continue investigating our history with me. Let's look at three areas.
The Massapequas in World War II: A very interesting question. Massapequa's population was still quite small in 1940, only around 3,000 people. Most of the area was undeveloped and many residents worked locally. The Farm District existed in the northwest corner and many farmers doubtless sent some of their produce to the military. Other residents likely worked at one of the aircraft plants that became huge during the war, Grumman and Republic being the largest and closest. Fitzmaurice Flying Field's activities were curtailed because of restrictions on the use of petroleum products. Of special interest was that the area that became John Burns Park in the 1960s was turned into a cornfield and used to feed the soldiers. Many residents doubtless started their own private gardens called "Liberty Gardens" and raised produce for the military.
This topic deserves further treatment and I'd appreciate any reminiscences, including photos, long-time residents may have. I intend to speak with several "old timers" from the Historical Society of the Massapequas and will provide additional information as it becomes available.
The Area before White Settlement: The Massapequas were settled relatively late compared to other parts of Long Island. Several Oyster Bay merchants had purchased the area in 1658 from local tribesmen, led by their chief Tackapausha, and continued to allow them to hunt and fish as they were accustomed. There is no evidence that any Indians remained in the area when the first white settler arrived. That settler was Thomas Jones and he moved to the area from Oyster Bay in 1696. He found it covered with many lakes and streams. The name Massapequa is derived from the Native American "Marspeag" or "Mashpeag", which means great waterland.
Much of our knowledge comes from a fort that was built around 1640 near South Oyster Bay and used as living quarters and as a storage area for tribal members. Evidence indicates they engaged in farming, fishing, hunting and crafts, especially pottery. Excavations in the late 1930s throughout Harbor Greenas well as the fort area unearthed many utensils and weapons, as well as several skeletons, which were taken by the American Museum of Natural History. There is a plaque at the site on the west side of the park on Fairfax and Gloucester Roads.
The Monkey Zoo: This was actually Frank Buck's Animal Kingdom, opened in 1934 by the world famous hunter best known for the phrase "Bring Em Back Alive." Buck had opened a larger zoo in Chicago for its 1934 World's Fair and felt he could succeed with a similar venture in the Massapequa area. There were enough roads to attract residents from surrounding towns and the Long Island Railroad was an easy commute. The zoo proved to be very successful throughout the 30s and 40s with lions, elephants, hyenas, reptiles and monkeys. There was also a restaurant and an exhibit hall.
To many visitors, the Monkey House was the best attraction, because they could watch dozens of monkeys jump around and play for hours at a time. On several occasions, monkeys escaped and had to be rounded up by zoo employees or by local residents.
Buck lost interest in the venture after the war and died in 1950. The Grimaldi family bought the zoo and redesigned it as a place with small animals and rides, attracting the many new homeowners to the area. The zoo remained open until 1965, when the owners succumbed to the appeal of rising land values and sold it to developers. It is today the site of Phillips at Sunrise Shopping Center. The only building still standing is the lion house, where theand are located. The entire zoo stretched from that building east toand back to where is located today.
Keep asking for information about Massapequa's history and I'll be glad to answer your questions. The first set were excellent and should lead to many others.