From the Dec. 10, 1965 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Already the feeling of Christmas is in the air. The darkening yet not sombre days, starved of sunlight yet somehow enriched by the darkness in which mankind kindles his own flames, bring their traditional association, old as childhood. The days do not need to be counted; they count themselves in the year-end sequence, which is both recessional and processional. A year will soon die, but Christmas is about to be born again. The stores are gay, the Christmas trees and lights are going up in the streets, the sound of voices lends cheer to the coldest interludes, the winter twilights spend their softening colors thriftily, even in rain the sodden country proclaims its own refusal to surrender.

Martha’s Vineyard is not the only place succumbing to the dial telephone. It happened in Great Barrington Sunday night. An article in the Berkshire Courier explained that when Great Barrington converted to dial, the “town’s most distinguished phone number was 1”, which the paper went on to say had belonged to Wheeler & Taylor Inc., a real estate and insurance agency for forty years.

The Courier explained further that there were only two other “number ones” in Massachusetts, one belonging to William Soloninka, a retired telephone man in Provincetown, which he had for thirty or thirty-five years, and that “Prof. Maitland Graves, formerly on the faculty of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the University of Rhode Island, has Edgartown number 1 on Martha’s Vineyard”.

Mr. Graves was slightly sad when he reported all this to the Gazette. He supposed, and rightly so, that he, like Wheeler and Taylor Inc., was going to lose his “number 1” when the dial takes over in April.

Gradually the green of Edgartown turned to russet brown, and fell from the trees, leaving the lovely upward flow of the elm trees visible. Their nakedness, with only their black limbs etching across the sky, left the town exposed.

To one familiar with Edgartown only in the summer months, hundreds of new views of buildings are now revealed. The blocks edged with stately white houses are suddenly studded with myriads of shacks, cottages, garages and sheds heretofore hidden in their secret centers. The Federated Church on South Summer street looks like a toy about to be set down in some recently erected model town. In fact, most of the town now resembles a magazine short story illustration, and nothing looks quite real.

To scallopers the cleared and therefore enormous, waterfront has become their center of focus as they rake the harbor bottom for the multi-blue-eyed scallop. To others more oriented to summer, it has become a thing of the past, forgotten for different pursuits.

A small pile of scallop shells gathers daily in the parking lot at the foot of Main street. Modern machines scoop them up, no longer allowing them to grow to towering heights.

A constant umbrella of circling gulls keeps their ecru eyes forever on that pile, always in hope of some overlooked delicacy.

Main street is delightfully park-able, except at dusk when those homeward bound stop for groceries, papers or the mail. Then once again, if only for an hour, the street takes on the bustle and business of summer.

A great conglomeration of baby gulls spends its time, like teenagers at a hamburger stand, hanging around the town dump, while the middle-aged group is working the Edgartown-Oak Bluffs road.

Vineyard Haven, usually swathed in something green with only the ferryboat slip poking out, is becoming more and more photogenic with each departing leaf. Oak Bluffs is boarded and shuttered here and there, and elsewhere things have never looked gayer. Town hall stands pristine in its unweathered shingles with a sticker still in each new window pane.

The new telephone offices are arising simultaneously, and telephone crews are to be seen crawling into and out of everything that’s crawl-able. It appears that their whole operation will shortly go underground.

When walking, driving or biking, one has a tremendous sense of space, of spreading out, and being free. Here at last one can move, and not be pushed or honked at should he dawdle.

Perhaps the greatest difference is in the light, due in part to the vast skies now revealed by the departed leaves, but mostly because the sun’s shrinking arc sends glancing new shadows and color reflecting from the white toy houses of the towns. In early morning, cerise and fuchsia paint the clapboards, which are turned yellow by the warm golden light of late afternoon and early evening.

Right now, a last few leaves still linger on the trees in random fashion, but the unwrapping of the Vineyard is complete, all is visible, all is revealed, and all is extremely lovely, with line and limb unpadded and available to appreciative eyes and the soft slanting sunlight.

But, best of all, the people haven’t changed; they just look different, bundled in plaids and parkas and equipped with earmuffs.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox