Edgartown: Old New England Charm


I get up to take my dogs out at 4 am every morning (rest assured, we promptly return to bed once everyone’s rituals are complete), and I’ll tell you, there are few things that make it worthwhile to rise that early, in my bed-loving opinion. One, of course, is the crisp starry sky, in which I can make out Orion and maybe a planet or two (no one is arguing with my planet identification at that hour). But my favorite thing about 4 am is hearing the bell of the Old Whaling Church peal so clearly through the noiseless dark.

I imagine what it must have been like to wait and listen throughout the village for this old stalwart of time-keeping to declare lunch time for the worker bees, and of course, the end of another long work day. For kids, five dongs decreed: it’s time to drop the bicycle and the marbles and the jump rope and come inside for dinner.

When I was little, we had the fire station horn wailing at lunchtime each day, as well as that special code we eagerly waited to hear with our noses pressed to frosty glass windows, watching the snow fall — I believe it was two honks repeated three times that signalled a snow day. And then there were the harrowing honks declaring someone in distress — somewhere, something was on fire, and we had no indication of whether that thing was small or large, brush, car, or God forbid, someone’s house.

Amazing to think of these times before cell phones and Facebook and all of the static and bustle of a future we could hardly imagine. And somehow, we got by.

I remember one day when the fire horn was stuck and rang out incessantly for hours until someone was able to fix it. We walked around all day with our hands over our ears. And a funny story about the Whaling Church bell: several years ago, after the bell was restored and set back to work, a man visiting Edgartown with his wife came into a Town Hall office and requested that the bell be “turned off” at night, because it was affecting his sleep. After some discussion (and perhaps a covert eye-roll or two), it was suggested that the fellow bring his request to the Board of Selectmen, who would meet the following Monday. But he of course would be gone by then. Sorry, bud. Someone needs a lesson in Old New England charm.

Okay, enough reminiscing — we have some business to discuss.

Congratulations go out to Steve Ewing, who will receive the Creative Living Award, established to recognize members of the Vineyard community who embody the spirit of Ruth Bogan, who, in the words of her friend Ruth Redding, was a “gallant woman who loved beauty, who loved the Vineyard and who believed ‘anyone can do anything.’” In addition to having built most of the private docks on the Island, Steve is a conservationist, public servant, family man, and storyteller. He has served on innumerable conservation committees, is a charter member of the MV Scottish Society, and was the first Poet Laureate of Edgartown. Yes, he is also a poet. You may have heard one of his pieces at the opening of the Annual Town Meeting.

The Permanent Endowment Fund for Martha’s Vineyard is pleased to announce that in a ceremony on Thursday, October 16, at 5:30 p.m.at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury, Steve Ewing will be awarded the 2014 Creative Living Award. The public is invited to attend. This will be the 32nd year of the Creative Living Award. The evening will also include a drawing for guests to win the opportunity to award $1,000 to Island nonprofits. This drawing was made possible by the 11 members of the Permanent Endowment Board who donated $1,000 to demonstrate their commitment to fostering philanthropy on the Vineyard. The winner of the drawing will donate their winnings to the Island nonprofit of their choice.

Jerry Muskin and Tom Dresser will give a talk at the MV Museum on Wednesday, October 23, at 5:30 pm on their new book, Music on Martha’s Vineyard, just published by the History Press. The book comprises great stories about the musical history of the Vineyard.

Birthday wishes go out this week to Omar Mohamed and Alex Schweitzer, who celebrate October 16; to Dean Golder, October 17; to Caroline Taylor, October 20; and to Sara Piazza, October 22. Have fun!