From the February 23, 1962 edition of the Vineyard Gazette by Joseph Chase Allen:

Mark Twain said some years ago that everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it. Today everyone talks about “the economy” and whether or not anyone does anything about it, no one knows anything about it save the economists, and it has been charged that their statements are so filled with “jargon” that no one else can make out what they are talking about. Small wonder, then, that many of their statements are questioned.

However, straws show the way the wind blows, according to an ancient maxim, and a slanted view may be had of the economy from a purely local viewpoint. Despite what is said about the decreasing value of the dollar, it still appears that most people never had it so good.

This viewpoint may be obtained at any one of the Island town dumping grounds.

From the number who have written about Island dumps it appears that many people visit them to deposit rubbish and also to survey the scene and ponder. Recently this writer, strolling among the heaps of beer cans and grapefruit skins, met a scholarly gentleman who was picking over a pile of rubbish. On exchanging greetings this man observed: “You meet the nicest people at the dumps!” And this cannot be denied.

It is possible, by visiting the dumps, to gain an intimate insight as to the eating and drinking habits of the public; of who is remodeling his house, clearing a wild patch of land, purchasing new furniture, or doing a wholesale job of redecorating. From a study of the evidence which lies before one, one may deduce whether or not the local shops or mail order houses are generally patronized, and who directs the process and program of periodic housecleaning. (The man of the house seldom throws away certain items, and by the same token the lady of the house hoards another variety.)

To really obtain the true picture of the economy as represented at an Island dump, frequent visits must be paid, each one including a thorough survey. The conclusions to be arrived at if this procedure is followed are startling indeed.

Local residents do realize all this, and order their activities accordingly.

A comparison of notes with dumping ground scavengers met and conversed with on the spot, has elicited a variety of statements. One described his discovery of six solid silver spoons in a pile of rubbish. Another told of finding several gallons of paint in cans which had never been opened. “Many an antique, furniture or china, has been found in a dump,” declared another, and a brand-new piece of furniture, still in its shipping crate, was gleefully borne away by a dumping ground visitor.

Coils of rope, new lumber, firewood in quantities, tools and hardware, are all found in the dumps. Books sufficient to fill a good-sized library, some of valuable first editions, have been found, and the list of metal items, many of them undamaged save for chipped paint, is lengthy indeed.

People prize second hand bricks for certain purposes, paying a fancy price for them. The dumps are a good place to find such things. The persistent seeker can obtain a reward for his pains, either of material nature or knowledge, and while there are many who seek the former, some others are merely gathering information.

Warn-out electrical appliances are rarely found, likewise damaged china, but there are quantities of toilet articles of all descriptions, pictures and picture frames, flower pots and curtain fixtures. And glass. Every kind of bottle known to man is found, but chiefly those that have held beer, soda and liquor.

Every now and then the bulldozer arrives and buries the entire mass, smoothing the ground over above it where it remains undisturbed until organic matter has disappeared and much of the metal. For, after a period another pit may be dug on the same spot, and when the bulldozer piles up the earth from this latest excavation, the deposit, with its rusty tin and masses of glass, offers some idea of what the archaeologist of the distant future may unearth if they seek to learn of that strange race once called Americans.

What conclusions they may arrive at following exhaustive study of the lettering on whiskey bottles or the decorative effect of those which once contained cola or pop, no one can predict. Nor can it be foretold what such future men may say of soil deposits containing quantities of the poor iron which was once the sardine or tuna can. There will be none of the painted tile or marble blocks which characterize the ancient Roman bath, no murals of teen-age drag racers and pursuing motorcycle police.

But rest assured that the brainy men of that distant day, examining the shards and fragments of a vanished race, will pronounce such people to have been luxurious livers. In this they will agree perfectly with the dump picker of the present. It cannot be otherwise.

Compiled by Hilary Wall