The best of times and the worst of times

A Walk Down Memory Lane With Pat Hagen-Tuccio




The Hagen-Tuccio family.

“I grew up during the Depression,” said Patricia (Pat) Hagen-Tuccio. “Most people only had one pair of shoes. But everyone shared with each other. We were a community; we were close friends. If I outgrew my coat, we’d pass it on to someone else that it might fit. It truly was ‘the best of times and the worst of times.’ But we all managed to make do.”

“We would amuse ourselves by building treehouses in the woods, taking our boats out, ice skating in the winter, and we’d also go crabbing and clamming. It would ensure that we’d have plenty to eat,” she stated. “My family was lucky, though. My father had a good position. He opened a warehouse in town and was a distributor for Kraft. He had customers from Greenport on the North Fork and from Montauk on the South Fork.”

According to Pat, her father, Arthur Langsdorf, was from Lindenhurst, a World War I veteran and the son of German immigrants. “He married my mother, Edibell Hubbard, in 1924. She was a seventh-generation Hubbard. My great-great grandfather, Barnabas Hubbard, owned the property on both sides of Newtown Road in Hampton Bays and each time one of his children got married, he would give them a piece of property to build a home. We were like a clan,” Hagen-Tuccio said with a chuckle. “All the relatives, aunts, uncles, cousins, all lived in the same area.”

Raised in Hampton Bays, with her sister Lorraine and her two brothers, Arthur and Kenneth, Hagen-Tuccio remembers her parents as always being “very community minded.” Her father was one of the 38 men who was instrumental in the organization and chartering of the Hampton Bays Fire Department in 1930. He was also one of the water commissioners who helped establish the Hampton Bays Water District in 1931. According to Hagen-Tuccio, back then there was just a bucket brigade to fight a house fire. “My father felt something had to be done.” He was also on the board of the Good Ground Board of Trade, which is now known as the Hampton Bays Civic Association, and served as a trustee for St. Rosalie’s Church.

In 1938, when the hurricane was about to hit the island, Pat was in class at Sacred Hearts School in Southampton. “Fearing that the storm might become violent, they thought it best to evacuate the school and we were sent home,” she said. “We used to drive along Dune Road from Hampton Bays to Southampton to get to school. That was the last time we were able to do it. The hurricane created the inlet and we couldn’t use that route anymore.”

War Rationing

“I was in high school when World War II started,” Hagen-Tuccio said. “Things were tough. There was gas rationing and you had to put black paint on the top half of your car headlights so you couldn’t see them from above and we had to put up black shades on our windows so that you couldn’t see the light from the houses. There would constantly be German subs offshore and some of them tried to come ashore, but we had a good Coast Guard and they protected us.”

“At night,” she recalled, “we would gather around the radio and listen to the news about the war. We would listen for how many planes were shot down. My brother, Arthur, was drafted when he was only 18 and served in the 8th Airforce Division on a B-24 as a turret gunner. They had to wear heavy sheepskin coats when they were flying because it would be so cold. He flew 38 missions over Germany and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross Medal. We never really knew if he was okay. He would write, but it would take many weeks for his letters to get here.”

Hagen-Tuccio recalled the nylon shortage during the war, when she was a teenager. “One of the things I remember was that we had no nylon stockings because the nylon was needed to make parachutes,” she explained. “So, we would paint our legs with make-up and use a marker to make a line down the back of our legs to make it look like we had stockings on.”

She was also a cheerleader at Hampton Bays High School. “The cheerleaders had to ride on the same bus as the teams because of the gas shortage,” she remembered. It was also at this time that Pat realized her love for teaching. Her aptitude was recognized by her high school principal, who would have her fill in and teach a class when a teacher was absent.

Finding Love

Although less than 10 percent of women attended college during the time, the Hampton Bays High School principal spoke to Pat’s parents and encouraged them to allow her to go to college to become a teacher. She attended SUNY Brockport, receiving her degree in 1950. She became a grade school teacher in the Southold School District. She later taught in the Southampton and Riverhead School Districts, retiring after 40 years. “I absolutely loved teaching,” she said. In 1987, during her 35-year tenure with the Riverhead school district, she was recognized and awarded the Teacher of the Year Award.

In 1952, Pat met and married James Hagen. They moved to Riverhead where they remained for 32 years until James passed away. They had four children, Pamela, Beth, James, and Paul and now have six grandchildren. Several years later, she met her second husband, Pasquale (Pat) Tuccio at a dinner party given by her close friend Sharon Olender.

After her second marriage ended leaving her widowed again she said, “I decided to travel the world. I went to Europe, China, Romania, and went behind the Iron Curtain in Russia. I found China to be the most unique. It’s an entirely different culture and at the time, no one spoke English. I used to take a book of matches from the hotel when I left so I could hand it to the cab driver and tell him to take me there. I thought Russia was the most impressive but it was difficult sometimes getting around. We would get pulled over on the bus and our passports would be collected and we would be left on the bus for sometimes more than three hours.”

In keeping with her family’s enduring community involvement, Hagen-Tuccio is a recipient of a Proclamation from the Town of Southampton. It recognizes her work with the Dominican Sisters Family Health Services, her two terms as President of Charity in Action, her membership on the Board of Directors in Ossining, NY, her chairing in the Parrish Council of the Bishop Appeals and Stewardship, and her time on the Board of Directors of the Hampton Bays Civic Association, as well as her time as Director of the Hampton Bays Historical and Preservation Society. The Proclamation apply states, “She is a woman truly worthy of the day’s honor and may the strength of her example continue to inspire for many years to come.”

valerie@indyeastend.com