Our summers in Montauk were always filled with warm and sunny days, punctuated with cool ocean breezes. We swam, we surfed, we fished, we rode bikes, we explored and we picked fresh berries, grapes and wild flowers, all of which were plentiful. We were just kids doing what kids did back then. We played outside with one another in the fresh sea air without a worry or care in the world. In the evenings we would venture into town to play mini golf at Puff ‘N Putt, go out for dinner at any one of the many fabulous restaurants either in town or in the Hamptons, go to the Bridgehampton drive in movie, or simply sit around a bonfire on the beach singing songs and telling stories. At other times, we would go to Martell’s or the Indian Trading Post to pick up post cards or cheap little souvenirs to bring home to our friends. It was a simple life, filled to the brim with wonderful memories of time spent with family and friends. Our summer home welcomed many guests over the years, as well, and it was always filled with the sweet sound of laughter.
As years passed and our lives became busy and more complicated, I always took solace knowing that I could return to Montauk and relive those simpler times, even if only for a week or a long weekend. It is a place where time really does seem to stand still. I could still go to many of my favorite restaurants, Hampton Bays Diner, Lunch, Gourney’s Inn, Trails’ End or John’s Drive-In, just to name a few that still exist today. I could still go to White’s Drug store or Martell’s to buy a kite to fly, stand on the dock at Gosman’s and watch the fishing boats come in, visit the Montauk Lighthouse in all its stately glory, or just go for a long walk along the beautiful stretch of white sandy beach and look for shells in relative solitude.
Although much has remained the same, despite local resistance and opposition, change has occurred in that sleepy little hamlet. The ghost of Carl Fisher seems to have returned to finish what he had first started. The Leisurama homes and tiny bungalows of the 50’s have been replaced or renovated into more modern, spacious, multi-million dollar homes. The oldtrailer parkofDitchPlains has been gentrified into half-million dollar oceanfront condo units worthy of the attention of Jimmy Buffet. The Manor was also brought back to its old glory and sold off as condo units. Even the “White Elephant” was restored and turned into luxury condos. The most notable Fisher-like change of all, however, was the opening of the Surf Lodge onFortPondBay. It attracted an upscale “Hamptonscrowd,” the likes of which were previously unseen in Montauk.
I have long since moved fromNew YorktoNew Jersey, but the call of Montauk always beckons me to return, at least once each year. Unlike many others, theJerseyShoreholds no allure for me, for there is nowhere on earth that I would rather be than out on the East End of Long Island. As soon as the salty sea air hits me, a quiet calm washes over me, leaving me with an inner peace that soothes me to the depths of my soul. Last season, my husband and I purchased our own summer haven in the quaint little town ofEast Quogue, overlookingShinnecockBay, and we delight in sharing it with family and friends. But alas, even though I am now a homeowner and now come to the “East End” year round, I am still only considered a weekender. Maybe someday, possibly when I retire, I will finally achieve “local” status. One can only hope.
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