Fire Island Memories

Contributed by Norm Odsather

Norm`s father worked for the FAA after they took over much of the operation of the Fire Island AFS from the Air Force.

Life on the Island as I remember it was a life of creativity for the workers and their families to help pass the time. I don`t remember the ski hill, possibly because due to common sense with the sleds they were building in my fathers renditions of the use of the hill they figured that small children were too hard to hold onto and projectiles to be ejected doing light speed down the hill. For us (the children), the hill that was along side our apartment complex was hill enough to send us down. My father mentioned the brewing of beer and we still have most if not all of our equipment from those brewing days. I do remember Ice skating on the rinks there and the biggest thing my father did there to pass the time was to rebuild his first airplane out there, a Piper PA-12. He used one of the empty buildings as his work shop and more than likely the help of the people that worked out there to get the job done. At the time the PA-12 was the plane for us, a family of 3 until my brother Martin was born in Anchorage in 1971. The story always goes that my father couldn`t take my mother in to the hospital to have him until he brushed his teeth. Any ways after that we had to sell the PA-12 and buy a Cessna 170 which had 4 seats, enough for the family and Patches our family dog. We used to keep our planes tied down if I remember right on a runway on the beach with several other planes. We had the world in our hands from the island with the planes. If you wanted to go out for breakfast it was a little commute, but Kenai, Palmer, Wasilla, Anchorage and other points were just a hop skip and a jump from there. We used to fly to my grandparents then cabin, now retirement home on Wasilla lake in the winters and land on the ice there. Dad has a great story of flying out a Christmas tree to the island strapped to the side of our PA-12 and all of the aerodynamic controls of flight it reeked havoc with. Also the stories of flying out there on windy and turbulent days that he knew he shouldn`t be flying and especially with my mother who hated to fly and the repercussions there after from mother. There was mention in one of the articles on your website about something like arts and craft equipment. I do remember a kiln out there and mom pouring and making a nativity set with the molds that were out there. I think mom got those in the divorce and may still have them after all of these years. Dad crafted many Ptarmigan Whistles out there, for those who don`t know what a Ptarmigan Whistle is, I won`t ruin it for those of you who do! The only other thing I do remember is that we had or at least there was a 1957 Chevrolet pickup truck that we drove on the island with the exhaust stacks up the back of the cab. We called it the putt-putt truck because that was the sound it made out the exhaust.

Any ways, I attached several pictures from our time on Fire Island. Several are of our first plane before it`s complete rebuild. I`m not sending pictures to brag on the plane, but in the background are pictures of the buildings, radar domes and other complexes. Do note that in one of the pictures looking from right to left over the back of the plane you will notice the empty bases of the radar domes with the domes missing, these were taken in 1970 which is 6 years after the picture you have of a truck unloading cargo at the same warehouse in 1964. I did include one picture of the completed plane parked out on the Fire Island airfield. Also attached is a picture of 2 shots out of our apartment windows taken Christmas 1970 and the views we had from our home. I do also have if your interested, some pictures of a 4th of July picnic held on Little Lake in 1971. That weekend was the only time my grandmother ever flew with my dad and was the only visitor from our family to come out to see us on the island for the 3 years we lived out there.

The Piper PA-12 before rebuild

... and after