Sunday, December 4, 2022
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Chris Baer

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This Was Then: Turkey Land

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Former President Barack Obama summers in a quiet part of Edgartown known as Turkeyland (sometimes spelled “Turkey Land”). Edgartonians were long mocked as “Old...

This Was Then: MacNeill’s Grocery

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At the edge of downtown Oak Bluffs, on the corner of Pennacook and Circuit Avenues, stands a building with a long and colorful history:...

This Was Then: Forgotten films

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Obie Tower liked his toys. Basil Welch reminisced about him in a 1982 conversation with my grandfather, Stan Lair, in a recording made about...

This Was Then: The Sanitarium

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Martha’s Vineyard was widely promoted in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a place of healing. The ad-packed 1932 booklet titled “Martha’s Vineyard:...

This Was Then: Pernambuco, Brazil

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The Brazilian state of Pernambuco could be compared geographically to Massachusetts: a small, populous, Atlantic coastal state shaped like a rectangular(ish) slab, sporting 100...

This Was Then: Captain Pound

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It was late in the day on August 27, 1689. Capt. John Kent of Newbury, Mass., was sailing his brig, Merrimack, from New York...

This Was Then: Floods, eclipses, and volcanoes

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An alarming report began to circulate in newspapers across the country during the summer of 1796. “Extraordinary Occurrence” ran the headlines. Under a New...

This Was Then: Heck Benefit

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The first of the two Benefit brothers to arrive on Martha’s Vineyard at the turn of the last century used many names and spellings...

This Was Then: Classes of 1952

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Before the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School opened in 1959, there were three secondary schools on the Island: Edgartown High School, Oak Bluffs High...

This Was Then: Selim Mattar’s Dreamland

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Brothers Selim and Meek Mattar immigrated to the U.S. as teenagers, about 1890. They were natives of the city of Beirut, then part of...

This Was Then: The deerly departed

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As the most recently departed generation of Islanders would have told us, there were no deer on Martha’s Vineyard. “There wasn’t any then,” declared Fanny...

This Was Then: Barnstorming

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Ever since the first hydroplanes landed in Oak Bluffs in 1919, Martha’s Vineyard has had a reputation for bold and sometimes renegade aviators. Teenage...

This Was Then: Captain Cleveland and the wrong cache

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George Cleveland (1871–1925) grew up on Hatch Road in Vineyard Haven, in a neighborhood full of extended family. He attended the old North District...

This Was Then: The 1950 census

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It’s April 1950. The boomers are just babies, and the Atomic Age has arrived. Harry Truman is president, World War II has ended, the...

This Was Then: The gamblers

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Joseph Thaxter, born in Hingham in 1744, grew up sickly and impoverished. He worked on his parents' meager farm until the age of 19,...

This Was Then: The Old County Road

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The Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road dates back to the late 18th century and probably earlier, although not entirely in its modern location.  It was along this...

This Was Then: From islands to Island

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It shouldn’t be a surprise that an island would attract islanders. Many of the families who settled on the Vineyard in the late 1800s...

This Was Then: The Christmas mutiny of 1857

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An empty grave in Edgartown is topped with a stone bearing a remarkable engraving: "Capt. Archibald Mellen Jr.born at Tisbury June 5, 1830, and murdered on...

This Was Then: Old Island cooking

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Want to prepare an authentically old-fashioned Vineyard meal for the holidays? Look no further than the "Island Cook Book," published in 1924 as a fundraiser...

This Was Then: Island Hermits

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Our Island has hidden a lot of hermits and recluses over the years. Some perhaps hiding, some just peculiar, some maybe seeking a little...