The towns, cities and villages of Long Island have their own recorded and unrecorded histories. Their stories are told by local historians, librarians and historical societies. In many cases, lacking those resources, the history of those communities disappears year by year with the passing of the people who were blessed with those long-term memories.
Long Beach, one of South Shore residents’ most popular coastal escapes, is one of those places whose colorful history has filled numerous books, and is lucky enough to have residents who make it their mission to keep its history enshrined in books and fading photographs. One of the keepers of Long Beach history, Paul Jackson, died recently, leaving behind a number of hard-to-find books and other cherished notes that will fade in time.
Jackson was a prolific writer, and published a number of books that gained the attention of history critics across the country. His first, “Our Town, Our Time: Long Beach, L.I. in the 1930s and WWII,” was a nostalgic look at the seaside city, with recollections of the schools, stores, movie theaters, the boardwalk and hotels. Orphan’s Day, the big bank robbery of 1939 and the murder of the mayor by a cop were its highlights. Jackson chronicled the experiences of 250 returning GI’s and wrote about the 30 Long Beach men who were killed in the war.
His second book “Scoundrels by the Sea: The Sullied Past of Long Beach Politicians, Swindlers, Bootleggers — and Worse,” wasn’t published until 2013, long after Jackson left his chosen profession. In that book he took on dozens of deceased politicians, such as District Attorney William Cahn, State Assembly Speaker Joe Carlino, Democratic Leader Phil Kohut and Tammany Hall Leader Jimmy Hines, and described at length the lesser-known events and personalities that made Long Beach unique, compared with its many neighboring communities.
While not a colorful celebrity, Jackson’s primary job was as editor and publisher of the weekly Long Beach Independent, which dated back to the late 1930s but ceased publishing in 1976. I got to know him when I was 12 years old, and had the temerity to walk into the paper’s office on Park Place and offer my services as a writer. I didn’t ask for money, but just the opportunity to write for free, which had become a childhood passion.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.