July 15th, 2012
In the midst of the 50th season of the Petry family operation of the Pridwin Hotel, Pridwin co-owner Edith “(Edie” )Petry answers a few questions about her reminisces and experiences.
What was your first memory of the Pridwin.
Edith Petry: I have a lot of memories. I would say going out on the Pridwin boat is the most prominent. We would go over to Greenport and walk around the town and get ice cream. If you had any banking to do, you’d do it then. And we’d also go fishing with Daddy. They’d pack lunches and we’d go out fishing.. I remember going up to the cottages when we had a cottage. If we didn’t have a cottage we would have a corner room and Daddy would always bring a fan and a heater, because you never knew which way the weather was going to go. I also remember sitting on the big Rock at the top of the hill and playing on the rock. The kids would all play on it just as they do now.
Back then there was a separation in the Dining Room. The Blue Room was for adults only and the other room was for families. I never got to sit in the Blue Room.
We always went swimming in the bay and then they would ring the bell for lunch or dinner and we would have to go up and change because you always had to be dressed for meals. You’d have lunch then change again and go back down on the beach.
How did the Frosts find the Pridwin.
EP: My father had a friend, Mr. Hurd, who was a salesman for Del Monte. He said to my father I think you’d like this place because they serve a lot of food. I think that’s how they found out about the Pridwin sometime in the 1930s.
When did you start to come out as a family?
EP: I believe that I was very little because my mother used to comment how she sent the diapers out on the train. We would always come before Labor Day because that was around their anniversary.
When did you first come over with your husband Dick Petry?
EP: When we got married we came out as a family to celebrate my parents anniversary. Your father had a boat and we’d park at Goldsmiths and come over in the boat. Your Aunt Jackie and her husband Dick would drive over so we’d have a boat and a car to use.. And we kept coming until we bought the hotel
Do you remember how long it would take you to get from the city to Shelter Island back in the day?
EP: No, I don’t. I just remember asking “Are we there yet?” It took a while because in those days there was no expressway. And the Greenport Ferry was located near Preston’s then, not where it is now. It screwed up the town so because the line went right through town. I remember that as a child. I remember seeing a hard hat diver over there once coming out of the water. I don’t know what he was diving for.
As a child, what was special to you about the Pridwin?
EP: Probably everything, because in those days you didn’t have television. We’d play on the rock, we’d play hide n’ seek, and also at that time we had Mr. Schnebbe who did a magic act and he was pretty good at it. He’d get the kids in the lobby and entertain us. We were on the beach all day and then at night there was dancing. They’d roll up the rugs and put them in the corner and all the old people would sit around and watch the other people dance. You’d dance between the pillars in the lobby. Some of the guests would sing or play piano. There was a small bar and outside a screened in porch because–of course–there was no air conditioning. There were simpler things in those days that amused us.
Bill Payne used to play with Barice Neville, then there was Wes Smith. We had the music to entertain us.
What was it like to move to Shelter Island in 1962 after growing up in Queens and NYC?
EP: Hell (laughts). It was a big change because I worked and then I stopped because I had my first child, Glenn, and Dick was working 24/7 and they left me in the bushes with no car or anything. So I was off on my own except on the weekends when my parents would come out and would watch Glenn. Then I was the bar waitress while Dick tended bar. But most of the time I was alone, which was tough, because I didn’t know anyone on the island yet. I had no way of knowing anyone because I was a summer person when I was here. So I didn’t have any relationships with anyone on the island. Doctor Currie’s wife, Mrs. Currie, was my first friend because I was friendly with her daughter in law. She helped to introduce me to many people on the island . She would take me to places, to Southampton. There, of course, was nothing out here then. So in the beginning it was a challenge. But then I met Gracie (Silvani) and she took me under her wing.
Do you feel that Shelter Island has changed a lot since then, or does it progress a bit more slowly than the world around it?
EP: It probably progresses more slowly than the world around us. But in my estimation it’s changed a lot. There are many more rules and regulations , it was a lot easier when we first came out here. You were friendly with your neighbors and there wasn’t arguments about the dogs barking and these little complaints that are so prevalent these days. People were friendlier. You had one another and that was it.
The ferry definitely slows down progress and the pace of life on the island. When we first moved here I still kept my city doctors and I would visit them periodically. I remember feeling so secure when I got back to the island. I’m not sure we still feel that security now, I mean I still leave my house open all the time, but people are starting to think about it, which we never really did.
Has the view here looking out from the Pridwin changed much since you were a little girl?
EP: No. No. We added the dock, but basically no, it’s the same. Even those white cottages across the way, they look the same. That was a summer artist colony and I guess it’s still something like that now.
What has changed about the Pridwin?
EP: One thing is that people in general take shorter vacations. Back then some guests would stay the entire summer. The men would go back and forth on the train and leave their families out here. Even the older people would come out and stay the entire summer. We had a good time with the returning guests, many of whom became friends. You would look forward to seeing them every year. We still have some of that, but it was almost all like that back in the day.
We used to drive around the island and stop at the drug store for ice cream during the day. I used to have peach ice cream. They don’t make ice cream like that any more….but the Pridwin still has a pretty good banana split.