Hard Work, Simple Pleasures

From the Vineyard Gazette editions of January, 1975:

Renewal, the theme of a new year, has turned Islanders to the past to rediscover some of the old-time values and joys for 1975. Reactions here to the recession nationwide resemble lessons from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self Reliance — above all the individual is asked what he can do for himself.

Recession and shortages of all sorts have signaled a new era for us, many say. The fantasyland of boundless production and growth is no longer real. But while John Alley, among some others, sees hard times ahead for Islanders, the response from most is hope, hard work and even faith that they know a better way to live, perhaps forgotten, but certainly recoverable. If to renew means to restore then that’s just what Islanders are doing — reviving and reestablishing work and lifestyles that their fathers and grandfathers knew.

Henry R. Carreiro of Oak Bluffs, a contractor by trade, filed bankruptcy papers this week, an early victim of the building recession. Yet to him the bankruptcy isn’t cause for mournful predictions for the New Year.

“It’s a tradition here to go back to the land and sea when the economy falters,” Mr. Carreiro says. “It’s a vitality that was manifest 300 years ago when it all began here. There are always more options for a rural area than an urban area during hard times. But you have to have a sense of history. Americans are never down long. They come from the basics of hard work and simple pleasures. They can and will return to them.

“I think we as Islanders should make an effort during 1975 to free ourselves from the cyclical economic affairs of the nation, a result of our economy’s dependence on tourism,” he continued. “Boat building and fishing are natural for the Island. I’d like to see us return to them for our real occupations.”­

The changes of the next few years — 1975 especially — will tell us more about our ability to adapt to modern problems of overpopulation and resource shortages than any previous, according to Robert Woodruff of West Tisbury.

“I think, especially here, people will live closer to the land, make efforts to involve themselves in trades where labor and materials yield products which don’t depend on monetary exchange. When six percent of the world’s population is using 30 per cent of its resources, something is very wrong. But I think here we can begin to stop such waste. As an Island we’re more aware of the products we receive and use. Hopefully we can cut down. The reckoning is coming if we’re going to avert disaster.”

William M. Honey, president of the Martha’s Vineyard National Bank, regrets the forecasts of doom. “1975 will provide a better chance to be self-sufficient. Here, we will be better able to live close to the land. I think young people have already made great headway in returning to basics, doing more for themselves. They’ve turned to crafts and farming. I think it’s a good sign,” he said.

“The new year will be one of survival,” predicts Brandon Harrison, who runs the Edgartown Market. “We’ll not be able to depend on others. We’ll simply have to do more things for ourselves. If you don’t know how to swing a hammer, you’ll have to learn. One thing people will have is time. As a result, I see crafts — the really skilled crafts — returning. The people on the Island are relatively better off than most because of the resources of the land and sea,” he said.

“Obviously something is happening,” says Lewis W. Hathaway Jr. of Edgartown and chairman of that town’s shellfish committee. “There are more family messes than ever this year. It’s not revenue they’re after but rather a way to feed themselves. I think we’ll see more of it in 1975. We’re working on improving the scallop seeding so that we can help in feeding ourselves. I think we’ll see people more dependent on the resources around them, and I hope working harder to make things like scalloping better.”

Nelson W. Amaral, a native and resident of Oak Bluffs, thinks the slowdown in building construction will be helpful to the Island during 1975. “It will be a year for the natives to reclaim their Island and rediscover what it means to them. I’d like to see more steamships going in the other direction — away from the Island.”

Mr. Alley of West Tisbury said, “There’ll be no movies on the Island to pump money into the economy. Tourism is only one source of income. We’ll have to find others.

“On the brighter side, we’re a close community of neighbors who help one another in time of need which I think is a great advantage to living here,” he said.

I’m filled with hope about the new year,” Jean Hathaway of Edgartown says. “We’re getting back to some important values. Like the victory gardens in wartime that signaled hope, so our vegetable gardens are a message of what we can do for ourselves. With less buying power we’ll be in search of the things that are free here — the fresh air, the beaches. People out of work can scallop to feed themselves. I feel we’re lucky to be able to return to the land. If one thing should be locked in a time capsule for preservation it’s our closeness, our feeling of community, our caring about each other. It’s like continuing the Christmas spirit all year. 1975 brings us hope.”

Compiled by Eulalie Regan