From the Feb. 7, 1964 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

January slipped away without fuss, and most people have forgotten way back when 1964 was a new year.

As to moderation, the month may be called outstanding. The minimum recorded by the Weather Bureau thermometer at Edgartown was seven above zero on Jan. 1, and on only five days during the month did it fail to rise above the freezing mark. The highest recording for the month was 50 during the 24 hours previous to Jan. 26. On 18 days the temperature rose to 40 or higher.

The big snow began at about 4 a.m. on Jan. 13 and gave a pretty good account of itself, accumulating about 10 inches between then and the next morning. But most of the precipitation fell as rain. There were six days that could be classed as mainly rainy, though not all the other days were fair by any means.

Sunday was uncertain, with dark skies, a drizzle of rain, a snow squall, and stiff northwest wind, but the day turned out well and so did the birding. Miss Beatrice Butler records at West Chop that 50 European cormorants covered a pier. Prof. Richard S. Kirby, whose death is recorded this week, should be remembered gratefully at Ocean Heights, that oddly named and beautiful neighbor of which, as it turns out, he was a pioneer. He first visited Edgartown in 1914, and 1914 seems a late date for pioneering. Yet Ocean Heights had been established scarcely more than a decade earlier, in 1901, and the first sale of lots in any number had taken place in 1903. It was just after the turn of the century that the late Robert M. Laidlaw, a native of Scotland, bought the Jeremiah Weeks farm, and proceeded to have it laid out for development. Why he chose the name Ocean Heights will remain a mystery? There were no real heights and the water frontage was on Sengekontacket Pond with a view of the Sound, not the ocean, just beyond the outer beach.

Moreover, there had been a development named Ocean Heights at Oak Bluffs in the early 1870s. This Ocean Heights had also fronted on Sengekontacket, as well as upon Farm Pond which the developers wished to rechristen Tiberias Lake. One of the Harthaven ponds was named Mahomy Lake at the same time. Presumably, Mr. Laidlaw knew nothing, or at least cared nothing, about this earlier Ocean Heights.

Street names in most of the old developments were Indian or Biblical or fanciful, but in Ocean Heights the metropolitan method of numbering the streets was followed. Eventually four Ocean Heights streets were accepted by the town: 15th, 16th, The Boulevard and Pawtucket avenue.

A sign identifying 15th street was regarded by most Island visitors as a joke; they laughed as they drove past on the old county road. But it wasn’t an intentional joke.

Professor Kirby, who had become a lover of Ocean Heights early enough in the century to use a boat for the purpose of going to Edgartown for shopping, rather than a car, was aware of the inappropriateness of the names adopted when the region was turned from farmland into a development. But it was not until 1940 that he found the time to look into more appropriate names, and to petition the town for changes.

His petition, dated Aug. 22, 1940, began: “We, the undersigned property owners in the section of town known as Ocean Heights, realizing the inappropriateness of the Ocean Heights street names, ask that your board remedy the situation by renaming certain streets: First, that the four streets recently accepted by the town be given new names, as follows: 15th street to be changed to Anthier’s Way, 16th street to be changed to Weeks Lane, after a former owner of the entire tract, The Boulevard to be changed to Sengekontacket Drive, this follows roughly along the pond shore, and Pawtucket avenue to be changed to Haystack Lane.”

The petition asked also that when other Ocean Heights streets were accepted by the town, they also be given new names with some local historical significance and be designated as ways, lanes or drives, rather than streets or avenues.

In 1952, when 11th was accepted, it was renamed Pilgrim Road, which had been a popular term applied to it.

Young Joseph Gilgen was walking his dog along the beach at Falmouth Heights the other day and came upon a piece of flotsam that was distinctly odd. It was a sign that had the words “Edgartown Reading Room” painted on it. He took it home and asked his mother just what the Edgartown Reading Room could be. “Oh, you know,” she said, “That’s the place your Aunt Josephine works in the summer.”

Sure enough, the sign, which had blown off from its pole during the big blow of mid-January and into the harbor, was guided by some whimsical fate directly into the hands of Mrs. John Bauer’s nephew on the mainland. The sign is now back in Edgartown, and before long that building down at the end of Commercial street will lose its temporary anonymity.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox