Sportsman’s Shows were attended by Montauk fishermen on a regular basis throughout the heyday period of trophy fishing, from the 1930s to the 1960s. These trade shows took place in New York City, often in the armory in the Bronx. In this image from 1947 we see Frank Tuma (1899-1961) in the Montauk booth, and to his left, another fisherman, unidentified. Swelling with huge crowds, these shows were an opportunity to promote Montauk as a fishing capital of the world, thus boosting the economy of the tiny village on the East End.
We don’t know who painted these murals (possibly Frank Borth?), but it’s clear that a concerted effort was put into decorating the booth in a way that would draw fishermen and wannabes to Montauk. We do know that groups of Montauk boat captains dedicated themselves to these shows because their business was directly impacted by the arrival of fishing “sporties” from New York. In fact, from the East Hampton Star dated February 23, 1956, we learn that “Capt. Fred [Gus] Pitts who is in New York City attending the Sportsman’s Show at the Bronx armory, left on last Thursday to set up the Montauk Booth and was assisted by Capt. Walter Drobecker, Capt. Frank Mundus and also Jerry Ruschmeyer of the Lake View Hotel, all of whom are staying for the entire week of the show.” In 1956 one of the displays was a prize-winning striped bass caught from the Marie II, Gus Pitt’s boat.
The burgeoning Montauk resort industry that would explode in the 1950s and 60s was a big beneficiary of these Sportsman’s shows. Montaukers manning the booth distributed brochures and other material promoting Montauk as a resort paradise. Jerry Ruschmeyer, who took over the Lake View Inn during the mid-1950s, expanded the property into a hotel /motel, adding a restaurant that won a coveted Duncan Hines award in 1961.
Long before he became synonymous with cake mixes, Duncan Hines published an annual restaurant guide, Adventures in Good Eating (1935), to the best eateries in America. A traveling salesman who kept meticulous notes, Hines was hounded by friends and fellow businessmen to share his research, eventually succumbing to requests to publish. A mention in Adventures … represented a huge thumbs-up from Hines, America’s “pioneer food critic.” No doubt, the fresh fish caught off the Montauk shoreline had something to do with Ruschmeyer’s recognition.