Title blurb

"From one LIGHT come many colors." ~GJ Dürrschmidt

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Hamptons: G-L-O-R-I-A...Gloria's!

Seeley’s on Main Street Westhampton Beach has always been “Gloria’s” to me since I can remember. Gloria Seeley, along with her sister, owned and operated the quaint, little Long Island newspaper stand and general store. It was such a special treat whenever Dad would say he was going to Gloria’s, and asked if anyone wanted to come aloong. Silly question, we always wanted to go! 

Dad went for nostalgia more than the newspaper, coffee, and cigarettes he felt obliged to purchase each time. Gloria’s reminded him of the small store he once owned as a young man, fresh back from the war - the "big one." It didn't work out for him. But, it would have, could have, should have, if only he had the least little help from his new bride; but he didn't, and then I came along. 

I know, because he spoke of it often to Gloria, and even after so many years gone by, and so many other failed ventures, he missed that opportunity the most. The two of them, without fail, would get into one friendly argument after another, over the changes he would make to her place, if it were his.

My sister and I would wander off, away from the dueling entrepreneurs, and explore the heavily cluttered, dimly lit aisles. It was an adventure: like being on an archeological dig. We passed the hours, or so it seemed, rummaging through shelf after dusty shelf, hoping to unearth some new, exciting find. We were seldom disappointed. When it was time to go, Gloria would offer us Dum-Dum suckers from the stash she kept hidden behind the counter. The coconut ones were my favorite. On days she was feeling extra generous, she’d point out the five and dime toy rack and invite us to take something. “Just one, mind you!” she would scowl, and then do her best not to smile.

Many things have changed with the passing of time. Gloria and her general store are no longer with us. Seeley’s has changed ownership and has been transformed into a hustle-bustle gourmet bakery/coffee shop in the upscale Hampton’s hamlet. The storefront is smartly decked out with a bright yellow and white striped awning. Aluminum siding masks the old, worn building that I knew as a boy.

Stepping inside today, I’m greeted by an unnatural spaciousness -- the tall shelves with their mountains of clutter once crammed wall-to-wall, are gone. The wooden floor has been sanded and refinished. I never knew the place had a floor! Small bistro tables and chairs scarcely fill the new wide opened space. The place is buzzing with pastry-eating, latte-sipping summer vacationers, hoping by chance to catch a glimpse of a Baldwin, or the like. Nothing of the original store remains, or so it seems.

The sound of the murmuring crowd, cups clattering on saucers, flatware clinking against plates, all suddenly fade as I drift back in time. The old wooden counter and cash register suddenly re-appear. I see Gloria hunched over, and peering down at me with her hands loosely clasped. Our eyes meet, and a hint of smile breaks through her stoic expression. Rising to shift her weight, she gruffly barks, “Hey, boy, how’s your dad doing?”

Catching myself before answering her out loud, I snap back to the present. The unexpected ghostly welcome sends a wave of goose bumps up and down my body. I'm more surprised by it then in any way frightened. With so much that has changed, I’m pleased to know the old girl has decided to stick around. 

Yes, those were truly the days. It was a simpler, happier time. Seeley’s, and the world as we knew it, were both so rich in mystery and discovery; and the future, still so very far away, held such promise. 

~GJ Duerrschmidt

 Gone, but never forgotten!

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