Editor’s Note: We recently sat down with Put-in-Bay resident Peter Huston. In addition to owning the First Island Son Bed and Breakfast on the island, and being the official ambassador of the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce, Huston and his wife Amy are year-round residents of the island. We asked them to give us an insight into “island life” in the winter.
Many people know what a summer day is like on Put-in-Bay. Hundreds of visitors come to our island each and every day to shop at our local boutiques, dine at a variety of local establishments that are a part of the “Put-in-Bay Foodie Trail,” and check out the magnificent view from high atop Perry’s Monument. However, very few know what this popular summer destination is like in the winter.
On a “busy” day here in January, I look out my front window at home and can identify the owner of every car that goes by. We joke that we know who they are, where they’re going, and when they’ll be back. Most are heading to the Post Office. The Post Office is the social hub of the island and is just a short distance down the street from us. Because there is no home mail delivery on the island, everyone goes to the Post Office. It’s not just for the mail, but real daily social interaction too.
This winter is the first year in quite a few that “Tippers” restaurant is closed for the winter. When Tip Niese was alive, he kept the place open 7 days a week. It was his “living room” and everyone was invited. Monday was Martini night. Wednesday was Euchre. The Senior Center had a “luncheon” there every Thursday, and daily a dependable group kept the bartender busy serving gossip and $2 beers.
This year we will have two places sharing the island business, Reel Bar and Topsy Turvey. No one is open for lunch Monday or Tuesday. This has been quite an adjustment for some of our school kids. Our Put-in-Bay School does not have a cafeteria, so everyone must go home for lunch. Many of the older kids used to go to Tippers for lunch. It was great to have a place to meet or have a meal daily. It is one of the small pleasures of island life.
Winter can be isolating for some, especially when the ferry stops running. But we manage to keep ourselves entertained. Social clubs, darts, Senior Center aerobics and yoga, volleyball, winter workout membership at the Crew’s Nest and various other daytime “ice related” activities can be quite engaging.
For real entertainment, our Put-in-Bay high school basketball team home games are the biggest draw for islanders in the winter. We have about 85 kids in school, with about 25 in grades 8-12. Some of the young girls do double duty being on the basketball team and being cheerleaders. Everyone is involved one way or another.
The visiting teams get treated royally, being flown over, shuttled to the school, fed lunch and snacks, while providing us with a slate of Saturday of games that includes just about every kid in the school and their parents from 1st grade and up.
A funny side note to this story is about milk. As you can imagine, when the ferry stops running, fresh food, green veggies, and dairy products have to be flown in. That really ups the cost of “fresh.” The price for a gallon of milk is about double what you pay on the mainland. Word got around about this recently, and a visiting team heard about it. In a gesture of good will, each kid on the visiting team brought a gallon of milk to give our Put-in-Bay team as a gift. That’s real life on an island.
When we leave for the mainland, the cost per person just for the plane trip to the mainland is $45 per person, each way! When you do the math, for a family of four to go out for a pizza would be $360 plus the pizza!
A popular saying that has been floating around Put-in-Bay this year is “everyone loves being on an island until it becomes an island.” Translation: this life is not for everyone, but the rewards for those that savor island in a real community living is “priceless.”
To see another side of island life, check out this video we put together this past summer called “In a Sleepy Little Town:” https://youtu.be/g9do6hOHbgo.
*Note: This article was originally posted on the Lake Erie Shores & Islands blog.