From the Vineyard Gazette edition of January, 1970:
In the decade just past, Gay Head has become a National Landmark, Cedar Tree Neck has been preserved as a nature sanctuary, Felix Neck a guarded precinct for wildlife, Wasque Point has been saved, Dodger Hole Swamp was a gift to the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation and the Alexander S. Reed Bird Refuge was established.
Chappaquidick and Edgartown achieved zoning, the Seamen’s Bethel not only gained a reprieve from the wrecker’s mallet but along with the reprieve came remodeling, and the Trustees of Reservations acquired 200 acres of Chilmark land and 6,000 feet of shorefront.
President John F. Kennedy, with his family, dropped in for an afternoon swim in 1961, and Miss Helen Keller celebrated her 81st birthday with Miss Katharine Cornell at Chip Chop. In 1962 the Oak Bluffs scalloper, Stanley M. Fisher, hooked the nuclear powered submarine Nautilus in its nets, and in 1966 Benjamin C. Mayhew Jr. became Dukes County representative in the General Court.
Oscar Pease’s Cape Pogue bay scallops graced the White House table in the 1960s, and President Lyndon B. Johnson chatted of the Vineyard with the king of Thailand who visited the Vineyard while still a boy. In the 1960s, the Vineyard — like much of the rest of the Northeast — experienced a blackout, but it was simply taken in stride.
Building aplenty occurred during the 1960s. Vineyard Haven gained a new library, Oak Bluffs a new town hall and town office building, a new St. Augustine’s was built in Vineyard Haven, and the Island’s first cluster development, Waterview Farm, began to grow above Sengekontacket Pond. Everywhere, the Strock Island Properties Inc. seemed to be buying and building, with the Island Country Club and the 1840 Dr. Daniel Fisher house of Edgartown among the purchases.
Edgartown built a new fire station and Oak Bluffs obtained a new wharf, though the latter came about as a result of a late afternoon fire in 1965. Fire fought in seven-degree temperature also burned the Ocean View Hotel in the same town. Another landmark gone with the 1960s from the Oak Bluffs scene was the Tivoli, built in 1907 as the Tivoli Casino, and reputed to have the largest dance floor on the Atlantic. Edgartown’s 41-year-old playhouse, originally called the Elm Theatre after the handsome Main street elms, was a victim of a 1961 fire.
The Steamship Authority got one new boat, the Uncatena, and toyed with obtaining two hydrofoils, though more than 2,000 Vineyarders petitioned against their purchase. One of the longest steamship strikes in Island history occurred, beginning in April, 1960, and continuing to July 1, and Capt. Robert Douglas’s schooner, Shenandoah, first sailed into Island waters.
Long-eared owls were seen on the Vineyard for the first time in 27 years in 1965, and raccoons, opossums and skunks were deliberately added to the Island’s fauna. Dr. George C. Matthiessen of Edgartown received a substantial grant for the study of the Island’s shellfish potential, finding that the level of shellfish production in Dukes County is not consistent with the 10,000 acres of bays and ponds available.
Vineyarders joined freedom marchers in the South in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Edward M. Brooke, an Oak Bluffs summer resident, became the first black to win statewide office in Massachusetts when he became attorney general. In 1961, the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services was founded. In 1967, Gay Head’s “little red schoolhouse,” which once had 50 pupils, closed its doors.
The Island Communication Center was opened to take all emergency calls on a 24-hour a day basis. Memebers of the Camp Meeting Association lost 700 lanterns on Illumination Night, in one of the less pleasant occurrences of the decade. West Tisbury rejected zoning, Chilmark barred house trailers and mobile homes, and the last lightship was removed from Vineyard Sound and a Texas Tower replaced it.
Frank Sinatra’s 168-foot Southern Breeze dropped anchor in Edgartown harbor with Mia Farrow, Claudette Colbert, Merle Oberon, Rosalind Russell and Mr. Sinatra aboard. Additional bulkheads were built to accommodate increasing yachting traffic at Menemsha, a launching ramp was constructed in the Lagoon, the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road was widened.
And at the end of the decade, two major pieces of unfinished business — the inquest into the death of Mary Jo Kopechne when a car driven by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy plunged into Pocha Pond, and the trials of dozens of teenagers arrested for possession and selling of drugs.
Compiled by Alison L. Mead