We don’t know if the gathering in this top photo took place on New Year’s Eve, but one thing we’re sure of is that Mary Williams Wood, the proprietess of the Shagwong Tavern, knew how to throw a good party. Kathleen Warren donated these two gems. She identified the celebratory group as “Nell (Wilson), Frances, Nicky (Andriani, the bartender), Janet (Bolton), and Mary (Wood).” The lobster logo embroidered on their uniforms in the second picture (“Nell, Frances, Kitty, Mary”) is a wonderfully evocative reminder of Montauk during the 1940s and 1950s.
For more than 22 years, Mary Williams Wood and her husband, Walter Wood, ran the Shagwong Tavern as proprietess and owner. (The liquor license was in Mary’s name.) A year after Walter made the purchase in 1946, the couple threw their friends a thank-you party for supporting them in this new business venture. “It was a surprise party in the sense that few knew who were invited,” reported the EH Star on March 27, 1947. “All they knew was that Mary and Walter had asked them to come down to a ‘little dinner party’ Thursday night.” Over 50 attended, and at evening’s end, the proprietess was asked to make a speech. Mary said ‘that she and Walter Wood thought that this would be a fine opportunity to get all their friends in Montauk together, to talk with them, spend a social evening, to have a good time.” The Star chimed in with, a “better way of saying ‘Hello, Neighbor!’ just couldn’t be.”
As the years went by, it was impossible to extricate the staff from the tavern, as the waitresses and bartenders became part of the community. In fact, as reported by the Star on January 14, 1960, “Mrs. Mary Wood[s] and the girls of the Shagwong Tavern gave a surprise bridal shower for Miss Joan McLaughlin [Joan Lycke] at the tavern on Saturday evening… Approximately 80 attended. Refreshments and dancing were enjoyed “into the small hours of the morning.”
The Woods’ tenure of the tavern had been grand. However, everything changed in 1968. Walter became ill. Mary Wood sold her liquor license to Jimmy Hewitt in 1969. A new era for the historic Shagwong Tavern had begun.
As lovers of local history, we cherish “auld lang syne” (days gone by). May these two photographs put a smile on your face and lift your spirits as we move into 2021. Happy New Year from the Montauk Library!