Montaukers of a certain age may recollect some of the people and places in this chamber directory. They might even remember using a two-letter telephone exchange prefix: MP for Montauk Point, for example.
The directory comes from a collection of printed materials and ephemera promoting Montauk restaurants, hotels, and the Montauk Chamber of Commerce from the 1950s to 1970s. Sally Nielsen donated it to the Montauk Library Archives.
It’s worth taking a close look at the establishments listed above. Note that there’s a Duryea’s Lake Montauk Dock as opposed to the longtime Duryea’s on Fort Pond Bay. In addition, Montauk used to have an Island Supper Club run by one Harry McLeod, public dancing at the Manor, “four fresh lakes with excellent bass fishing,” a businessmen’s association and a civic association, and a humbly self-described trailer camp. The Merry Mermaid – a green and white building with its namesake painted on one wall, if memory serves – was still around, and so was the Umbrella Stand (with no phone number), Sears Market, and Frank Brill’s Village 5 & 10.
From about the 1930s until the 1960s, telephone numbers started with the first two letters of the location: AM for Amagansett and EH for East Hampton, for example, which translated to 26(7) and 32(4) as prefix digits. Somewhere along the line the Montauk telephone prefix became 66(8) rather than 67(8), which correspond, respectively, to MO and MP.
In 1962, when the telephone company was getting serious about replacing prefix letters, which were connected to something meaningful, with seemingly random digits, an organization called the Anti-Digit Dialing League was born in San Francisco. The league argued that the switch was basically a form of dehumanization.
“These people are systematically trying to destroy the use of memory,” one of the organizers told Time magazine at the time. “They tell you to ‘write it down,’ not memorize it. Try writing a telephone number down in a dark booth while groping for a pencil, searching in an obsolete phone book and gasping for breath. “
Now, who remembers telephone booths and books?