H ampton Bays was a good place to grow up,” stated Bruce King, a lifelong resident. “One of the things I appreciate was the freedom I had as a kid. I could move around and explore on my bike, go down to the dock and swing off the rope at the sailboat dock. I could go places with my buddies on our bikes and go swimming in the canal. My uncle had a marina on the canal and my sister, my cousins, and I, would go swimming over there all the time.
“But you can’t do that anymore. They re-did the bulkhead and there are no ladders,” King said, “So now no one swims in the canal anymore.”
In the 1950s and 1960s, King described the Hampton Bays School District as “a small school. You knew everyone and they knew you. It was a small, close community.” It was the memories of these close friendships which helped the Hampton Bays High School class of ‘68 come together again for a class reunion.
“It was 20 years since most of us had seen each other. We organized a 40th class reunion and my wife, Nancy, and I hosted it here in our home. We did a lot of reminiscing and enjoyed ourselves. Someone brought clams and spent the time opening them for everyone. The party went on for nine hours!”
King added, “It was during the party that we thought about giving the school a gift, so we passed around a hat and collected enough money to be able to give the school the gift of three red maple trees.”
The success of the 40th reunion prompted Pamela Johnson and Millie Huggins to organize the 50th reunion which was celebrated this past May. “This time, we gave the school a gift of a ship’s wheel,” King said. “We had 21 classmates show up. We found out that four of our classmates have passed away.”
Having been the student council president for his senior class, King spoke about his handling of Senior Skip Day. “Instead of skipping school that day, all the students dressed up nicely and taught classes in mostly the elementary school. If they were going to go to college for history or science, that’s what they taught for the day. I was the principal for the day, making any decisions that had to be made. I found it was a good experience. No one got hurt, everyone dressed nicely and we did something constructive.”
With a doctorate in Industrial Arts Education, King was a teacher for 27 years, an administrator for three years, and retired from his teaching career as a college professor and coordinator for adolescent education. He credits his career path to his high school Industrial Arts shop teacher, Jack Minjinski.
According to King, “When I was a senior, there were no shop classes that I could fit into my schedule. So, I went into the seventh-grade class and helped the shop teacher with the seventh graders. That’s when he said to me ‘Bruce, why don’t you go to school for this?’ He sent me to the guidance counselor, Harold Brown. It turned out Brown was a shop teacher before he went into being a counselor. I wound up going to Oswego for my Bachelors, Hofstra for my first Masters, and Dowling for my second Masters and Ph.D.”
In 1986, King married Nancy. They spent a short time living in California and returned back to life in Hampton Bays in 1987. A Family Consumer Science teacher, Ms. King taught for 30 years in the Riverhead School District. With a chuckle, she related a story about a Valentine’s Day present she received from her husband.
“I was teaching and all of a sudden the principal comes in with a video camera. I thought, ‘I guess he’s going to observe me teaching.’ He did that every once in a while. But then a gorilla comes crashing into the room with flowers. Well, I was shocked and everyone had such a great laugh over it. And the principal took the video so Bruce could see it. Then, for my 40th birthday, Bruce hired a limo to pick me up and take me to work. It snowed that day and school was closed so I had to wait until the next day.”
An activist in his community, King, at 69, admits, “I’ve always liked helping people.” He has served as president of the Hampton Bays Civic Association, was on the Hampton Bays Architectural Review and Advisory Board, and the Village Exploratory Committee, which examined the feasibility of incorporating the hamlet of Hampton Bays as a village.
“I’ve always enjoyed politics,” King said. “I like making things move forward and I’m concerned about the environment, especially our drinking water.”
King also served as a volunteer for over 20 years with the Boy Scouts of America. When King’s son, Bruce, Jr. was eight years old, he went to sign him up for the Cub Scouts but was quickly told that the Cub Master needed someone to help. Over the years, he proudly watched his son complete the achievements to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouting program.
When King’s daughter, Julia, was in kindergarten, she was enrolled in the Girl Scouts and Ms. King spent 15 years as a Girl Scout leader and service unit coordinator.
Although the Kings are having a home built and re-locating to Troy, NY, King stated, “I’m happy my family grew up here. They got to experience the small community caring and closeness that you would not find in a city area. It’s a different way of life and it’s a wonderful experience that you won’t find everywhere.”