"That ol' Hambone…"

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"That ol' Hambone…"

...as his late wife Ruthie used to refer to him. What a presence he has been in my life, and that of so many others, both here and across the land.

When The Southampton Press Western Edition hits the street tomorrow, it'll contain a simple eighth-page adv. with the headline:

"It’s time for me to step down..."

... with the signature "Ham" at the end of the message.

If The Mamas and The Papas immodestly re­leased an album entitled "Farewell to the First Golden Era," then Arma Andon could without even a hint of hyperbole have directed that the headline read:

"Farewell to the Third Golden Era"

It is, after all, his third retirement following a career in media in New York City, an eight-year stint as the 16th Mayor of Westhampton Beach (and then two years as a Trustee) and for the past seven years one of the plank-owning Fire Commissioners of the Westhampton Beach Fire District.

Captain Arma E. Andon in World War II

(And that's not even taking into account his WWII military service as a Captain with his beloved "Yankee Division," or the flooring business he had over half-a-century ago on Peconic Avenue in Riverhead, or all the work he has done with the VFW and The American Legion.)

The personal part...

I first came to know Ham in the mid-'50s when he and my next-door relative, Steve Griffing, sailed Narrasketuck #91, "Twitcher," Saturday afternoons at Westhampton Yacht Squadron.

When my Dad was killed in '56, they took me under their wings, bringing me out on Steve's 31-foot "Canvasback" on race day in case a third crew member was ever needed!

(Right! Between them they grossed well over 400 pounds, and any wind force which required more bulk would have caused cancellation of that day's races!)

But they introduced me to being in the company of men, and allowed me to have the occasional beer with them, and that was a great kindness on their parts.

(I also saw a savagery in Ham at Com­modore's Night when he called out the MB members for their abysmal efforts at hosting their Class' party that Summer.)

But when I really came to know Ham was three decades later when I almost single-handedly drafted him through the vehicle of my weekly column in the old Hampton Chronicle-News, to run for Mayor against Hizzoner, Bob Morgan.

Thanksgiving eve, 1985, Ham had read the early edition of the paper in which I penned something to the effect that "Mr. Andon was sounding especially statesman-like at the last Village Board meeting." The 'phone rang.

Without announcing himself... almost a trademark with Ham... the voice quietly said, "You embarrass me, sir."

"Whattya gonna do about it?" he was asked.

"I'm going to run," he said. We exchanged brief holiday greetings, and as we hung up, I breathed easier, knowing that the madness of Hizzoner's reign would be finite.

Ham was a good Mayor, although I didn't always agree with some of his decisions, and there was a spot of confused unpleasantness following Pete Rogers' decision to step down as Chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

But Ham stood by me on that, and made the appointment in the face of political opposition from a majority of the Village Board.

That ol' Hambone, on the porch of Westhampton Yacht Squadron

And Ham again stood with me in January 2008 in our living room while Jeanne and I exchanged our wedding vows.

We raised a glass then, Ham, as I raise one to you now on your most recent retirement.

Take care of yourself, my friend... ye Gawds and regular check-ups, you're going to be 92 in another month!


1. Paul Haines said...


2. Spencer said...

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word. Thanks Uncle Ham.

3. Charlie Clifton said...

My brothers and I will always be, quoting Ruthie again, "one of his boys."

One brother around about 1957 fell in the water between that Canvasback and the dock and was screaming at the top of his lungs, "ME SINK!! ME SINK!!"

Ham snatched him out and to this day addresses Woody as "Me Sink."

Has anyone managed to pry out the story from the '30s or early '40s involving Ham driving a car with some other local cut ups and Alec Nagle in the trunk and some kind of encounter with Great South Bay?

4. Michael Jacobs said...

Ham is a veritable force of nature. I am honored to know him and humbled in his presence.

5. Woodie Clifton said...

A big thank you to our Uncle Ham who helped raise all of us "Ruthie's Boys"

6. Beth Flanagan said...

Much love and respect.

7. Hambone said...

Some title! But just for the record there is no affiliation between my moniker and your friend.

[sigh!] Did you really think someone, anyone, needed to be told that?

8. Surf's Up! said...


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