Herb Foster’s article in the Jan. 3 issue of the Gazette has an interesting organization that braids together effectively but sometimes a bit confusingly several different time sequences: the Vineyard in the 1930s, and within that period the narration of a land trip around the island that is contained in the WPA guidebook on Massachusetts of 1937 complete with its references to the larger history of the Vineyard preceding that decade. And then, of course, there is our own present vantage point.
But several reflections on this zigzag writerly passage are in order. First, contrary to what is said at the opening of this piece, in the 1930s one didn’t “have to go to New Bedford” in order to get to the Vineyard by ferry. The port of Woods Hole was already in operation as the guidebook’s travel story indicates. But the latter makes a couple of errors and omissions of its own. The trip around the Island includes but doesn’t mention passing through Chilmark, though it clearly does do that. Perhaps as a consequence, it has difficulties with one alleged landmark, which it calls “Brandy Brown Place,” “a private home” on the North Road — and hence in Chilmark — “that took its name from the former house where the Vineyard’s supply of brandy was hidden.”
Surely the narrator is misplacing and misnaming Brandy Brow, which is located at and above the starting point in West Tisbury of the road to Edgartown. It lies just across the road from a former tavern, a bit below Alley’s, that was in our own time until recently the summer home of the remarkable Virginia Newhall.