“The Borths’ Christmas Card,” 1948
Photograph by Dave Edwardes
Illustration by Frank Borth
Black and white photograph with illustration and holiday greetings added
Dave Edwardes Collection
Montauk Library Archives
Frank and Barbara Borth sent a laugh along with their Christmas cards in 1948 – no surprise from a cartoonist and a wife with the good humor to pretend to be in possession of the key to his ankle shackle.
For their Christmas card Mr. Borth started with a photograph taken by Dave Edwardes, apparently in one of eight different homes the couple inhabited over four years before they settled into their own Montauk house in 1949. The illustrator doctored the photograph with some of his comic strip characters, Santa trimmings, the oversized black cat, and the jauntily-lettered holiday message (in addition to being a commercial illustrator and occasional entertainer, Mr. Borth also at times painted signs, especially when resorts like the Montauk Manor were reopening after World War II). Both the original and the enhanced Christmas card version can be found in the Dave Edwardes Collection of the Montauk Library, on whose board of trustees Mrs. Borth was a founding member.
The couple was extremely active in the Montauk community. In addition to teaching at the Montauk School and riding horses — her experience as an outdoorswoman had been English riding, but she rode Western after they became friends with the Dickinsons of Deep Hollow Ranch — Mrs. Borth was a Girl Scout leader, a member of the Montauk Village Association, and a deacon at the Montauk Community Church. Mr. Borth was a volunteer with the Montauk Fire Department and its ambulance service, an elder at the Community Church, a member of the Community Theater Company, and an East Hampton Town Trustee and East Hampton Town Board member.
When they celebrated their 60th anniversary in 2004, the Borths credited their involvement in the community — “We never got bored” — as well as their being complete opposites with their longevity as a couple. “We don’t agree on anything,” Mrs. Borth said in an interview that ran in the East Hampton Star.
Laughter – that of Barbara and Frank Borth, and also of Suzanne Koch Gosman – erupts over and over again in Ms. Gosman’s oral history interview with the Borths in 2002 for the Montauk Library’s archives. The couple fill out each other’s stories, reminiscing about, among other things, finding black widow spiders in one of their early Montauk rentals. Mr. Borth well knew how to identify them, having drawn them for “Spider Widow,” his strip about a hero who dressed like an old woman ready to set black widow spiders upon any bad guys. They also recalled Mr. Borth’s “chalk talks” at the Montauk Yacht Club on Thursday nights, when he would entertain the crowd while making art, they would have seconds at a great buffet dinner, and she would play piano afterward. Locally, Mr. Borth whimsically illustrated everything from “Monster Man,” the Frank Mundus book, to the East Hampton Town seal to logos for many community groups; he seemed to have had a hand in everything.
The Borths made a lot of friends in Montauk, and it sounds like they had a ton of fun. Here is a holiday wish that you do, as well, during the holiday season and far beyond.