Throwback Thursday — Slice of an Era

Montauk Chamber of Commerce, 1960, with its president, Sid Richer, on the right. The organization was formed nearly a century ago, on June 30, 1930. | Dave Edwardes Collection, Montauk Library Archives

Everything about this photo is perfect, from the fringe on the awning to the automobiles to the freestanding phone booth. The year was 1960, a slice of an era that was nearly as cool as these sunglasses.

Note the lattice-y gridwork in the background behind the phone booth and the flag. For decades that grid was a defining feature of the Ronjo Motel, which opened in the 1950s and in 1960 added its signature moai statue. Untold numbers of tourists had their photos taken alongside the colorful Polynesian effigy, which was painted gold in 2012 when the resort was transformed into the Montauk Beach House.

What else is so great about this photo, whose creator, Dave Edwardes, shot the booming Montauk community from the 1940s to the 1960s: from fishermen to yachtsmen to swimmers in the Surf Club pool, not to mention photos of the Lighthouse that were so popular they were sold as postcards?

For one thing, the posters in the chamber building window advertise movie screenings  at what was then the Montauk Manor Playhouse: of Wild River starring Montgomery Clift and The Mountain Road starring James Stewart. Also advertised is some kind of event – mass? – at Little Flower Church (now St. Therese of Lisieux). There is also a laundry and dry cleaning service that is promised to be “prompt” and, for punctuation fusspots, the now almost extinct use of periods after initials for the words “chamber” and “commerce” on the awning.

According to advertisements in the East Hampton Star, the chamber staged a water circus, dance, and beauty contest that crowned a Miss Montauk at the Surf and Cabana Club in the summer of 1960. The organization had been formed on June 30, 1930, with Perry B. Duryea Sr. as its president, to promote Montauk as a summer resort and “to organize the business men of Montauk into an organized group for the improvement of civic conditions.”

The chamber was incorporated on November 6, 1953. It continues to operate – in a larger building on the same spot, but without a phone booth — to this day.

One Comment

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    Nancy Abbe Reply

    We love getting these ‘Throw Back Thursdays’ and look forward to them.
    The attention to details add to the pleasure.
    It’s also kind of funny to see everyone in this photo lined up according to height.

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