Throwback Thursday – Two Giant Men

Richard T. Gilmartin and Frank Tuma Sr. surfcasting, 1940s, Richard T Gilmartin Collection, Montauk LIbrary Archives

Richard T. Gilmartin and Frank Tuma Sr. certainly enjoyed surfcasting, as they were doing on this day in the early 1940s on the ocean west of Montauk Point. Tuma in particular was a pioneer of the sport, developing “a snap cast that was extremely efficient at catching striped bass,” according to the Images of America: Montauk book of photographs by Robin Strong and the Montauk Library.

In fact, Tuma’s Beach, on the rocky coast east of Deep Hollow Ranch, was named for Frank Tuma, who also appeared – fishing rod in hand and with the Lighthouse in the background – on a 1952 cover of Collier’s magazine. (That image and the one above can be found in the Montauk Library’s Richard T. Gilmartin Collection, one of the most extensive in the archives.)

Both Gilmartin and Tuma led large lives off the shore as well. Gilmartin was the first president of the Montauk Historical Society and a founder of the local Explorers Club as well as, at various times, East Hampton Town supervisor, historian, and town clerk and Suffolk County commissioner of welfare. He became an advocate for the disabled after a car accident in 1944 left him paralyzed, serving on the Committee for the Physically Handicapped under Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. In Montauk he was secretary of the Pearson Construction Company, which did work for Carl Fisher, and then the owner of the Richard Gilmartin Insurance Agency, specializing in commercial real estate and based in Fisher’s “white elephant” office building.

Frank Tuma Sr. — whose family collection is also in the Montauk Library Archives — was a pioneer of the charter fishing industry in Montauk. In an oral history for the library, his son Frank Tuma Sr. described him as an ardent fisherman and almost preternaturally accomplished, left-handed harpooner of swordfish, which ran large and not so far offshore in the day. Tuma also ran a bait and tackle shop on Montauk’s Main Street, near today’s Shagwong Tavern, that weighed surfcasters’ hauls and served as a hub where fishing advice and tales could be exchanged. He also owned and operated Tuma’s Dock on the west side of Montauk Harbor, which, in addition  to a tackle and gift shop, offered a service for booking sportfishing boats.

A digital image of the black-and-white photograph of Gilmartin and Tuma surfcasting at the shoreline has been incorporated into new counter stools in the newly renovated Montauk Library, in the beautiful new Local History Center. Check it out!


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