Growing Up in Southampton

By Ms. Kandi Conquest

It was a good Labor Day Weekend.  The Summer season was a success; the events and gatherings through the summer brought family and friends together again. Old and new traditions were hailed and celebrated. As fall came around, Parents focused on their children and school. Students of all ages started their jobs; being a student, with many embarking on their very first day or last year of high school and all the grades in between. Some high school big shots are now little newbie college undergrads. 

For parents, life revolves around a school calendar. Some of us go by the sun and moon’s calendar; the best times to farm and harvest fish, vegetables, wine grapes. Everything has its life cycles, including the Hamptons. But most who come, play and leave, use it for their calender own calender: There’s summer, then the other seasons. The East end of Long Island goes by a seasonal calender; (get things ready) Spring, (party!) Summer, (close down) Fall, and (closed for) winter. But for those who call the Hamptons their home, we live here, 24/7, 365 days a year. 

After the introduction of the Everyday People’s Corner, I crossed my fingers, said a prayer, and prayed for a response. It wasn’t long when SAAM received this email:

Date: August 17, 2022 at 4:46:41 PM EDT
Subject: Everyday people

I’m Kandi Conquest daughter of the prior owner of the barber/beauty shop, Randolph “Randy” Conquest.  My parents, who still live there, and siblings lived at the top of the hill so I remember a lot about growing up there.  I remember all the barbecues, block and house parties, hanging at the park, walking to McDonald’s and downtown to the movies and five and dime store etc.  we we all so happy growing up there like one big family.

I was ecstatic! Someone had something to share and she was Mr. Conquest’s daughter! I got in touch with her, sharing how I appreciated her interest in our corner and if she could be the inaugural story. We are blessed to have Ms. Kandi Conquest’s story on:    

 “Growing up in Southampton:”

I grew up in Southampton on “The Hill.” We called it that because we literally lived on top of a hill.  Two hills actually:  Hillcrest Terrace and Miller Road.  My family lived and still live at the very top on Miller Road. I spent my entire childhood living there with my brother, sister, and parents.  I was so happy growing up there.  We were able to be kids and not worry about our safety because everyone looked after one another.  My Mom and Dad still live there, in the same house, and are one of the few original families left.  “The Hill” was one of the predominately Black communities along with “The Avenue” and “Tuckahoe.”  Everyone worked hard and some played hard, but all found ways to relax after a long work week.   Sometimes neighbors had some disputes, but generally we were all one big happy family.  

And we supported each other. For example, I got my hair done at Miss Attie’s salon, which was a separate section connected to her house.  Her house and salon were located directly behind my home. I also got my hair done at Evelyn’s Beauty Parlor at the “bottom of the hill.”  As I got older my father would do my hair in his Barber Shop.

As kids, we spent most of our time outside. Most, if not all of the kids, had nicknames and were rarely called by our given names.  We did things like go to the park on Windward Way, ride bikes, double-dutch, hopscotch, Chinese jump rope, kick ball, and hide and seek.  I remember going to see movies at the United Artist movie theater downtown, eating “free” Pizza at La Parmigiana, Paul’s, or trekking through the shortcuts to McDonalds, Burger King, or 7-Eleven.  We would also walk and sing our way to McLarens Market, the 5 and 10 store, and the Milk Store for snacks and sweets.  Our parents had no qualms with us walking there either.  Closer to home was always Miss Viola’s house around the corner where she sold us ice cream, candy, and other goodies.   

We played in the big potato field beyond our homes. When we were very young, we used to run and gather potatoes for our mother and come home covered in dirt with a bag full of them (and with unknowingly a few rocks.)  In the summer, I loved going to Bridgehampton Day Camp with my friends, to carnivals, and especially to the beach, I liked to swim. 

Nobody hung out in their back yards.   We sat on our front porches or on chairs close to the roads so we could see and hear everything and not miss a beat.  “The Hill” had its share of characters too.  We would share stories, joke, laugh, and stay outside until dark, especially in the Summer. In fact, one of my best friends had a grandmother who we would sit with on her front porch and hear her funny way of telling her versions of things. At sleepovers she would scare us with stories of “Bo Yackett” coming to get us if we didn’t go to sleep.  Never did find out who he was either.

As teenagers we went to Skate Hampton, which later became The Hampton Jitney. I went to more barbecues, graduation parties, and block parties than I can count.  Whether in neighbor’s basements, the park, a street corner, or backyard we always got together for food, fun, socializing, and dance.  Dating was easy back then too. There was always a fair share of boys around!  LOL.

On the fourth of July we all went to the parade on Main Street to mostly “see and be seen.” Basically, it was more of a social gathering than anything else.  No one really watched the parade unless there was someone in the lineup that we knew.  A man we all knew named “Cisco” would participate at times sitting in his “World War II” car with a wide grin and a wave to us all as he maneuvered his way through!  

We all went to the same Southampton Public Schools, which were very good and challenging.  Although there weren’t many Black students in my classes, I enjoyed my school years. There were no Black and White racial issues to deal with either; we all felt comfortable around one another and became close friends.  And basketball was what we all enjoyed. It was fun cheering our team on in school and at the neighborhood park. During Christmastime everyone went to Southampton College to watch the High School tournaments.  Southampton public schools had some very talented players too, like “Foots” Walker, who later turned pro.

I had many Black, White, and Native American friends.  Yes, we all got along.  I remember spending a lot of time on the reservation.  Plus, I have relatives who are members of the Shinnecock Tribe.  We would hang out on the reservation a lot. My family looked forward to friendly visits to and from tribal members all the time.

On Sundays as kids we went to nearby Kings Chapel Church and sang in the choir too.  There were three Black churches in the area then.  We looked forward to their Chicken dinners filled with all the trimmings. We took pride in our African American heritage and as kids we would sing songs of praise to it while walking down the streets.

Luckily, I can still go to Southampton and “The Hill” to visit my family, see old friends, celebrate Juneteenth, Fourth of July, The Powow, downtown Main Street, and occasional visits from those who come back to visit after having moved away.  Just like old times.

Thank you Ms. Conquest for your trip down memory lane. You are always invited to share your wonderful memories anytime. Our stories are our history. We also invite all of you to jot down, type or write your own memories of times and events and just email us. It doesn’t matter how short or long your story is, it’s welcomed. You can also share by telling me your story and I’ll do the “heavy lifting,” and do the typing. Your stories are the jewels that keeps our history accurate and permanent. And I look forward to the work!

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