A licensed fisherman and skipper since 1947, Ray Hartjen has lived most of his life enjoying the majestic views of Gardiner’s Bay from his home on Old Fireplace Drive. His love of boating came at an early age from his father, who handled the last of the oyster boats out of Bridgeport, CT.
By the time he was seven years old, he had built his first boat from scraps that washed up onshore, and by the age of 18 he was already licensed to take parties out on fishing trips and pilot private yachts.
Known to neighbors, friends, and family by his childhood name, “Ding,” Hartjen explained how he got the name. “I was very young and I had a toy dachshund that I would pull along on a string. As I pulled the toy, I would repeat over and over ‘ding, ding, ding.’ So,” he acknowledged, “the name stuck. It’s based off a comic strip character from before World War II, Dinglehoofer und His Dog. That’s my adventurer name,” Hartjen said with a grin.
“In 1931, there were only two homes on Old Fireplace Drive. My family’s and the other was owned by a State Trooper. One day the trooper came over with a baby raccoon that had been abandoned by its mother and asked if we would care for it. My sister had a doll that you could give bottles to so we used one of the doll’s bottles to feed the baby raccoon. He became the family pet for the summer. Rocky loved Pepsi-Cola and I remember my sister holding him like a baby and Rocky was drinking a bottle of soda,” he said.
“Once Rocky was old enough, the trooper brought him back to Montauk where he had originally found him and released him back to the wild,” he added.
“The most fantastic two years of my life was during my enlistment in the army. It was 1952. I was trained as an MP [military police] and was off to a great adventure! I got to Japan, just north of Tokyo and was waiting for my orders. I bought a bicycle and was riding around the port looking at all the ships. I later saw a photo, in the Army/Navy Times that changed my life. It was a half-page, and it showed MPs standing on a boat in Yokohama. I said to myself, ‘I want to do that,’” Hartjen recalled.
“I put in my request and during roll call a few months later, I was told that General Mark Clark had requested my position. Within a month, I became the private skipper to General Mark under his four star flag. I piloted U.S. Army J-1437 as well as a U.S. Army Transportation Corp’s 90-foot boat, a 110-foot rescue boat, and a 175-foot inter-island freight ship crossing the Pacific in a 28-day tour. I had the 4 PM to 8 AM shift, and got to see every sunrise and every sunset over the Pacific. The Pacific was peaceful.”
He continued, “The General had his own private chefs. I ate well. And there was really no supervision. We were responsible individuals and we did our jobs. No one had to watch over us.”
When his enlistment ended, Hartjen was ready to return to his education. He had previously attended St. Lawrence University in upstate New York but left in his sophomore year when he enlisted. He became the manager of the college ski team, president of the Independents, and pledged to the fraternity Phi Sigma Kappa.
Shortly after his graduation, Hartjen met his wife Andrea. Married in 1963, Hartjen has two daughters who share their father’s adventurous spirit. His daughter, Lisa, has climbed Mt. Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine at 5267 ft. and is a media specialist at the Himalayan Institute in PA. His other daughter, Anne, is second in charge of the planning board in New Haven, CT.
Inventor of the first teaching machine, Hartjen developed an “immediate reinforcement machine” to aid in the studies of human and animal behavior being conducted by psychologist B.F. Skinner. Hartjen gained notoriety in the field of psychology for his invention which, he states, he “modeled after an old mimeograph machine.”
Hartjen obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh in educational research metrologies. He has spent the majority of his career in education and is a strong proponent of alternative education. His book, Empowering the Child, is a testament to his commitment to improving the educational system.
Although Hartjen retired in 1996, his activism has never wavered. He became involved with the Trails Preservation Society, obtaining the funding to place map kiosks at several trail locations including the one on Route 114. He was also instrumental in the replacement of the Pussy’s Pond Bridge. “We harvested over 350 black locust trees and raised $19,720 to rebuild the bridge. The weakest part of that bridge is the bolts that hold it together,” he said proudly.
“I also brought water down Gerard Drive. You couldn’t drink the water nor could you bathe in it. It came out of the faucet looking like a brown sludge. It was terrible,” Hartjen said. “So, I did something about it.”
With his roots firmly set in boating, it was more than apropos for Hartjen to become part of the East End Classic Boat Society. At 87, Ray is its current president. He was initially instrumental in locating and building a permanent site for their boat shop. The Community Boat Shop is located behind the Marine Museum in Amagansett and builds ships promoting the preservation of traditional shipwright craftsmanship and classic marine design.
“We are currently building a new building, and I have been working with the Town Planning Board to obtain approval for the project,” he said. He hopes to have the new building completed soon. For more information about the East End Classic Boat Society, visit its website at www.eecbs.org.