Memory Lane

MEMORY LANE

CONNETQUOT, NEW YORK

Broncho Charlie

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”
James Warner Bellah

For many years, along Montauk Highway in Oakdale, there stood a log cabin. At one time, it was a popular restaurant called Bronco Charlie’s; but for at least a decade, the building stood abandoned, slipping into decay. (1) Its fate was a topic of community debate: some local residents complained it was an eye sore and wanted it torn down; others viewed it as a “landmark of sorts” which should be preserved.


The original owner, Charlie Miller aka Broncho Charlie, was a colorful character whose main claims to fame were having been a pony express rider,  a performer in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and even an artist (mainly in wood carvings and totem poles). His adventures and escapades are too numerous to list, however they can be read about in the newspapers of the time. In his old age, he seemed to receive even more publicity by setting records in being the oldest person to do one thing or another, or by being the lone surviving Pony Express rider, or even in just celebrating his centennial-plus birthdays.


Although Broncho Charlie claimed to have been born in 1850 in a covered wagon, this information, along with other biographical information he gave, is disputable. (2)  One of the first times he is mentioned in our area is in a Suffolk County News 1927 issue, stating he was a participant in a fundraising event for the Sayville Library Association. (3)  He built two log cabins in Oakdale. The earlier one was on Frog Lane, and the later one, on Montauk Highway, was constructed in 1946 and became the restaurant, which he sold in 1948 to Mr. and Mrs. F. T. Marx. (4) Even though he lived in Glen Falls, New York (where his wife’s family resided), Broncho Charlie seemed to visit the Oakdale restaurant often.  An October 1950 edition of Suffolk County News, had an advertisement stating, “Broncho Charlie Miller, last living Pony Express rider has returned…he will be glad to greet any of old or new friends.” About a year later, the Suffolk County News published a photo of him dressed in cowboy clothes, posing with a mother and child in front of the log cabin. The article read “Broncho Charlie who lays claim to 102 summers, paid a brief visit last week.” (5)  Broncho Charlie died January 15, 1955 at the age of 105 in Bellevue Hospital in New York City.  (6) The restaurant, which was bought by the Morfogen brothers in the 1980s, remained popular for years, until it closed about 1994. (7) It was bulldozed in 2009.


Although the log cabin is gone, Broncho Charlie, cowboy and entertainer, will forever be a part of Oakdale history.  Stephen Carlisle and Rhoda McManus shared with us some of their memories of the restaurant and also of Broncho Charlie Miller, the man who became a legend.

  1. Charlie Miller used the spelling “Broncho” for his name, but the restaurant used “Bronco.”
  2. “Hometown History Reflections,” Suffolk County News, July 1, 1976, digital image, Old Fulton New York Post Cards (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed October 14,  2014).
  3. “Street Fair for Library,” Suffolk County News, August 12, 1927, digital image, Old Fulton New York Post Cards (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed November 11,  2014).
  4. “Hometown History Reflections,” Suffolk County News, July 1, 1976, digital image, Old Fulton New York Post Cards (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed October 12, 2014).
  5. “Pony Express Rider is Home again,” Suffolk County News, September 12, 1952, digital image, (Suffolk Historic Newspapers: accessed October 14, 2014).
  6. “Charlie Miller Dies; Wild West Figure,” New York Times, Jan 16, 1955, digital image, (ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010): accessed Dec 10, 2014).
  7. “Bronco Charlie’s Restaurant Reopens in Oakdale,” Suffolk County News, June 26, 1980, digital image, Old Fulton New York Post Cards (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed November 20, 2014).

 

Stephen Carlisle, who we interviewed, has written several books about growing up in Oakdale, New York.  Below is a listing of his books which can be found in our library.
974.725 Carlisle   Idle Hour Gardens: Growing up in Mid-20th Century Oakdale
974.725 Carlisle   Idle Hour Romp: Boyhood Adventures in Mid-20th Century Oakdale
974.725 Carlisle   Idle Hour Tribe: Family, Friends and Neighbors in Oakdale
974. 725 Carlisle  Leaves and Pearls: Steve’s Boyhood Memoirs
974.725  Carlisle  Wild Blue Yonder: Beyond Idle Hour and Mid-20th Century Oakdale

Rhoda McManus Interview

Stephen Carlisle Interview