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Chilmark

On opening day of Pasture Field softball, Greg Sattler, second from left, arrived with his wife Katie and their two sons, Morgan, age 4, and Graham, almost 2 (in his father's arms) to watch his dad, Ted Sattler, far left, play softball. Ted has enjoyed playing every Sunday since 1998, unlike his good friend Mark Friedman, far right, who has been a regular since 1952. – Photo by Valerie Sonnenthal

Let it rain, and rain some more. You may think Sunday’s washout of the Pasture Road softball season opener, postponed from the previous rainy Sunday, is the end of the story, but those plucky folks could not stand to wait a week longer, and gathered on Monday, June 29, for a 4 pm game, under clear blue skies and a perfect 69° with not too strong a breeze. I made my way over, crossing paths with my husband’s return, and took over the leashes, walking Gracie and Zero, not even kicking up dust round the curve and under the trees, serenaded by rising cheers. The field was full, men in baseball hats and mostly red T shirts, family and friends forming a single-view row. I hear this may be the last season for Commissioner Bill Edison, with pipe in hand, who sat alongside his wife Lydia enjoying summer, his baseball friends, and being home in Chilmark. Look for a full story in next week’s Sports section.

Zeke (Paul) Wilkins stepped down as the Tri-Town Ambulance chief last week after four years of service, and many years of serving our community as an EMT. We thank him for bringing the towns together and creating a well-functioning organization that flourished under his kind leadership. Deputy Ben Retmier will be acting chief until a permanent candidate can be sought in the fall. Anyone interested in joining this important Island crew can contact deputychieftta@vineyard.net, or call 508-693-4992.

Join John Hough Jr., author of “The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue,” for a “Dialogue Writing Workshop” on Wednesday, July 8, at 5 pm at the Chilmark library. Whether you are working on a book, play, or screenplay, come and learn how dialogue can reveal a character’s nature as well as his or her defining impulses and emotions. You will learn ways to create tension in every conversation. Thanks to Friends of the Chilmark Library, you can enjoy this and all programs for free. For more information, call 508-645-3360.

All are welcome to join Kristen Maloney on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 10:30 am for “Stories and Songs” at the Chilmark library. Come join in the fun.

Stop by the Granary Gallery to see Chilmark Coffee owner and Town Clerk Jennifer Christy’s new paintings. The Granary represents so many Island artists, living and deceased, that you can journey through different Island times. For information, see granarygallery.com.

The Chilmark Flea is on; come check out the new vendors, and catch up with vendors you know from the past, every Wednesday and Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm.

The Chilmark Community Center is open for the summer with a host of offerings, camp, tennis, and more. For information on everything going on, see chilmarkcommunitycenter.org or call 508-645-9484.

Monday, July 6, from 10 am to 5 pm, the African Artists Community Development Project hosts an African Craft Sale and Puppet Show at 11 am, with the Spindrift Marionettes performing two short African folk tales. It’s for ages 4 and up. Come on over to Grange Hall in West Tisbury and have some fun.

Tuesdays at Chilmark Community Church mean lobster rolls to go, starting at 4:30 pm until 6 pm, and Vineyard Sound singers perform at 8 pm.

Have a safe and Happy Fourth of July, one and all.

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Secret Service visits and air base preparations suggest the Obama family will once again return to the Island in August.

President Barack Obama and daughter Malia ride through the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest in West Tisbury in 2014. – File press pool photo by Ivy Ashe/The Vineyard Gazette

Updated 5 pm, Friday

President Obama and his family will likely return to Martha’s Vineyard this summer, as they have all but one year of his presidency. While there has been no official confirmation yet, months ago the White House began making reservations to accommodate the large entourage of Secret Service agents, White House staffers, and support personnel that are responsible for the safety and success of the president’s vacation, according to reliable sources.

A view of President Obama's vacation getaway at Gosnold's Way in Chilmark. – File photo by Nathaniel Horwitz
A view of President Obama’s vacation getaway at Gosnold’s Way in Chilmark. – File photo by Nathaniel Horwitz

In a presentation last week before the Mashpee board of selectmen, Air National Guard Col. James LeFavor indicated that the commander-in-chief would be flying into Joint Base Cape Cod again this summer, according to a report published in the Cape Cod Times Friday.

“This summer again, we’re still having a visitor to the Cape down on Martha’s Vineyard as we have for a long time, and we will have some sort of fighter alert presence, whether it’s F-15s from the 104th or someone else, so there might be a little bit of air activity that you might hear,” Colonel LeFavor, commander of the 102nd Intelligence Wing at the base, said.

The Cape Cod Times was unable to confirm a presidential visit with base officials or the White House.

At a meeting of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission Thursday, a discussion of the fiscal year 2016 operating budget, which begins July 1, included a reference to the upcoming presidential visit.

Airport manager Sean Flynn said planning is underway for a presidential visit this summer, which will include dedicating staff time and hours in July and August to maintenance around the terminal. “We’re still planning for the presidential visit this summer and we will obviously dedicate a lot of our staff time to that in July and August,” Mr. Flynn said.

An aerial view of 72 Gosnold's Way in Chilmark, where neighbors say President Obama will stay in August. – Photo courtesy of Google Earth.
An aerial view of 72 Gosnold’s Way in Chilmark, where neighbors say President Obama will stay in August. – Photo courtesy of Google Earth.

Last year, the Obamas stayed at the home of Joanne Hubschman on Gosnold’s Way off Prospect Hill Road, which overlooks the north shore and Vineyard Sound. The seven-bedroom, nine-bath, 8,100-square-foot house, sits on a 10-acre lot and features 17 rooms in total, expansive water views of Vineyard Sound, an infinity pool and hot tub, and a dual tennis-basketball court.

Ray and Lillian Kellman, who live in the house next door, said they suspect the Obamas will return to the neighborhood this summer.

“We’ve heard that they’re coming back,” said Mr. Kellman. “They’ve rented houses around here, and they wanted to rent this house for the purpose of the Secret Service. I presume if they rented houses around that they’re going to be here.”

Although he hasn’t heard anything official yet, Mr. Kellman said he was contacted by a real estate agent who told him that his house was one of several being considered for rental to the Secret Service. He said the Hubschman house is the perfect spot for the president and his family, as it is surrounded by conservation land.

“It’s completely private — it’s all reservation down here — which is why it’s so great for him,” Mr. Kellman said. “It’s a very secure area. It has a swimming pool, it has tennis courts, it has everything that you could want right there. And it’s got a rather staggering view.”

After living in their home in Chilmark for 40 years, the Kellmans never thought they would be sharing the neighborhood with a president. They said that besides a few road stops for car checks, the biggest inconvenience was having to provide a list of all their house guests. Last year they forgot to include their gardener and best friends on the list. But by and large, they said, having the Obamas next door didn’t really affect them.

“As far as I was concerned, we were just sorry not to catch a glimpse of him,” Ms. Kellman said.

Mr. Obama and his family have vacationed on the Island every year since his 2008 election, with the exception of 2012, when he was campaigning for re-election. Chilmark is their favored vacation spot.

In 2009, 2010, and 2011, the first family rented Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, a 28.5-acre compound on Tisbury Great Pond. In 2013, the first family rented a house in Chilmark just off South Road. The location necessitated a road closure that left some Island residents grumbling about the inconvenience.

 

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The Chilmark branch hosts its last art opening.

Potluckers enjoy one another's company at Santander's last art opening. – Photos by Emily Drazen.

On Friday, May 29, Santander will close the Chilmark branch of its bank for good. This past Friday, the ladies at Santander, Kim Klaren and Nikki Lou Youngblood (and Carrie Chhibber, who was unable to attend but was there in spirit), threw one last party to say goodbye to the community that they have served for many years. It was an art opening, like they have done so many times, but with 14 artists represented instead of the usual one or two, and this will, of course, be the last one ever, so it was extra-special. The artists displayed included Donald Widdiss, Aquinnah Witham, Joan LeLacheur, Linda Thompson, Hellie Neumann, and Haiti Peace Quilts. There was art, jewelry, quilts and clothes on every wall, table, and nook of the bank. Kim’s office in the back looked more like a bazaar than a bank office.

Aquinnah Witham shows off her brand new Haitian-made necklace, purchased at the opening.  Aquinnah opened her first bank account at this Chilmark branch when she was 14 years old.
Aquinnah Witham shows off her brand new Haitian-made necklace, purchased at the opening. Aquinnah opened her first bank account at this Chilmark branch when she was 14 years old.

While it was a festive and visually rich occasion, it was also tinged with sadness, for the closing will mean the loss of many things, not just a convenient place to bank. The building has been a bank since it opened in the 1960s, and has been holding art exhibits showcasing local artists pretty much since day one. No one could tell me for sure when the first exhibit was; Margaret Maida, who retired 10 years ago after working for the bank for 30 years, said that exhibits were a regular part of the life of the bank when she arrived in the ’70s. Some artists, like Linda Thompson and Lisa Vanderhoop, have had more than 10 shows at the bank. Ms. Vanderhoop told me that for years she did a big Memorial Day show with another artist, Robin Robinson. Lisa’s dad would come from off-Island, and the opening was always special. Many of the exhibits are around the holidays, and people up-Island have come to depend on the bank turning into a craft gallery of sorts, where they can pick up unique gifts for their loved ones, around holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Ms. Vanderhoop said the tellers of the bank were always so gracious, and never took a commission on anything that was sold.

Chris Perleber looks for a quilt that will work in his home.
Chris Perleber looks for a quilt that will work in his home.

Many people came to the party prepared to shop. Ms. Thompson sold a painting, Mr. Widdiss sold two pieces of his beautiful jewelry, and people were scooping up items from Haiti Peace Quilts, and those were just the transactions I witnessed. In between bouts of shopping and munching on hors d’oeuvres, guests got caught up with one another and marveled at how grown-up Ms. Klaren’s 14-year-old daughter Kerry was.

Peace Quilts made by Haitian artists.
Peace Quilts made by Haitian artists.

Ms. Vanderhoop had many colorful words for Santander and what she thought of their decision to close their Chilmark branch: “There’s two in Edgartown; why not close one of those?” Many people at the party talked of changing banks, because it seems as if Santander is indifferent to the needs of its Island customers, and indeed the timing of the closing seems odd. Why close the branch right before the start of the most lucrative season? I’m sure some Santander customer service representatives are going to get irate phone calls from summer people who will be shocked to find that their local bank branch is no more. The closest full-service branch is in Vineyard Haven; although there is an ATM at Up Island Cronig’s, it is frequently out of order. Ms. Maida, the former manager, said, “They’re [Santander] a big corporate bank, and if you ask me they’ll close the other branches. They have no interest in being here on Martha’s Vineyard.”

If what Ms. Maida said turns out to be true, that is very sad, and a loss for us and for the bank as well. We are somewhat sheltered here on the Island from the big corporate takeover that has enveloped countless small businesses across America in the past several years, but this situation shows how devastating it can be to a community when a local business is bought by a larger global company that has no roots in the place it now serves. Ms. Klaren has worked at the bank for 30 years. She was trained at the age of 19 by Ms. Maida at the Oak Bluffs branch, back when it was still Martha’s Vineyard National Bank. Many customers have watched Ms. Klaren and her family grow during her time at the bank, and remember her daughter being born. Ms. Youngblood has been at the bank for four years, and said definitively when I asked her what she would miss most about the bank, “Kim. Kim’s my best friend. And my customers and their dogs. I love the up-Island community.” Ms. Youngblood has already secured a job with a landscape company; Ms. Chhibber has also gotten another job. Ms. Klaren, not quite ready to retire, will be placed at another post within Santander. When I asked her what she would miss most about the Chilmark branch, she said, “The customers.” And we will miss Kim, Nikki Lou, and Carrie as well.

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Voters will be asked to weigh in on a variety of topics, including amending zoning bylaws to allow for accessory apartments.

Menemsha. — File photo by Susan Safford

Chilmark voters will gather in the Chilmark Community Center Monday, April 27, at 7:30 pm to attend to town business in the form of 37 warrant articles and a $8,925,163 operating budget for fiscal year 2016 (FY16).

Voters will be asked to begin the process of replacing the Cross Road fire station, provide a Chilmark Community Center facelift, build a path to Menemsha beach, take land needed to move the Squibnocket beach parking lot and move Squibnocket Road, and amend zoning bylaws to allow for accessory apartments.

On Wednesday, voters will go to the polls from noon to 8 pm to elect town officers. There are no contested elections, but there are two Proposition 2.5 questions to be answered related to expenditures for a new school administration building and the county purchase of the VNA building to house the Center for Living and its programs.

Chairman of the Chilmark board of selectmen Bill Rossi said he does not expect too long of a town meeting, but added a cautionary note: “We’ll see,” he said.

“The largest increase every year is for the school,” Mr. Rossi said. “Most of the other departments are pretty much in line.”

Taut budget

The operating budget will increase from $8,683,954 in FY15 to a proposed $8,925,922 in FY16, which begins on July 1, 2015, just under a 3 percent increase.

Chilmark taxpayers will pay less for education in FY16 than they did in FY15. Total education assessments will drop from $3,292,309 to $3,112,848.

Major departmental increases include the ambulance service expense ($197,508 to $265,062); employee benefits ($989,874 to $1,124,616); and property and liability insurance ($150,500 to $206,809).

The Tri-Town Ambulance increases are attributed to increases in staff and service coverage.

Chilmark voters will be among the last to weigh in on the county-engineered purchase of the VNA building to house the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living and its Supportive Day Program.

The center currently uses borrowed space at the Edgartown and Tisbury Council on Aging buildings, and has been searching unsuccessfully for a new home. The county is asking for $1.6 million to purchase, renovate, and equip the building. Under the county formula, Chilmark taxpayers would kick in about $160,000.

“I think there will be strong support for it, as there has been strong support from other towns — which is good,” Mr. Rossi said.

Chilmark taxpayers will also be asked to exempt the debt payments to help pay the costs of constructing a new school administration building on the grounds of the regional high school.

Mr. Rossi thinks there will be much discussion surrounding the proposal and the associated costs. Tisbury and Edgartown voters approved the expenditure. West Tisbury voters said no.

Squibnocket Road

In December, the Chilmark town committee on Squibnocket charged with finding a solution on how best to restore Squibnocket Beach and provide access to the Squibnocket Farm subdivision in the face of increasing storm damage and sea-level rise proposed the construction of a low, one-lane causeway set back from the shoreline, and parking along the road that leads to the popular beach.

The plan calls for removal of the current boulder revetment and beach parking lot, to allow the shoreline to return to its natural state.

The solution, hammered out over months of discussions with opposing camps, requires the town to acquire two small privately owned parcels of land, abutting the town parking lot and Squibnocket Pond.

Two articles pertain to the lots in question. “I’m hoping to get some good news on the articles for the Squibnocket lots,” said Mr. Rossi.

Mr. Rossi told The Times the articles would act as placeholders, as negotiations with the property owners are 98 percent completed. Mr. Rossi hopes to make an announcement at the annual town meeting.

The two lots in question are the Harold Pratt and Thomas Bator property and the Anthony Orphanos and Wendy Jeffers property. “We were also approved last special town meeting to acquire additional pond-front beach,” said Mr. Rossi. “We’re hoping to have a couple of deals done and one signed up.”

Apartment bylaw

The article expected to generate the most discussion on the town floor would amend the zoning bylaws to allow for accessory apartments. Mr. Rossi said informational meetings were rather poorly attended, which will put the burden of explaining the changes on town officials on town meeting floor.

“It is going to take a little explaining for people to understand what we are trying to do,” said Mr. Rossi. The accessory apartments create affordable housing for those who are eligible, and also create situations where people can have caregivers living on the property so the owner can stay in his or her home.

“This has been important to the housing committee this winter, and there has been a lot of work done,” said Mr. Rossi.

“There seems to be some concern about the character of the town and density, versus the need for affordable housing opportunities,” Mr. Rossi told The Times. “I support it personally. I think it’s a good idea, and I don’t think we are going to be inundated with requests to construct accessory buildings.”

The change would provide affordable housing for an immediate family member or provide living space for a caregiver.

Spending requests

Chilmark voters will be asked to spend taxpayer money on numerous projects.

Voters will be asked to spend $40,000 to fund the initial design of a new firehouse.

“We really should be thinking of having a long-term solution that is suitable for the fire department for the next 50 to 100 years,” Mr. Rossi said. “The facilities that are in place now are in disrepair.”

Voters will be asked to place $100,000 in the highway stabilization fund. “I personally hope they get on a mile-a-year plan,” said Mr. Rossi. “We’ve kind of gotten off that program.”

Two items pertaining to Menemsha Harbor will be up for discussion. Voters will be asked to spend $10,000 to build a walking path along Basin Road from the comfort station to the beach, and spend $30,000 to replace pilings in the harbor.

“I think it’s a very subtle change to Menemsha,” Mr. Rossi said, “and that’s the biggest concern whenever you talk about Menemsha, is what degree of change is being proposed.”

Mr. Rossi said he has heard many positive comments regarding the potential new walking path from local folks who frequent Menemsha. “There needs to be somewhere to walk other than the road,” he said. “Something’s got to give.”

Voters will also be asked to spend about $70,000 to reshingle the Chilmark Community Center roof and renovate the entrance.

“It’s needed,” said Mr. Rossi.

On Sunday, Thimble Farm showed visitors how to cultivate mushrooms. Matt Dix of North Tabor Farms holds a bag of mushroom spores in sawdust while explaining how to fill holes he had drilled in the oak cutting. – Photos by Valerie Sonnenthal

Driving life is silenced by the primal pinkletinks calling. I stop my car at the side of the road, press the button to open my window wide, and sit listening in the fading light. Yes, they sing, spring is finally here. I stopped to get gas at the Menemsha Texaco station the other day, and remarked that I could hardly believe gas was now steadily below $3, actually $2.79 on the day of purchase (20 cents cheaper than most places on-Island). Marshall Carroll remarked, “It’s been so long, I had to get the manual out to change the number on the pump.” The jetty work in Menemsha is in full swung, and is expected to be done by May 21.

Mushroom blooms from an oak. It takes a year after innoculating the wood before blooms will grow.
Mushroom blooms from an oak. It takes a year after innoculating the wood before blooms will grow.

I loved spending Sunday morning at Thimble Farm learning how to cultivate mushrooms. I wasn’t the only gal from Chilmark, either; Laurisa Rich and Jessica Roddy also got into the ‘shroom groove. Thanks to Dan Sauer of 7a Foods, Kevin Brennan and Zach Dowd of Thimble Farm, and Matthew Dix from North Tabor Farm for sharing your know-how. And if you want to start on your own, they recommended Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation by Tradd Cotter for everything you need to know.

Please let veterans and their families know they receive free admission at Native Earth Teaching Farm. When cooking dinner most nights this week, I was surprised to hear the wonderful WCAI interview with Rebecca Gilbert about Cayuga ducks. If you missed meeting them last fall at the Ag Hall, give a listen here: capeandislands.org/post/vineyard-farmer-revives-rare-duck-breed, or pay a visit to Native Earth Teaching Farm on North Road.

Linda Thompson’s landscapes and other paintings are up at the Chilmark library; come and join her for a reception on Saturday, April 18, from 3:30 to 5 pm. Her works are inspired by Chilmark, Aquinnah, West Tisbury, and the Allen Sheep Farm. If you are interested in purchasing work or have questions, Linda can be reached at 508-645-9085 or londonthompsonmv@gmail.com. Linda also has a painting in the current show at Featherstone curated by Chilmarker Marianne Goldberg of Pathways Projects.

Another Chilmark painter, Gloria Burkin, opened a show at the West Tisbury library on Thursday, April 2, which will be on display throughout the month. Gloria “draws inspiration from the natural and sensual beauty of the Island. She enjoys painting the changing seasons, as the delicate spring palate deepens into the lush greens and yellows of summer, and then ripens into the earthy reds of fall.” Visit gloriaburkin.com for more info and to see examples of her work. This exhibit is free and open to the public.

Wampum artist Joan LeLacheur holds an open studio showcasing her jewelry and mosaic tiles, while Aquinnah Witham offers vibrant Vietnamese silk imports, on Saturday, April 18, from 10 am to 5 pm, at 42 Old South Road in Aquinnah. For more information, call 508-645-9954 or email Joanlela57@gmail.com.

Chilmark poets John Maloney, Donald Nitchie, and Susan Puciul will read their work Wednesday, April 22, at 5 pm at the Chilmark library; the reading is free.

On Thursday, April 23, Pathways Projects hosts an evening of screenings including Ken Wentworth and Liz Witham’s The Story of Seeds, in case you missed that at the film festival last month. The films begin at 7 pm. For more information call 508-645-9098.

Chilmark Chocolates is now closed through April 30. Wishing all Island families a happy spring break next week. And I wish Jessica Roddy and her family peace of heart as they support one another after the passing of Jessica’s mother.

 

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Shellfishing limitations for final days of season also addressed.

Selectman Warren Doty, Chairman Bill Rossi, and Selectman Jonathan Mayhew discuss the Aquinnah town-line shellfishing issue. – Photo by Edie Prescott

Chilmark selectmen made quick work of a light agenda Tuesday. Selectmen reviewed an initial report from the public safety building committee, approved three fundraising events, and adjusted the shellfishing boundaries in Menemsha Pond for the remainder of the scallop season before going into executive session to discuss land acquisition.

Selectmen reviewed a report by the Public Safety Building Site Committee, headed by Andy Goldman, to find a replacement site for the current ambulance garage and fire house. The committee said that two acres or less of land is needed, depending on the building configuration, and that a town center location is ideal, based on review of call data over the past several years.

The plan is to build a facility to house the Chilmark fire department and Tri-Town Ambulance with the possibility of later adding a module for the Chilmark police department. The current estimate calls for a 12,625-square-foot building, at a cost of $3,057,500 to $3,787,500. Selectmen want to see more detail about how these numbers add up.

“Two acres is a big space,” Selectman Warren Doty said. “If the suggestion is that this be in the Beetlebung Corner area, then looking at options for multiple use, especially parking, is useful. You need an open area to do drills, but when you are not doing the drills, can it be used for event parking?”

There is a $40,000 line item on the annual warrant, scheduled for April 27, to fund the planning and design of a new public safety building. If the town passes this item, the committee would issue a request for proposals to take initial steps to further develop plans for a new facility.

In other business, Selectman Jonathan Mayhew asked that, because ice had removed the poles that marked the boundaries in Menemsha Pond, that there be no shellfishing west of the channel for the remainder of the season. The motion was approved.

“There’s been somewhat of a brouhaha that Chilmarkers are going across the line into Aquinnah,” Mr. Mayhew said. Activity will remain near the Nashaquitsa Pond area.

Selectmen also approved three fundraising events. “Party by the Pond” would benefit the Joy Flanders Scholarship Fund. The event is scheduled for July 25 at the Chilmark Chocolates field. The goal is to raise $20,000 over five years to help a student train in the field of special education. Ms. Flanders spent much time with her children near the pond and Chilmark Chocolates, which employs people with disabilities.

“I don’t think anyone could ever forget Joy,” Chairman Bill Rossi said. “She was always a happy person.”

Selectmen also approved an event on May 24 to honor Chilmark resident and poet Peggy Freydberg, who died three weeks after her 107 birthday on March 27, and the “Bike MS: Ride the Vineyard” event on May 2, sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club.

Lastly, Mr. Rossi updated the Nab’s Corner affordable-housing project: “At the end of the day, the cost of the project is still under budget.” This includes the extra money spent on a separate conduit, which was installed and inspected last week.

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AKA the bicycle man, Mr. Anderson helped create a wall of protection against nuclear threat, starting with Chilmark's Peaked Hill.

Bill Anderson helped protect our shores from Cold War threats. – Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Sixty-nine years ago this month, in 1946 in the Westminster College gymnasium in Fulton, Mo., Sir Winston Churchill warned about encroaching Soviet totalitarianism in Europe in what has became known as “the Iron Curtain speech.” Many historians say that the Cold War began that day. In the decades that followed, legions of Americans — both in and out of uniform — used their skills in technology and intelligence to erect a wall of vigilance and protection that would prevent either side of the Iron Curtain from triggering nuclear conflict.

Bill Anderson (third row, second from left) graduated from an Electronic Fundamentals course with the Air Force in May 1955. – Courtesy Bill Anderson.
Bill Anderson (third row, second from left) graduated from an Electronic Fundamentals course with the Air Force in May 1955. – Courtesy Bill Anderson.

Oak Bluffs resident Bill Anderson, known to many as the man who runs Anderson’s Bike Rentals on the harbor, was a radar technician working in Europe — and in Chilmark — to help protect us. He recently shared his Cold War memories with The Times. When Bill was 14, he said, he lost his father to a heart attack; after high school graduation in 1954, he could have avoided the draft by claiming he was needed at home in Grand Haven, Mich. But he felt a sense of duty, he said, and he wanted to see the world. A boss on a summer job suggested the Air Force, where he might get specialized training that would be useful in a future career. At basic training, he signed up for radar training. “I picked radar because I was good in math,” he said. “Plus, it was interesting because it was fairly new at the time,” he said.

He scored so well on his tests that the Air Force sent him to Biloxi, Miss., where he trained at Keesler AFB, and he said, squeezed four years of training into nine months, graduating at the top of his class in repairing ground radar.

His superiors took note and sent Bill to Hanscom AFB in Bedford, where his security clearance was boosted from Confidential to Secret. They told him that, as part of a special research project being conducted by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, he would be going to an island with a “gap radar site,” a type of radar installation that covered low-altitude holes between the coverage of other radar sites — holes a plane or missile might exploit.

Bill Anderson in Venice.
Bill Anderson in Venice.

“Now, I’m 19 years old. First thing when somebody mentions an island to you, you think of palm trees and girls with grass skirts,” he said. “I’d never heard of Martha’s Vineyard before. I didn’t know what it was.”

He came to the Vineyard as a corporal, replacing an outgoing staff sergeant in what was a decidedly un-Polynesian environment atop Peaked Hill in Chilmark.

“Bill Anderson was my replacement,” said Oak Bluffs Wastewater Commissioner Bob Iadicicco in a telephone interview, adding that the few days he and Bill were together on Island before Bob went off to college in Philadelphia were sufficient to spark a friendship.

“Bill’s still a good friend,” he said.

SAGE operation atop Peaked Hill, Chilmark, circa 1961. –Courtesy the Online Air Defense Radio Museum
SAGE operation atop Peaked Hill, Chilmark, circa 1961. –Courtesy the Online Air Defense Radar Museum

Bill spent the next two years working on Peaked Hill in a pair of drab trailers. One housed the radar equipment, the other a handmade computer and a device he likened to a primitive fax machine. Both relayed information to civilian overseers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory for a research project known as the Cape Cod System, the prototype for a radar-based integrated defense system called SAGE (an acronym of semi-automatic ground environment;see sidebar) which would eventually become a key defense system for U.S. airspace.

Bill and the other airmen on Peaked Hill lived in a cottage atop the hill, bought their own groceries and cooked their own meals, preferring, as Bill recalls, First National to Cronig’s because of the cheaper prices. Their shifts ran from 8 am to 4:30 pm, with nights free.

In 1955 Bill went home for Christmas, and his older sister asked if he’d met any girls. He said he “hadn’t seen any good-looking girls on Martha’s Vineyard.”

Bill spotted his future wife, Maureen (center), when the Oak Bluffs High School cheerleaders took the floor in 1955.–Photo courtesy Bill Anderson
Bill spotted his future wife, Maureen (center), when the Oak Bluffs High School cheerleaders took the floor in 1955.–Photo courtesy Bill Anderson

When he returned from vacation, he attended a basketball game at Oak Bluffs High School. The cheerleaders took the floor, and one of them caught his eye. “That’s a good-looking cheerleader,” he said of Maureen Fisher, a girl from Vineyard Avenue.

“You just saw me and it was over,” Maureen Anderson recently said to her husband during a visit with a Times reporter.

Bill grew up near Lake Michigan, was Dutch Reform, of Swedish-Dutch descent, and was used to going to church three times on Sunday back home. Maureen grew up near Vineyard Sound, was Catholic, of English-Portuguese descent, and “went off to confession on Saturday morning and Mass on Sunday,” Maureen said, and added, “I’m a Democrat, he’s a Republican.”

Evidently, it was a balanced equation. By 1956, they’d married in Our Lady Star of the Sea in Oak Bluffs. Soon after that he got a transfer order to Italy.

With his wife back on the Vineyard, Bill reluctantly traveled to Manhattan Air Force Station in Brooklyn, en route to Europe. After a hard-to-follow series of train rides across the continent, including through neutral Switzerland, Bill and his companions found themselves in Udine, Italy, where they would be stationed.

“It was a funny thing going through the Italian towns. They were built like Vineyard Haven. They had one main road and the buildings were right up on the street,” he said. As they passed by, people would gather along the road to watch as the trucks downshifted, then backfired, creating reports that sounded like gunfire. “The echoes off the buildings were tremendous,” he said. In the five months he spent in Italy, he wrote his wife almost daily.

scan_1_turkeyBy the time Bill moved on to his next post in Adana, Turkey, his security clearance had been upgraded to Top Secret. He soon found himself in a room with the other radar personnel he’d flown in with.

“A full bird colonel came along and said, ‘We have something you never saw in your life and we don’t talk about it, so we’re not talking about it.’”

The first morning in Turkey his roll call took place next to the flight line. He saw a glider-like plane that made a funny engine noise take off and ascend at an unusually steep angle.

“It took us about one minute to figure out that was what we were told we don’t talk about.”

Unbeknownst to Bill Anderson, he’d arrived at one of the most secret places in the world, the home of Detachment B, a unit of the CIA’s U-2 spy plane program. Furthermore, he’d arrived in the midst of Operation Soft Touch, a series of reconnaissance overflights described in declassified material from the Agency’s Center for the Study of Intelligence as “the high water mark of U-2 operations against the Soviet Union.”

“The guys guarding the hangers that the U-2s were in weren’t U.S. soldiers. They were Turkish soldiers,” he said. He was told that “you better not goof with these Turkish soldiers, because they shoot first and ask questions later.”

– Photo by Lynn Christoffers
– Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Along with 15 other airmen, Bill helped secure the airspace around the base by setting up a long-range radar system. Some mornings, Bill and his friend Jim Stockwell would test the radar and found themselves inadvertently tracking U-2s after takeoff. But because the planes climbed to extraordinary altitudes, they would vanish off the scopes.

There were other unusual happenings. “I saw civilians walking around with sidearms, and you don’t see that on a military base,” he remembered. In retrospect, he assumed those were the pilots — any one of whom may have been Francis Gary Powers, the pilot whose U-2 was later shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. Mr. Powers reportedly flew regularly from Adana.

Bill spent 40 days in Adana, a place he said was so dry, electrical grounding rods disappeared into the earth when hammered down, unless he soaked the ground first. “There wasn’t a green thing in sight,” he said.

He was glad when he was finally able to ship out, but not so glad that he would be leaving in a Fairchild C-119, nicknamed by servicemen “flying boxcars.” After cramming in as much sightseeing as he could during an overnight layover in Athens, he departed for Rome. He sat next to a lieutenant and, oddly enough, a “hound dog” that was apparently somebody’s pet. Bill immediately fell asleep. Somewhere near Rome, Bill awoke to a storm. He was told that turbulence was expected and to put on his safety belt. He already wore a life jacket and parachute.The plane suddenly dropped.

“When we started to fall, I was watching that dog up on the ceiling,” he remembered.

The lieutenant next to him had opted not to buckle himself in. “His backside was over my head. He was holding on to the bar [of the seat] or he would’ve been up on the ceiling.”

Somebody yelled that there was fuel leaking.

“I always said to myself I would never jump out of an aircraft. But right then I would have jumped. I was so damned scared it wasn’t funny.”

The plane recovered, as did the dog. Bill discovered later they had dropped thousands of feet. The fuel leak was storm-driven rainwater that had penetrated the fuselage.

Bill served a brief spell back in Udine, where the Air Force closed down its base, then new orders sent him to Wheelus AFB in Tripoli.

Unlike Turkey, “There were a couple green things in Libya. But not much,” he said. He couldn’t understand what he was doing at a “big base” that already had a radar site and a complement of radar techs. But after a bus brought him and his friend Jim Stockwell to a storage area full of portable radar equipment, he knew why he was there.

The lieutenant in charge of the portable radar told him he had 24 hours to assemble a portable radar site. There was a truck waiting on the runway, and 40 men scrounged from across the base. Bill and the assembled crew began building the radar at 10 am and by around 8 pm, the work was “95 percent” done.

A review of high-level officers, including three or four generals, came to watch the last phases of assembly.

“They were impressed with what was going on,” Bill remembered.

Bill and Jim Stockwell, however, were not. A master sergeant had taken the opportunity to steal the thunder from Bill’s crew and execute the finishing touches to the portable radar site himself. But the sergeant had attached the antenna upside down. The lieutenant examined the mistake and asked Bill, Jim Stockwell, and another tech to fix it. Two days later, the lieutenant was promoted for having spotted and rectified the mistake. He shared the wealth, so to speak, with Bill and his two colleagues, asking them what they might want.

Bill had just received a telegram from Martha’s Vineyard announcing the birth of his daughter Kate, the first of his four children. Bill asked for leave back to Massachusetts. The lieutenant furnished him with a “very rare” 30-day leave.

His journey was far from easy, but he managed to hop a Lockheed C-121 Constellation out of Tripoli and via Morocco, the Azores, and Bermuda, fly to South Carolina. From there, a train and another plane got him to the Vineyard on Halloween, where he entered his mother-in-law’s house and there, in his wife’s arms, was his baby daughter Kristen, who upon seeing a stranger in uniform, started bawling.

A month later, Bill returned to Tripoli. His lieutenant offered him staff sergeant stripes and $6,000 to re-enlist — more money than he believed most people made on Martha’s Vineyard in a year at that time. It was 1958. With a wife and a baby at home, he opted to take advantage of a military reduction program offered by the Eisenhower administration, and he bowed out from active duty.

He returned to the Vineyard, and he and his wife bought a house on Oak Bluffs Harbor. Bill worked at Alley’s TV in Oak Bluffs for a year, then for five years at Brook Carter’s Electrical in Vineyard Haven. He went on to work for the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard from 1965 to 1985, and while working there, also opened a successful bicycle business at his home in 1971. He worked in that business full-time after his shipyard days.

Bill and Maureen Anderson have been married for 58 years. During that time, he’s frequently reflected on his Air Force days, and sometimes on the terrible realities of the era he served in.

“Back of my mind I knew we could be at war tomorrow. They had nuclear missiles, nuclear bombs. We had the same thing. Maybe the world wouldn’t be here [tomorrow].”

Bill’s grandson, also Bill Anderson, called him up last Veteran’s Day and acknowledged his grandfather’s service in the Air Force. “On Veteran’s Day he called me up and said, ‘Hey Pop, thanks for being a veteran.’” Bill said, “Nobody ever called me up and said that to me in all my life.”

SAGE: Radar on Chilmark’s Peaked Hill protected America in the Cold War

Bill worked on the SAGE operation in Chilmark. –Courtesy the Online Air Defense Radio Museum
Bill worked on the SAGE operation in Chilmark. –Courtesy the Online Air Defense Radar Museum

As a portable gap-filler radar site, the top of Peaked Hill in Chilmark was one of several locations around Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket that not only served as research locations for the development of Cold War–era aerial security, but became fixed radar positions providing surveillance for SAGE (semi-automatic ground environment), a sophisticated defense system that guarded U.S. airspace against attacks by the Soviet Union.

Born from military-funded research conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, SAGE was a necessary evolution in aerial tracking, according to Tom Page, historian for the Online Air-Defense Radar Museum.

“When the computer-based SAGE command-and-control system was first developed in the 1950s, it replaced a manual system of humans plotting aircraft tracks on Plexiglas boards,” he said in an email to The Times. “The aircraft-track information was called in to a region direction center by telephone from various remote radar stations, and from ground observer corps (GOC) members with binoculars. As the amount of air traffic increased, this manual system was quickly becoming overwhelmed. Given that the perceived prime threat in the 1950s was manned bombers carrying thermonuclear weapons, the manual aircraft control and warning (AC&W) system was unacceptable.”

Developing and implementing a new system, however, was nothing short of a colossal undertaking.

“The scope of the SAGE Air Defense System as it evolved from its inception in 1951 to its full deployment in 1963,” states MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory web site [ll.mit.edu/], “was enormous. The cost of the project, both in funding and the number of military, civilian, and contractor personnel involved, exceeded that of the Manhattan Project.”

“Early development included the 1953 and 1954 Cape Cod Systems,” Mr. Page said, “and the Experimental SAGE Subsector (ESS) in 1955. The ESS direction center was constructed at MIT Lincoln Lab (adjacent to Hanscom AFB), and several remote radar stations (both long-range and gap-filler) were deployed mainly around southern New England. One of the ESS gap-filler radar sites … was built atop Peaked Hill on Martha’s Vineyard, at the site of the U.S. Army’s former World War II air warning system radar site, AWS No. 6. Later, circa 1956, the U.S. Air Force would build a ‘permanent’ gap-filler radar facility adjacent to the ESS site on Peaked Hill, and named it the “Chilmark Gap-Filler Annex.” This GFA radar reportedly became fully operational in June 1957, and continued in service until June 1968.”

While Bill Anderson was on duty at the portable gap-filler site atop Peaked Hill, he witnessed the construction of the permanent site next door. Late Islander Bob Chapman, a longtime telephone company engineer, worked on and monitored aspects of that permanent site. In a 2002, in an interview conducted by Oral History Curator Linsey Lee for the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, he recalled that the radar equipment for that site was built by the Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Co. Bill Anderson recalled that at least one component, a type of computer, was made by the Singer Manufacturing Co.

Better coverage was the reason for gap-filling radars, according to the Lincoln Laboratory web site.

“A long-range AN/FPS-3 radar, the workhorse of the operational air defense net, was installed at South Truro, Mass., near the tip of Cape Cod, and equipped with an improved digital radar relay. Less powerful radars, known as gap fillers, were installed to enhance the coverage provided by the long-range system. Because near-total coverage was required, the beams of the radars in the network had to overlap, meaning that the radars could be separated by no more than 25 miles.”

In his interview with Linsey Lee, Mr. Chapman elaborated on why Chilmark needed enhanced radar coverage.

“The main radar in Truro had one little problem it could not do,” he said. “It had a blank spot in back of the Island up Chilmark and back of Menemsha. They got nothing out of there. They’d sweep around, come to there, nothing. Blank spot. And that’s because of the hill … They built what they called a gap-filler and that’s just what it was. It was to fill in this blank gap, and they put a radar up there to sweep and search.”

Tim Jones, public affairs manager for the Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS), said in an email to The Times that “[SAGE] was the first large computer network to provide man-machine interaction in real time. The system was gigantic by today’s standards. The AN/FSQ-7 computer system [developed by IBM], for instance, weighed 250 tons and occupied an acre of floor space.”

“SAGE and its successors played an important role in keeping the peace,” said Columbia University professor of international affairs Dr. Robert Jervis in an email to The Times. “Not only did they discourage the U.S.S.R. from attacking, but by giving American leaders confidence that they could not be taken by surprise by a Soviet strike, they decreased the pressures for an American preventive war.”

“The Joint Surveillance System (JSS), a joint United States Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration system, replaced SAGE in 1983,” Major Beth Smith, NORAD’s chief of media operations, told The Times in an email.

To learn more about radar history, visit radomes.org.

To see an excellent video about SAGE: ll.mit.edu/about/History/SAGEairdefensesystem.html

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Santander Bank eyed for town purchase.

Chilmark selectmen did double duty Tuesday night. Left to right: Selectmen Warren Doty, Bill Rossi, Jonathan Mayhew, and town administrator Tim Carroll. – Photo by Edie Prescott

On an Irish Tuesday evening, Chilmark selectmen celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day in multiple meetings that kept them busy well past 9 pm. By the end of the night they had concluded a joint meeting with the finance advisory board, approved a single tax rate, and signed off on the annual town meeting warrant and a fiscal year 2016 operating budget of $8,925,163.

The FinCom meeting included a presentation by school officials on the proposed $3.9 million bond that will be used to pay for a new public schools administrative building, to be relocated from Pine Street in Vineyard Haven to the Regional High School’s property. Superintendent James Weiss and school committee member Robert Lionette were present to discuss the issue with selectmen and FinCom members. Asked why a new administrative building would take precedence over greatly needed repairs to the high school, school officials said that Principal Gil Traverso and the high school team need more time to get a plan of action together to identify the needs. Mr. Lionette said that numbers will begin to surface in September. Asked if the price tag for high school repairs will be in the millions, Mr. Weiss said, “It’s a large nut to crack.”

Also Tuesday night, selectmen held a public hearing on the tax classification for fiscal year 2015. Assistant tax assessor Pam Bunker told selectmen that the town’s total value had dropped slightly from $3,138,733,776 for fiscal year 2014 (with an average assessment of $1,381,000) to $3,114,795,690 for fiscal year 2015 (with an average assessment of $1,373,000).

Ms. Bunker explained that there were many fluctuations, and that every property was visited. She cited three main factors for the change. First, some properties that were listed as having expansive water views actually had small water views, moving them into a lower water-view category. The opposite was also true, with small water views that turned out to be expansivewater views. Second, undevelopable land is now taxed at the same rate whether it is located in the woods or on a pond. And replacement values for structures were low, and were corrected to bring them into line. “It’s a huge, substantial difference when someone has not improved their building and their assessment jumps $500,000,” Ms. Bunker told selectmen.

“It sounds like the biggest decrease in value is from the different classifications of water views, which a substantial amount of that money comes from,” Chairman Bill Rossi said. Ms. Bunker agreed.

The proposed tax rate is $2.63 per $1,000 of value, an increase from $2.48 per $1,000 of value.  “The tax rate increased because of the town’s additional spending with the budget as well as the value of the entire town going down by less than 1 percent,” Ms. Bunker told The Times.

Selectmen then shifted to a lengthy review of the draft annual town meeting 39-article warrant. These included an amendment to the zoning bylaws to allow for accessory apartments, and a long-talked-about facelift for the Community Center.

Discussion of a new fire station raised the possibility of a town purchase of the Santander Bank building near Beetlebung Corner. “We have interest, and will be trying to acquire that property,” Mr. Rossi said.

Selectmen signed off on the warrant.

“Well, we spent $9 million,” Selectman Warren Doty exclaimed at the close of the meeting.

A long life filled with family, poetry, and oysters.

Family and friends surrounded Peggy Freydberg on her 107th birthday on March 6. From left (in dark blue): Emily Sloan (granddaughter), Naomi Kulp (child), Wendy Marzbanian (light blue, with cake), Tamara Sloan (granddaughter), Peggy Freydberg. – Courtesy Tamara Sloan.

On March 6, Margaret (Peggy) Freydberg turned 107 years old. She celebrated at home in Chilmark, surrounded by children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and friends. Ms. Freydberg had injured herself in the weeks before, and was still recovering, said her granddaughter Tamara Sloan in an email to The Times. “So, her birthday,” Ms. Sloan wrote, “was a mixture of something she dreaded and something she looked forward to. She joked about how she might not survive it. Death, as you can imagine, is very present for her.”

One of two cakes Ms. Freydburg enjoyed at her party. – Photo by Tamara Sloan
One of two cakes Ms. Freydburg enjoyed at her party. – Photo by Tamara Sloan

Ms. Sloan said that her own children, however, believe that their great-grandmother is immortal: “My littlest, Naomi (9), says ‘she’s kind of fancy, like she says “Dahling” and eats oysters on Friday.’ My middle boy, Macalistair, reflected, ‘Imagine living through both World Wars!’”

Chilmark writer Nancy Aronie, who has helped Ms. Freydberg share the poetry she began writing 15 years ago, attended the party, and reported that Ms. Freydburg was busy eating oysters when she arrived.

“Gran said it was a wonderful party,” said Ms. Sloan. “She blew out all of her candles on the two cakes, and then later that night, she slept for hours.

“I’ve had a long and wonderful life,” Ms. Freydberg said to Ms. Sloan at the end of the weekend.

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Chilmark selectmen have initiated negotiations authorized by voters at a Feb. 2 special town meeting to implement a plan to replace the storm-damaged parking lot and the access road to the Squibnocket Farm subdivision, they reported at their regular Tuesday meeting.

Voters authorized the board to negotiate rights to a new stretch of beach, and to acquire two small lots necessary to create new parking and a new access road, and approved up to $750,000 for the two acquisitions.

“Our goal is to get a quick lease executed and have all agreements in place,” said Chairman Bill Rossi. “It is important so everyone can move ahead with some level of confidence.”

Selectmen scheduled an executive session for 11 am on Wednesday, Feb. 4, to discuss the beach negotiation and the lot acquisitions.

“How do you determine the amount of money that you spend?” asked Squibnocket Farm Homeowners Association member Rosalie Hornblower.

“We’ve had a very informal relationship that has worked extremely well,” said selectman Warren Doty. “I don’t know that the informal arrangement will continue for the next 20 years, so I’d like to see if we can come up with a formal arrangement that gives town residents the right to walk along that beach for the next 100 years.”

In other business, Vineyard Transit Authority administrator Angela Grant spoke to selectmen about summer bus routes.

“Last summer the town implemented the Menemsha Sunset Bus, and that worked very well for a first year of service,” Ms. Grant told The Times. “There’s no real issue there other than we need to do a better job collectively of marketing it.”

Selectmen also discussed distribution of individual temporary beach permits to local inns for their guests. The town beach committee is reevaluating that policy, which began in 2011, and which sharply reduced bus ridership.

“Some guests have been coming for 20 years, and they know they are way out in Menemsha and they bring their cars,” said Joel Sheveck of the Beach Plum Inn. “We really depend as an inn for people to be able to get to the beach.”

Selectmen praised all involved in the successful cleanup of the recent snowstorm, and saluted NSTAR for virtually no loss of electricity service.