 years. Some of those first Commack graduates of the class of 1964 are teachers in the school district today. The building of all these schools had a tremendous impact upon the Commack community and the District Principal addressed many of these problems in his report. He discussed the growth in staff and the search to find competent, qualified teachers and the need to set commensurate pay scales. He also pointed out that the costs associated with building new schools and hiring staff would continue to cause annual school budgets to rise and the corresponding tax rates to increase. In addition, he predicted that the opening of new neighborhood schools would reduce the need to bus children from one area to another. Many Commack residents recall having their child transferred from one school to another while the district was in a state of flux. Marian Raccuglia who works as a secretary in the Commack School District's Personnel Office remembered the experience that her son Richard had with busing. The Raccuglias moved to Commack in 1964 purchasing a high ranch in the Pine Cone development near Hoyt Farm. Their home was already built, but the development was still being completed. Sidewalks were in place, the streets were still being
paved, and there were no street lights. Wood Park Elementary School was just two blocks away. Yet when her son Richard started school, he attended kindergarden at Indian Hollow School. Then he was bused to Sagtikos for 1st grade and then Rolling Hills from the 2nd through 6th grades. His daily ride to Rolling Hills took 25 min- Physical Education high utes. In the 7th grade, he was jinks in the 1960’s. sent first to Greens Meadows Jr. High School and then Saw Mill Jr. High School. He attended Commack High School South during his last four years. Richard's experience may be atypical, but his experience certainly illustrates one of the problems that the community residents experienced because of explosive growth. As the Commack community continued to grow in the 1960's, more schools were added. In 1964, Indian Hollow (K-6), Grace L. Hubbs (K-6), and John F. Kennedy Jr. High School (7-9) all opened. In 1965, Rolling Ridge (K-6) and Sagtikos (K-6) opened. Finally in 1968, Commack High School South opened its doors. With the opening of so many schools in Commack throughout the 1960's, the district personnel office was hard pressed to find competent, qualified teachers to fill the schools. No one remembers this more vividly than Joe Heinlein who became Commack's Director of Personnel in 1966. The next few years were frenetic ones for Joe's office. The peak year came in 1968 when the District hired 183 teachers and
Mrs. Jane Mealy with her first class, a fourth-grade class at Smith’s Lane School in 1966.
The safety patrol for Cedar Road School, April 1961.
staff for the newly built Commack High School South. Recruitment teams were organized and dispatched to find teachers throughout New York City, New York State, the eastern seaboard, and the middle West. Joe travelled with the teams, and offered positions and salary agreements to prospective candidates. The Board of Education would subsequently approve these agreements. The District still needed more teachers so job fairs were organized in the gymnasium of Green Meadows JHS. Buses were sent to New York City colleges and universities to bring college graduates to Commack where they were interviewed and offered jobs on the spot. In this way, the Commack School District found the 183 teachers that were needed. By the end of the 1960's, the Commack School District had become the 2nd largest school district in Suffolk County with more students, schools and teachers than any other district except Brentwood.
A composite of images taken from a 1967 Commack District publication.
Nurse-teacher Mary-Jon McWhirter measures and weighs students at Cedar Road School.
1975-85 ENROLLMENT PROJECTIONS
John J. Mandracchia, 1928-1979...
1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984
Hard times in Commack...
John J. Mandracchia was the principal of Sawmill
John Mandracchiaâ€™s contributions to the Commack Schools resulted in his recognition as one of only three educators to have a school building named in their honor.
Junior High School from 1972-1979. He was a man who had a genuine concern for others and in the short span of seven years that he was in Commack, he won the respect of his colleagues, his staff, and his students. Mr. Mandracchia was born in Brooklyn in 1928. He was educated in New York City schools and then attended Columbia University. He graduated with a B.A. in History in 1957. He taught school in Brooklyn and pursued an administratorâ€™s certificate at New York University. In 1967, he became an assistant principal in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville section of Brooklyn and then was appointed acting principal. In 1969, Mr. Mandracchia moved to Westbury where he became the principal of Westbury Junior High School. In March of 1972, he was recruited by the Commack School District to become the founding principal of Sawmill Junior High School. As principal of Sawmill JHS, John Mandracchia was a charismatic leader who inspired his staff and students to do their best. Superintendent of Schools Dr. John J. Battles described him as "an active participant in community, school and cultural, affairs." He was committed to developing art, music and cultural programs for the Commack school district. This interest led to his involvement in the Smithtown Arts Council and cultural affairs in Commack. He was a likeable, friendly man who took a sincere interest in those he met and he was just really beginning to make his mark upon Commack's schools and community when he passed away. Mr. Mandracchia was on a trip with his wife, Viola, to San Francisco, California, during the mid-winter vacation in February of 1979, when he was struck down by a heart attack. His body was flown back to New York and he was buried at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale. At the age of 51, John J. Mandracchia was gone. As a way of showing their respect for John Mandracchia, the School Board changed the name of Sawmill Junior High School to the Mandracchia / Sawmill Junior High School.
As the decade of the 1970's 5,500 began, the Commack community continued to grow until its popula5,000 tion approached 40,000 residents with over 15,000 school-aged 4,500 children. It seemed as if there 4,000 was no end in sight to the mushrooming population growth of the 3,500 district. In 1971, in response to 3,000 the surging increase in the number of junior high school age chil- 2,500 Secondary Elementary dren, the school district voters 2,000 authorized the construction of two new junior high schools. In 1972, Saw Mill Junior High School and Burr Junior High School opened. The district now had a total of 21 schools -- 15 elementary schools, 4 junior high schools, and 2 high schools. The Commack School District was ready for the anticipated crush of students -- but it never came. Incredibly, the enrollment in Commack schools began to decline. This happened for a number of unforeseen reasons. 1973 brought the end of the Vietnam War and this led to an immediate cut in the military and defense spending throughout the nation. This meant that the defense industries that had thrived on Long Island during the war begin to reduce their payrolls and cut back on their staffing. Unemployment rose on Long Island and jobs became difficult to find. This hit Commack particularly hard where many engineers and skilled laborers lived. Houses went on the market but buyers couldn't be found. The con-
* * *
These enrollment projections which were made in 1976 were actually pretty accurate. This was the first year that the New York State Department of Education required all school systems to establish a five year projection of enrollment. Commack predicted that the District would have 5500 students in1985, and ten years later the District actually had 6100 students.
struction of new homes and new developments ceased and this threw more men out of work. Rampant inflation only compounded everyone's difficulties and to make matters worse, property taxes kept going up and up. Nobody wanted to buy a home in Commack. With few families moving in and others unable to move out, the number of children in the school district fell off precipitously especially in the primary grades. It soon became apparent that the elementary schools were underutilized. The neighborhood school concept was a great idea as long as there were enough children in the neighborhood. Initially the concept worked well and the families that moved into the new developments of Commack had plenty of kids to fill the classrooms. But as these children grew up and graduated there were no new families moving in. "Empty nesters" occupied many of the homes. So the neighborhood schools in the district, that were located in the older developments, experienced a decline in their enrollments. With empty classrooms, too many teachers, and too many schools, something had to be done. In 1974, the Board of Education decided to close the Marion Carll School. It seemed impossible, but just two years after opening two brand new schools, the school district was now boarding up a school. And two years later, the district was ready to close two more schools. Public hearings were held and residents came out in droves to protest the closing of their neighborhood schools. They objected to the busing of their children and the problems they would have in picking up and dropping off their children for school. They also voiced their concerns over the staffing and crowding that would result in the new school. Over these objections, the Board of Education and the district administrators had to consider the escalating costs of maintaining and
staffing so many buildings. They had to consider the impact that cuts in state aid would have upon local taxes. In the end, they had to make a decision that would benefit all the taxpayers of the school district, not just the people within the immediate area of the neighborhood school being closed. In the end, the Board of Education chose to close schools as district enrollment declined further. As the years went by, one school after another was closed as the district enrollment dropped. The closing of schools throughout the 70's and 80's was accompanied by a reduction of the professional staff. Teachers were excessed and told that they were losing their jobs. Operating under the premise that the last hired would be the first fired, seniority lists were drawn up and teachers were made aware of their number on the list. The difficulty of telling who would stay and who would go was compounded by an individual's certification status and the needs of the district. As the Director of Personnel, Joe Heinlein went through agony everytime he had to call in a teacher who had been recently hired only to tell him that he was losing his job. As the years went by and the schools continued to close, more and more people were excessed. Tenure didn't count for much and there were many people who had over 15 years of teaching in the district who lost their positions. In 1972, there were over 900 people on the Commack staff. Twenty years later, the numbers had dropped to 500. It was a terribly difficult time for all concerned and many gifted teachers left Commack. The one thing that the Commack School District did attempt to do for its teachers whose positions were threatened was to offer them an opportunity for cross-training and recertification. The District actually paid for teachers to go back to school and get the training they needed to become an ele-
mentary school teacher, or become a science teacher. In this way, some 40 teachers found continued employment in the district, but there were many who received their pink slips and left. The list of schools that closed is incredibly long. By 1983 eleven schools had closed and it seemed as if the decline in enrollment would never stop.
SCHOOL: OPEN YEARS: 1923-1974 Marion Carll 1963-1976 South Ridge Grace L. Hubbs 1963-1976 1957-1979 Smiths Lane Green Meadows 1963-1979 Jr. H.S 1962-1980 Long Acres 1962-1981 Circle Hill John F. Kennedy 1964-1981 Jr. H.S 1965-1981 Sagtikos 1961-1982 Green Fields Winnicomac 1958-1983
DISPOSITION OF THE BUILDING: Sold to N.Y. Tech. Institute Burned, demolished Became Administrative Bldg. Leased to U.C.P. Sold to YM/YWHA Leased to a Day Care Center Sold, demolished Sold, demolished Leased to AHRC Sold to YM/YWHA Sold to Hebrew School
By September of 1986, the Commack School District enrollment dropped to 6100 from its high of over 15,000 students in 1972. The District had lost over 9000 students in fourteen years. Since enrollment in the two high schools was now also falling, the Superintendent of Schools, Dr.Joseph Del Rosso, became concerned that the cost of maintaining two high schools would soon become more than the overburdened taxpayers of the Commack School District could stand. So Dr. Del Rosso
convened an ad hoc advisory committee, consisting of community members, staff, and the Board of Education, to study future enrollment trends and to determine whether a reorganization of the K-6, 7-8, 9-12 grade level grouping was necessary. The committee was known as the â€œCitizens Advisory Committee on Redistricting Elementary Attendance Boundaries and Elementary School Reorganization,â€? and it was chaired by recently retired Assistant Superintendent Forrest McMullen. The committee met throughout the year. They reviewed enrollment trends and considered dozens of different grade level structures. They reviewed class sizes and investigated the pros and cons of an all-day kindergarten program. Finally, in September of 1987, the committee released its findings and presented the taxpayers with four choices that could be made in reorganizing the district. All of the options involved the restructuring of grade levels and the closing of still more schools. A series of four public meetings was held to recieve community input and the public responded. By the fourth meeting, over 800 people showed up to tell the Board of Education why they did-
Circle Hill Elementary School (above) and John F. Kennedy Jr. H.S. (below) stood side by side on the north side of Scholar Lane. Both were torn down to make way for a housing development.
Commack High School 9-12
THE NEW SCHOOL ORGANIZATION AT A GLANCE...
Commack Middle School 6-8
MandracchiaSawmill Intermediate School 3-5
Rolling Hills K-2
Wood Park K-2
closed. Eventually the Cedar Roads School was leased by the Association for the Help of Retarded Children and the Old Farms School was leased to a day care agency and the Ohman School of Ballet. Throughout the 1987-88 school year, meetings continued to be held with the public to assure them that the plan would be carried out faithfully. Weekly meetings were held with administrators and staff to review what was needed to implement the reorganization. Plans were made to move over 90% of the district's equipment and furniture from one building to another. Blueprints were drawn to show what modifications would be needed in each and every classroom to assure a smooth opening of school in September. Vacations were cancelled as staff labored over the summer months to move over 10,000 boxes of supplies, materials and equipment. School bus routes were carefully planned and trial runs were made to see if the 30 minute time constraint could be achieved. An appeal to the Commissioner of Education was filed asking for a stay of the implementation of the reorganization plan, but the request was ultimately denied. Opening day approached, and it seemed that there was no way the schools would ever be ready. Yet right on schedule, opening day came and eight totally reorganized schools opened to 5,807 students. Another school year had begun. One of the most remarkable accomplishments of the reorganization plan was the combining of Commack High School North and Commack High School South. It was remarkable because these two high schools had been fierce rivals throughout much of their existence. Athletic teams battled one another. Bands, kicklines, and cheerleaders tried to outdo each other. Each school worked hard to have the best school newspaper, the best yearbook, the best musical production. They were constantly competing against one another and the achievements and accomplishments of one school were always compared to the other. The children from the different schools rarely sociallzed with each other, and when they did encounter one another, fights would sometimes erupt. So it was quite astonishing when the two schools were joined, and the students buried their animosities and became classmates and friends. It
n't like the proposals and to voice their concerns about losing their neighborhood schools. The meeting lasted until 1:35 a.m. It was clear that the community was fearful of any change in the organization of the district. The members of the School Board were split on the issue. But on November 19, 1987, the School Board voted by a 3-2 margin to adopt the current organizational structure that the Burr-Intermediate Commack School School 3-5 District follows today. The adopted
North Ridge K-2
Indian Hollow K-2
plan called for four Primary Schools (K-2), one in each quadrant of the school district, two Intermediate Schools (35), one Middle School (6-8) and one High School (9-12). The plan incorporated many of the features that Commack schools operate under now: full-day kindergarten, reduced class sizes at the elementary levels, science labs in each school and computer labs in each school. The Board also addressed parental concerns over the length of time their children would be riding a bus by guaranteeing that no child would have more than a 30 minute bus ride to school. The adopted plan called for the closing of Cedar Road and Old Farms Elementary Schools, and in June of 1988 they were
was probably easier for the students to do this than it was for the teachers of the respective schools, and for years after the merger took place, teachers still referred to each other as a "North teacher” or a ''South teacher." Before long, teachers, staff, administrators, parents, and the Commack community began to look with wonder at what had been accomplished. Full-day kindergartens were a great success; computer labs and science labs were greeted with enthusiasm, and most residents began to talk favorably about the advantages of the new grade level organization. What had emerged was a vastly different school system from that which had preceded it. Gone was the little neighborhood school, and in its place stood a larger regional school that was much better staffed and equipped to meet the needs of Commack children in the 21st century. With this change, the Commack taxpayer was getting the “best bang” out of his hard-earned tax dollars since money was not being spent to staff and maintain half-empty schools. As the 1990-91 school year began, the national economy had begun to weaken. Inflation was high, tax revenues had fallen off, deficit spending was reaching epidemic proportions. New York State began to talk about "belt tightening'' and slashing spending. In January of 1991, New York State did what it had never done before -- it slashed State Aid to Education in the middle of the school year. Most school districts were hard hit, as budgets had already been adopted, staff members were already working, taxes had already been levied and spending plans were already in place. Commack was especially hard hit because it was considered a relatively wealthy district by the State and lost over 1/3 of its aid, a total of $7.9 million. The Board of Education convened an emergency meeting to decide how to deal with this crisis. Having no way to obtain such a large sum in a short time, the Board had no choice but to reduce spending by cutting staff. After reviewing several plans, the Board determined that l00 fulltime staff members had to be cut from its payroll. Administrators, teachers, secretaries, custodians, and
teacher aides were all impacted. By the end of June, 1991, the Board reduced its staff by 100 full-time positions, using attrition when possible and pink slips when necessary. One thing was clear to everybody. Had it not been for the reorganization of the schools in 1988 and the streamlining and honing down of spending in that year, the fiscal crisis of 1991 would have been an absolute disaster. As it was, the fiscal crunch hurt, but the school district was able to survive and continue the business of educating the young people of Commack. As the State Legislature agonized over what to do to reduce State spending, the cry to consolidate schools became a clarion call. As a result, Cornell University was selected by the Legislature and the New York State Education Department to review organization in all school districts having 5000 or fewer students. Commack was included in this study because its enrollment had declined by over 60% since 1970 and because it was believed that our enrollment might fall below 5000. Cornell sent several researchers during the 1991-92 and 1992-93 school years to look carefully at the School District's organization, spending patterns, and enrollment trends. After a lengthy study, it was determined that the Commack School District was not a good candidate for consolidation with any of the surrounding school districts. In each case, little savings could be realized because no school closings would result. In other words, the Commack School District had already maximized its use of tax dollars by consolidating schools within its own district. Looking back over the turbulent years of the 1970's and 1980's, when the School District's enrollment was constantly shrinking and schools were closing, it is amazing to discover what an incredibly strong and unified school community emerged from all the turmoil. In all, 13 schools out of the 21 schools that had been built, were closed. Decisions were made and steps taken that divided people and caused disappointment, but in the end, everyone pulled together to make the schools successful. Dr. Del Rosso, who was Superintendent for many of these years, was fond of saying, "Schools are not made of brick and mortar. Instead, they consist of the sweat, hard work, and caring of their many constituents. We are the schools and our success can only be mirrored in the success of those who attend."
A Decade of Excellence.... In the l990's, student enrollments in the Commack School District once
again began to rise. Although from 1990 to 1993, the student population actually dropped to a low point of 5,426, it has risen steadily since then. In the later l990's, enrollment increased by 4% annually. The current enrollment of 6,570 students in 1999-2000 school year is projected to rise through the 2008-09 school year to more than 8,100 students. This growth trend is primarily due to the increase in the size of kindergarten classes which have exceeded 530 students every year. This is an indication that more and more families with young children have moved into the district. These families have purchased the homes of "empty nestersâ€? in the older developments, or they have found homes in the new developments such as Country Woods and Country Estates. Commack has once again become a desirable place to own a home and bring up children, and the reputation of the excellence of the Commack School District is largely responsible. As the district experiences growth, facilities have been expanded, especially at the primary school level where Indian Hollow Primary School and the North Ridge Primary School have received classroom additions during the 1999-2000 school year. Further study is currently under way to determine what educational facilities and programs will be needed in the foreseeable future. The current elementary students will most likely require additional classroom space in both intermediate schools, Commack Middle School, and Commack High School. Buildings and grounds have been upgraded during the decade of the 90's with two major bond issues to improve and repair facilities and to provide for additions where needed to the primary schools. The most
recent bond issue provided funding for additional computers and for the upgrading of computers to enhance teaching and learning. Most classrooms now contain upgraded computers for direct student use. In addition computer laboratories that are fully equipped can be used by an entire class at one time. Libraries and school offices have also benefitted from the addition of new computer technology which provide access to the internet for educational research. The district foresees the growth of web site information along with an eventual home-school connection that will provide interactive links between students, teachers and parents. The Commack School District, along with other districts in New York State, has most recently been impacted by the New York State Education Department mandate of higher learning standards for all students. These uniform requirements have raised the bar for minimum achievement and have required student mastery of prescribed subject matter in order to receive a Regents Honor Diploma. All students graduating in the class of 2005 and thereafter, will be required to achieve a Regents diploma. This requirement has increased the number of academic credits and subject sequences that a student must take to graduate. These higher academic standards have led to the need for more academic support and skills development classes within the entire school system. In addition, special programs have been created to support the diversity of student needs. The district currently functions within a 183-day student school year and has recently increased the student learning time in school to seven hours per day. In order to help students achieve higher academic standards, a large part of the instructional budget has been increased to provide the necessary staff development and training. The increased enrollment and the higher academic
standards have created a need for more professional staff. The addition of staffing to meet these challenges has been further extended by the large number of career teacher retirements during the last five years. This happened because so many teachers were hired during the explosive growth of the district during the 1960's. As a result, the school district now has more than 550 full-time teachers, yet more than 50% of these teachers have less than five years in the district. The recruitment, training and development of these new teachers remains one of the challenges that the district faces in the 21st century. The support of traditional family values has always been the cornerstone of Commack Schools and community. A nurturing atmosphere that was first fostered by the neighborhood school concept, continues to receive ongoing support from the staff within each of the eight schools of the district. A strong academic commitment to excellence, demonstrated through challenging courses and daily workloads, is balanced by the promotion of an intrinsic joy of learning through participation in classroom activities and school events. An effort is made by teachers and staff to make the students feel at home and comfortable in their school environment - to get them to feel a part of their class, their school, and their community. Service to others has remained at the forefront of the schools' values with a true sense of altruism permeating the daily life of students, K12. Celebration of Commack's centennial
year as "A Caring Community" with emphasis upon personal growth and development has been universally supported within the community and schools. Students participate in community service organizations through various clubs and activities. They learn to care and share with others. They also demonstrate their commitment to cooperative efforts and teamwork through althletic competition at all levels. This cooperative effort is reflected in the awards that have been garnered by our athletic teams who have won county and state championships and by an exceptional kickline/danceline which has earned national awards. The cooperative spirit is also reflected in the high level of student involvement in music, drama and art. The district provides comprehensive diversified opportunities for personal leadership experiences accentuating positive growth through achievement and participation. One measure of how well the Commack schools are doing in comparsion to other schools is the New York State Report Card. Commack students have done very well on the New York State testing on all grade levels, and the results compare favorably with surrounding districts. Another method of assessing the achievement of Commackâ€™s schools is to look at the number of students who graduate and then continue on to a college or university. More than 95% of Commack High School graduates during the late l990's enrolled in college or university study. This is a very clear indication that the academic program has continued to grow in quality and stature in order to service the needs of its highly-motivated college bound students. A further indication that Commack schools prepare their students for college is the fact that an extremely large number of Commack graduates have been accepted into highly-competitive colleges.
For the past four years the Commack Cougarettes have won a National Kickline, Danceline, or Pom team championship and have remained undefeated in Long island competition.
Thumbs up for Commack Middle School as Principal Pamela Travis-Moore (with bow) is joined by School Superintendent Dr. James Hunderfund, administrators, and staff members in a hardy congratulation to all that helped make this nationally recognized honor a reality.
Another measure of the quality of Commack's educational program is the number of students graduating with a Regents diploma. Recent graduates of Commack High School had a 70% Regents diploma rate which compares very favorably to Long Island and New York State averages for Regents diplomas. In addition, the class of 1999 had a record number of Advanced Placement Scholars based upon their Advanced Placement test scores. Seventy-five percent of these students received a 3 or higher score on their Advancement Placement exams which entitled them to college credit. With the largest number of AP national scholars in Suffolk County and a lion's share of scholar recognition awards, Commack students have continued to excel beyond New York State and national standards. And this year, Commack High School became the second school on Long Island to offer the prestigious International Baccalaureate program for students who wish to excel at an international university level of achievement. Much of the ongoing work toward the improvement of educational programs and challenges for a better world have been met through the establishment of joint committee work. More than twenty-five district committees currently work on annual tasks to improve the educational program of Commack schools. Cooperative efforts through Site Based Management teams at each school have resulted in improvements to the daily life of students and staff. And a highly organized and energetic PTA organization, which has continued to grow with enthusiasm and support, has helped to sustain and improve the educational program of Commack schools. During the later 90's, the Commack School District was recognized for its Excellence in Education by the New York State Education Department naming Commack High School and Commack Middle School as Blue Ribbon Schools. The school district has also received annual awards from the nationally-recognized School Match Program based upon ''what parents want" for
their children in education K12. Other honors have been received by each of the eight Commack schools including the Suffolk Reading Council Honor School Award. The district continues to garner accolades, awards, and accomplishments of special recognition from a wide array of sources as students continue to perform at an exemplary level of achievement. So as the 21st century begins, the Commack school district has emerged as one of the premier school districts on Long Island. The educational program has come a long way from the days when school was conducted in the Frame School, with two classrooms and two teachers where the highest level of schooling one could obtain was an eighth grade education. The community of Commack has evolved as well from a little farming village into a modern, densely populated, suburban community. The glue that continues to bind the Commack community together is the school system and its record of achievement in preparing Commack's children for life in the 21st century.
Seventy-nine students from the class of 1999 and 2000 were named National AP Scholars.
Commack High School Principal Ron Vale is joined by the School Superintendent Dr. James Hunderfund and the committee of administrators, teachers and parents who prepared the application that helped Commack High School succeed in becoming a Blue Ribbon School.
Mary Jane Budde COMMACK PUBLIC SCHOOLS UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT #10
BOARD OF EDUCATION
President of the Commack Teachers Aides Association
Jane P. Mealy
Mr. John Pelan
President Board of Education
Mrs. Joan S. Bosinius Trustee
President of Commack the Teachers Association
Frank Pagnotta, Jr.
Mrs. Mary Jo Masciello
Shop Steward - Local #74, L.I. Division Service Employees International Union AFL/CIO
Mr. Thomas L. Tornee Trustee
Dr. Douglas J. Prato President of the Administrative and Supervisory Assocation
Dr. James H. Hunderfund
SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS
President of the Commack Schools Secretarial Association
James A. Feltman
George T. Baer
Associate Superintendent of Schools
Wood Park Primary School
Dr. John J. Koster Gertrude Fishman
Assistant Superintendent of Schools
Principal - Rolling Hills Primary School
William Damato Assistant to the Superintendent for Personnel
Dr. Elizabeth Gittman Director of Instructional Services/Computer Education
Principal - North Ridge Primary School
Charles N. Heppeler Jr.
Principal - Burr Intermediate School
Director of Special Education
Dr. Douglas J. Prato Director of Health, Physical Education and Recreation
Dr. Annette Shideler
Principal - Indian Hollow Primary School
Pamela J. Travis-Moore
Principal - Commack Middle School
Director of Educational Technology
Ronald C. Vale
Principal - Commack High School
Coordinator of Music
Principal - Mandracchia Sawmill Intermediate School
Operation of facilities Administrator
SUPERINTENDENTS - District Principals
Commack Public Schools Board of Trustees Carll L. Burr, 1899 Herbert J. Harned, 1899, 1900,02,03,04, 17,18 John C. Hubbs, 1899 John A. Gates, 1900 Charles W. Selleck, 1900 Robert B. Smith, 8/21/1900 (Appt.) John Carll, 8/21/1900 (Appt.) 1929,30,31 David H. Ketcham, 1902,03,04 D.E. Hubbs, 1902,03 Fred E. Haddon, 1904 John Moreland, 1907,08,09 1911 George G. Barret, 1907,08,09 Fred Goldsmith, 1907,08,09, 1917,18 Frank Otten, 09 Oscar Nott, 1917,18 1924,25,26,27 William C. Seaman, 1923 Fred Jaeggi, 1922,23,24,25,26,27,28 William H. Gartelman, 1922,23,24,25,26,27 Louise Otten, 1922,23 Alice Cavallaro, 1929,30,31 George M. Curran, 1929,33,34,35,36,37,38 John Nott, Appointed 1/29/30, 1931,32,33 Herman Jurgens, 1931,32,33,34, 1937, 1948 Anders Lauersen, 1932,33,34,35,36,37,38 Leo Kreigh, 1937,38,39,40,41,42,43,44 Arthur Carson, 1939,40,41,42,43,44 Albert Eucher, 1941,42,43 James Cowie, 1943,44,45,46,47,48 Earle Moss, Sr., 1945,46,47 Alfred Johnson, 1946,47,48,49,50,51,52,53 Jack Fredentough, 1948,49,50,51 Frances Lauer, 1948,49,50,51,52,53,54 Frank Phillip Johnson, 1949,50,51.52,53 Robert Moreland, 1951,52,53 Joseph Hallaran, 1951,52,53,54,55 Lynn Rankin, 1952,53,54,55 Thomas Zabski, 1953,54,55 Joseph Moreland, 1954,55,56,57,58,59 Joseph Marino, 1954,55,56,57 Bertha Heberer, 1954,55,56,57 William Brandesma, 1955,56
DISTRICT PRINCIPALS OF COMMACK UNION FREE DISTRICT #1O:
John W. Nott, 1955,56 Walter Dalleinne, 1956,57,58,59,60 ErnestCunningham,1956,57,58,59,60,61,62.63,64, 65,66, 67,68,69,70 Charles Russillo, 1957,58,59,60,61,62 L.. Albert Edwards, 1957,58,59,60,61,62,63 Hilliard Steele, 1959,60,61,62,63,64,65,66,67 Howard E. Pachman, 1960,61,62,63 John E. McPartlin, 1962,63,64,65 Michael Sheehan, 1963,64,65,66 Donald A. Doyle, 1963,64,65,66,67,68,69,70,71, 72, 73,74,75,76,77,78 John Fagan, 1965,66,67,68 Theordore Spedalle, 1967,68 Peter Rubinton, 1966,67,68 Robert G.Rennie,1968,69,70,71,72,73,74,75, 76,77,78, 79,80,81,82,83 Simon V. Kerstiens, Jr., 1968,69,70,71,72,73,74,75, 76,77,78,79, 80,81,82 Stephen J. Harran, Jr., 1968,69,70,71,72,73 ,74,75,76 Estelle Fliegler, 1970,71,72,73,74,75,76 James L O'Donnell, 1976,77,78,79 John J. O'Neil, 1976,77 Mary M. Scott, 1977,78,79, 1982,83, 84,85, 86,87,88 Rochelle Masters, 1978,79,80,81,82,83,84 Herbert Charnes, 1979,8Q81,82 Betty Polly,1980,81,82,83,84,85,86,87,88,89 Carolyn Gehlbach, 1982,83,84,85 Joy Todino, 1983,84,85,86,87,88,89 Brian T. Patterson, 1984,85,86,87,88,89,90 ,91,92,93,94,95, 96,97,98 Daniel J. LaBianca, 1986, 87, 88, 89, 90,91, 92,93, 94,95, 96, 97, 98 Harvey V. Gasn, 1988,89,90,91,92,94 Diane H. Lerner, 1989,90,91,92,93,94,95,96,97,98,99 Joy Willens, 1990,91,92,93,94,95,96 John J. Pelan, 1994,95,96,97,98,99 Larry Shulman, 1996,97,98,99 Mary Jo Masciello, 98,99,2000,01,02 Peter R. Wunsch, 98,99,2000,01 Joan S. Bosinius, 98,99,2000,01 Thomas L Tornee, 99,2000,01,0
Mr. Douglas Morey 1956-1959 Dr. Thomas Shaheen 1959-1965 Mr. Franklin Denbesten 1965 (Acting District Principal) SUPERINTENDENTS OF COMMACK UNION FREE DISTRICT #10: Dr. Paul Mitchell Dr. Ross Headley Dr. William Kochnower Dr. John Battles Mr. Joseph Heinlein Dr. Joseph Del Rosso Dr. James H. Hunderfund
1965-1968 1968-1970 1970-1976 1976-1979 1979-1980 1980-1994 1994-present
Centennial Omnibus Committee Chairperson Dr. James H. Hunderfund Carol Bertolotti Joan Bosinius William Damato Hilda Haas James Feltman Mary Jo Masciello Marian Raccuglia Russell Stewart Bernie Townes Ron Vale Debbie Virga Terri Williams Kay Zak Ken Zweibel
Commack Historical Committee Chairperson
Terry Chalder Faith Groody Nancy Hadland Julie Hayes Jane Keller Barbara Kimmel Carol Krais James Montel Joan Schimatz Jane Smith Maria Tripia Joy Willens
Active Members George Baer Carolyn Gehlbach Regina Goldrick Nicolina Muolo Judith Quarry Caryle Sampson Catherine Semente Ronald Vale
Inactive Members Daniel LaBianca Sal Sinito
Commack Union Free School District #10 Principals Minnie Van Brunt, The Frame School Anna W. Green, The Frame School Mary P. Kilts, The Frame School/ Grammar School William Schoonmaker, Commack Grammar School Emma Lounsberry, Commack Grammar School Violete E. Bass, Commack Grammar School W. C. Mansfield, Commack Grammar School J. H. Bronson, Commack Grammar School Douglas Morey, Winnicomac James Montel, Marion Carll , Old Farms, Sagtikos James Hunt, Cedar Road, Winnicomac Arthur Kelly, Winnicomac, Marion Carll, Wood Park Samuel Gulino, Green Fields, Rolling Hills Peter Gannon, Wood Park Martin Sokolsky, Circle Hill Elementary Michael Mirey, Commack High School William Kochnower, Commack HS Perry Bendicksen, Indian Hollow, Marion Carll, CedarRoad, North R;dge, North Ridge Primary
Volunteers for the Centennial John Heslin, John F. Kennedy Junior High, Burr Junior High Louis Orazio, Old Farms School Allan Carlson, Smiths Lane Elementary, Old Farms William Mackelin. Green Meadows JHS Hugh Schulman, South Ridge, North Ridge Charles Tumrninello, Green Meadows JHS, M-Sawmill JHS Franklin Den Besten, Long Acres Charles Robinson, Grace L. Hubbs School Donald Goldstein, Rolling Hills Paul Olander, South Ridge Fred Horowitz, Indian Hollow, Indian Hollow Primary Jesse Mould, Principal, Commack High School South Harold Cassidy, Sagtikos, Circle Hill Anthony Ruocco, North Ridge John McWhirter, Cedar Road, North Ridge Walter Boeri, Principal, Commack High School North Jane O'Reilly (O'Connell), Grace L Hubbs James Coonan, Commack High School South John Mandracchia, Sawmill Junior High Aspasia (Andy) Argis, Sawmill JHS Ernest Tovo, Burr JHS, Commack High School South John J. McCarthy, Commack High School South Peter Flanagan, Long Acres, Old Farms, Wood Park , MSawmill Intermediate School Jay Niles, Mandracchia - Sawmill Junior HighSchool David Rosenstein, Principal, M-Sawmill Junior High Fred McGee, Commack High School North Pamela Travis-Moore, Commack H.S. South, Commack M.S. Ronald Vale, Burr Junior High , Commack High School George Baer, Old Farms, Wood Park, Wood Park Primary l Gertrude Fishman, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Primary Charles Heppeler, Jr., North Ridge, Burr Intermediate Toby Goldberg, North Ridge Primary Marilyn Wunder, Mandracchia-Sawmill Intermediate Judy Pace, Indian Hollow Prirnary School
George Baer Grace Barrett Alan Baum Carol Bertolotti Linda Beyel Sharon Blatt Cathy Bongo Joan Bosinious Pete Brasch Don Burke Ron Burr Tina Capogna Gerard Cairns Sherman Carll Renne Csajko Jayne Cascino Gertrude Conglario William Damato Jim Del Guidice Sebastian DiRubba Janet Ellner Marjorie Esposito Dee Fabian James Feltman Karen Flaim Bill Gehrhardt Carolyn Gelbach Barbara Geller Susan Glaser Stan Goldfeder Regina Goldrick
Jennifer Grabow Judy Gregory Bill Gulick Jim Hall Betty Hand David Harned Brad Harris Hilda Haas James Hunderfund Kathy Hynes Steve Iannone Rose Illari Kitty Jonke Matt Keltos Louise Kiley Annette Kosar Stacey Kravette Mark Kutch Laura Krummenacker Donna Lund mary Jo Masciello Eric Manno Chris Mattison Patricia McDonald Fred McGee Jack McGrath Carolyn Milano Lita Smith-Mines Mary Ellen Minton Tracie Morenberg
Emily Moss Nicki Muolo Doreen Murphy Frank Musto Gail Oliveri Richard Oliveri Donna Peguillan John Pelan Judy Quarry Marion Raccuglia Carol Rizzo Cathy Roe Caryle Sampson Mary Ann Scott Cathy Schwartz Cathy Semente Sal Sinito Russell Stewart Ed Storch Paul Thurman Thomas Tornee Bernie Townes Ronald Vale Donna Vigliotti Debbie Virga Terry Williams Peter Wunsch Terry Yoel Kay Zak Ken Zweibel
Businesses and Organizations Boys Leaders Corps Girls Leaders Corps Commack High School JV Cheerleaders Freshman Football Sam Ash Music Lindsay Music Group Discount Attractions
Bagel Chalet First Class Bagels U.S.A. Poly Outback Restaurant Commack Ambulance Commack Fire Department US Post Office 11725 Optimum Design Group, Inc.
On Saturday, October 30, 1999,
the Commack community spent the day commemorating and celebrating the Commack School Districtâ€™s 100th anniversary. The day started with a 5 kilometer foot race and a grand Centennial parade. The parade was followed by Homecoming activities, by an Alumni Hall of Fame induction, by a magic show and by a soccer game that was open to alumni and school district employees. More than 3,000 residents and friends took part in the day. On these pages are some of the highlights of the dayâ€™s events.
Two longtime Commack legends, recently retired District Clerk, Tess Falcetta (L), and School District activist, Hilda Hass (R), were named Grand Marshalls of the Centennial parade. At a recent Board of Education meeting, rooms at Hubbs Center were named in their honor.
More than 100 Commack residents, students , teachers , administrators, and local running aficionados took to the streets surrounding the High School in the First Commack Homecoming 5K Race. The foot race was initiated this year as part of the 100th anniversary commemoration of the Commack Public Schools. Medals were awarded for first through third place finishes, in six different age groups, for both male and female participants. Plans are afoot to make the race an annual event.
Outback Steakhouse of Commack provided food, with profits going to Dollars for Scholars. Centennial Alumni Soccer teams
High School principal Ron Vale and coach John Foley give pep talk to the football team prior to their 20-14 victory over Smithtown.
Almost 300 Commack residents visited the High School football field during the Centennial Homecoming celebration, not to see the football game but to acquire a unique collector’s item. The Commack Post Office arranged to place a special postal tent at the event and provide patrons, at the cost of a stamp, with an envelope featuring a special first day cancellation commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Commack Schools complete with the Centennial logo.
The “Great Infantino” treated Commack youngsters to a magic show in the High School auditorium.
CENTENNIAL BANNER SPONSORS EDWARD ALAN - BIG AND TALL THE ALEXANDER FAMILY BAGEL BOSS BAGEL CHALET OF COMMACK BALESTRAS FAMILY AND FINE HOST CORPORATION BALLOONS AND BASKETS BANK OF NEW YORK LUCY AND MEL BARUCH AND FAMILY THE BIONDO FAMILY THE BONWIT INN THE BROOMFIELD FAMILY SUSAN BROWN - LIC. BROKER ASSOC. BROWN’S JEEP CHRYSLER BURR INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL STAFF BURR PTA CHATEL CONTRACTING COMPANY CHRIST THE KING - CYO CITICORP INVESTMENT SERVICES COMMACK ABBEY INC. - A HOME FOR FUNERALS COMMACK ADMINISTRATION SUPERVISORY ASSOCIATION COMMACK CORNERS HAIR STYLISTS COMMACK FIRE DEPARTTMENT OMMACK HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPALS CABINET COMMACK HIGH SCHOOL PTA COMMACK MIDDLE SCHOOL LEADERS CLUB COMMACK MIDDLE SCHOOL NATIONAL JR. HONOR SOCIETY COMMACK MIDDLE SCHOOL PTA COMMACK MIDDLE SCHOOL STAFF COMMACK MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT COUNCIL COMMACK MIDDLE SCHOOL TRI-M MUSIC HONOR SOCIETY COMMACK NORTH LITTLE LEAGUE COMMACK PTA COUNCIL COMMACK SCHOOLS HUBBS ADMINISTRATION STAFF COMMACK SCHOOLS LIBRARY STAFF COMMACK SCHOOLS MAINTENANCE STAFF COMMACK SCHOOLS SECRETARIAL ASSOCIATION COMMACK SEPTA COMMACK SOCCER LEAGUE COMMACK SOUTH LITTLE LEAGUE COMMACK TEACHER AIDE ASSOCIATION COMMACK TEACHERS ASSOCIATION COMMACK UNITED METHODIST CHURCH COMMACK YOUTH LEAGUE CONNOR AND D’ACONTI C.P.A.’s, P.C. CUB SCOUTS PACK 403 CRYSTAL MATERIAL LTD. ELLEN AND BILL DAMATO
LAW OFFICE OF AUDRA E. DEHAN THE DURGANA FAMILY SERENA EISENBERG SCHOLARSHIP FIRST CLASS BAGELS FELBERBAUM, HALBRIDGE AND WIRTH -ATTORNEYS AT LAW THE FELTMAN’S GASOLINE HEAVEN THE GREGORY FAMILY HAAS, ROE, PATRICK HARRINGTON, CARILLO FAMILY HABBERSTAD BMW HARRIET AND SEYMOUR SMITH - IN LOVING MEMORY HASSEL VOLVO THE HELFNER FAMILY BONNIE HELFNER, DDS - FAMILY DENTISTRY THE HIRSCH FAMILY HSBC BANK JAMES AND ANNA HUNDERFUND THE ILLARI FAMILY - JOE -‘88, SCOTT -‘90, STEVE -‘94, MIKE -‘99 INDIAN HOLLOW PTA THE INDIAN HOLLOW STAFF INDUSTRIAL MATERIAL HANDLING OF N.Y. INC. INSTRUCTIONAL SERVICES - DR. GITTMAN AND DR. KOSTER JO-ANN’S 1/2 OFF CARDS COMMACK JOHNSON FARM, CEDAR ROAD - EST. 1902 THE KARCH FAMILY KINGS PARK ASPHALT CORP. THE LANCEY FAMILY THE LEADERSHIP TEAM OF COMMACK MIDDLE SCHOOL LERNER AND ESPOSITO -COLLEGE AID CONSULTANTS LI’L SMITTY BAGEL AND DELI LONG ISLAND AUTOMOTIVE GROUP, INC. LONG ISLAND BULLS LUND FAMILY M.A.P. CUSTON TEE SHIRTS MACE’S MANDRACCHIA SAWMILL PTA MANDRACCHIA SAWMILL STAFF THE MASCIELLO FAMILY THE MASTER’S FAMILY MOHAWK SIDING AND ROOFING NEW YORK SAINTS NORTHPORT FORD NORTHRIDGE PTA NORTHRIDGE STAFF THE NOTO FAMILY GAIL AND RICKY OLIVERI AND FAMILY LUCY-PAT-PETER-ROSANNE OLIVETO-TERESA-RON AND BABY
SILVERS ORIGINAL BROOKLYN PIZZA OUTBACK STEAK HOUSE OF COMMACK PASTRAMI “N” FRIENDS PETRILLOS PRIME MEATS - SINCE 1913 PET SUPPLIES “PLUS THE PENNACCHIO FAMILY RICHARD, ANTHONY AND VALERIE RACCUGLIA THE REBECCHI FAMILY ROLLING HILLS FACULTY AND STAFF ROLLING HILLS PTA CAROL AND FRANK RIZZO AND FAMILY SHALOM DEHAN CONTRACTING SHORT STOP PRINTING SMITHTOWN PRESCRIPTION CENTER SOLITRO’s DELI AND CATERER’S SUNSHINE ORTHOPEDIC AND SPORTS PHYSICAL THERAPY ELIOT AND BONNIE SCHWARTZ AND FAMILY TEMPLE BETH DAVID TRIM-A-TREE, INC., ARBORIST TIMOTHY WRAY UNITED STUDIOS OF SELF DEFENSE R. VARELLO LANDSCAPING, INC. THE VIRGA FAMILY THE VOGEL FAMILY THE WOLTMANN FAMILY WOOD PARK PTA WOOD PARK STAFF WINE WAVE INC. - CACCIATO FAMILY PETER AND JANET WUNSCH THE ZIPFEL FAMILY THE ZWEIBEL FAMILY
The history of Commack School District on the 100th Anniversary: 1899-1999