Soft Sell

From Gazette editions of July, 1986:

This week for the second time in less than a decade, Alley’s Store, a veteran West Tisbury institution, is changing hands. Howard and Susan Ulfelder of Hingham are buying the store from Charlie and Teena Parton, who bought it from the Alley family six years ago.

Six years ago the Gazette wrote, “Alley’s is more than a store and post office. It is an institution, a meeting place, even the heart of West Tisbury, complete with veins and arteries that convey the blood and nourishment of the town.” Today, after six years of the Partons’ kindly reign, that is more true than ever and the town views the change, which has been rumored for many months, with intense interest and with apprehension that borders on alarm.

The Ulfelders themselves seem amazed by Alley’s, Dealers in Almost Everything. “We’ve created enormous envy among our peers,” says Mr. Ulfelder. “Apparently it’s everyone’s dream to move to New England and run a country store.”

Both the Ulfelders approach Alley’s store with something akin to reverence, already zealous about its reputation and its traditions. “We plan to keep all its traditions, including the Doldrum Sundaes on Wednesday nights in the winter. The only changes we plan to make are finding a way to enlarge the post office, and converting the car wash and the laundromat to something else. The Island is so fragile, and they really oughtn’t to be there.”

Even Lambert, the store cat, has been taken care of. An agreement that is part of the sale stipulates that Lambert will retain his position as store cat and will be responsible for keeping dogs out of the store. In return, Lambert is guaranteed cat food twice a day, and complete medical care for health maintenance. He is also guaranteed — in writing — love and attention, as long as he lives. Alley’s Store, thus protected and mindful of the past, marches bravely into a new future.

A return visit to the Vineyard yesterday turned into an overnight stay for the woman who state police say posed as the princess of Liechtenstein, bilking Americans of more than $250,000. Lydia Domecq is due in Edgartown District Court for the continuance of her pretrial hearing on charges of cocaine possession, larceny from a Vineyard summer resident and being a fugitive from justice.

Yesterday Judge Brian Rowe ordered the woman held overnight on the Island instead of sending her for the night all the way back to the women’s correction facility in Framingham — her home away from home during court proceedings on the Vineyard and on Nantucket, where state police say she wrote $30,000 in bad checks during one June week.

State police say that in her week on the Vineyard, Lydia Domecq convinced a summer resident to loan her $2,000 cash until she could get some money wired to her from Spain. Several real estate agents reported showing her a number of expensive parcels of Island property, including the Lake Tashmoo property of the late Nancy Hamilton.

At the request of Miss Domecq’s lawyer, Judge Rowe directed state police to return some personal effects. Given the nature of the charges, the judge said, the defendant is entitled to a hair curler and other items. “Whatever she needs to maintain herself,” the judge concluded.

They come every summer with their vans and station wagons filled with boxes of history to be passed from hand to hand. They have pressed white linens, old plated silverware, photographs, cookie cutters. They are the vendors at the Chilmark flea market, experts in the art of collecting and selling perfectly wonderful things that might otherwise have been thrown away.

Jane Neuman of Menemsha and North Carolina has a very efficient flea market method. “I collect in the winter. I go to auctions, estate sales and yard sales. Then I trot them up here and sell them,” she said. “It’s a way to enjoy antiques without keeping them.”

Poor clover. It tends to be forgotten when the showier wildflowers of summer are in bloom — except by the rabbits and raccoons that thrive on it, and by those persevering sorts seeking a four-leaf clover to bring good fortune.

For centuries the four-leaf clover has been sought for that. Tradition has always had it that the maiden who puts a four-leaf clover in her shoe will marry the first man she meets, while she who eats a four-leaf clover will wed the first man whose hand she shakes. But four-leaf clovers are hard to come by and it is the three-leaf variety most people see — or pass by without seeing.

And then there are the flowers of the clover to consider. Both white and red clover blossoms, dried, were once used to brew a healthful tea. The red blossoms reportedly keep the moths away from furs, and with honey and onions added can be brewed into a tea to relieve coughs. There’s more to clover than meets the eye; it should not be slighted.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner