Thursday, January 27, 2022

This Was Then

This Was Then: Roger Amidon, ‘radiophan’

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“Roger Amidon's radio repair shop,” recalled the late John Canha of Vineyard Haven. “Amidon repaired my RCA Victor and GE radios. He was very friendly, pleasant. My first radio experience was at my neighbors’...

This Was Then: Sleeping in

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An old Edgartown record noted something unusual about Mrs. Anna (Pease) Arey (1755-1807) of Chappaquiddick: "She had been confined to her Bed for about 24 years in which Time she had three Sons, (not...

This Was Then: Cold case

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In late July 1810, a body was discovered buried near South Beach. The newly dead man had a straw hat on, lined with green silk. He wore duck trousers and a short jacket. His...

This Was Then: The Cottage City Carnival of 1882

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Please enjoy this encore “This Was Then” column.   Illumination Night in the late 19th century was very different from the laid-back traditions we enjoy today. During the 1870s and ’80s, it took the form of...

This Was Then: Money digging

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In 1833, newspapers around the country reprinted a story from the New Bedford Gazette titled “Money Digging”: “A few days since, three young men on the south side of the Island of Martha’s Vineyard...

This Was Then: The Tashmoo

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Before the great fire of 1883 burned down all of Vineyard Haven, there were two homes on the corner of Main and Church streets where the Cronig block stands today, now occupied by Mikado...

This Was Then: Names, Wood, and dynamite

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It was not uncommon in the 19th century for Vineyard whaling captains to bring home boys from abroad, sometimes informally adopting them, all the while employing them aboard ship. Ramón Insua, an Argentinian boy brought...

This Was Then: Shark!

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About 1840, a Dr. Gale of Holmes Hole found several oversized shark teeth in a roadside excavation in the north part of Chilmark, on the road to Tisbury. The largest was an astonishing 4...

This Was Then: Tut Chase

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Tristram “Tut” Chase (1854–1928) was the last village blacksmith of North Tisbury. Born in Chilmark, his mother died of typhoid fever when he was still an infant. His father, mechanic and wheelwright Alpheus “Alf”...

This Was Then: Electrifying

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Gay Head, today known as Aquinnah, was the last town in the commonwealth of Massachusetts to receive electricity. Up until 1951, there had been a few gasoline-powered generators, like the one powering the town...

This Was Then: Mr. Meara and Mr. Davis

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On the southwest corner of Main and Spring streets in Vineyard Haven stands the old Meara building. It has tales to tell. Sherman Meara, an Irish shoemaker, built it about 1895. Sherman wasn’t his birth...

This Was Then: Cash and counterfeit

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The Coinage Act of 1792 established the U.S. dollar as our country’s official currency, based upon the Spanish milled dollar. But the old system of pounds, shillings, and pence was still used on the...

This Was Then: The linden tree

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The Great Fire of 1883 burned down all of downtown Vineyard Haven — both sides of Main Street and part of Beech Street, more than 40 acres in all. Historian Charles Banks wrote in...

This Was Then: Dr. Orland Mayhew

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If you were born in Vineyard Haven before about 1935, the chances are excellent that you were brought into this world in the company of Dr. Orland Mayhew. The late Stan Lair of Vineyard...

This Was Then: Monsters

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What foul creature peers up from the depths of the basin of our beloved Civil War statue in Oak Bluffs in this late 19th-century photo? Is it a skate? A bull terrier? The back...

This Was Then: Bad beef

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Dairy farmers Jim Adams of Chilmark and Silas Merry of West Tisbury were both worried about the health of their herds in early 1909. They called in Frank Chase of Oak Bluffs, a fellow...

This Was Then: Donkey rides

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Of donkeys, Equus africanus asinus, there are few early records on the Vineyard. It’s not until the late 1800s that references can be found. In an 1881 article titled “Peculiarities of Martha’s Vineyard,” the...

This Was Then: Donkey rides

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Of donkeys, Equus africanus asinus, there are few early records on the Vineyard. It’s not until the late 1800s that references can be found. In an 1881 article titled “Peculiarities of Martha’s Vineyard,” the...

This Was Then: Goat carts and patriarchs

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While not native to the Island, goats have been here for an awfully long time. They are first mentioned in island records in the 1660s, only a few years after cattle, hogs, horses, sheep,...

This Was Then: Bumpus

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Lester “Jack” Bumpus never knew his parents. His father, a harnessmaker at the factory in Vineyard Haven, died of pneumonia at the age of 25, before young Bumpus could even celebrate his first birthday....