The Last Heath Hen

From the Vineyard Gazette editions of March, 1933:

Although not officially confirmed, it is known that the Vineyard Grove Company seeks to sell its main bathing beach and plant at Oak Bluffs and has offered the beach to the town. The proposal is said to have been made this week by the president of the company, who visited the Island with the manager of the Island plant. According to current report, the company’s offer to sell was to sell outright the entire building on the Oak Bluffs waterfront, including buildings and bathhouses, for $82,500, from which allowances for needed repairs were to be deducted, making the actual selling price $75,000. Damages to the plant by winter gales influenced the Vineyard Grove Company to advance this proposition. Many of the older bath houses were wrecked, and have been removed, and there has been further damage by undermining, erosion of the bank between the buildings and the street, and by the washing away of the beach, which has been lowered perceptibly.

Although fully aware that it may prove to be but a sentimental journey at which he may honor only the memory of the last heath hen, Dr. Alfred O. Gross, historian and staunch friend of the lonely bird, has informed Allan Kenniston that he will visit the Island in what may be a last attempt to sight the heath hen. Thornton W. Burgess, well-known naturalist, will accompany the Bowdoin professor, as he has several times in the past. The heath hen refused to show himself to Dr. Gross last year, although he was seen by a number of Vineyarders during the spring and later in the year. He has been reported again within the last few months by Islanders who are well acquainted with him and have greeted him through the years.

The paintings of the Charles S. Simpson collection reached Edgartown and were being hung on the walls of the Edgartown public library which is destined to become, through their presence, a center of attraction for Islanders and visitors. It is fair to assume that the tide of popularity will run strongly in favor of a number of marines from the brush of H.A. Vincent. Two are water colors, one a harbor scene and the other a beach at low tide. The marines in oil are finely executed, trawlers in a gray mist, and boats which seem as alive as a glimpse of the harbor from Water street. The hanging of the paintings in the library marks the end of a period of anxiety during which it looked as if Edgartown might lose the collection for lack of a place to display it suitably.

Lighthouse keepers had a strenuous night during the heaviest snowfall of the season, the snow plastering itself against the glass outside of the lights as thickly as to darken the beams. Every Island keeper was forced to mount to the upper gallery of his tower and brave the blizzard to clear the light at brief intervals from early evening until 3 o’clock in the morning. Little shipping moved during the night, not one steamer being seen from the Chops until after daylight.

Hundreds of ducks have been dying on the shores of the Vineyard from the effects of floating oil. The discharge of oil into the sea has set a wanton and gigantic trap for some of the most beautiful and useful of all our birds. Here is a crime against every law. Yet we still discuss the problem in a quiet, good-natured way, accepting the vague moral defeatism of the authorities. And nothing is done. Of course it is not possible to apprehend all violators. But cannot some of the violators be brought to justice? We wish to inquire whether any individual or firm has actually been made to suffer a penalty. The spectacle on the Vineyard beaches is proof that we cannot afford to wait years to get rid of oil; cruelty, economic waste and vandalism are perpetrated each time a duck succumbs to the impossible struggle with oil.

It was blue Monday at the Edgartown Cafe, for Nottingham, the Maltese and white kitten, and one of the prides of the establishment, had turned up missing. The next day he was discovered at the top of a tree in Mrs. Inman’s yard, quite a long way from home for one so young. Although he was disposed to return to sea level, he didn’t know just how to manage it. George Hallowell, his master, made one vain visit to persuade him to come down, but this encouragement only brought mournful yowls from the kitten. While interested friends discussed calling out the fire department, Mr. Hallowell and Pete Vincent effected a daring rescue, Pete climbing a ladder and Mr. Hallowell calling, “Come Notty,” which led the wanderer to entrust himself to Pete’s arms. Later in the day Nottingham was discovered at home in his basket, deep in slumber and at peace after his ravenous appetite had been satisfied.

The first exchange through the medium of the Gazette’s barter column was completed this week, with the swapping of a pair of brown alligator pumps for a quantity of blueberry preserves. The transfer was pronounced “very satisfactory.” The purpose of the barter column is to provide a method for Island people to make trades and to revive barter as it has been revived elsewhere in the country.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner