Three friends were seated at their usual table in the corner at the Woodland Variety and Grill just as they have every Thursday since last year.
But on this day, the self-proclaimed “romeos” (retired old men eating out) were joined by family and members of the community as Tom Dresser, Herb Foster and Jay Schofield celebrated the release of their book Martha’s Vineyard in World War II, a project that was conceived of and created during their weekly lunch dates.
“It started with Herb and an interest in writing a book on World War II,” said Mr. Dresser. “I love the Vineyard and Vineyard history, Jay has done some memoirs and interviews with people, so I put together the three of us because I thought that each one of us has strengths.”
And so it began.
Splitting up topics between them, the authors then gathered their information through interviews, archived materials and internet research. “The nice thing is when we’d do research on our topics if we found things the other was working on we’d trade information,” said Mr. Schofield.
What they found was that the Island had an active role during the war. Aside from men and women serving abroad, the Island itself was used by the military for air and ground training maneuvers. Bunkers and observation stations were built. The Coast Guard patrolled the beaches. An army camp was set up on Peaked Hill.
And Islanders experienced other effects of the war as well. They rationed food and commodities such as metal, aluminum, gasoline, oil, nylon and silk. They hung flags and banners in support of family members serving overseas, and volunteered for the Red Cross.
“The stories here are fantastic,” said Mr. Dresser. “Jay had a number of interviews dealing with a lot of different people about the same subject.”
“The thrust of our book here is about the people left behind. What did they do?” added Mr. Schofield. “This little Island was a mecca for patriotism at that point. People really bent over backwards to try to help, even between towns. There was a period where a lot of people worked really hard and worked together all for the common good.”
June 6 marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and as the greatest generation gets older and passes on, the stories are going with them.
“The more they can speak about the war the better. It’s so critical to get this stuff down,” said Mr. Schofield. “They’re dying at a rate of 1,000 a day in America.”
The romeos plan to keep meeting for lunch on Thursday afternoons. Each author is working on another project, and there is even talk of putting together a part two to Martha’s Vineyard in World War II.
“It was a great experience. I worked with two great guys, very professional, no egos were involved,“ said Mr. Foster. “It was really a perfect kind of relationship.”