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The Long Island Oak Beach Inn

Great South Bay. Copyright 2010, Bill Yovino

Great South Bay. Copyright 2010, Bill Yovino

The Oak Beach Inn, or OBI, was located on the south shore of Long Island between Jones Beach and Robert Moses State park. It was Long Island's equivalent to the Moulin Rouge and had a thirty year run. Live music, cheap food and drink, and great crowds made this the place to be on the weekends. The taste of clams on the half-shell always takes be back to that place.

OBI was the birthplace of the Long Island Ice Tea, though we just called it "Ice Tea". "Long Island" was added to the name when the drink caught on around the country.

In the '70s, drinking and driving was tolerated if not encouraged. As long as you were sober enough to sit upright in the driver's seat, you were good to go. Luckily the road home was the Ocean Parkway, which was straight as an arrow, surrounded by sand dunes, and lonely as a health food buffet on Super Bowl Sunday. Please don't try this at home unless you find yourself driving around in the 1970s, then go for it.

Today the site is a 9-acre empty lot that is home to an unofficial car show every Sunday morning.

The Morning After

I remember "hooking up" as they say, with a girl at the Oak Beach Inn. My next memory was waking up in the basement of an unfamiliar house. I thought I'd just sneak out rather than deal with awkward conversation, but the door at the top of the cellar stairs was blocked by something on the other side. As I applied more force, I heard the deep-throated (no pun intended) growl of the largest dog I'd ever seen. I opened a basement window, crawled out through the tiny opening, and ran smack into the stream of a lawn sprinkler. Getting drenched with cold water was a rather rude way to wake up but at least I was out. We didn't use the term "dude" in those days but if we did I would have said to myself "Dude, where's my car?". I would later find out that my car was still in the Oak Beach Inn's parking lot.

This is the kind of thing that makes real life so much more interesting than fiction. My friend Dave Grant happened to pull up on his motorcycle as I started walking home. We exchanged pleasantries, like "What are you doing here" and "where the hell am I?". He offered me a ride home just before the bike's engine conked out. We walked home together. This was not the first time I had run into Dave in an unexpected place.

Dave and Another Dave

Another friend named Dave (who I've known since kindergarten) and I rented a house on the water in Freeport. To avoid confusion, I'll call them Jasper and Archimedes going forward. I had a leaky old wooden lapstrake boat that was only 16 feet long but had about an eight foot beam. It was very stable, very heavy and grossly under-powered. One Friday evening, Dave (Copernicus) and I, and our girlfriends, loaded up the boat with camping gear and headed out to Short Beach; a very small island in Reynolds Channel. A romantic weekend on an empty island for two couples was what we had in mind.

As I approached the island, I raised the outboard engine and nudged the bow onto the sand. Dave (Elvis), and the girls jumped onto the beach and I handed them all of the gear and supplies. I backed the boat into the channel, set the anchor and swam to shore. The sun had just set and was only a faint glow in the sky. As I approached the island, I saw that there were four figures on the beach where I expected to see three. I emerged from the water to see Dave (Ichabod) and the two girls talking to Dave (the other one). He had come to the island with a bunch of friends, all of whom I knew from high school. He was carrying a box of wine, which was brand new technology at the time. He was very enthusiastic about this breakthrough and spent the next few hours discussing its merits at length. In the morning he was far less enthusiastic however.

We set up our tents around a bonfire.

In the morning, we went for a walk on the beach and I discovered that the soles of my feet were badly burned. This was a mystery to me but apparently not to anyone else who was present. I also found that the tide had gone out, leaving my boat high and dry. It was about 50 yards from the water which meant that we would have to wait for high tide before we could leave. On the way back to the campsite I stumbled across Dave (Mario Andretti), who had apparently passed-out next to his tent wearing only his shorts. Mosquitoes had made a feast of him as he slept; his trusty but empty box of wine was at his side.

Water Sports

Someone, whose boat was not land-locked, offered to take us water skiing. This seemed like a good idea to all of us hangover-stricken reprobates. I went first. Up on the skis and waving to people on the island, I leaned to one side to pick up speed and the next thing I knew I was tumbling through the air. When I stood up I was standing in ankle-deep water, so I picked up the skis and walked to the beach. Maybe waiting for the tide to re-float my boat would be a better idea.

As luck would have it, bad weather arrived with the incoming tide. Strong gusts replaced the gentle sea breeze as the sky darkened. By the time we up-anchored, the waves were about six feet high and the wind was howling. The small engine on the heavy, overloaded, and barnacled hull could barely keep up with the swells. I tried not to let on to the others that I was worried but I wasn't sure we were going to make it. It was very scary for a while, but once we passed under the Loop Parkway bridge I was able to loosen my white-knuckled grip on the wheel. We made it back to the dock safely and there was much rejoicing.

And that's all I have to say about the Oak Beach Inn.

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Bill Yovino (author) on March 19, 2020:

@Helen M. I'm glad it gave you a chuckle. Thanks for leaving a comment.

Helen M on March 18, 2020:

OMG with all this "shelter-in-place" going on this made me laugh out loud! I grew up in Port Washington in the 70's and so remember following a local LI cover band called "Mazarin" all over the island. thanks for the memory!

Loved the obi on May 09, 2017:

Spent many nights just being there and learning to dance what a time I had like to go back but can't youth is wasted on the young

Bill Yovino (author) on September 30, 2013:

@Joseph - photos of the OBI are hard to find. There is a Facebook page that has some photos and stories - https://www.facebook.com/groups/46849159141/

josephfraticelli on September 30, 2013:

hey Bill, I played sax in the house band "St. Jon" for almost 5 years at the OBI north. Great times, I'm sorry I didn't appreciate the place and being as big a part of history as it was at the time. We also played the South on the beach sunday afternoons, the roadies broke us down and we played Smithtown in the evening.

Recently met a High school teacher in Walnut Creek Ca. at a joint called "Elliots" named after T.S. Elliot who frequented the place years ago, who met his wife @ the south. She was very sick and they planned to spread her ashes off the beach where the club stood. Small world... Would love any links to pictures or video of the old place. Met lot's of women over the years and have wonderful memories. Thanks for the thread.

Bill Yovino (author) on July 18, 2013:

I must have seen you play, though I wouldn't have bought you a drink (too cheap). I always thought that a fireplace in the middle of the dance floor was dangerous, but I never saw anyone fall in. Great memories of the OBI.

STUB on July 18, 2013:

I played guiatar in Svannah, the OBI house band for a year rom 1975 thru the summer of 1976. We played Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons. I loved it all eyar round. In the winter I sued to zone out on the large round fireplace on the dance floor. In the summer, eveinings, and Sundays at the docks, partying with boaters, who plied us with drinks.

Maaan, I miss my youth. I never paid for a drink, and was paid to jam. It doesn't get any better than that. IT paid for my life, but music made me who I am. Rock on. RIP OBI.

Bill Yovino (author) on April 04, 2013:

Thanks, Glenn. It was such a fun place and I don't know of anything around today that comes close to it. I was there last year for one of the Sunday morning unofficial car shows. The shows are really cool but it's a bit sad to see the empty plot. I'm not sure if the car shows are still happening since the damage to Ocean Parkway from Hurricane Sandy. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on April 03, 2013:

I didn't realize you are also from Long Island, Bill. Maybe we ran into each other at the OBI back in those days. The last time I was there was about 10 years ago on July 4th to watch the fireworks. They could be seen from there in the distance. I found your story interesting to follow along with, and I got what I bargained for -- great memories and a nostalgic read.

Dawn Devine on October 15, 2012:

My husband and I met there on Thursday Night Ladies Night. We've been married for 25 years and know each other for 30. Love that place!

Bill Yovino (author) on October 09, 2012:

@Nancy L. I went to the Sunday car show last year and stood near the wall trying to picture the old place. It was a bitter-sweet experience. Thanks for the comments.

Nancy L. on October 09, 2012:

I truly miss the Oak Beach Inn...what a shame Bob Mattherson was coerced into closing (may he rest in peace) due to politics. The OBI was standing long before the residents populated the area. I have many fond memories of my youth spending countless weekend's there, especially Sunday afternoon's and Tuesday night barbeques. It was a L.I. highlight of the 70's and 80's. I don't think there will ever be another place like this on L.I. Now all that is left is "the Wall" as known to motorcyclists and the Sunday car show in the parking lot, which still brings a crowd. It is very sad that most everything good is taken away from us.

Bill Yovino (author) on August 23, 2012:

@Toby - Thanks for the offer and I'd be happy to add them to the article if it's Ok with the artist. I've hidden your comment because it included the artist's name and address and I'm not sure if he wants that information to be public.

Bill Yovino (author) on August 16, 2012:

@Toby. Great story, thanks for sharing!

Toby Dulanski on August 15, 2012:

My wife and I met at the Oak Beach Inn '96. It was and always will be the Best Night Club. The memories we had there will last a lifetime. Bob was nice enough to sit with me one night before the last Halloween Bash and show me each section of the club, when it was built, and how he got away with it, LOL.

He signed my "Book", gave me the last hat, poster, and a Molson Golden.

After a lot of pleading Bob allowed me to take pictures of O.B.I.

So thank you Bob for all the wonderful years at the Greatest Nautical Museum on the water.

phhess on May 01, 2012:

Great stories Bill. I spent many Sunday afternoons and weekend nights at that OBI in the mid to late 70's. Aaaaah..clams on a half-shell, a bottle of Heineken, great music...it doesn't get any better.

Bill Yovino (author) on April 21, 2012:

@Linda - It was a special place. Thanks for commenting.

Linda on April 21, 2012:

My wonderful husband and I met in 1983 on the back deck of this incredible place! We miss it so much! OBI will forever be in our wonderful memories of youth!

Bill Yovino (author) on December 18, 2010:

It was "closing" for about twenty years. I remember seeing "Save the OBI" bumper stickers in the late '60s. It was always a great place to go and I don't think anything else comes close.

Stacie L on December 18, 2010:

I was sad when it closed.it was an institution and many of us loved to dance the night away on the ocean...

billyaustindillon on May 04, 2010:

Great memories there - thanks for sharing them - that final boat ride sounded like a trip.

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