More Things Change . . .

From Gazette editions of January, 1985:

The computer age has come to the Edgartown Free Public Library. Actually, it arrived quietly in the last weeks of 1984. But at first the library staff did little to spread the word that the microcomputers were in place. Head librarian Linda Norton explains: “A number of people expressed interest when we first got the system, and we told them, ‘As soon as we learn how to use it, we’ll teach you how to use it.’ ” But now, as the hackers say, the system is up, and computer-phobes and buffs alike are welcomed to sit down at the first free and public terminal on Martha’s Vineyard.

In a matter of only weeks, the librarians have conquered computer phobia. They have mastered neither the machines nor the jargon that surrounds them, but they have found the secret of the learning attitude, and they are both confident and enthusiastic about these new additions.

Children’s librarian Deborah Mac-Innis is excited about the new machines. “I’ll tell you,” she says, “I can see now how they’re addictive. It’s like doing a puzzle. I can see why the hackers stay up for three days in a row.”

The latest news of life in West Tisbury comes from Arnold M. Fischer, who called to report the births of two sets of twin lambs at his farm. The ewes and lambs were doing well, he said, and five more of his sheep are in the family way. “I know when this happened,” Mr. Fischer confided. “It happened when I was driving them all home in the truck together, rams and ewes, from the county fair.”

After serving as director of the Dukes County Historical Society for 12 years, Dr. Thomas E. Norton has stepped down. He leaves the society larger, better and healthier than it was when he started. Mr. Norton feels more strongly than ever that the gathering of Vineyard history is the essence of the society’s role, and he is grateful to have played a role in that process.

“Seven years ago we were suffocating without any room at all,” Mr. Norton said. “All our offices and exhibition space was just in that little library room. We had all sorts of Island historical material, books, diaries, letters, customs house papers and more, and all of it had to be properly catalogued to be effective to researchers. One of the things I’ve done over the years is to recommend that the society go out on a limb and encourage building. We have since built the Francis Foster Museum, and that has given us much needed space. We have kept the facilities in good condition during difficult financial times. We didn’t have much money, but we’ve been able to put roofs on buildings and take care of what had to be done. It is different from running a big museum. I was the head of seven departments and I didn’t have any staff.”

Mr. Norton has two wishes for the society: “One place the society needs help is to raise money and the other is to raise more community awareness. It is a great asset to the Island and to Edgartown in particular. There may be a tendency for people to take the society for granted. They shouldn’t.”

The Wigwam, one of the oldest businesses in Oak Bluffs, has closed forever. Owners William and Loretta Grunden sold the paper store last month to fellow Circuit avenue merchants John and Sharon Kelly. Mr. and Mrs. Kelly will move the quarters of The Secret Garden across the street to the Wigwam. Mr. Grunden said he is sad to give up his store but pleased to have sold it to Islanders. “I could have gotten much more money from speculators from off-Island, but I wanted to sell it to someone on the Vineyard.”

The solution to high prices on the Vineyard and Nantucket lies with the Island consumer’s willingness to trade quality of life for a lower cost of living, the state’s consumer protection chief concluded this week. In the second report from her office comparing Island and mainland prices, Paula Gold, secretary of consumer affairs and business regulation, found prices no better here in winter than in the summer. Miss Gold said this finding “casts doubt on the theory mentioned by some that Island prices were ‘jacked up’ in the summer to take advantage of seasonal markets.” Besides again recommending consumer awareness as a check on prices, Miss Gold repeated the need for more competition for Island grocers, liquor sellers and petroleum product dealers. “Encouraging competition seems to be the most intelligent policy to remedy high prices,” she said in the survey.

As in the summer, Islanders pay a premium of about 20 per cent for a “unique atmosphere,” the state report said. Using Falmouth, Hyannis and Brockton prices as the mainland comparison, investigators checked the prices of milk, eggs, butter, margarine, dog food, disposable diapers, coffee, beer, wine, gasoline and home heating oil.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner