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Dec 29, 2017 12:53 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

National Archives Releases Historic Short Film Celebrating Sag Harbor, Never Seen By The Boy, Now 73, In It

A young Jan Harboy in the film.     COURTESY NATIONAL ARCHIVES
Jan 1, 2018 1:56 PM

It’s not entirely clear today why the U.S. Army would have produced a video celebrating small industries in small American towns in 1950. But it did—and “Sag Harbor, U.S.A.,” released online by the National Archives last month, offers a peek at what the apparently exemplary village was like more than 65 years ago.In this just-under-10-minute, black-and-white film, the camera follows a photogenic “all-American” family of five, including a little blond boy, who are “keeping alive the traditions of free enterprise their forefathers handed them.”

The narrator compares “today’s” village, in 1950, to Sag Harbor in its historic whaling heyday, as the family strolls past the Sag Harbor Cinema, with a glimpse of its distinctive Art Deco sign. They stop at what was then the Ideal—the familiar storefront now known as the Sag Harbor Variety Store—to buy what they “need and want,” with wages earned locally at Sag Harbor Industries, the type of light-filled small factory that the film touts as “the lifeblood of small communities all over the United States today.”

The women walking on Main Street wear dresses, and many men wear button-down white shirts. Rounded automobiles are parked diagonally facing the sidewalks, as well as, at that time, at spaces down the center of Main Street. The fivesome also makes a stop at the Whaling Museum, where they inspect an authentic whaleboat “now proudly riding a sea of carefully tended lawn.”

The little boy hoists himself onto the gunwale to peek inside. The lad, who is a central character, is also seen visiting his whaling forebears’ graves in the churchyard, getting his feet swatted by his mother after resting them on an ancestral sofa, and watching his father build a model ship on the family’s front porch.

Jan Harboy is the 6-year-old blond tyke identified by name in the film.

Imagine his surprise to discover the film last month—at the age of 73.

“I don’t know what to say,” Mr. Harboy said last month when reached at his present home in Water Mill. “I’m flabbergasted.”

“My sister sent me an email—some friend of ours found it and told her about it,” he explained, already having watched it more than once. “Somebody just ran across it by accident.”

Mr. Harboy had not known of the film’s existence. Although it stars him, his mother and father, Margaret and Jan Harboy, and his sister, Margaret, as well as a cousin, it never turned up among his parents’ belongings.

Mr. Harboy said he thinks he recognizes the dress his mother wore in the film, and vaguely remembers a family trip to what he thought was going to be the Custom House, as well as, maybe, a model ship and desk inside.

“That’s what I think I remember,” he said. “Nobody’s memory is worth much.”

In truth, the Harboys never owned a house in Sag Harbor, though the family did rent a second-floor apartment in a Sag Harbor barn at one time. The supposedly ancestral home in the film, where the father whittles a model boat—actually, he built model airplanes, not ships, according to his son—is, in fact, the historic 1796 Annie Cooper Boyd House, which was a much fancier dwelling than most locals lived in, said Mr. Harboy.

His father worked for at least 10 years at Sag Harbor Industries, as a machinist and production manager. The younger Mr. Harboy, who went on to study engineering, worked there himself for “a few years, mostly in between high school [in Southampton] and college, and college and the Army,” and then later at Grumman, Hazeltine, and other Long Island avionics and electronics plants.

Mr. Harboy had helped set up the new location when Sag Harbor Industries moved to Jermain Avenue, a spot it later abandoned, around 1980, when it relocated to a cleaned-up former Superfund site on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike that used to be occupied by Rowe Industries.

Founded by the son of Thomas Edison in 1946, Sag Harbor Industries continues to do business there today, specializing in the manufacturing of electric coils and very recently earning a $27,000 grant for “solder and ISO skills training” from the State Economic Development Council.

“Edison believed that a smaller, localized manufacturer could be more productive than a larger one with a central location,” the company’s website says, echoing the prevailing sentiment behind the little film “Sag Harbor, U.S.A.”

Mr. Harboy, the now mature version of the kid seen walking jauntily past homes and museums and churchyards well-maintained to this day, said he planned to download the film, which the National Archives has uploaded at https://youtu.be/lfkGC8O1StU.

“My friends said I still walk like that,” Mr. Harboy said.

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What a gem!
By Infoseeker (270), Hampton Bays on Jan 2, 18 10:42 AM
Very cool, love this. An SHS graduate as well, good stuff.
By Hampton Bays (13), hampton bays on Jan 3, 18 2:05 AM
Tourism, local  shopping, dining, Hamptons