Hot Air

From Gazette editions of July, 1936:

The giant dirigible Hindenburg soared over the Vineyard in the early hours of Wednesday morning. It was exactly ten minutes past two when Mr. and Mrs. Johnson Whiting of West Tisbury were aroused from their slumber by the roaring of the great engines. Arising and going outside, they saw the big airship crossing the heavens, its cabins brilliantly lighted and its hull shining above, as it headed easterly across the Island for the Atlantic.

Time was when old Vineyard houses in the up-Island districts had their peat sheds, just as they had their corn cribs and their barns and their wagon sheds. In the colony of outbuildings the place for storing peat was an accepted fact. This was in an age when peat was used for fires and when the practical arts of old maritime New England had not been outdistanced by our modern standard of living.

Most Vineyard peat is distinctly woody. In the peat beds are still preserved the branches and even the trunks and roots of trees which grew here long ago. At many places along the north shore the peat crops out from under the sands of the beaches, and much of it apparently underlies Vineyard Sound. Years ago at least one peat company was formed, a wharf was built, and peat was exported to the mainland. The spiles of the old wharf are still visible, ruins of one more vanished industry. Peat swamps, like clay deposits, were bought up by promoters, and the ownership of these rights was long in being straightened out. In some instances the end is not yet.

“I don’t think that I’ll go another year,” said Capt. Bob Jackson, commenting on Capt. Claude Wagner’s plans for another season, which do not include swordfishing. The skipper of the Hazel M. Jackson, Edgartown swordfisherman said he might make a couple of trips in July, but the long drive of a full summer’s work is no longer attractive to him.

The strain and worry of long trips, two to three weeks in duration, are more than he likes to think of. Broken sleep in rough weather, fear for his loaded craft’s safety in a breeze (some few past ones he can vividly recall), and the risk of being run down on Georges, are unpleasant features of the work which he tired of contemplating.

Of the fleet of four schooners, a famous fleet of swordfishermen, this leaves but one, Capt. Isaac Norton’s Malvina B., and the past few seasons Captain Ike has made his summer one or two trips shorter than the others. The fourth schooner, the B.T. Hillman, was sold this spring.

The six fish of Jackson’s last, broken trip, were small, weighing only 700 pounds. Eight days of rough sea at the start of the trip were too much of a drain on steward George Paul’s strength. The steward held to his cooking duties in the rolling craft until the weather eased off, when he turned in, exhausted. Mr. Paul was discharged from the Marine Hospital this week.

Ken Shepherd took over the steward’s place in the galley, and will continue on the next trip. Ken says he can make bread all right, but he’s not so sure of himself on pie and cake. Lowell Jeffers of Chappaquiddick has been shipped as eighth man.

James Cagney, movie star, and his friend, Edward J. McNamara, arrived on the Vineyard Saturday. Mr. Cagney has evinced a great fondness for the Vineyard and has hinted that he may consider locating here permanently as a summer resident. But he has also made it clear that while he desires to please his public, a moderate amount of rest and relaxation in comparative solitude is necessary to maintain health and peace of mind. Briefly, Jimmie loves people, but wants to be by himself now and then. It was for this reason that he came to the Vineyard. And now, everybody knows.

Observing the recrudescence of the bicycle and the return of croquet, we began to wonder how soon there would be a revival of the banana split. The banana split does not go back so far as the bicycle and croquet, but it rode the crest of a wave of fashion when men and women of silvered hair were boys and girls. It is quite possible that the banana split has been going along at an even pace under the surface all these years, that it has been boring from within.

How it used to look as it came from the clerk’s hand in the drug store — the neatly split banana almost concealed beneath terminal mounds of ice cream, the fruit syrup, the clustering peaks of whipped cream, the garnishing cherry. Yet it passed from popular acclaim and became a neglected item on the drug store bill of fare.

Will it come back again? If it does, there will be that much more gusto in the summer side of life.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner