“When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to get out of here,” said Kwiatkoski, sitting at a table in the marina’s convenience store on a recent weekend. “Not realizing, I guess, how good you have it.”
The community, once dependent on the oyster harvest and the fickle nature of the crab population, now features only a handful of full-time watermen. Today, many Broomes Islanders work elsewhere but embrace the charms of a lifestyle that lacks the bustle of traditional suburbia. The river is still the big attraction, but not the only one — you can take a short walk to Len’s Marina and end up making an afternoon out of it.
On a warm fall Saturday, business was steady at Len’s, as Shannon, 38, chatted with residents picking up groceries, while Len helped push out boats for weekenders such as Danny Chambers looking for one last day on the water before winter. Chambers, a Montgomery Village resident, keeps his boat at Len’s and has been coming to Broomes Island for 25 years. “It’s peaceful and quiet,” he said.
Broomes Island, actually a peninsula, got its name from the Brome family, landowners back in the 1600s. The community, with a current population of about 400, grew up in the late 1800s as houses were built on the river and along the nearby coves and inlets. Today, residents often greet one another at Len’s, as well as the community’s tiny post office and the Broomes Island Wesleyan Church, which held its fall dinner at the old two-room schoolhouse that now serves as a community center.
Lori McCarty, who grew up in Broomes and heads the local civic league, says the school is often used for gatherings after a resident has a death in the family. “It’s nice to have a place to go and talk and unwind,” she said.
McCarty’s father, James “Tony” Pitcher, like his father before him, has been on the water most of his life: “As soon as I was big enough to get in the boat with my dad,” he said. Pitcher, 74, who worked as an electrician during the day and as a waterman the rest of the time, says he has cut back his hours on the water but remembers “when I could work daylight to dark and not get tired. . . . You can do so much more when you are doing something you really love.” He and his wife, Jackie, have been married for nearly 55 years and raised five children.
The water still has its appeal for today’s younger generation in Broomes Island, but there are other diversions. “I’m sure my son is playing Xbox right now,” Kwiatkoski said with a laugh.