Jones on Election board 43 Years, Overton Also a Real Veteran Job
When the Yaphank polling place opened yesterday, Election Inspector John S. Jones, a Republican appointee, took a pen in hand for this type of duty for the forty-third year.
This veteran election board member, oldest in point of service throughout Brookhaven town, was first appointed to inspector in the late ‘90s, when Yaphank, which is now Election District 10, was part of District 7, which also included Coram, Ridge, Middle Island and that part of Medford north of the Long Island Rail-road tracks.
Mr. Jones exceptionally long service on election boards came to attention at a meeting of Brookhaven town’s election inspectors in Patchogue’s Medford Avenue school Friday night, when it was also brought out that Havens B. Overton of 53 Oak street, Patchogue, has served on his home district board for the past 23 years. Overton is a Democrat.
Mr. Overton was first appointed when District 23 was known as District 29. At that time, it took in all the territory east of Maple Avenue, west of Medford Avenue, north of East Main Street, and south of Woodside avenue, which is halfway to Medford. When it was made District 23 about five years ago, its east and north boundaries were made to conform with those of the incorporated village. Over 40 years ago, Mr. Overton served as an inspector for a period of about six or seven years.
Mr. Jones who observed his eightieth birthday last Friday is very active for his age. He is a farmer and lives on the Yaphank-Coram road in a house atop the hill directly opposite the Camp Siegfried entrance.
He still vividly recalls the early days of his service on the board, when inspectors were paid $3 a day.
“At that time,” he said, “the polling place for District 7 was in the home of Miss Cynthia Hutchinson in Middle Island. We would go there by horse and buggy, and there were no telephones. We’d pay Miss Hutchinson 50 cents for dinner, 25 cents for supper and 25 cents for quarters and feed for the horse. Our hours in those days also began at six in the morning, but we wouldn’t get home until the roosters crowed the next morning.”
Some years afterward, he said, the polling place was moved to a chicken coop on the Richard M. Bayles property in Middle Island. Mr. Jones tells of an incident in the late 90’s when Roswell Davis of Yaphank was elected town clerk. Mr. Davis went to his predecessor with a horse and wagon, put all the town clerk’s records, including pen and inkwell, into a small safe, and carted the whole business to his home in Yaphank.
“When Eddie Hawkins of Bellport was elected town clerk,” Mr. Jones recalled, “he built a town clerks office next to the Patchogue Congregational church. The office was no bigger than my corn crib.”
“I’ll never forget the time one Democratic candidate was leading a small majority, up to the time the Yaphank returns were brought to Patchogue. I met George Furman was I entered the place with the returns and I urged him that they’d better count Yaphank before conceding the election. Sure enough, we gave the Republican candidate a winning majority of eight votes. When the Democratic candidate heard this, he said, ‘Them d---- old hayseeds up there did it, and I didn’t think it worthwhile to call on them.’
“John R. Vuck didn’t make such a mistake when he first ran for office. He dropped into the post office one night when we were all around there waiting for the mail. After chatting with us for a while, he offered cigars to all those in the place. One fellow there didn’t smoke, so John R. treated him to an orange. If I recall correctly, Judge Vuck was the only Democrat elected in the town that year
In those days the annual town meeting, at which several town officials were elected, was held in April, and the general election was held as it is today in November.
With the exception of two years, during which he served as a Republican committeeman in the district,. Mr. Jones has been an election inspector. He holds several other old records. He has served the Yaphank school district, either as a trustee or clerk for the past 41 years, and has lived for 48 years in the same house on the hilltop, where he now keeps house by himself.
His wife, a gold star mother, died during the past year. Mr. and Mrs. Jones were the parents of Henry James Jones, after whom the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Medford was named.