Celestial Lights

From Gazette editions of March, 1986:

Hey, baby! It’s a good thing some of those blue-jeaned workers working for Dukes County Cable are tied to the poles. Their sense of scent remains intact and unaffected by the chill winter air, for early one shimmery morning, one of them caught a whiff of the cologne worn by a young woman on her way to work in Edgartown. A big hello and an exuberant cry of “I knew I smelled perfume!” went out. It was returned with this comment: “And it’s a good thing you’re up there, and I’m down here.”

In 1946, a young man named Lauress Fisher opened a new hardware business on Main street in Edgartown. He was just 32-years-old and he had $400 in the bank. Today Edgartown Hardware is the second oldest business on Main street. The Edgartown National Bank is the only business which is older. And on almost any day, if you walk down Main street, you will find Lauress Fisher standing behind the plate glass window of his store. A former selectman and superintendent of streets, he has seen the street change a great deal. At one time there were four grocery stores, a shoe store, a pool hall, a bowling alley, an appliance store, an insurance company, a bakery, a VFW hall and a theater. Businesses stayed open year-round. That has all changed.

Mr. Fisher said he once figured out he has 10,000 different items for sale in the hardware store. A few popular items have lasted through the years. He still sells galvanized washtubs. “Some people kid me about selling coal buckets. They think I’m crazy. But I sell them. And we sell old-fashioned washboards. People laugh but we sell maybe half a dozen a year.”

For those who feel unsettled about the recent turnover in downtown businesses, Lauress Fisher offers a point of comfort, a point about which he is adamant: He has no intention of moving the hardware store. He said: “I like the people, the business, and it’s all been an interesting challenge. We’re going to be here for some time.”

Facing a 69 per cent federal aid reduction in its budget, the state extension service may enter its worst period in its 72-year history, according to Michael Zoll, extension service director for the Vineyard. This will have dramatic ramifications for county-supported children’s programs like 4-H and for assistance for farmers. Mr. Zoll said his concerns stem from President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 fiscal budget plan to cut the extension service to a skeleton budget nationwide.

“It is clear that President Reagan has singled out the extension service,” Mr. Zoll said. “Never in the history of the extension service, which was founded in 1914, has the service been so threatened. In the past Congress has always been supportive. During the Depression the federal government gave us constant support to help people grow their own food and to do those things domestically to help them survive the difficult times.” He added, “This is not the time to make cuts. It is difficult to comprehend the logic behind the cuts to so many small farmers, the backbone of America. It seems the family farmer is being allowed to go bankrupt by this government.”

Back in the old village days, Edgartown officials posted death notices to inform community residents someone had died. The police tacked an announcement on the telephone pole at the corner of Main and Summer streets. It was a simple notice, listing the person’s name, time of death and time and place of the memorial service. This week the Edgartown selectmen voted to reinstate the old tradition.

The subject came up after Raymond Metcalf, a longtime resident, died last weekend. The memorial service was held before the obituary appeared in the newspaper. Jean Hathaway came to the selectmen’s meeting officially to inform the board of Mr. Metcalf’s death, and she recalled the old tradition. The selectmen voted to revive the long-standing tradition of posting death notices when any resident of the town dies. Notices will be posted on a pillar of town hall. Mrs. Hathaway said she will provide a frame and Robert Burnham said he will make a glass case.

Twenty-two people stood together at the top of Peaked Hill in Chilmark, looking into the heavens for Halley’s Comet. All walked away at dawn, having seen a visitor that appears but once every 76 years. In daylight the view from Peaked Hill is breathtaking. But in the stillness of the night, it is a landscape of stars extending around the compass, and thousands of stars announce we are passengers together on this Island Earth. Halley’s Comet rose over the Atlantic, over Tisbury Great Pond. Nine-year-old Cleveland Brown came from Edgartown to see it, her first time comet-watching. She will have another chance to see it — when she is 85 years old.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner