Summer Curtain Call

From Gazette editions of June, 1984:

Amid grid plans and cluster plans and applications for special permits, one plan will come before the Edgartown planning board which is unlike any other this town has seen. The Boldwater subdivision will create 32 building lots on 444 acres spread along the shores of Edgartown Great Pond. The Boldwater property was formerly owned by George D. Flynn Jr. The property embraces some of the most beautiful and unusual geography on the Vineyard, specifically coves and promontories rarely seen on Edgartown Great Pond, including Jane’s Cove, Horsekeeper’s Neck, Nashamois Point and Swan Neck Path. It is bordered on the west by Pohogonot Road, a long straight dirt track which bisects the property that was owned by the Flynn family for three generations.

The Boldwater plan offers a limited development concept, another unique application for the Vineyard where large chunks of land are carved into maximum allowable lots each year. What used to be endless stretches of scrub oak and blueberry on the Island are now crisscrossed with building lots and new macadam roads.

The former Flynn property is more than just open and empty space. Jane’s Cove is a watery arm of the Edgartown Great Pond which twists and turns like a large crooked finger. The waters of the cove are still, protected on the west by high rises of land and on the east by lower, more level land. The springs which feed the head of the cove make the water brackish where the cove meets the Great Pond, and clear and fresh at the end of the cove. Deer come here to drink and great blue heron make their homes along the grassy edges of the cove. Moss and grasses of bright green form a carpet of cover along the shores. Rising from the water are large and old trees, now dead, like driftwood, like something from a petrified forest, but the feeling is that of a swamp.

It is a place which seems untouched by salt. It could be the coast of Georgia or South Carolina. Shrouded in early morning mist, there is a sense of mystery to this place.

At a special town meeting when Robert Morgan moved that the vote on Edgartown’s participation in the regional trash plan be made by Australian or secret ballot, an unidentified voice from across the gallery was heard to mutter, “Oh, boy, I knew it. Now that they’ve won the America’s Cup, we have to do everything their way.”

There are still job openings at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. A hand-written “Help Wanted” sign is taped to the window of an Edgartown coffee shop. An ice cream parlor in Vineyard Haven is offering part-time counter jobs to people who walk in off the street. This is only part of the evidence that suggests the summer job market this year has gone soft. Many employers still are looking for help, even though the summer season is under way. Other owners report they just haven’t seen the usual procession of college and high school students looking for jobs. Traditionally most summer jobs are gone by the end of Easter vacation. The classified help wanted section of the Gazette is running 20 inches longer this year than last year at the same time.

“The problem is housing,” says Arthur Young, owner of the Navigator Room restaurant in Edgartown and long faced with the housing problems at the Harborside Inn. “We have to tell practically everyone who comes in to apply for a job, ‘Find a place to live first and then come back and we’ll give you a job.’” Mr. Young says soaring rents are one reason for the housing problem among young people.

Primo Lombardi, owner of Papa John’s and the Brass Bass restaurant in Oak Bluffs, says he also refuses to hire anyone who doesn’t have a place to live.

Affordable housing has always been difficult for students. A poll of several real estate brokers on the Island shows the going rate for student housing is $1,000 per person for the season.

Most Vineyarders call it swamp honeysuckle, others call it swamp azalea; in the books its Latin name is Rhododendron viscosum. The white flowers, tinged with pink, are blooming now in Vineyard swamps on shrubs as low as three feet or as high as ten. All along the coast, in these latitudes, the same swampy processional is taking place. On many a summer evening the spicy fragrance will be carrying far into the countryside with the same assertiveness as the sweet pepperbush or clethra in August. It is impossible to define a scent, but a scent may be suggested by analogy, as in this case having the same communion as the fresh cool taste of the aromatic wintergreen.

The swamp honeysuckle, if the soil is moist and congenial, can withstand the shade of trees that have grown so large as to modify and in one sense tame the old open swamps of the Island familiar in remembered expeditions of childhood.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner