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On May 30, 1905, the Port Washington Club hoisted its first flag and commissioned its first yachting season from modest grounds on the edge of Manhasset Bay. There were gentlemen in derby hats and ladies in Victorian dress who celebrated the opening season of the newly formed club by first observing the time honored protocols of yachting, then dining and dancing on the dock's pavilion.

Color Guard from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Photos by Sharon Abruzzo and Edward Michalec

Almost to the day and 100 years later, the gentlemen's hats were nautical if worn, and the ladies' attire fifth avenue chic, and there were burgees and flags in abundance - on the railings and boats at the dock - but the ceremony was essentially the same as it has been for 100 years, the commissioning of the yachting season on the bay by the Port Washington Yacht Club membership.

The name was officially changed to the Port Washington Yacht Club in 1910. For the next 90 years following that, the membership and holdings of the club have grown to include multiple tennis and paddle courts, a pool and expansive sunning deck, additional property holdings and many activities for its members to enjoy, but the celebration on May 28 belonged to yachting and PWYC's long presence on the bay.

The 100th commissioning began with a traditional procession of Color Guard from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, bagpipers, and officers of the PWYC Bridge and Board from the end of the dock up to the south lawn. Present Commodore Michael Fried was first at the podium and greeted the hundreds of members and invited guests assembled by noting "How lucky we all are to be here for this special occasion, and to forever become a part of the history of this club."

Dr. Fried spoke touchingly about his family's time as members and their personal enjoyment and milestones adding, "I mention these because 100 years ago, our founders stated that the objective of the club was 'the encouragement of yachting, ice boating, rowing, athletics, sociability, and recreation among its members. (We) have taken full advantage of the activities this club has to offer as have many of you here today, and I believe that we have more than fulfilled our founders' expectations."

This event was three years in the making, and the committee was ably helmed by co-chairs and past Commodores Walter 'Duke' Dayton and Michael Adams. Both took turns at the podium, first to thank their committee, then to introduce the guest commodores from yacht clubs near - Manhasset Bay, Knickerbocker and North Shore - and as far away as Australia. A stately row of burgees lined the bulkhead railing - one from the club of each commodore in attendance. Standing alongside the guest commodores were the club's junior bridge and a representative of the armed forces. Commodore Dayton seemed especially moved when introducing Lt. Jack Benfield, USN, who grew up in the club and learned to sail as a member of the club's junior sailing program.

After the ceremony's conclusion a few strollers lingered along the club dock, but most of the guests could be found enjoying an elaborate cocktail hour poolside. An early article in the club's newsletter The Mainsail, described the club's location favorably, "Among the appealing aspects of the club was its location on an old estate, far from the business section of town...and well sheltered from the prevailing southerly winds of summer, which frequently kick up the sea to the north." Those nautical instincts were again in evidence as PWYC's sailors sagely advised partygoers on the pool deck to make a hasty retreat into the clubhouse to avoid the pending storm.

The storm blustered for a short time but the wind and rain did little to dampen the spirits of the guests, who enjoyed a gourmet dinner in the company of strolling musicians. A separate tent for dancing to a live band was also the place for the Viennese hour that followed dinner. The hit of the night was the chocolate fountain, a special request from Mrs. Kathy Bouloukos, another centennial committee member who devoted much time to the anniversary's planning.

As Americans, 100 years of continuous history of anything is still something of a novelty. We are a young nation and milestones of this kind are not every-day occurrences. How something like this is remembered is, in the end, accomplished by those who are around to observe and preserve it. At year's end, PWYC will publish a book documenting 100 years of PWYC's history. The book contains an abundance of photos, some dating back to the club's first centennial celebration. There are, of course, pictures of sailors and boats galore, but there are also innumerable smiling faces of swimmers, tennis and paddle players, and those who gathered on occasion to dine and dance. All of these reiterate something history constantly reminds us - from modest beginnings to now, milestones like this are all about the people who made them happen.

After the ceremony, I was one of the few strollers on the dock. I went far enough out before turning to look at the club, in full dress, the 100th commissioning flag fluttering high atop the flagpole. I was briefly joined by someone who had been a member for much of his life and now saw his children enjoying a sport he had come to know and love so long ago, in this very place. He nodded at the view, and commented, "It looks the same, but today it is somehow different." I agreed, and later when I heard a similar observation from one table guest to another, I really liked the response, "You'd better enjoy this one, unless you are planning to be here for the next!" Logo
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