Summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. Who couldn’t look at this time as anything but pure relaxation? Warm, fresh, salty air that just cleans out all the other weeks of the year from your lungs. You feel an extra spring in your step as you walk the sidewalks of the towns. There is a slight smile on your face that you just can’t seem to lose everywhere you go. All those other weeks of the year there is regular day-in, day-out time, and then there is Vineyard time, when everything runs just a little bit slower.
This idyllic picture of my life of summer vacations to Martha’s Vineyard has been ongoing for over 45 years, when I saw a different Vineyard. There were many more true vacation cottages around then than you see today. I remember staying in a few of them with my parents and younger brother and sister, and they were always simple places that offered us true memories of a simple vacation.
There were no televisions available in the cottages, so my father packed up our small black and white, mostly so that he wouldn’t miss a Red Sox game. Even in Edgartown, the picture was still grainy, no matter how many times he adjusted the bunny ears on top! Air conditioning? How about a large fan that made a steady whop-whop-whop that actually lulled you to sleep each night. We didn’t mind.
Cell phone? Nope! A rotary dial phone that was actually a party line. No matter how many times it rang we were told not to answer it because it was for someone else. This was kind of tough to understand for an eight year old. The phone is ringing, but don’t answer it. My brother and I mostly followed it!
There was no better sleep than while on vacation. Unless, of course, there was a fire somewhere in the middle of the night. Then the fire horns would start belting out the signal of where the closest fire box was for the firefighters to respond to. It always seemed that the box would be “9-9-9”. Why couldn’t it be “1-1-1” instead? Now you were awake!
Swordfishing boats still plied the waters out of Edgartown, often coming into the wharf with their catch. One time while they were unloading fish after fish onto the scales, my brother found one of the swords just lying on the ground. With quick thought the sword and he were on their way back to the cottage. Unfortunately for him my father didn’t quite share in the excitement of the catch. For one, what do you do with a swordfish tip that still had meat on it? Bury the end in the ground, we were told, and it will be clean when it falls down. We did and it was. It must have been an interesting sight as we drove off-Island with a swordfish tip tied to the bike rack on the front of our station wagon. We still have the sword.
The swordfish were cool, but the big fish we got to know as kids was Bruce. Bruce? You remember, the mechanical shark used in the movie Jaws. He was stored under tarps over at the East Chop Beach Club lot with his other mechanical components. Occasionally we would see them tow one out to the raft that was set up off of State Beach by the Big Bridge. We knew there were no real sharks in the water, but it did make us think. My brother and I thought the Universal Studios trailers lined up along North Water street in Edgartown were amazing. Cables strewn from one truck to the other with people moving about like their lives depended on it. Many years later I found out it did, because they were way over budget and time.
It didn’t take much to make a Vineyard vacation successful and special. You just had to be here. The rest is waiting.
— Tim Morrissey