From the April 20, 1945 editions of the Vineyard Gazette:

If you ever wondered what a night watchman thinks about, this article by Everett M. Gale of the Gazette staff may give you a lead to his midnight musings.

Having spent two nights during the past week as substitute night watchman for the town of Edgartown, it seems to me that the happenings and events of these two evenings might make interesting reading to the general public.

Arriving at the police station at 9 p.m., the first duty was to punch in the time clock in the front of the station. Then began the first leisure hours of the night when there were plenty of people on the streets, in stores still open, and amusement places.

At 11:30 things began to quiet down, with the movies over and most of the populace retracing their steps homeward. A few of the youngsters set still lingered around, hoping to find some kind of excitement. After being asked in a calm and kindly manner to be quiet they sauntered off and were not heard from again.

Then began the rounds of the different stores and business places, to see if they had been securely locked, then to the diner for a last minute snack before closing time, to keep up strength ‘til morning. Seeing it was 12, time to begin the systematic hourly punching of clocks about the town, I proceeded to the yacht club for the first round, then to the town’s only combined restaurant and bar, and finding everyone cleared out, proceeded to trek the lonely streets, after the last person to leave had sent these parting words over his shoulder, “The town is all yours, take good care of it!”

At an earlier hour, noticing the police light in the middle of Main street was on, I rushed to the station and central obligingly called the number of the person who wanted me. A woman came to the phone with a request to be called so as to get the early morning boat, and of course was obligingly told she would be called. Thus Thursday night passed quietly.

Saturday night the early events of the evening passed about the same, with of course a little more activity up to midnight.

At 12:30 I began the stroll through Dock street, up Daggett street to the Harbor View to punch in at 1. I had always visualized being alone on empty streets at that hour of night as rather, well, not quite frightening, but disturbing, but to my surprise I felt no qualms about walking any dark streets and other out of the way places, in fact, I rather enjoyed them.

Arriving back to Main street via Pease’s Point Way and Church street, I heard voices in front of the court house, and on investigating found a group of sailors, at 1:10, who had missed both Navy buses. On inquiring if I could be of any assistance, I was told that they had called the station, and would be picked up by a crash truck which always went around and picked up stragglers. After strolling Main street for a while, I began the long walk to the branch of Katama Road and Clevelandtown Road.

When I arrived at the clocking station, Mr. Vincent’s small dog resented my intrusion, and said so in no uncertain terms, arousing Pat Delaney’s constant companion, a 190-pound Newfoundland. If I hadn’t known her to be a very friendly animal, I would have made tracks out of there, but knowing her as I did, I moved away far enough for them to quiet down and watched the flares dropping up toward Chilmark, and also gazed at the maze of red lights at the air station, never realizing before that the great plains were on higher land than that part of Edgartown, so that they could be seen.

Coming back down Summer street past the mud hole I stopped to listen to the pinkletinks, who were having a concert all their own. Continuing, I crossed over to School street, noticing a few cellar lights that were left on, glad in one way, to learn that I was not the only one that is sometimes forgetful.

Walking by the bank I heard crying in a nearby house, and discovered it to be a baby calling for his or her early morning bottle. It was then nearing 4, so I started the trek to Upper Main street, near the Nash Garage.

Returning back to the station by the way of Cooke street, and after checking the light, I went in and spent the remaining half hour reading the Saturday Evening Post until 5, when it was time to punch the clock and hurry home to that glorious place of relaxation, the bed.

I can truthfully say that I wouldn’t change my present job for the night watchman’s job, but as an experience, I will say it was a memorable one for me, not only from the human side of the picture, but also nature itself - the stars, the quarter moon, rising up over Chappaquiddick at 3:30 in the morning, and best of all, the first faint glow of light at the beginning of a new day, with a chorus of roosters all over town, and the early birds starting to sing.

I hope from this version of a night watchman’s vigil, it doesn’t sound like a simple, easy task. It has its very lonely aspects and also pleasant ones, the same as any walk of life.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox