By Fred Mohrmann
I awoke to a blaring room light and the loud sounds of pounding hollow metal. As my eyes adjusted and regaining consciousness, I quickly recognized the room I had fallen asleep in just a few short hours ago. I was on a bed in the corner of a kitchen in a room of a motel my father rented for the weekend. It was the same motel we rented on numerous fishing trips through the fall in Montauk. The owner of the motel was a nasty old lady that wore too much lipstick. I once witnessed her scare away a potential patron who simply asked for the price of a room. “A MILLION DOLLARS” – she yelled at him – “what do you think!?!”
We were in the same room dad always rented, the corner room in the middle of the motel. It was the biggest room in the cheapest motel in Montauk. Dad said it was closest to the boat ramp. Luckily, we didn’t need to spend much time at the motel – we were in Montauk to fish.
WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! My eyes immediately darted to the corner of the room where my father – standing over the stove in his briefs and a tee shirt – was kicking and slapping the defenseless oven. Was I still dreaming? Suddenly, he turns to see me sitting up watching him in disbelief. “DO YOU HEAR THAT CRICKET?” I must have misunderstood – “Cricket?” I responded? “YES, A CRICKET!” He’s now leaning over the stove to see down between it and the wall. “THERE’S A CRICKET BACK HERE!” He quickly scans the room and spots a jar full of sugar. Grabs it, opens the top and pours its entire contents down behind the stove. Within a few seconds, from below the stove, we hear …. CRIC-KET…..CRIC-KET! For fear of seeing what dad might do next, I rolled over covering my head with the blanket and went back to sleep.
Soon after the cricket episode dad starting talking about having our own place for mom and the kids to stay while we were fishing. I’m not sure if he actually wanted to spend more time with his family or he’s just afraid of crickets but that was the last night we spent at, what was forever referred to as, the “Cricket Motel”.
Dad found a new place for our weekend fishing jaunts – individual cottages overlooking Lake Montauk. A definite improvement, at least it appeared so. On one particular stay at the cottages, Dad received a call from the cottage manager. The Dock Master at the marina where our boat was docked called to inform us our 22’ Mako was sinking. Apparently, the winds changed direction and waves were now splashing over the rear engine compartment – filling our vessel. It was an early Sunday morning in November – cold rain and wind – typical fall weather in Montauk. We saved the boat but upon returning to the cottage, we found our luggage partially packed and sitting outside in the rain while housekeeping was preparing for the next occupants. I cautiously waited outside while Dad stormed into the office understandably infuriated. Perhaps the management was under the impression that we should have taken the time to check out while our boat sank at the dock. Apparently that was the last straw and before I knew it, we were driving around Montauk looking at properties.
My parents found a vacant lot in an area known as Ditch Plains. It was at the end of a quiet street and walking distance from the ocean beach – a perfect location.
The House was built during the winter months to be ready for summer. My younger brother, dad and I spent the weekends in the months leading up to Memorial Day finishing the House – painting, hanging cabinets, installing electric and plumbing fixtures. Finally, the House was ready. My mother, sister and two youngest brothers spent the summers in Montauk. My brother and I worked for dad and would travel out east on the weekends. Its funny how, once residents, we no longer referred to Montauk by name – we would be headed “out East” to “the House”.