So, I came back from Italy and ended up at the same Naval Receiving Station in Washington, DC, where my passport problems originated, a couple of years earlier. This time there was no snafu to complicate my life. Within a few days, I was processed and discharged and on a train heading home. It was April 1955.
It seemed strange, walking through the streets of Hempstead Village in my navy dress blues. It would be the last time I wore that uniform after four years. I hadn't informed my family just when I would be arriving because I didn't want any hoopla. I had called them when I arrived back in Washington to let them know I was safe. I said that I didn't know how long my processing would take. So they were surprised when I walked through the door of the house on Lucille Street. I was also surprised. I had been told, some months earlier, that my father had suffered a stroke. Since I knew that I would be coming home in a few months, I stupidly didn't bother to try to come home on emergency leave. I wasn't prepared for how badly my father looked. One whole side was paralyzed and he had lost a lot of weight. When I went to hug him, he began to sob. I was told that he did that a lot and it was mostly involuntary due to the stroke. But, I felt terrible. Everyone brightened up, though and the homecoming was just the way I had imagined it would be.
My parents had fixed up the unfinished second floor of the house and made a lovely, large bedroom for me. It was the first time in four years that I was able to sleep without the night sounds of other men sharing the same room.
After a week of just enjoying being home, I got my old 1950 Mercury back on the road. I started looking for a job and I enrolled at Hofstra College (now Hofstra University) under the GI Bill. I only took a couple of courses in art and literature, just to make up for the things that I lacked by having been such a poor student in High School. I had no desire to get a degree. I just wanted to fill in the gaps in my education, as long as the government was helping to foot the bill.
I spent most of the first summer at Jones Beach, with some old friends and in the Fall I made a more determined effort to find a job. I thought that it would be easy to get work in photography considering all that I had learned and done while in the Navy. I thought that I would just walk into the offices at Grumman Aviation Corp. and they would welcome me with open arms. After all, I had spent two years at the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, MD, photographing their planes with their engineers. I found out with that job application and with subsequent others that my navy experience didn't count for much. I ended up working in a local photo processing plant, developing color film shot by amateurs. I hated that job. It certainly wasn't photography. Fortunately, I was fired after a couple of months. Then I found something in a camera store/photo studio in Brooklyn. There was a little more photography involved in that job. Not much, but some. But, I hated the commute to Brooklyn. I was able to quit there after a few weeks, when I was offered a job as a newspaper photographer for a small local daily that was starting up on Long Island. Now this was a real photography job and I loved it. It gave me my first taste of journalism and after that, I wasn't really interested in any other kind of photography. Unfortunately, the paper ran on a shoe string budget and the publisher fired me after a few months when he found that his nephew would take pictures for less than I.
I had applied for a job at Newsday, when I first got home, but was told that I didn't have enough experience. I went back to them after this latest firing but they had no openings. I eventually found work with John Drennan who had a well established photo service in Mineola. John was an old time photographer who had made photos of Charles Lindberg when he took off from nearby Roosevelt Field (now a shopping mall by the same name) for his epic solo flight across the Atlantic. John had a cadre of photographers on staff and a list of part timers who would monitor police radio calls and chase auto accidents. The pictures were bought by insurance companies and lawyers to help negotiate claims. That was the major portion of the work there, and sometimes, if the accidents were fatal or unusual, they would be sold to Newsday, The Long Island Press and some of the NY City papers. Occasionally, a NY City paper would hire John to cover a Long Island story if they didn't want to send their own photographer out here. I loved that the best. I would run into some of the other NY photographers and TV and newsreel photographers and I enjoyed listening to their war stories.
I had a number of photos published in various papers, but none of them carried my byline. The credit always went to Drennan Photo Service. I developed a camaraderie with the other photographers, especially the guys from Newsday, which would serve me well in the years to come.
My social life didn't amount to much, at the time. Most of the girls that I had dated before my navy days, were married. To tell the truth, I was still carrying the torch for the pretty Moroccan girl that I had met in Naples. We corresponded from time to time. She and her husband and daughter were living in Florida, where he was stationed. But, their efforts to save their marriage weren't having much success. One day, she called me to say that they had agreed upon a divorce. While they were waiting for the divorce to be finalized, Esther and Elizabeth came up to Long Island and rented a room close by.
I was working nights for Drennan. I would be home after midnight. That gave me the days to spend with my family.
In January of 1960 I was hired as a staff photographer for Newsday and that career would span 42 wonderful years until my retirement in February of 2002.
Naomi was born on October 23, 1961.
In 1964, Esther's sister, Dinah, her husband Dan and their daughter, Iris, came from Israel for a visit of several months. We had a wonderful time showing them what life in the U.S. was like. This was their first and only visit here and we made the most of it.
I had discovered a wonderful and inexpensive vacation spot in Narrowsburg, NY. One of my co-workers had taken some of us Newsday photographers up there to fish on the beautiful Delaware River. It was a great fishing spot and the scenery was breathtaking, with the mountains tumbling right down to the river. I brought Esther and the children up there, one time, and in spite of the crude cabins and the outhouse, everyone loved the place and it became our regular vacation place.
Here are some scenes taken in subsequent years.
Everyone enjoyed those creaky, decrepit cabins nestled on the side of a mountain alongside that beautiful river.
Douglas Aaron Kraus was born on May 25, 1966, a few days before we moved from Deer Park to East Northport. We had been planning to move for several years, for a few reasons. I had been working for Newsday for six years and was making considerably more money and could afford a bigger home in a better location. And we wanted to get away from the constant reminder of Jackie's death, every time we drove past the corner where the accident occurred. The Deer Park house was put on the market but it wasn't until 1966 that we finally got a buyer. The day that we moved was the hottest day of the year. The move to East Northport was only about 8 miles. My mother came to take care of the baby while the rest of us tried to get things put away as the movers unloaded the truck.
Looking at the photos that accompany this story, I can't believe how open and big the property looked back then. Ours had been the model house of a development of splits, colonials and ranches on the east side of Old Bridge Road. All of the homes were only a year or so old and there was little in the way of landscaping or trees on any of the half acre properties. There were no pools or fences so you could look through everyone's yard and see for blocks and blocks. On the other side of Old Bridge Road, a cornfield occupied many acres of land. It certainly gave us a rural atmosphere. Each morning we could smell the fresh vegetation still wet from the evening dew. Unfortunately, that didn't last long. The next year the field lay fallow and the following year, houses grew instead of corn.
Almost all of the people living in the neighborhood were the same age and our children found friends their own age. I built a sandbox that had a roof over it and there was a swing set in our backyard and a basketball backboard on a post next to the rear patio. So our yard was a gathering place for our kids and their friends. Soon the fences appeared, marking off property lines and landscaping added beauty to the bare yards.
We didn't have much of a budget for landscaping, so we improvised. Esther bought azalea bushes, yews, spruces and other foundation plants. But, she would buy small seedlings for a buck each at the supermarkets whenever she went food shopping. They looked like twigs and if I weren't home to dig holes for them, she would scoop out some earth with a spoon and plunk the tiny things into the hole along with a glass of water. But, Esther had a green thumb and the plants took hold and grew. Because they started out so tiny, we mistakenly planted them too close together. In later years, when those seedlings matured, they were much too crowded and dense. At Matthew's insistence, when he he was visiting from California, the kids and I dug up some of them to keep the place from looking like a jungle.
I always remembered growing up on the Maple shaded streets of Hempstead and missed that in our own homes. There were no trees in Deer Park, save the one cherry tree that we got for free at a Washington's Day give-a-way at the Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall. I was determined to have some shade in East Northport. The Town had planted trees at curbside, but, I wanted a shady backyard. Grandma Sherman gave us some money for a tree as a housewarming gift so Esther and I went looking for instant shade. The largest tree that we could afford happened to be a cherry tree so we planted that in the middle of our huge, barren backyard. It was about eight feet tall when we planted it. Today, it is about thirty feet tall and has a four foot diameter. It is absolutely magnificent when it blossoms in April, but the birds usually eat the fruit before they ripen. Now it hangs over the swimming pool and creates a mess when it drops its blossoms, stems, pits, and in the Fall, a ton of leaves into the water. But, on hot summer days, I always bless the memory of my Grandmother for her gift of shade.
I would take trees wherever I could find them. My friend and neighbor, Bob Zuckerman and I would walk through the nearby woods and we would dig up healthy young saplings to bring home. We got a few nice Aspens and White Birch to add to the growing forest in the backyard. A friend gave me some Maple saplings that were growing wild in his yard and now they are reminiscent of those Hempstead Maples that I enjoyed. My sister gave us some Russian Olives, and there were Dogwood Trees, Peach Trees, Mimosas and Walnut trees. Many lasted for years; some died after a few years; some blew down in hurricanes. Naomi gave us a Japanese Red Maple that still beautifies what is now her front lawn since she bought the house.
Our children went to the Fifth Avenue Elementary School, which was a few blocks from our home. Then they went to the East Northport Junior High School. It was on the same road as the elementary school, but it was almost a mile walk. There were no school buses until they went to the Northport High School.
When Doug was old enough, he attended pre-school classes at the East Northport Jewish Center. When he was in First Grade, Esther went to work. She worked for several coat manufacturing companies in the area.
I became interested in fishing and after work, I would go up to a Smithtown Beach on Long Island Sound, put on my waders, and surf cast into the quiet waters until it got dark. There were a variety of fish to be caught along those shores. There was striped bass, porgy, flounder, weakfish, sea robin (ugh, ugly trash fish) and fluke. But, my all time favorite for sport and good eating was bluefish. I became pretty adept at catching them as schools of them would forage along the shoreline at dusk, chasing baitfish which would often jump up onto the sand to escape the voracious appetites of the blues.
But, there were plenty of times when I came home empty handed. It would annoy me to see fisherman in small boats, catching fish after fish, just beyond the reach of my best cast from shore. I decided that I needed a boat. At first I thought that a small, aluminum car topper would be enough. Then I decided that I would need something larger and ended up buying an old wooden, 1950 Revel Craft with a 75 horsepower outboard motor. This decision was influenced by a friend and co-worker who was an avid boater. He said that my wife and kids would want to go out with me, which was true. So I needed something big enough, with a small cabin for shelter and a head (bathroom). The Revel Craft had all of that. And it had a nice deep cockpit so we didn't have to worry about kids tumbling overboard. Unfortunately, it wasn't the most seaworthy craft in the ocean. It had a high cabin structure above the water and no keel and not much below the water. So, whenever I came back into the harbor to drop the family at the dock, or when ever I had to pick up the mooring, as soon as I cut back on the engine, I became an instant sailboat and would get blown all over the harbor. And not necessarily in the direction in which I intended to go. People would line the docks to watch, whenever I came back to port. It was always a show. Sometimes I would keep the power on for too long and would smash into the dock. Other times I would cut the power too soon and would be blown away from the dock or mooring. Sometimes, as I flailed wildly to grab the dock or mooring before I was blown out of reach, I would unceremoniously fall overboard, losing my glasses or my wallet.
Esther wasn't big on fishing. I'd usually take the boys, and frequently Liz and Naomi would come along, although Liz wasn't much of a sailor. I would try to make sure that one day of the weekend was devoted to a family day on the boat and we would load the Ish Fick (the name of the boat) with food and drink and toys and games and towels and blankets and beach chairs and Esther and the kids and their friends and we would go across Northport Bay to an isolated strip of beach called Sand City. (I always thought that Sand City was a rather plebian title for our little paradise. It was only an abandoned sand mining operation, but I would call it San Cité. Sounds more French Riviera, n'est ce que pas?) I would anchor the boat just off the beach among the other boats that frequented the place. Then I would jump over the side and pull the stern onto the beach so that everyone could step off onto dry land. We would unload everything and set up camp for the day. The kids would have a ball, swimming and playing with the other kids who were there. Esther and I would gather clams and mussels by the bucketfull.
Esther wanted to know why we always packed up while it was still light, to head back to the dock. A number of boaters would set up tents and spend the night camped out there. It sounded like a good idea, so one weekend, Matt borrowed a tent from his Boy Scout troop and we spend the weekend at San Cité. The first day went as usual and in the evening, when most of the boating families departed, we set up the tent and made a campfire, along with the handful of other families who were doing the same. Esther cooked up a great meal, over the fire, and we played games with our kids and some of the kids they met on the beach. When it got dark, we got ready for bed. There's not much else to do out on the beach. No TV, y'see. Esther, Liz, Naomi and Doug slept in the tent. Matt and I slept in sleeping bags on the sand. Sand? Ha! There's no sand on Long Island Sound beaches. It's all stones and rock. And it felt like every rock on Long Island was competing for a spot under my kidneys. Talk about being uncomfortable. Of course, it didn't faze Matt. He was a veteran Boy Scout camper who relished the winter camp outs that his troop was fond of. He slept like a rock. I didn't sleep because of the rock. The one under my spine. Shifting positions did no good since there were thousands upon thousands of other rocks ready and willing to take its place. The evening breeze blew sand in my face and I wished it would stop. It did. Around 10 PM the wind stopped and the mosquitos came out. I prayed for the wind to pick up, again. Those damned bugs sounded like fighter planes as they buzzed in and out of my ear, looking for a spot to land and feed. When the buzzing didn't drown out other sounds, I found out that what I thought would be a quiet, peaceful night in the solitude of of stars and sand and water wasn't that way at all. Sounds carry long and far over open water. Night fishermen would start up their engines in one of three harbors that open out into Northport Bay. You could hear those motors from miles away and then you would hear them for twenty minutes, getting louder and louder as they approached our beach. And then, just when it sounded as though they were going to run right up onto the beach and into my sleeping bag, the sound would start to diminish as the boat rounded the spit of land we were on and headed out into the Sound. Only to be replaced by another boat starting up in another harbor. At 3 AM I shook myself out of my sleeping bag (sleeping bag? I wonder why they call it that? I certainly wasn't sleeping.) And walked down to the water's edge to check on the boat. There she was, bobbing peacefully in the tide. I realized that there were a pair of bunks and mattresses in the cabin. Why the Hell was I enduring such discomfort, here on the beach?
The Ish Fick sank at her mooring in September of that first year. I had her hauled out and stored for the winter at a nearby boatyard. The next spring, I took off all the old paint on the hull and re-caulked all the seams and gave her a nice new coat of marine enamel. I had to replace the outboard motor that had been damaged when the boat sank. I bought a used 90 horsepower motor. That turned out to be a real pig and seriously hampered my boating for the next season. The engine was impossible to start and even when it did, you couldn't rely on it to go far without conking out. So, most of our boating was confined to nearby waters. And more often than not, we had to be towed back to our harbor. Over the next winter, I had the motor taken to a repair shop and when they started it up, it threw a piston out the side of the engine and that was that for that. I broke down and bought a brand new 115 horsepower Evinrude engine and that beauty ran like a charm. We had a great time on the old boat that summer.
But, I had the opportunity to buy a better boat at the end of the season and I put the Ish Fick up for sale. I bought an old 25 foot Ulrichson Sea Skiff with a new 200 horsepower inboard engine. It was five years older than my first boat but this was a heavier, more sea worthy craft. I called her Tern. I hadn't sold the Ish Fick, yet and for awhile we had two large boats residing in our back yard. The kids loved this and would bring their friends around to show them that we were so rich, we had two boats. Alas, I was still plagued with engine problems, even with the new engine in this boat. There was a problem in the cooling system and the engine was always overheating. I fought that problem for almost the full four years that I owned her. In spite of that, though, we did manage to enjoy some good times. Esther liked the cabin better in the old boat and wouldn't go out with us very often. But, the kids would enjoy fishing with me. Doug and I slept aboard one night in order to get an early start fishing the next morning. But, we slept so soundly, with the gentle rocking of the boat and the soothing sound of the wavelets lapping against the hull, that the sun was well up by the time we awoke.
Soon Liz and Matt were off to college and it was hard to rationalize the expense of owning a boat while my kids were taking student loans to get their education. So, I turned the boat over to the boatyard in lieu of the yearly bill, and walked away from the water. I still miss it, although I wouldn't dream of owning a boat, again. I still enjoy going fishing on other people's boats and I don't have to lose any sleep over balky engines or dry rotting wooden hulls.
Now, here are some photos depicting the children as they grew up during the 60's, 70's and 80's.