What's in a name? - "Bohemia"
Bohemia is the name of the western part of the present Czech Republic. It gets its name from an ancient Celtic tribe, the Boii, who lived there. By the 9th century, a Slavic tribe, the Czechs, had emerged and formed a unified kingdom in the region. "Cechy" (the first "C" pronounced "Ch") was the name given to the region. Today, Cechy or Bohemia, with Moravia on the east, forms the Czech Republic. The area where the three couples first settled in 1855 was known simply as "South of Lakeland" or "South of Main Line." By 1859, they had decided on a name and had their little community officially recorded as "New Village of Tabor." ("Tabor" in Czech means "camp.") However, the name recorded on deeds for property in the area depended on listings on official maps. So, a deed for property between Ocean Avenue and Sycamore Avenue registered in 1862 refers to the acreage as being "near Lakeland." A deed from 1883 designates the town as "Bohemia Village." People for many years received their mail, first in Lakeland and then in Sayville. In 1894, the town obtained its own post office and the official name for the post office was "Bohemia." A marriage certificate for a Bohemia couple married in St. Ann's Episcopal church in Sayville in 1879 mentions the couple's address as "Bohemia." However, a baptismal certificate from 1881 has "Bohemiaville," as does another from 1901. All three certificates are signed by Rev. John Prescott, the pastor of St. Ann's, who served Sayville and Bohemia for many years. Evidently, whatever the official name, people continued to refer to it in different ways. Over the years, there were a number of attempts to change the name of Bohemia, which some people felt was too old-fashioned, or too tied to one ethnic group.They felt this was keeping new people and new businesses from coming to the town. 1931 saw the first move to change Bohemia's name, to Sayville Heights. This was the project of three people who had moved into Bohemia just a few years previously. Opposition quickly formed. Even the youth of the town became involved and one Sunday evening covered the community with posters carrying slogans such as, "We want Bohemia" and "Keep Bohemia on the map." William Keyes, the principal of the Bohemia school, wrote a poem about the name change that was published in 1932 in the Suffolk County News. The last six lines were: "But (they) gave their new-found home a name Like unto that from whence they came. To many thousand far and near Bohemia's name is held most dear, Let those who think it is out of date Remove themselves by truck or freight."
Obviously, the change of name never materialized.
1942 found a new name suggested for a very different reason. The Czech town of Lidice (Li-dyi-tseh) had been totally destroyed on Adolf Hitler's orders. Its population of about 1200 was either killed or taken to concentration camps. A team of Czechs fighting against the Nazis had been parachuted into Czechoslovakia and had mortally wounded Reinhard Heydrich, the hated German commander in Bohemia. It was claimed that the village had hidden the team and the brutal destruction was the penalty for this. The change of name idea came from the New York Post which in a June 25, 1942 article suggested that some American village might take the name of Lidice to show that it still lived. Bohemia might just be such a village because of its ethnic heritage and a population almost the same as Lidice. At first, there seemed much sympathy for the suggestion. However, after much debate, a majority of the people prefered to keep Bohemia. Another move for a name change came in 1947, again because some felt that the name was hindering development. The new name, MacArthur, was to tie the town to the future expectations for MacArthur Airport. The advocates of the change claimed much local support, even from old-timers in the village, and indicated that they already had a petition favoring the change signed by 250 people. However, both in homes and in the local organizations, heated debate continued. Finally, the Postal Department sent a representative to conduct a house-to-house survey and discover the true feelings of the people. Evidently, the survey showed more support for keeping the name. Bohemia it remained and Bohemia it remains - and that doesn't seem to have interfered with its growth at all.
The term "bohemian" is used often to mean a type of life attributed to artists, a life that is free, careless of material things, with no care for tomorrow. To be "bohemian" in this sense means to live with disregard for ordinary rules of behavior. It was often applied to vagabonds and gypsies. How did such an attitude toward life get tagged with the name of the solid and serious Slavic folk from central Europe? The explanation seems to be that in Europe it was believed that the Romany gypsies came from Bohemia. The impoverished artists of Paris took that type of life-style as theirs and called themselves "bohemians." Not too many real Bohemians live the "bohemian" way.