Today’s Women in Hampton Bays History article is about Mrs. Elizabeth Harmon Jackson. Unlike our heroine from last week, who just barely had a name, Mrs. Jackson was well known here and left a bold imprint on the lives of our hamlet dwellers.
We could tell you a lot about Mrs. Jackson, then Miss Betty Harmon, and her roommate Alice Davis. But as it happens, we can let Mrs Jackson tell you in her own words:
To explain my first impressions of Hampton Bays, I have to go back to an early May afternoon on a Pennsylvania college campus, in the spring of 1925. I was walking down the hill from a late class when I saw my roommate leaning perilously far out of our dormitory window. She was wildly waving a letter. Some weeks before, we, with all the other embryonic teachers in the senior class, had joined a teachers’ agency, which promised to locate jobs for us in our chosen fields.
My roommate had majored in English and math, and I in Latin and French, and now it seemed that, after much correspondence about positions we didn’t want, for some reason or other, a miracle had happened! A little town on swanky Long Island wanted us both! Exactly the subjects we wanted to teach, and at a fabulous salary, $1,400 a year! (Of course, $200 of which would have to be paid to the agency for their part in the transaction.)
Neither of us had ever been on Long Island, but Hampton Bays sounded so gracious and delightful, and it could not be far from New York! So we day-dreamed of “running into the city” at least once a week to shop or see a show, and were undaunted by the fact that we could not find Hampton Bays on the map. (Our maps had not been changed from Good Ground and, of course, we didn’t recognize that.) We sent off our applications in the next mail and, a week later, two ecstatic girls signed their first contracts.
Graduation, with all its attendant festivities passed, and then the long summer. Finally, on Labor Day, we met in Penn Station and boarded the Long Island train for the start of our Great Adventure.
Labor Day that year was a miserably hot, damp day, with rain at times streaming down the window panes in torrents. A good old nor’easter, as we later learned to call it.
The coaches were like cast-off cousins of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which we were familiar with, and they joggled so badly that we seemed to be traveling up and down and from side to side, as much as going forward. Because of the heavy downpour, the windows and doors had to be kept tightly closed, but this did not prevent cinders, grime, and even rain from coming in. In fact, we were astounded to see a gentleman near the front of our car finally raise his umbrella to protect himself from a bad leak overhead! I think our enthusiasm began to wane on the L.I.R.R. ride, for as time dragged on (the trip took between three and a half and four hours then), and settlements of houses became sparser until finally we could see nothing but bare plains and scrub pines, we began to wonder if we were coming to the end of the world.
At last, the conductor announced, “Hampton Bays!” and two very bedraggled girls, hot and dirty from the long, uncomfortable ride, were deposited at the station.
During the last hour, the coaches had steadily emptied, until, as we neared Hampton Bays, we found ourselves the only occupants of our car. Again, we had the feeling of coming to the “jumping-off place.”
Because of the holiday, the station was closed, so dragging our heavy bags, we sloshed our way to Greenberg’s store, where we could inquire about a taxi. If Hampton Bays made a poor first impression on us, I’m sure we must have made a far worse one on it. Thank goodness, the taxi man knew where we were going, for we certainly didn’t. Even our apartment had been rented for us by the school board, whose president was in real estate, insurance, and practically every other business in the town. Our apartment was a cozy second floor of the Ed Lewis Squires house, around the corner from the Episcopal church. On the way there, we caught a glimpse of the school.
After a bath and a good night’s sleep, all was right with our world again, and next day, with rain and wind unabated, we trudged up the road to the school for a faculty meeting. And here, indeed, we had a rude awakening.
NEXT WEEK: THE FACULTY MEETING!