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May 20, 2019 5:07 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hamptons Natives Use New Facebook Group To Share Childhood Memories

The cover photo to the Home Sweet Hamptons Facebook group, a 1910 postcard showing the soldier's and sailor's monument in Southampton Village.
May 21, 2019 1:26 PM

Ken Vrana grew up in Southampton Village in the 1950s, living in an apartment above the old Ford car dealership that his father co-owned at 16 Hill Street—a building that has since been torn down. A string of retail stores was erected in its place, making his childhood home and father’s former business something remembered only through photos and wistful stories.

He visited one of the new stores during his latest trip to the Hamptons and said to an employee, “Do you know this used to be my bedroom?”

Mr. Vrana’s sentimentality toward the place he calls home, where he lived until graduating from Southampton High School in 1966 yet often came back to for visits with his parents, prompted him recently to create a community Facebook group for people from the Hamptons to rekindle friendships and share old photos or stories of the East End. He named it “Home Sweet Hamptons.”

“I actually started this because I thought, you know, there is a huge village of people who probably, like me, want to reconnect. And, in fact, that’s exactly what it turned out to be,” he said. Shortly before creating the page, Mr. Vrana said he had reconnected with old friends via Facebook.

The page has gained more than 1,350 members since it was created on March 4, with more people requesting to join every day. In the description, Mr. Vrana wrote, “Please help me continue a community spirit by sharing your experiences, life and memories of the Hamptons.”

The cover photo is a 1910 postcard of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the heart of Southampton Village, which is still there today.

People have posted black-and-white or sepia-toned photos of their family’s old homes and ranches, popular spots, beaches and steam locomotives, to name a few, that garner responses like, “What a wonderful memory,” in the comment section. There are also posts with recipes, poems, anecdotes, paintings and even recent photos of the area, making some members who no longer live in the area miss their community.

Stories and photos covered all towns, village and hamlets of the East End, bringing up memories of the Bridgehampton Race Circuit, the Old Whalers Festival in Sag Harbor and the 1938 Hurricane, among other things.

Melissa Corwith Coker, who grew up in Water Mill, said she shared a few family photos to the group to see if any fellow members knew them.

“If they have any stories about my family they can share with me, it gives me the opportunity to share them with my mother, my children and my niece and nephew,” she said.

Ms. Coker posted two photos of her mother, Lucille Krzenski Corwith, from the early 1950s, one at Southampton Bathing Corporation and the other at Agawam Park. Ms. Corwith, now 84, lived in Southampton Town for 72 years before moving closer to her family in South Carolina in 2007.

Another member, Karin Robinson Goleski, posted photos of Coopers Beach in Southampton from 1952, one showing a parking lot filled with now-classic cars.

Carolyn Erland Bustinza was one of the first people to join the group and has been one of the most active members ever since. Although she now lives in Texas, she grew up in Shinnecock Hills in Southampton until she was 21 and later lived in Hampton Bays in the early 1980s.

“I don’t think you can grow up as close to the water and as close to the land as we did without it becoming a part of you. That’s what we’re sharing on that site,” Ms. Bustinza said in an email, adding that her local Erland family was made up of baymen and ordinary laborers.

She has posted countless photos to the group, many of which she accompanied with a poem about that memory. One photo is of her in front of Tuckahoe Elementary School in 1954 on her first day of first grade. The attached poem began: “That first day / Always smelled like / Soap, / And polish / And wax, / Like new crisp clothes, / And the stiff leather / Of sensible shoes.”

Mr. Vrana, 72, has been living for over 20 years in North Carolina, where he settled after hopping around the country to pursue different job opportunities. His father, Clarence, and his mother, Mildred, lived in the village for 60 years until they died, his mother in 1990, and his father in 2007.

Growing up, he said he considered Southampton to be paradise. His family moved from their apartment to a house in North Sea during the later part of his childhood, where he said he spent most of his summers in the water. He often reminisces of his time spent in the Hamptons and now finds enjoyment reading about similar stories in the Facebook group.

“It was amazing. We have reconnected people who haven’t talked in 50 years,” Mr. Vrana said of the group. “I had somebody even tell me, ‘You helped me find my sister’s cousin, who we all thought passed away.’”

There was only one popular Facebook group dedicated to sharing memories of the East End before Mr. Vrana decided to create his own. “Growing Up Hamptons” was created in 2011 and boasts almost 2,500 members. But Mr. Vrana said he received a lot of support from his friends to start “Home Sweet Hamptons” two months ago.

He said that the feedback has been really positive, with some even convinced to take a trip back to their hometown.

“A whole bunch of people have said, ‘I can’t afford to live there anymore. When my parents passed away and they sold their house, I literally could not go back, didn’t have the money to stay at a motel. This has made me decide I’m going back,’” he recalled.

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By AndersEn (173), Southampton on May 24, 19 4:23 PM
I hope no one thinks that this is an original idea . I've been doing this as far back as 2010 , and Dave McDonald (RIP) created 'You know you grew up on the East End if..' and of course Ms. Congledon with 'Growing up Hamptons' . Although Mr. Vrana may have some nice vintage shots , his idea is far from original . Also to the best of my knowledge , neither Dave nor Jade or myself just added people from other peoples groups (as I was) . To be fair , I am sure people have asked to join his group . ...more
By AndersEn (173), Southampton on May 24, 19 5:37 PM
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