Throwback Thursday – Signs of the Times

Still image from a digitized home movie reel from the John Craft Moving Image Collection | Montauk Library Archives

Montauk Library Archives

Need a room? A meal? A building lot? A cooler filled with fish? Right this way!

This fleeting gem is among a handful of short home reels that the Montauk Library digitized for its archives. Can you imagine motoring through such a mind-boggling mass of messages?

The silent footage seems to have been shot in the early 1950s, beginning on Old Montauk Highway and heading east and then north toward the harbor. We’re thinking it’s the “Old” highway not only because the ocean is in plain view, but also because the “New” highway was intentionally kept free “from the eyesores which seem to be an inevitable feature of practically every highway on Long Island.” Robert Moses (writing in 1930) insisted that he wanted the new state parkway “protected from all commercial and unsightly developments and free from all advertising signs, hot dog stands, filling stations, etc.”

East Hampton put a stop to billboards everywhere else in the town in the 1970s. Many of the signs in this film weren’t large enough to qualify as billboards anyway – and they do have a certain charm, serving as a sort of welcoming committee for motorists arriving at the end of the Sunrise Trail.

Exactly what was the time of these signs? It had to have been somewhere after 1950, because it wasn’t until then that Fishangri-la opened on Fort Pond Bay and Montauk’s first motel, the Maisonettes, opened on the oceanfront. There was an Atlantic Tuna Tournament in Montauk in 1950, but others may have followed soon afterward.

The footage must have been shot before 1955, because the Sunrise Cabins – which at least two signs advertised – were moved that year from the bay to be transformed into the East Deck motel on the ocean. Hurricane Carol, which struck in August 1954, had tossed the cottages around, so maybe this film was shot even before then. Furthermore, the German-born broker Adolph Senner had already died in January 1954, although perhaps his wife, Anna, was still advertising the real estate business afterward.

We do know that by the time this footage was taken, Bill’s Inn had been moved from the bay to Edgemere Road and Tuma’s, Duryea’s, and Gosman’s were dispatching open and charter boats from Montauk Harbor at the same time that Fishangri-la was doing the same from Fort Pond Bay.

Anyway, enjoy this miniature silent movie. Be warned that it’s too short for popcorn.

#Montauk history #Montauk Library #billboards #throwbackthursday #tbt #Fishangri-la #Gosman’s

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