From the Vineyard Gazette editions of July 1963:
Edgartown’s annual Fourth of July celebration will begin on July 3 with the arrival of the Navy destroyer U.S.S. Steinaker in Edgartown harbor at 10 a.m. The welcoming committee will board her, and then Commander William McGovern will be piped on shore at the Edgartown Yacht Club about 11 a.m. by the Edgartown Boys’ Club Bugle and Drum Corps.
Following the softball game in the afternoon between the officers and crew of the Steinaker and the tug-of-war between all the Vineyard Fire Departments, there will be a block dance at the foot of Main street for the crew of the Steinaker beginning at 8 p.m., to which the public is invited. There will also be a reception at the Legion home for the petty officers of the destroyer.
Edgartown gave Independence Day a grand celebration yesterday with a splendid parade marching triumphantly from one end of town to the other and back again, with a spectacular fireworks display exploding over the harbor, and with general and mounting excitement everywhere — all in perfect, though temporarily unpromising, weather.
The town began filling up with people from other parts of the Island early in the afternoon, attracted by the prospect of the parade, the fireworks and a trip out to the U.S.S. Steinaker, the Navy destroyer visiting the town for the holidays. The sailors from the vessel, in turn, added more color to the town.
The parade itself was a distinguished success, although like most parades, it seemed as if it would never get started. The music was stirring, the floats were attractive and the dignitaries were impressive. The long march — it stretched in serpentine fashion all the way from the American Legion home on Katama road to Starbuck’s Neck — was a signal achievement for Alfred H. Wannamaker, the parade commander and general chairman of the holiday committee, and notwithstanding the strains and stresses that must have come his way before his plans burst into flower, he and his adjutant, Joseph Serpa, led the march with a snappy step.
The ranking civilian in the parade was Rep. Hastings Keith, who was accompanied by an honor guard of Edgartown policeman, and there was plenty of other top brass, both military and civilian following him, including Commander William McGovern, the commanding offer of the Steinaker, the county commissioners, the selectman of the town, Edgartown Yacht Club dignitaries and the leaders of the S.A.R and D.A.R.
Later on came the pride of Edgartown, the stalwart, well-disciplined youngsters who comprise the Edgartown Boys’ Club Bugle and Drum Corps, under the direction of George Luce. The boys once again showed their mettle. It was a lengthy hike, especially for the smallest of them — and the smallest are very small, but even near the end of the march their drum beats were still peppy and their bugle calls resounding.
“Blow ye winds a’morning, blow ye winds heigh-ho!” was truly a song of the Navy Wednesday night, boding more than just seasickness. That wind was so strong that night that more than a hundred seamen of the U.S.S. Steinaker on shore leave were not able to return to the ship.
What a night was in store for them! Had they known the eventual outcome of the evening, they probably never would have gone to that block dance in the first place.
The Steinaker is visiting Edgartown for three days over the Fourth of July weekend, and her officers and crew are participating in all of the special scheduled events over the Independence Day weekend.
At about 1:30 the shore patrol rounded up all the members of the crew who were still on shore and told them to go to the American Legion home. Because of the high winds, no other boats were going out to the destroyer that night. From the legion home about half of the hundred crew members were sent to the firehouse. Both accommodations were less than elegant.
There were no beds or cots in either place. One crew member, Willard Deerman, felt that he had been extremely lucky, for he had slept “on a drape in the head.” A friend, Steve Janicki, spent the night on the kitchen floor, with no blankets or anything. He guessed that he had gotten about ten minutes of sleep. A third frequenter of the Legion home, Duane Heier, spent the night on the back porch. He awoke at 4:30 in the morning after an hour’s sleep, “freezing to death.”
Over at the firehouse, life was no more luxurious. Fireman Emry sprawled on six chairs, while Edward L. Ritz stayed up all night playing poker with three friends since sleep seemed unattainable. They slept in chairs, on the floor and one even spent the night on the piano. Another, who was on duty the next morning, tried to sleep standing up so as not to rumple his whites. “It was a place to get in out of the night,” said Ritz, “but that was about all.”
On the good side, coffee was supplied, and most of the stranded crew were given breakfast by Ralph Levinson at his snack bar, and thus fortified, returned to duty.
Compiled by Alison L. Mead