At 92, Betty Eddy Lidgerwood's book is about life in the 1950s
Photo by Michelle Williams
When Betty Eddy Lidgerwood first visited Martha's Vineyard in 1958, she joked of leaving civilization the moment she stepped onto the ferry in Woods Hole for the trip to the Vineyard. She and her late husband, Bud Eddy, were building a summer home on the Eddy Farm in Chilmark, though Ms. Eddy knew that she didn't have the makings of a carpenter.
In a letter to her cousin, Eve Snedaker, she wrote, "As you know, my carpentry has been limited to scotch tape and thumb tacks so I've had a lot to learn, and the loss of blood from the saw has been severe. Wall-to-wall gore... and my eye isn't too steady with the hammer, either."
In a newly published book, a compilation of letters written to her cousin, Eve Snedaker, Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood chronicles her younger days in Connecticut, taking care of her family in the 1950s and building a summer home on Martha's Vineyard. At 92, this is Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood's first book.
Through the short, witty notes, Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood provides a glimpse into her life and the interesting experiences she had. The reader learns of the trouble her three daughters and son got into, and the growing number of pets they kept, including two collies, a cat, a crow, a pair of mallards and an alligator named Alice.
In the first letter, dated "Winter 1951," she writes of needing to buy another car. "The roof of my dear old wooden station wagon fell in on the baby this morning as I was cruising jerkily along to the A&P. Luckily, the hood was up on her car-bed." Termites had taken a toll on the car, she explained to her cousin.
For years, the two close cousins corresponded with one another through letters marked with four cent stamps.
In another letter, written in June 1952, Ms. Eddy wrote of attending a "Scotch Foursome at the Golf Club," where attendees dressed in costume.
"For 18 holes I loped around in a velvet-topped, taffeta-bottomed evening dress left over from the war era, with a wool scarf tucked in for a dicky as the front seemed a little scarce for the links. My wig was red, as was the velvet picture hat, complete with ostrich plumes, and along with my club, I carried a fan and beaded bag."
Other members of her group included her late husband, Bud, a doctor and a man dressed as a baby, wearing a diaper and bonnet.
After reading and replying to the letters, Ms. Snedaker stored the yellowing correspondence spanning over a decade in a tuna fish carton in her attic. Decades after the letters were penned, she returned the letters to her cousin, and pressed her to publish them in a book. The book is aptly titled, "Letters from the Attic."
The letters appear in chronological order, beginning in the winter of 1951, and the last letter is marked spring 1961. Between letters, illustrations show the different situations described in words. The drawings were sketched by Kay Harris, a friend from Connecticut whom Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood said encouraged her to write the book years ago.
Eighteen years ago, Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood moved to Chilmark year-round with her husband, Bud, to be closer to their four children and grandchildren. In 1995, Bud died and is buried in the Chilmark Cemetery.
In 2003, she married longtime friend Bill Lidgerwood, whom she met in 1939 before he left to fight in WWII. Mr. Lidgerwood died in 2011. "His death left a huge hole in my 92-year-old life," Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood wrote in the book's epilogue, "but I am very blessed with my children here, my friends, my faithful dog Rufus and cat Oprah."
The stories Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood published in the book are well known to some Island women. For the past nine years, she has been the mistress of ceremonies for the Women's Symposium, a bi-annual meeting for women to share stories. At each event, Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood is known for telling great stories.
Helen Parker, a friend, said the first time she listened to one of Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood's stories, she was captivated. "She just seemed so magical telling the story," Ms. Parker said. "It's rare for someone to be like that."
At this season's Women's Symposium, on May 5, it was announced that Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood's book will be sold on the Island, which prompted several attendees to call for a party. "After hemming and hawing, Bet said it was okay," Ms. Parker said.
On Sunday, friends held a party in her honor, at the home of Ms. Parker and her husband, J.B. Riggs Parker. "She's an amazing, well-loved woman. I'm so glad she finished the book," said Ms. Parker.
At the party, friends and family kissed and congratulated Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood, and purchased copies of her book.
Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood thanked Ms. Parker in her "Author's Note of Explanation," for pushing her to the publisher. Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood also thanked Peggy Freydberg and Beth Tveit.
The book, which was self-published by Ms. Eddy Lidgerwood, was designed by Janet Holladay of Tisbury Printer in Vineyard Haven.
The book can be purchased at Edgartown Books and Bunch of Grapes Bookstore for $19.95.
"Letters from the Attic" by Betty Eddy Lidgerwood. 137 ppg., $19.95. Available at Edgartown Books, and Bunch of Grapes Bookstore.