After reading Tom Dunlop’s interesting story in last Friday’s Gazette about the early post-war means of getting to and from the Vineyard by boat, I was transported back to my own experience in getting here in 1946 and 1947. I remember my first trip was from the port of New Bedford, but I remember vividly the trip I took in 1947 which left from a beach in Falmouth.
In September, 1947, we were heading down Route 28 toward Woods Hole. After a smallish wedding and reception in my family’s church in Crestwood, New York, and an even smaller family gathering in my home for champagne, Johnny and I headed out in our Chevy coupe for a week’s honeymoon in Maine — Moosehead Lake in particular, where Johnny hoped to catch a smallmouth bass or a brook trout. I wasn’t aware yet that I had married a fishing addict, but I knew enough to choose a location for our honeymoon that might suggest a little fishing.
The week had gone well except for the Sunday I had inadvertently locked the car keys inside the car — and the fact that Johnny hadn’t caught a single fish. We started home down the coast of Maine, spent a night in Boston and were to reach Woods Hole the next afternoon. The ride on the ferry would be a magical ending to the honeymoon and a magical beginning to a marriage on this enchanted Island I had never heard of until I met Johnny Mayhew in college.
I pictured us standing together on the bow of the boat as it sailed across the sound, holding hands as the soft breeze ruffled our hair. But when we drove into Woods Hole, we were directed back to a beach in Falmouth. Getting into a small line of waiting cars, we noticed a strange-looking craft on the beach that was half in the water and half out of the water. As a crew member passed our car we inquired as to this strange boat and strange location. It was an LST — a World War II landing craft, and it was our means of getting across the sound to Martha’s Vineyard. I suppose we were astonished, but really, what did it matter? We could stand on the bow of the LST and watch the Island come into view.
That vision was destroyed when we were told that the LST would only take car and driver. Any passengers would be carried across the water on a small fishing boat. I was crushed! To end our honeymoon apart during the most important leg of the journey home seemed cruel to me. I was definitely a romantic all those years ago.
About 10 of us were herded aboard this fishing boat across a plank, and were seated on two benches on the open deck. We made polite conversation, as strangers will, until I admired a ring on the hand of a teenaged boy sitting next to me. He eagerly told me that he had spent the summer working in a cemetery, moving bodies to other sites in the graveyard. He had taken the wedding ring off one of the bodies. My mood plummeted even lower as I fingered the new gold band on my left hand.
The fishing boat arrived in Vineyard Haven harbor long before the LST did. The fisherman set his boat to make a large circle, grabbed a long fishing pole and began casting for bass — or blues — or whatever kind of fish is found in the harbor. This went on until the LST caught up to us — then it landed on a beach on West Chop and our little boat tied up to the dock in Vineyard Haven.
I was at last reunited with my new husband. The honeymoon was over.