Interview by Linsey Lee
Excerpted from “More Vineyard Voices” by Linsey Lee and the Oral History Center of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. More oral histories are available at mvmuseum.org.
When we were still over at Cuttyhunk, my mother read in the paper that there was this flying Santa Claus and he’d drop toys and stuff to the lighthouse kids and stuff for the keepers. So she wrote him and said, “My little girl … would you drop her a doll?” She told me, she says, “We’ve got a flying Santa Claus coming, and he’s going to come over in a plane and throw you a present. He wrote me and said he would bring you a doll.” This was about in November. So every single day, every time I saw a plane, I thought, “Is that it? Is that it?” I’m sure my parents were sorry they told me so early.
When the big day arrived … Cuttyhunk is loaded with boulders on the west end. So he came over and he flew over and he circled and everything, and everybody’s excited. Well, the first package fell in the pond, so my father rowed out and got it. He made another circle, which meant No. 2 was coming down. It landed on the land, but it landed on the boulder. We all waved goodbye to him, got in the house, and in this one package, the one that fell on the rock, was my doll. To top it off, it was a little black doll. I was fascinated. I had never even seen a black person at this time, and here was this little black doll, all broken to pieces. So I cried myself to sleep that night. And Dad said, “Don’t worry, Seamond, I’ll fix it up.”
Well, he wired it back together, and I had this doll for years. I always kept a Band-Aid on its head, it was so broken up and everything. I remember one of the eyeballs fell out, and Dad put one of these little seashells in it and painted an eye on it, and it looked cross-eyed. It was so decrepit, but I loved it because it was a special present.
That was in 1945. The next year we were at West Chop, so he wrote back to Mom and he says, “Don’t worry. I’m going to land this little girl a doll in person.” He got a helicopter and he landed up at Gay Head. Well, every year after that he would come to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. Of course, he came not just for me, but I felt like it was just for me. I look back now, and he did the same thing for the Gay Head kids and they felt it was just for them, which is so wonderful.