October 18, 2006

Bucket's Love Growing Up in East Hampton

He had an insatiable interest in how people lived long before he was born. Along the way to quenching that thirst, Norton "Bucket" Daniels decided that if he lived long enough, he'd write a book to give future generations insight into life in East Hampton throughout most of the last century. Just shy of his 87th birthday, Daniels celebrated the publication of East Hampton Yesterdays with local community members, old timers and town officials last week.

Highlighted with old photographs, the tome begins with Daniels's earliest memory — the 1925 dedication of the War Memorial in Springs. A few years later he saw the creation of the channel from Gardiners Bay to Accabonac Creek, courtesy of a hurricane or "corn–twister" as locals called the storms back then.

The reminiscences may spark nostalgia in older residents, as Daniels writes of the days when there were no movies on Sundays in East Hampton and the playing of baseball was prohibited in the village on the Sabbath. With few recreational outlets available, children turned to nature for entertainment. "To walk through the woods and hear the wind as it flowed through the boughs was like listening to a lovely symphony," he writes.

The memoir was funded through a grant procured by New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele. Former Town Supervisor Mary Fallon spearheaded the move to get the book printed. Volunteers Peter Garnham and Martha Kalser donated editing expertise. A limited number of copies have been produced. They are available in the town clerk's office, free.

At the reception in town hall last Thursday, Daniels credited Councilwoman Deb Foster with encouraging him to publish his essays about life in East Hampton. The pair served together on the town planning board during the 70s. Daniels went on to win a seat on the Suffolk County legislature, had a stint as town assessor and, of course, ran Bucket's Deli on Newtown Lane. When he retired, he and his wife Mary Louise moved to Florida. She passed away this past summer and a memorial service was held locally last week.

The court room was packed Thursday evening with dozens of supporters loading their arms with books and standing in line for autographs. "I'll try to hold out as long as I can," Daniels said, eyeing the twisting queue. Presenting the proclamation, Supervisor McGintee teased the octogenarian affectionately, "You're invited now to play in the artists/writers softball game." Daniels replied, "I'd be like Casey Stengal."

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