I almost fell out of my rocking chair... There it was; a sight I hadn't seen for many many years. Doremus' pier!
During the forties I was a poor kid from Queens who used to 'come out' on weekends to visit my "rich uncle," Fabian Roll, who owned a house on Hudson St., just a few blocks from "Doremuses Pier" (as we used to call it). I would spend the early Spring weekends outside of the restaurant, sanding my uncle's "yacht" (a 17 ft. lyman hull upon which he mounted a 33 hp. Evinrude). In return my older cousins always promised me lots of "rides" when boating season arrived but, sadly, these never materialized. At the age of twelve or so I remember meeting a girl (a GIRL!) who turned my head and brought me a 7-up from the restaurant while I sanded away. Unfortunately my somewhat unstable aunt got wind of this and sent my uncle to "get him away from her!" I never really forgot that girl -- I think her name was Susan. The year must have been 1949 or so... She too was visiting her 'well off' relatives who lived in Lido (a house with a red tile roof in the Spanish style, across from some illustrious person named "Slattery"). Years later (1979) I piloted my own Bristol 35 -- a big centerboarder (a real yacht) -- into the bay from the Rockaway channel and eastward toward Doremuses Pier. My heart was beating as we neared the spot for I knew that the pier would be there, and that Susan -- now a beautiful grown woman -- divorced and lonely -- would be waiting for me just where I'd last seen her. Of course it didn't happen that way which, after all, was something of a relief. Can't imagine what I would have had to say to my crew (wife) by way of explanation. The pier was totally gone... I felt like crying! What a mess they'd left in its place; A parking lot!
I knew "uncle" Bill Doremus fairly well, and his young son Mike who was about my own age. One Summer Mike built a little flat prowed, clinker (clincher) built 'bateau,' I guess you'd call it, and hung a 2.5 hp. Johnson outboard on it. I leaned on the copper rivets with an iron flat while he pounded them through copper washers from inside of the hull. One morning we set out together for Jones's beach and, somehow, managed to flood the engine so that we had to start back with only one cylinder firing... It took most of the afternoon to get back. I remember the relief we both felt when the second cylinder began to fire; intermittently at first, and then with a sustained 'roar.' By that time we were almost home; Two hungry, sunburned, and dirty kids who'd had enough fun that day for a lifetime (as it turned out).
I can remember that Mike's mom found an automobile engine in the street one afternoon. Somehow, she managed to get it into the trunk of her car -- someone must have helped her -- and brought it back to the pier. Bill Doremus worked on that thing and got it running. They used it to power a 'work boat' which could often be seen churning up a small wake around the pier. The story was told over and over again.
One of the high points of a summer's day would come when my uncle Fabian would return to the pier in his "yacht." More often than not he and his crowded seventeen foot boat would be in tow of the Coast Guard. It would quickly become a scene from a Broadway musical with my uncle plunging his hand into his pocket and -- in the midst of a grinning, head shaking crowd of onlookers -- pulling out a roll of small bills which he would then offer to the coast guard skipper by way of a reward. The poor skipper who would probably have liked to accept the money, had it been offered in private, had to decline. I can remember Bill Doremus once telling me that "Your uncle is a very clever guy!"
Perhaps you could forward a copy of this letter to Joan Doremus who contributed those old pictures of Doremuses Pier. I'm sure that she would like to read it. I know that I enjoyed reading her email.
Thanks to both of you,