The Wintertide journey


To the Editor:

It was great to see Wintertide’s name in a headline again in last week’s Times, but really, people, if you aspire to be the Island’s newspaper of record, you’ve got to get your facts right.

Wintertide Coffeehouse did not begin in 1989. Tony Lombardi did not start it. Tony did spearhead Wintertide’s transformation from a winter-only coffeehouse to a year-round venue with a home at Five Corners. That happened in January 1991. Somewhere in the M.V. Times “morgue” is a story that says so. It’s dated January 10, 1991. I know because I wrote it.

When I wrote that story, I had already been a Wintertide volunteer for about five years. I tried to establish Wintertide’s precise birthdate by interviewing several people who’d been involved considerably longer than I had. As far back as the early 1980s memories were pretty consistent. Before it moved to Five Corners, Wintertide took place for several years at the stone church (Christ United Methodist) in Vineyard Haven, two years at the youth hostel in West Tisbury, another year or two at the stone church, and at least one at the Wooden Tent on State Road.

Before that, recollections got vague or contradictory. There were other coffeehouses, ongoing jam sessions, and the West Tisbury “musicales.” Wintertide had grown from that fertile soil, but the group memory couldn’t settle on a definitive date or place for its beginning. My best guess was that January 1991 marked the start of Wintertide’s 12th season, and that’s what my story said.

In that 1991 story, Tony noted that Wintertide was “something we do for ourselves.” The Wintertide I remember was a place where Vineyarders of all ages, old-timers and recent arrivals, came together to entertain ourselves. In the process we learned how to manage the kitchen, run the soundboard, or even perform onstage, whatever needed to be done. In 1991, a permanent home of our own looked like a dream come true. For a few years it was. But that home imposed burdens, not the least of which was high rent, and gradually the focus changed — from fostering creativity and community to generating enough revenue to keep the doors open.

Can the spirit of Wintertide be recreated in a nightclub like Nectar’s or a big nonprofit like the YMCA? Perhaps, but only if it remains connected to its do-it-yourself roots in Vineyard living rooms, church basements, and whatever other spaces can be improvised on this Island of very expensive real estate.

Susanna J. SturgisWest Tisbury