I founded the first edition of Dan’s Papers in Montauk in 1960.
Montauk was a real outpost at that time. Not much went on here, except it was considered the deep-sea fishing capital of the world. There were 30 brand new motels active in the summertime. There were half a dozen restaurants. A couple of nightspots. That was it. Deep-sea fishermen brought in giant sharks lashed to the sides of their boats. Others brought in swordfish and marlin. There was sunbathing at the beach, tennis, horseback riding, surfcasting, skeet shooting, beach-buggying, golfing. There was no movie theater, no library, no police station, no community center, no museum. Everybody worked seven days a week in the summertime, and the few who stayed around after Labor Day worked hardly at all.
Nearby in the Hamptons back then, people farmed and fished and lived the small-town life. There were only three stations on TV, all in Connecticut. There was no radio. The people went to church on Sunday. The stores were closed to observe that day. There were a few writers and artists in the community, but no celebrities, no paparazzi.
Three summers before, when I was a high school boy growing up in New Jersey, my dad, who had been the sales manager for a national cosmetics company, bought White’s Montauk Pharmacy and moved the family to Montauk. I worked for him in the store for two summers while attending college. We sold bathing suits, suntan lotion, kites. I ran the soda fountain.
In the third summer, I founded The Montauk Pioneer, the first Dan’s Papers. The office was my bedroom. My convertible car was our delivery truck, I wrote all the stories, sold all the ads and, over a long night, helped out in a print shop I’d hired in Sayville, helping the typesetters get the paper printed before dawn. The first edition, in a run of 5,000 copies, was distributed for free on the cigarette machines in the lobbies of each of the motels in town and also on the cigarette machines in the lobbies of the restaurants, stores and night spots.
To the best of my knowledge, this was the first free newspaper in America. The proceeds of the paper paid my expenses and tuition for my undergraduate work at the University of Rochester and my graduate work at Harvard.
With that finished and with my mom and dad very proud of me, I embarked to expand the Dan’s Papers operation with more newspapers in more resort towns, and over the next five years expanded to editions in East Hampton, Sag Harbor, the North Fork, Southampton, Westhampton Beach and Block Island. I also co-founded a hippie newspaper in Manhattan in the winter of 1965, called The East Village Other.
Dan’s Papers has become a big business. We have a big office in Southampton, about 30 employees, several vehicles, a thriving and very popular website, and we run events such as Taste of Two Forks and GrillHampton, publish the Dan’s Papers Literary Prize, the Dan’s Papers Kite Fly and others, the Dan’s List guidebook, several magazines, numerous newsletters, and with all the editions of the newspapers consolidated into one, Dan’s Papers.
I’ve lived my adult life here, have been happily married, raised four children, been involved with the remarkable changes that have come to this East End community—and feel particularly connected with Montauk, the little town where it all began.
The Montauk Pioneer section of Dan’s Papers will return weekly for the summer beginning with our May 16 issue!