From the Vineyard Gazette edition of Jan. 5, 1940:

It was New Year’s Eve, and Vineyard Haven slept or celebrated according to time-honored practice. All was still and peaceful out of doors, beneath the dark winter sky. Not a breath of wind stirred and little traffic moved along the snow-covered streets. Suddenly a strange, thrilling sound filled the air. Starting at a low pitch at first, it grew louder and more thrilling. Young men, bailing out a noggin of lemonade, leaped into the air and cracked their heels together. Old men, hobbling from bed to fire, reared themselves erect, lifted their canes like sabres and, with flashing eyes, demanded to know who might be looking for trouble, adding that it was present, all mixed, in unlimited quantities, for all such seekers.

But there were some who dashed out of doors and sought the source of this thrilling, far-carrying sound that incited men to combat, and their trail led to Crocker avenue. Long before they reached the head of the street, the sound was recognized. Yea, hailed with a spasm of delight or horror, according to taste and previous acquaintance. But there were some who recalled the last European altercation, and stopping in their tracks, yelled: “The crazy highlanders! On the march again!”

It was almost the truth. James Cameron had imported a dozen new, high-powered phonograph records of bagpipe music. The real, old-fashioned Scotch bagpipe music played by Highland artists skirled out of an open window to vibrate the frosty air. Cock o’ the North quickened the pulses of the advancing investigators, and The Campbells Are Coming was followed with a little more sentiment in Battle o’ the Boyne Waters. But the advance quickened when the pipes struck up Johnny Cope, and the New Year came in to the notes of the stirring Highland ballad.

Sponsored by the Tisbury Alumni Student Loan Fund committee, the New Year ball held in the school gym on Friday evening was, without doubt, the outstanding social event of the winter season. Island society was there on parade, with a galaxy of evening gowns and an array of white shirt fronts, but an announcement having been made of the semi-formal nature of the dance, there were even more business suits and informal gowns.

The top figure for attendance was 220, but this did not constitute the final word regarding receipts, as many donations arrived from the mainland. The result was a highly gratifying sum remaining after the expenses were paid, which will go into the student loan fund. It is also established that the committee will hold a ball of this kind annually from now on.

Ruby Newman’s orchestra performed with all its anticipated excellence, and the most sedate of patrons present with a view to seeing that all was dignified and proper, left their seats and joined merrily in some of the less modern dances.

Now we look back upon the nineteen thirties as a closed period of history. The decade was not, as the saying is, a particularly eventful one for the Vineyard. We rather think that it may be regarded as a time of transition.

In the long run the landmarks, which are counting most and will probably continue to count most, have to do with what is called the recreational industry. It was in the nineteen thirties that the Vineyard Haven and Edgartown Yacht Clubs developed into their present form and their present importance, with yacht racing established more than ever before as a summer activity. During the same period the East Chop Beach Club was built. The decade was not, on the whole, a prosperous one, and it cannot be said that summer resort business flourished, yet the Island did have these material advances to prove the vitality and continuing significance of the summer industry in Vineyard life.

There was no similar advance in the fishing industry, unfortunately. The disappearance of the eel grass was a natural reverse, coming at the same time that the depression disorganized economics in general. Considerable progress was made in finding new shellfish beds and in the protection of seed, but there was little of a hopeful nature so far as markets were concerned. The decade was not a period during which the fishing fleet was increased, and in retrospect it suffers in comparison with the nineteen twenties.

The thirties saw no extensive building operations, although there was some substantial construction in almost every year. The impression as 1940 begins is that the decade ahead ought to make up for deficiencies in building which have accumulated for a long time.

In their municipal concerns the Vineyard towns have a record during the last decade of which they can be proud. In general the pressing problems of the depression period were well met, and what is most important, the communities did not permit their civic development to be hampered. Schools, in particular, were not only maintained at a high level but were steadily improved in effectiveness.

Compiled by Hilary Wall

Compiled by Hilary Wall
Compiled by Hilary Wall