I know some of you don’t believe in it, but East Chop has a telltale sign of global warming. Crystal Lake has not been covered in thick ice in several years. Emma Carmichael remembers as a little girl the ice for her refrigerator came from Crystal Lake. All you had to do was put a sign in your window, and the iceman came.

Ice was first harvested from Crystal Lake in 1906. The ice was cut into blocks when the ice on the lake attained a thickness of seven inches. Originally there were two icehouses, one on either end of the lake. This situation changed when an intense storm in the summer of 1926 blew away the icehouse on the lighthouse end of the lake.

In an average year, Crystal Lake would yield hundreds of tons of ice blocks ranging in thickness from seven and a half to ten inches. This lucrative business ended with the hurricane of 1944 when storm surges flooded the lake with salt water. Ice was harvested that winter, but the high salt content of the water caused the individual blocks of ice to merge into one solid mass. Henceforth, ice blocks were purchased in Providence, and the business continued until Hurricane Carol destroyed the one remaining icehouse in 1954.

While we’re on the topic of East Chop history, it’s time we examined the yacht club. Commodore Page Stephens interested me in the subject when he announced at the July Beach Club meeting that the yacht club is 75 years old this year.

It was the dream of four college kids — Bob and George Dowley, George Long and George Gould. These guys just wanted to race their boats. Bob Dowley designed the club burgee, and placed the first order for one from his fraternity at Amherst College. When the bill arrived for the burgee with a price tag of $1.98, Bob wrote the supplier an angry letter in protest. It didn’t work, and he ended up paying full price.

According to Dave Lawton, one of my best sources for East Chop lore, the current yacht club building was the old baggage-holding facility for the steamer. The old steamer wharf was located off of the beach club parking lot, with the baggage facility on Mill Square Road in front of the present home of Liz and Bob Huss. Yacht club members moved the abandoned facility across the street in 1950. Buddy Knight and Frank Keegan were responsible for putting in the first slips along the bulkhead around that time.

The flagpole came to us thanks to Hurricane Donna. Chuck Sanders and Jim Bryan had a 30-foot catboat named Cuckoo. The boat was built in 1893 and reconditioned by Robert Douglas of Black Dog and Alabama fame, who sold it to Chuck and Jim. When Hurricane Donna threatened the New England coast in the fall of 1960, Chuck sailed the boat to Green Harbor near Falmouth for protection. Unfortunately, the storm ripped through the harbor, destroying Cuckoo with the exception of its mast. Chuck and Jim proudly donated the mast to the yacht club and it now serves as our flagpole.

The anchor that sits on the concrete slab in front of the flagpole also came to us under interesting circumstances. Walter Slocum, a former yacht club commodore, somehow found out that a large anchor, belonging to a schooner that sank off the Elizabeth Islands in the late 1800s, was recoverable. Walter hired a professional diver from Edgartown, and he, the diver and son Bill set off on the Flying Spray in search of the anchor. They found it in 90 feet of water and were able to use four oil barrels filled with air to float the anchor to the surface. They then towed the anchor back to East Chop where a crane lifted it onto the concrete slab.

The story of the modern yacht club is the story of Henry Jeffers. Henry went on a mission to improve the youth program. The problem was you couldn’t teach kids to sail on a gem. To solve the problem, Henry and five other club members loaned the club $5,000 each. Henry used the money to purchase six 420s. The club repaid the members in three years. Henry then devised a similar program to purchase Optimists. The Club now owns eight 420s and 16 Optimists, which has enabled a generation of East Chop kids to learn how to sail. Thank you, Henry Jeffers!

(Information on the harvesting of ice from Crystal Lake came from Ruth Nerney’s informative pamphlet entitled Reflections in Crystal Lake.)