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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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