From the Vineyard Gazette edition of July 6, 1934:
The night before the Fourth in Edgartown was described as the quietest in years. Last year’s night before was uneventful, but this year exceeded it in calm, and Chief Geddis said it was the most tranquil in his five years with the force, Special officers Herbert Simpson, Antone Anirada, Sylvester Luce, Henry Luce and George K. Searle, had little to do, as it turned out. With Chief of Police James Geddis, Officer Arthur Wagner and Night Watchman Truman Galley, there was a force of eight to enforce law and protect property.
The Fourth itself was gay with bunting hung over Main street and displayed from the staffs at the yacht club and at the Dinsmore wharf. The Main street decorations were supplied by Capt. St. Clair Brown, who has dressed up the business center for previous holidays. Across the four corners were strung many signal and yacht flags of various colors, and for a distance up Main street large blue banners of different sizes and shapes, each with a large white Y, were strung on ropes stretched diagonally back and forth across the street. The partiality to Yale which was shown in the display caused some comment, but the effect was highly decorative, and it gave the town a holiday dress more ambitious than it is wont to assume.
The banners may have been Yale flags, but they were given to Captain Brown by a Harvard man, his former employer, the late Robert S. McCurdy.
The Edgartown Fourth was noisy with firecrackers, but not more so than usual, and the celebration of the young people gradually wore off as the day advanced. The bathing beach was thronged in the morning, the gay beach umbrellas adding to the brilliance of the clear, sunny day.
A new diversion at the Edgartown bathing beach, and a center of interest on the Fourth, was the series of water concerts for children, in which a lively and interested group of youngsters took part.
The short balloon race was won by Charles Edwards, and the long balloon race by Connie Clough. The colored balloons on the water gave a decorative touch to these contests which was in keeping with the character of the holiday.
The peanut gathering race called for a diversity of talents. Peanuts were cast adrift — and they did drift — and the contestants went after them with buckets. As the catches were being tallied the race seemed close, with several children having bags of around a hundred. Then up came Betsy Atwood, a dark horse, and took first honors with her birdie 168.
There can be no doubt, we suppose, that children have a fine time setting off firecrackers and shooting cap pistols. Yet observation on Wednesday set us thinking about the nature of pleasure. Some youngsters, the smallest of the boys as a rule, appeared with glowing faces and an eagerness which it was impossible for anyone to miss. Even a hard shelled adult, tingling with dread of the unholy racket which is unloosed in the name of our independence, could not fail to be influenced by the magnetic excitement of these young celebrants. But they seemed to be in a small minority.
By nine o’clock in the morning, dozens of older boys were parading the streets casting firecrackers here and there with great abandon, and with no sign of any particular interest. They had, one could surmise, already experienced several hundred explosions and saturated their lungs thoroughly with the smell of powder. There was ahead of them the prospect of a few thousand more explosions of the same dreadful kind, and a good many hours of the same sort of smell. One could not say that they looked bored; perhaps the right word is unconcerned. Often they did not wait for one cracker to go off; they just cast it aside and began to light another,
Childhood has its own laws of diminishing returns. It reaches an early saturation point in respect to many good works (good, in the adult sense), but runs on and on in such a field as that of fireworks long after the novelty and the enthusiasm have disappeared. Of course these youngsters would insist that they were still having a good time, even at the thousandth firecracker. But the question arises as to whether this perfunctory performance, characterizing most youth from 9 or 10 o’clock on the morning of the Fourth through that holiday, is worth the sacrifice exacted of the adult world. After studying saturation Wednesday we should be inclined to favor a competitive examination, and the issuing of fireworks only to those children reaching a certain standard of actual enthusiasm. Or we should advocate a limitation of the supply of fireworks to prevent, if possible, the shooting of crackers and pistols from becoming, in an hour or so, so purely perfunctory.
Compiled by Hilary Wall