By Morgan Campbell
It Had to be You
Montauk, “It Had to be You…” Only your clear and boundless skies could be powerful enough to shelter the history that has shaped our nation and delicate enough to bear witness to one remarkable love story that began 72 years ago and made its own history right under your bright blue eyes. This story of love in a quiet fishing town turned naval base rose out of a time of war, when two people seemed to forget all that and let the rolling ocean lead them to each other, to family, and to the rest of their lives.
During World War II, the United States Military bought up most of the east end, including the town ofMontaukand the Montauk Manor, to turn into a military base. The Montauk Manor was transformed by the Navy into something quite different from the popular and luxuriousEast Endgetaway it is known as today. John Jezewski remembers the Manor as the military barracks he called home during his service as a torpedo man in the United States Navy in the 1940’s. At this time, Johnny had the responsibility of overhauling torpedoes on a barge stationed in the only Naval base in Montauk, where the bay was being used as a torpedo testing range. Here he lived a sailor’s life, working hard daily on the barge and going out to the town with friends when he got the chance.
But Montauk wasn’t all war-time hustle and bustle. As it is today, Montauk was a beautiful vacation spot for those who wanted to get away from the rush of everyday life. Edna Kritsberg was one such woman. On vacation with the Steinfelds, family friends and landlords inBrooklyn, Edna and her cousin Helen went out for a night at the Montauket for some dining and dancing. At this small bar, restaurant, and motel, as popular today as it was that night, Edna, sixteen, met a twenty-one year old torpedo man out for a night on the town.
Fearing she would appear too young, Edna told the handsome sailor that she was eighteen. Knowing he had found something special, Johnny believed the little white lie and swept her off her feet. Johnny and Edna dated during that summer, taking advantage of the days Johnny wasn’t on the barge by visiting the beach and spending their nights dancing at the Montauket and the popular Trail’s End. A popular song at the time, “It Had to be You,” seemed to tell the young couple’s story so well that it came to be the one they would call their own for years to come. When the long summer ended, Edna went back toBrooklynand worked as a messenger girl at the New York Stock Exchange. Johnny was still stationed in Montauk, but took every chance he could to visit her on the weekends. In 1945, Johnny had obtained a short leave before heading toSouth Carolinaand he came to spend his last few days with Edna. The couple knew they had found love and Johnny asked Edna to be his wife. However, being underage, Edna needed permission from her mother in order to marry Johnny. Her mother’s consent was given wholeheartedly.
They married onAugust 21, 1945, in the Church of the Little Flower, with a wedding reception held just down the road from a place they would call home for decades to come. The reception was filled with unforgettable moments. The guests had the rare opportunity to enjoy cold cuts, which had been rationed during the war, thanks to a friend of the butcher. To gather money for the young couple, local fisherman Harry Stanard simply passed around an old hat. Johnny and Edna spent their wedding night where they had met, at the Montauket, in a room just above the barroom.
The newlyweds lived inBrooklynand still visited Montauk during the summers. OnJune 30, 1946, Edna and Johnny’s family grew with the birth of their daughter, Edna “Cookie” Jezewski. Years later, they bought a property down the street from the Montauket and next to local character, Captain Zeke Burrows. Their small Montauk home and the family that visits still rest across from Duryea’s lobster deck and a beautiful view of the bay. In a house on the same property lives Edna’s younger sister, Dorothy.