50 Years Ago

From the Vineyard Gazette editions of December, 1957:

“You can assure the people of Martha’s Vineyard that this department has no idea of making a land grab that will be distasteful to them. We have no imminent plan affecting the Vineyard, but when the time comes when we feel that something should be done, the first thing we will do is to confer with the various selectmen, the chamber of commerce, and all other interested persons, and decide what is best for the Island. We are taking a long-range view of the future and its need. We do fear the grabbing and developing of lands, especially beach lands, to the future detriment of the public. That is the essence of the plan which we have, but there is no thought in God’s world of going through with it in its entirety.”

Following the boundaries of the proposed taking, for which Francis W. Sargent, state Commissioner of Natural Resources, was said to be seeking legislative authorization, the state would acquire all of South Beach between the county beach at Katama and Long View, Chilmark, together with all the upland lying between the South Beach and Takemmy Trail and South Road, between the easterly and westerly points. This would mean virtually all the land lying around Edgartown Great Pond, Oyster Pond, Tisbury Great Pond, and a part of the land around the lower Chilmark Pond. The report also stated Mr. Sargent’s plan for acquiring more public lands for recreational development envisioning “an expansion of the state forest reservation on Martha’s Vineyard by 10,000 acres by 1977.”

Although the release did indeed state that the whole program of taking and development of this and other lands in the state, would be spread over a period of twenty years, it also said that authorization for the taking by right of eminent domain and “freezing,” until needed, would be sought at once by Commissioner Sargent, at the opening session of the legislature.

A new industry came to Edgartown at the end of last week, an industry that could best be called scallop mining. The abnormally high tides of Thursday and Friday, which were made even higher by the force of the gale that blew Wednesday night and Thursday morning, washed ashore and buried a bonanza in scallops. Since the town’s scalloping regulations govern only those shellfish which are found in the water, the beached scallops were free for the taking in unlimited quantities.

Initially it was only a matter of walking along the shore and picking up the scallops. Succeeding tides, however, washed two and three feet of sand on top of the treasure, so the process of scalloping became one of digging. Not only the regular scallopers but also their cousins and their sisters and their aunts were out digging in the mother lode. Holes and trenches were dug along the water line by people of all ages. The mood was almost festive.

Stories of fantastic hauls were circulating around town on Monday. There was story that one man dug up forty bushels of scallops in one day from the beach at the end of Fuller street. There was another story of another man whose one-day haul brought in a round $100. The nicest part about it was that all of this came just in time for Christmas.

So at last the regional high school is a reality. It isn’t built yet, but it has become real; when these words reach Vineyard Gazette readers, the site will have been at least partly cleared, no longer the subject of referendum voting, negotiation with committees, state officials and architects, the school has become, since last Thursday evening, a going concern. Its reality seems strange to all of us, after so many years of debate and of trial and deferment. The first regional school project was attempted back in 1921 and 1922, only to be put off for a generation. Again in 1948 committees were formed and the goal of one high school for all Island pupils, offering effective division of classes and of instruction, was put before the Vineyard.

In 1953 the preliminaries of what was to become the final effort were set in motion. Four years ago on Dec. 18 the first meeting of the regional school district planning board was held in Tisbury, and Irving Kligler was elected chairman. No one knew then what a long and stormy path lay ahead. Long beset by storm and disagreements the path has been, but the chances are all that will now be forgotten more quickly than anyone would have thought possible. From the tortured question of whether the Vineyard should have the school or not, and how much the school should cost, we advance now to the more vital issue.

What can be put within the walls of the new building in the warmth and devotion of teaching, in the diligence and ambition of boys and girls? How much can it be made to help the rising generations? What contributions to the effectiveness of the school can be made by parents, by citizens in general?

Compiled by Eulalie Regan