The President's Message 2007
The Society's programs presented in 2007 have again shown the wealth of diverse people, places, and events in Nassau County's history.
On Sunday, January 7, Arthur Mattson presented the "Wrecks of the Bristol and Mexico, 1836-1837." These two tragic events had a major impact on maritime regulations, federal laws, art, poetry, and newspapers. We met at the Community Church of East Williston.
The Village of Mineola, which is the Nassau County seat, was incorporated in 1906. Our Society recognized Mineola's Centennial on Sunday, March 18 with a meeting in the Mineola Village Hall. Neil Young, Mineola Village Historian, and Edward Smits, Nassau County Historian and Nassau County Historical Society trustee, explored the village's unique history, growth, and character.
Levittown celebrated its 60th anniversary throughout 2007. Answering the need for homes for thousands of servicemen returning from World War II, Levittown, with more than 17,000 houses, was the leader in changing the rural character of central Nassau County. We met at the First Presbyterian Church in Levittown on Sunday, April 29 for a program by Joshua Ruff, History Curator of The Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages in Stony Brook. His presentation was drawn from his then current exhibition at the museum, Living the American Dream: Levittown and the Suburban Boom.
On June 21, we were transported back to the American Revolution by Alexander Rose who spoke on "Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring." The Culper Spy Ring included Culper Jr. (Robert Townsend), whose family lived in Raynham Hall. We met at the Doubleday Babcock Center in Oyster Bay, about two blocks from historic Raynham Hall. This was a joint meeting with the Oyster Bay Historical Society.
The Society's annual Dinner Meeting was held on Thursday, October 11 at Westbury Manor in Westbury. Torrential rain, flooding streets and highways, delayed many guests and prevented others from attending. The staff was exceptionally attentive, assuring all late arrivals fresh plated courses. After a sumptuous cocktail hour and fine dinner, our guest speaker, Dr. Peter Bales, Professor at Queensborough Community College of City University of New York, presented a light-hearted look at America's and Long Island's history. His talk was entitled "George Washington Schlepped Here." His presentation developed from questions such as "Why were the battles always fought in national parks?" He believes we can learn and laugh at the same time.
We decided not to hold a general meeting in December because the holiday season is a very busy time. Instead, we will meet on Sunday, January 6 to hear a presentation on the William Robertson Coe family and their Coe Hall home which is now part of Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park.
We regret that due to current commitments, trustee Muriel Tatem decided to resign from our Board of Trustees. Muriel served faithfully for almost thirty years as Hospitality Chair for the Society. In addition to refreshments at general program and board meetings, for many years she also coordinated our strawberry festivals in June and pot luck dinners. For Muriel, it was a "hands-on" position, and she often handled many of the details herself. Since some of our meetings were held at historic Gold Coast estates, Muriel and her committee became familiar with some of the most interesting and largest (although often inefficient) kitchens on Long Island. She will be missed at board meetings. Recognition of her years of service was made at our dinner meeting in October. We look forward to seeing her at general program meetings.
We look to education of our youth to produce good citizens and future leaders. An article in the October 22, 2007 Anton Community Newspapers reported, "Less than 25 percent of America's twelfth-graders are proficient in American history. One reason: educators' knowledge of the nation's history is lacking. On Long Island, on average, high school history teachers have taken relatively few American history courses." The article goes on to state that the United States Department of Education is funding a one million dollar grant to teach teachers about American history. Part of the grant, administered through Nassau BOCES and C. W. Post Campus of Long Island University, will help educators in thirteen Nassau County school districts. It is disturbing to me that such an initiative is necessary. How can our youth understand what it means to be an American citizen with all its benefits and responsibilities without a clear knowledge of the people and the principles of our nation's founding? With this grant, there is some hope for our future.
Thank you to all who support the Nassau County Historical Society in keeping our local history alive, interesting, and at times offering some good laughs.
We welcome those new members who joined in 2007. Their membership is the result of invitations from other members to attend our programs. We look forward to the future with many more enlightening programs on people and events that shaped Nassau County to the desirable place it is today.
Denward W. Collins, Jr.
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