Fort Slocum, New York was where I woke up to the fact that I was ME. Weird experience for a four year-old, to suddenly look at one's hands and arms and body and realise that one existed as a separate entity. I lived on the island from the ages of four to six - started school there, nursery school, and then kintergarden and first grade at George Washington Elementary Shcool in New Rochelle. Had to catch the ferry to the mainland, then a bus trip to the school.
We lived on the west side of the island, overlooking the beach... the house we lived in was old and full of history, like the island itself.
Military use of the island dates back to at least 1862, when De Camp General Hospital was located on Davids Island, housing as many as 2,538 occupants in 22 buildings. A prison camp was established on adjacent Hart Island in 1856. Both were used to house Confederate prisoners of war. It is unclear if the name Fort Slocum was used during this period.
My father is second from the right, in the greeting committee of a visiting politician
Hart Island was sold to New York City in 1868, for use as a burial ground (potter's field) and for various purposes by the New York City Department of Corrections. The US Military has continued, however, to make intermittent use of Hart Island over the years. It was used during World War II by the US Navy for a disciplinary barracks.
From 1946 to 1949, Fort Slocum housed Headquarters First Air Force. It was redesignated Slocum Air Force Base in June 1949; this only lasted for a year before being turned back into an Army post in June 1950
My father worked at the Fort Slocum information School from about 1951 to 1953, just prior to his posting Korea. This film shows some of the island, the ferry, buildings, etc.
BELOW : Flag lowering ceremony took place every day at 5 pm.
The Admiral's house at the start of Officers' Row (Fort Slocum)
The ferry boat between the island and the mainland. I rode this every week day to attend school in New Rochelle (George Washington Elementary School).
(ABOVE) My sixth birthday party at Fort Slocum (31 August 1953)
(RIGHT) Me - Christmas 1952. Taken in front of the fire place in the dining room of our house.
Me (on right) and a friend (name not known) at nursery school, Fort Slocum 1952