Our Town

From Gazette editions of September, 1960:

Thornton Wilder and his sister, Miss Isobel Wilder, concluded just yesterday a brief Island visit at the Meadow House in Chilmark. When he was asked if his ostensible vacation on the Island was also a time for working, he said, “My life is a strange mixture of working, pretending to work and postponing work.” The fact that he was on a holiday seemed to have nothing to do with it. “My dear friend Gertrude Stein used to say, ‘It takes a lot of loafing to write a book.’ That remark has consoled many writers.” He recalled that Miss Stein was wont to squelch novelists who boasted of the number of hours they spent writing each day. She would say, “Novels are not written by will power but by imagination.”

Imagination has served Mr. Wilder well during a career that has already spanned thirty-five years. His first recognition came as a novelist with The Bridge of San Luis Rey being sufficient to establish him a place in any college novel course, but in later years he has been thought of primarily as a dramatist. “I’ve been working on a series of one-act plays. I’ve completed plays about each of the seven deadly sins, and now I’m going through the seven ages of man. It is kind of bracing to write on a theme. It is far more interesting to have some basic pattern above and beyond anecdotage. It’s like the rules for the sonnet — or like the steam engine; the restrictions help the propulsion.”

How would you feel if you were out sailing and you passed the ferry, and to your amazement saw your well-loved dog off on a cruise of his own aboard the Islander? Impossible? No, it happened to the William Preston family of West Chop. The Prestons were cruising Tuesday on the big yawl Meridian and were just coming by the breakwater in Vineyard Haven harbor, when they saw the ferry, outward bound. As they glanced casually toward the vessel, they saw Gus, their blonde Labrador, running up and down the deck, wagging his tail. The children called to him and the excited dog signalled his recognition with loud barks.

The Meridian attempted a ship to ship contact with the ferry, but failing that, managed to notify the Steamship Authority officials, who sent out orders that Gus was not to be allowed to debark at Woods Hole, if that were his intention, but was to come home on the next ferry. Gus was informed of the decision and tied to make assurance doubly sure, barking all the way back, a member of the crew told the Prestons. Gus never told anyone why he wanted to set foot off-Island, although perhaps he was looking for the Meridian and his family.

What do you suppose the Ben David clan of Oak Bluffs had for supper Sunday night? A clue can be gleaned from the list of daily prize winners in the derby. Here, in order, are Sunday bluefish prize winners: Ed Ben David, Donald Ben David, Arthur Ben David, Gus Ben David and Gus Ben David 2nd. As for the bluefish mystery prize, why that went to Gus guess who!

Family competition was keen, with only one pound separating the first prize winner and the fifth prize fish. Arthur and Gus were tied in third and fourth places. All told, they brought in twenty-eight pounds of bluefish. There must be at least a few Ben Davids born under the sign of Pisces.

Donna, the “freak” hurricane, swept the Vineyard, bringing winds of varying velocity, some hard rain squalls, and spreading minor disaster. Tides ran high and a large number of waterfront properties in various parts of the Island suffered damage from the water, sand and battering by floating debris. Yet the consensus, gathered the Island over, was that the Vineyard got off easily and with far less damage than it has suffered in previous hurricanes.

Mr. Stephen Gentle of the Katama Airpark is convinced that Donna’s maximum velocity reached 100 miles an hour. At the airpark he has — or had — an anemometer rated up to 85 miles an hour. This instrument registered right up to 85 miles an hour, and then the fluid blew out of the tube.

There was a visible quickening of pace on Edgartown’s Main street in the morning before the storm. The grocery stores were doing a landoffice business as housewives, and husbands, too, loaded up on groceries. Candles and flashlights were disappearing fast. One woman said, “I was going to buy candles today anyway. Now people will think I was just unprepared.”

A surprising number of boats were left in Edgartown harbor, and they danced and bobbed around alarmingly. The catboats took every wave in an impish manner, raising stern or bow to buck the crest. In all the chaos of active hulls and thrashing masts, the Chinese junk belonging to F. Gordon Brown, with bow and stern far out of the water, remained aloof from all the confusion and looked as if it were being gently rocked by a light breeze.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner