From the Vineyard Gazette editions of March 1971:
To most reasonable minds it appears that in the long run the interests of all-year residents and seasonal residents of the Vineyard are nearly identical. If they are not, then the claim of one to an influential and sometimes determining voice in Island affairs seems to be fairly balanced by the claim of the other: Those who are in residence all year round have a sense of possession — they live here; those whose residence is off-Island pay most of the taxes, and they are the mainstay of what is now by far the biggest industry.
Historically the issue was once met when nonresidents were about to contribute the deciding force which would bring about the separation of the town of Cottage City, now Oak Bluffs, from the parent Edgartown.
Some of the nonresidents wondered how they would be treated in the affairs of the new town. How would they be taxed?
The question became so vexed, and at one time seemed likely to obstruct the division movement, that five all-year residents, Samuel Butler, Joseph Dias, Captain Otis Foss, Charles Talbot and Elihu M. Mosher, executed a declaration stipulating “on our good faith as honorable men” that a meeting on nonresident taxpayers and legal voters of the proposed new town would be held each August “at which all matters to be inserted in the warrant and to be acted upon at any future town meeting of said town . . . shall be presented and voted upon, and that the decisions of such meeting shall be carried out and ratified . . . and that especially all questions of appropriation of money shall be submitted to the decision of such meeting . . .”
And Ichabod Norton Luce of Eastville assured the nonresidents, “It shall be as you say, gentleman.” The justice of this sort of participation by nonresident taxpayers was recognized, and partly on the strength of such assurance “on the good faith of honorable men” the bitter campaign for division was pressed and won under nonresident leadership.
For many years meetings of nonresident taxpayers were held each summer; but sometimes the legal voters were inclined one way in August and another way in February. Finally the meetings lapsed altogether. Yet a proper balancing of interests remains one of the essentials of Island life.
Memories have a way of becoming hazy like the horizon on a southwesterly day in summer. And those who could remember may have gone beyond the scriptural age, even beyond that, and finally taken their memories with them from the world now living. Consider, then, a backward look over 35 years — more than a generation — since the great depression of the 1930s.
Thirty-five years ago this month more than a third of the population of Martha’s Vineyard was on some form of relief.
Probably that was just about the zero time. The district office of the ERA — who can translate those initials off-hand? — made a detailed study and set forth the hard circumstances of employment and relief.
The exact percentage for the Island, based on the 1930 census figures, was 36.8 unemployed: 424 families, including 1,770 persons. Single men or women without families brought the total to 1,820.
Most of these were enrolled in projects of the ERA — Emergency Relief Administration — which followed the CWA or Civil Works Administration. The word “project” came into everyone’s vocabulary and has never left the easy usage of popular, official and academic speech. All towns had projects they were trying to get approved.
Now, after 35 years, we have a World War II to look back on, and a war in Vietnam for our everyday anxiety and never-ending tragedy. We live in the age of the atom, of outer space, and of as yet unconquered inflation.
Thirty-five years ago we had little money and needed little; now we have considerable money and need more. Adjustments in living have come, but do they outnumber or outweigh the maladjustments that have also come?
There were intimations of spring this week as the pinkletinks burst forth in their melodious choruses in Edgartown and Vineyard Haven and Lambert’s Cove.
In Edgartown, their bell-like tones delighted householders in the neighborhoods of Sweetened Water Pond and Beetle Swamp on the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road Tuesday night. In Vineyard Haven, on the same night, Mrs. Dixon B. Renear heard their song from the swamp behind her house near the Lagoon. Norman G. Benson reported their notes emanating from the pond in front of his Lambert’s Cove house. The pinkletinks, or spring peepers, perch on weed stems or twigs in swampy areas to do their singing as soon as the first warm breath of spring is in the air.
Compiled by Alison Mead