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  • Thomas Halaczinsky

Gene Austin's very personal Plum Island Story

Updated: Jan 4



If you’ve ever been to Greenport’s Little Creek Oyster on a Thursday, chances are you met Gene Austin there where he savors oysters at the bar beneath a photo of his father. This small spot, once a bait shack, is where Gene finds comfort and connection, sharing stories against a backdrop of maritime charm.


In documenting Plum Island’s tale, we interviewed Gene Austin, a born-and-raised Greenport resident and a natural storyteller. Stories like Gene’s are a thread in the vibrant tapestry of the narrative that breathes life into the island's rich history and the ongoing fight for its preservation.


Gene's connection to Plum Island isn't a grand saga; it's more like a family album with pages turned by his father, the very first ferry captain to ship the inaugural virus specimen in 1954 to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center that will soon leave the island for Manhattan Kansas.


Beyond being the home of a vital regional employer, Plum Island holds a deeper meaning for Gene. His roots trace directly to the Beebe family, who once owned more than half of the island. For Gene, Plum Island isn't just a piece of land; it's a family album, where the tales of the Beebes echo through generations.



Gene Austin's journey isn't an epic; it's a warm conversation over oysters, a shared laugh at Oyster Creek, and a quiet nod to the history hanging on the wall. His story, and others like it, will be the narrative fabric of the film, weaving together contemporary issues with the island's history. In these tales, the essence of local identity unfolds, and the heartbeat of Plum Island echoes through time.


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