It’s hard to believe that 100 years have passed since this rather somber photograph was taken at Alma Baker’s Luncheonette. The restaurant catered to passengers who arrived in Montauk’s old fishing village on Fishermen’s Special trains, day trippers who were eager to hop on a boat and hook what was sure to be a plentiful catch. Fort Pond Bay was a veritable lobster nursery at the time, and Mrs. Baker’s place was the first to display them live in tanks.
Given the time frame, it seems likely that Alma is the older woman in the photo, and it seems possible that the younger person is her daughter Hilda Tuma, who was the village’s postmistress, or Ruth, later known as the proprietor of Woodrow’s Cabins in Shepherd’s Neck. Hilda had married Frank J. Tuma the year before this photo, and Ruth went on to marry Reuben Woodrow in 1941. The Baker sisters also had a brother, Harry.
Social notes and other items in the East Hampton Star offer what are at times sad glimpses of the family’s life. In 1931, Alma and her daughter Ruth traveled by boat to Sweden to visit relatives, leaving in January and returning in March. When Alma’s mother died in 1951, Edna Biase, the Star’s Montauk correspondent, reported that Alma, who had last visited her mother in 1934 (when she stayed 11 months), “had been looking forward to another visit on Mrs. Johansson’s 100th birthday, April 8.”
Alma’s husband, Nathaniel Baker, had died at age 49 in 1921 – as an “In Memoriam” from his widow and daughters noted lovingly in the Star. The Bakers’ son, Harry, was only 19 at the time of his death in April of 1926, just three days after the Star reported that he had been arrested and started a fire in his jail cell.
In the years that followed, Harry’s mother and sisters remembered Harry each year in print during the week of his death, a tradition that endured even after Alma’s death in 1955. That was the year the sisters wrote this “In Memoriam”:
BAKER – In sad and loving memory
Of our dear brother, Harry N. Baker, who passed away April 26, 1926
Many years passed since that sad day
When our dear brother was taken away
God took him Home, it was his will
But in our hearts he liveth still