By Joey Macellaro
The summer solstice marked the official start of the season this past Thursday, June 21, but summertime in Ocean Beach never truly begins until the baby parade marches through town on the Fourth of July.
A tradition reaching back to the village’s earliest days in the 1910s, the baby parade was revived in the 1970s after many years of dormancy, by the Ocean Beach Community Fund (OBCF), with the encouragement of former Mayor Arthur Silsdorf. For the 48th year, OBCF Honorary Chairman John Schaffner will be presiding over the parade festivities on Wednesday, July 4, beginning with the parade kickoff at 11 a.m. at the firehouse.
“Yes, the parade has a history,” said Schaffner. “I get so much joy watching the mommies and daddies who were in the early parades now pushing their children’s floats.” He and his wife, Nel, saw their own four daughters participate when they were young, as well as their six grandchildren. Their two young great-grandchildren will be in this year’s parade.
“I have seen Corinne Weinman in the past, pregnant and carrying twins,” he added. “Here we are years later and her son, Marc, is in this year’s parade with his son. I’ve seen Johnny Parham with his son, Johnny. This year Johnny and his wife will have their two sons in the parade. So many other families have contributed to this tradition.”
Schaffner spent 50 years on the beach, residing in Seaview and operating Love the Plumber out of the building on the corner of Bay Walk and Evergreen, before turning the business over to Gary Cuomo and retiring to Plantation, Florida. Fred Charlton, who Schaffner considers a mentor, coordinated the parade alongside him and the OBCF team in the early years, when awards were given for the best floats — usually family wagons decorated brightly and creatively. Today, awards are given at a reviewing station in front of the Albatross to all the children who participate.
Looking forward, Schaffner said, “If I get to my 50th, I might even retire!”
John and Nel have more to celebrate, with the baptism of great-grandson Jack Meade scheduled for June 30 at the Free Union Church. Jack’s parents, Chris and Alex, and grandparents, Dawn and Pat, were all married at Free Union.
In church news, Monsignor Richard Henning of Our Lady of the Magnificat Roman Catholic Church was named auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre by Pope Francis on June 8. Please read my article on page 44 of this issue for more information.
Maria Silsdorf reports that the fundraiser held at the Island Mermaid for 2nd Congressional District candidate Liuba Gretchen Shirley on June 9 was attended by 92 donors.
The Ocean Beach Association (OBA) held a clothing drive on Saturday, June 16, to benefit the needy in Bay Shore and the surrounding communities. All are welcome to attend the OBA’s summer membership meeting at the Community House this Saturday, June 23, at 11 a.m. Updates will be given by officials from several community and regional organizations, and members are encouraged to pick up their annual directory. OBA also will be hosting the eighth annual Dress Up Your Beach House contest. All Ocean Beach residents are invited to participate with the imaginative exterior decorating of your homes. This year’s theme is Anything Goes. Display must be up and ready for viewing by noontime July 3, and appointed judges will announce first, second, and third place winners on Independence Day just prior to the parade. Following the parade, the community is invited to a cookout hosted by Ocean Beach Fire Department on the ball field at 1 p.m.
Ocean Beach Historical Society opened its first show of the year with a reception on Saturday, June 30, at 7 p.m. A reprisal of its “Gone Fishin’” exhibit will be featured, highlighting those involved in fishing as a hobby and as a trade on Fire Island. Linna Salamone will be returning as curator this year, with the Society’s space at the Community House opening for the first time the weekend of June 23. Salamone tells us the society is especially excited this year about a new initiative to digitize the items in its collection.
The Free Union Church will be screening the documentary “Cat Man of Fire Island,” on Sunday, July 1, at 6 p.m., as part of its summer film series. The film, directed by Evan Lauri, explores the work of Ocean Beach resident and Fire Island Animal Welfare Society President John McCollum. Admission is free.
The OBCF is bringing movie nights back to the beach again this season beginning Friday, July 6, with a showing of the film “Chef” by writer and producer John Favreau, on the ball field at 8:30 p.m. Admission and popcorn are free; bring your own chair and water.
The community suffered the loss of Mary Jane “M.J.” Lardner at the age of 77, on May 23. Lardner was the sister of Ocean Beach resident John Lardner, and an original partner in the famed restaurant Elaine’s in Manhattan. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, June 30, at 11 a.m., at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on West 64th Street, New York.
Happy Fourth! Hope to see you at the parade.