Quotes from Years Past

Twenty-five observations and recollections from the pages of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine.

Henry Beetle Hough, the former longtime editor of the Vineyard Gazette: When I started writing about the Vineyard and its people, it was quite a different cultural atmosphere – everything was simple in a sense, and it was an old-fashioned culture, old-fashioned civilization. – Summer 1985

Art Buchwald, the late humorist, writer, and longtime Vineyard Haven summer resident:

Except for some places in Edgartown, we don’t have to wear green pants. You don’t have to prove who you are on Martha’s Vineyard. Island people don’t have to dress like peacocks. – Summer 1990

An unnamed rumrunner from the days of Prohibition: We was gangsters! I would make around $300 a night. That’s better than 50 cents an hour! So you’d take a chance. Ain’t no guarantee of you coming back. We got hit two or three times. I thought it was a lot of fun. – Fall–Holiday 1992

William Styron, the late award-winning novelist and essayist, on summer reads: I almost never read any of the beach books. They don’t interest me. I’m reading The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger. It’s a very well-written book, extremely well done. That’s the sort of diverting nonfiction that I read. – August–September 1997

Kate Feiffer writes about being a volunteer the previous summer: Everyone I knew was fundraising. We were preparing for fundraisers, attending fundraisers, and talking about fundraisers. We had turned, or so I feared, into an Island of fundraising fanatics. – July–August 2002

Hollis Engley, former editor of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine: Lobster rolls are not meatloaf, not pork chops or hamburgers, not beef stew or scalloped potatoes. It is highly unlikely that your mother insisted that you eat lobster rolls when you were ten. (“Eat your lobster roll, honey, and you can have ice cream. No lobster, no ice know the rules.”) – September–October 2002

Mike Wallace, veteran 60 Minutes news correspondent: Even as I talk I can see it and smell it and feel it. It’s a special, insular, quiet, healing, glorious place. And year after year after year, you not only see your kids and grandchildren grow, but you see everybody else’s kids, the same people, grow. There’s a strange continuity to life on the Vineyard. – May–June 2004

Margaret Knight, a writer who lives on Chappaquiddick:

A repairman came to my house. He got out of the truck shaking his head, evidently in disbelief at finding my house after winding so far back into the woods. He said, “Do people ever ask you if you’re in the Witness Protection Program?” – August 2004

Charles Silberstein, a psychiatrist living in West Tisbury: People who move here love islands. We travel to islands. It’s not always a conscious choice, but there’s something womb-like about being surrounded by water, something comforting. It’s a primal experience for people. – Not Summer 2004–2005

Holly Nadler writes about hitchhiking to Aquinnah: One thing to keep in mind, if you hitch in one direction, you’re probably going to be hitching back in the other. State Road east from the Cliffs was so quiet, and the occasional passing driver so uninterested in two ride-seeking femmes, that we walked a good couple of miles. And the forced march gave new meaning to the second word in hitchhike. – May–June 2006

Vernon E. Jordan Jr., civil rights leader and longtime summer visitor:

Almost every August since 1971 I’ve found myself at the Vineyard. I like the culture of the Vineyard, I like the people of the Vineyard, I love belonging to the Farm Neck Golf Club, which is in my experience the most integrated club in America, racially, economically, and gender-wise. – July 2005

Mike Seccombe, writing about private beaches: The private-beach law has been contentious ever since, it seems, people decided bathing in the sea was quite fun. And there is no question most Islanders – indeed, most residents in the state – think it appalling. Except, of course, those who have access to a private beach. Like babies and monopolies, private beaches seem dreadful things until you have one of your own. – July 2007

Richard Skidmore, writing about the Island’s appeal in the sixties and seventies: The hippie “invasion” was one of the many mass movements onto the Island after the Europeans startled the Wampanoags. The Island’s legacy of hitchhiking and nude bathing (at least up-Island), the beauty here, and a feeling of openness all contributed to a sense of freedom that, in the ease of summer, was irresistible to unattached sixties hippie youth – whether they were dropping out from college, from the 9-to-5, were trustafarians, or just free spirits. The Island seemed welcoming. – May–June 2008

Development and change

Linda Bassett, Edgartown real estate broker: I see nothing but growth in the future. I’m hoping that somehow all the Island towns will limit growth so that our resources aren’t endangered, but what are we going to do, stop having babies? You can’t stop growth unless the whole idea of the human race stops. It’s very unrealistic. – Spring 1987

Tom Dunlop, writing about growing tourism in the Clinton years: Clearly the Vineyard has changed, and the great surprise is that the more altered it becomes, the more people seem to like it. If you seek peace in the wild seaward isolation, refreshment in the character of a simple hard-working society, and privacy from the gaze of the press, Martha’s Vineyard of the 1990s ought to be the very last place you select, and therefore it is the first place selected by nearly everybody. – July 1995

Peter Rosbeck Sr., a now-retired developer, speaking about land-use regulations:

In a sense it’s almost dangerous to buy land on Martha’s Vineyard now, without doing some homework. Because these rules are underlying, not on the surface. Areas like a coastal zone, shore zone, inland wetlands. Aquifer protection. Rare and endangered species. My business is effectively over on the Vineyard. – May–June 1991

Sam Low, writing about gated communities: I grew up on the Vineyard with a sense of Islanders as heroes – especially the fishermen of Menemsha. Now consider what happens to a sense of community when people put gates around themselves. Powerfully symbolic, these indicate that those within are different than those without – “Don’t enter unless you have the code to the gate.” – May–June 2001

CK Wolfson writes about renting out her house to help pay the mortgage: It begins at the end of June. Lured by the chance to make more in a rental week than I do in a month of working, I empty the clutter from the drawers and clear out every overcrowded closet. Then the summer finally passes. When it is, gratefully, September again, it’s time to come back to my house. It feels oddly neutralized – it could be anybody’s home, it’s so entirely devoid of me. The tabletops are clear, the shelves selectively empty. No happy clutter. No welcoming commotion. Nothing heaped into the corners; nothing crowded into cupboards. – May–June 2003


Alfred Eisenstaedt, the late, noted Life magazine photographer: The photographs I take on Martha’s Vineyard are taken because I feel something special. Nowhere in the world is there a place more beautiful than this. – Summer 1988

Barbara Flanders Seward, former Menemsha postmistress, speaking about a summer painter who didn’t want to sell his work: He explained that he came to the Vineyard on vacation to paint, and in winter, back in New York, he would put on his bathrobe and slippers, take out what he’d painted in the summer, and remember the Vineyard that way and how he loved it. – Fall–Winter 2001

Tom Chase of the Nature Conservancy, formerly with the Trustees of Reservations, speaking about a project with youngsters propagating rare plants:

A kid could go by there and say, “That’s the patch of ground where I planted that butterfly weed.” And for as long as he or she lives, and their grandchildren are there, there will be a population of butterfly weed that they put in there. The teachers and the kids and the parents bonded to these lands. You could see it happening. Of all the things I had done at the Trustees, it was the thing of which I’m the most proud. – July 1994

Charles M. Sennott, speaking about the photograph of Wasque Point he carried with him when traveling in the Middle East as a journalist: Everything seemed so much more precious in life after September 11. Everything seemed to bring us back to what was important. The aerial photo of Wasque was suddenly about a lot more than fishing, it was about the land we call home. It was now a crystal blue reminder of what mattered, evoking a wake-up splash of bracing cold sea water to remind me that I had to take the time to bring my sons fishing there, to teach them about that water, or just to sit with my wife on a blanket and watch the kids chase each other along the shoreline in the long shadows of the late afternoon, summer sun. Life is too short not to. – September–October 2002

Joe Tate writes about becoming a true Island fisherman: I have learned there is more to fishing the Vineyard than just catching the Big One. I love the experience of fishing. I even like my children calling me their bait boy. – July 2003

Matt Pelikan, the Islands’ program manager for the Nature Conservancy, speaking about chickadees: You have to understand that for some birders, vocalizations are really important. It’s a source of pride on the Vineyard that our chickadees are unique. It’s not something that the general population knows about, so we get a kick out of pointing it out to them in the field. The call notes are noticeably different. It’s really weird. – July 2005

Suzan Bellincampi, naturalist and environmental educator:

Comb jellies are the best thing about moonlight swims. They float off my body and turn all silver sparkly. Not many animals can make light. In a word, they’re magical. They’re one of those Island things that makes you realize we live in paradise. – July 2004