Ask around these days, and you’ll find folks who don’t much like the idea of the new opening through Norton Point Beach, which once again separates Chappaquiddick from Edgartown. It’s inconvenient for people who like to fish at Wasque Point, as well as those who like driving the length of the beach that connects the two Islands.

A car stuck in the sand en route to the opening.

But in the winter and spring of 1932, villagers wanted an opening so badly that hundreds of them tried to dig a canal through the beach by hand.

The effort, organized and paid for by the town, was meant to invigorate the shellfish beds of Katama Bay by opening it to the Atlantic and to keep men employed during an especially bitter year of depression.

This motion picture footage, edited by John Wilson of Edgartown from a digital transfer by Art Donahue of Franklin, replays a critical moment during this great beach-opening enterprise 83 years ago. It was mostly photographed by Julien W. Vose of Edgartown on the morning of April 23, 1932.

Donald Vose, future president of Edgartown National Bank, with his grandfather Julien W. Vose, who shot this film, sitting on a glacier in 1931.

The Vose film shows the last stages of the digging at the end of April. The cut was all but finished, but actually opening the beach to the sea depended on a careful balancing of wind and tide in Katama Bay and on the ocean side as well.

The footage was shot either a few minutes before the seaward dam of sandbags was removed to let the tide flow out into the Atlantic, or after the bags were quickly replaced when it was clear the current was not running hard enough to keep the new waterway open.

Financed by the town, the endeavor played out months before the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the hurried invention of federal efforts to create work for the unemployed.

But soon after the digging began, the weather turned mean and progress slowed. A job that everyone expected to take a couple of weeks — a month at the most — dragged on fitfully from winter to spring.

The project was chronicled in the Gazette.

Julien Vose was one of the early summer residents to become for a time a year -rounder in Edgartown. Capitalizing on a fortune he helped to create at the Vose and Sons Piano Company in Boston, he had retired early and helped to found the Edgartown Water Company. He also served as a board member of the Edgartown National Bank and as a selectman. He traveled all over North America with his wife, Anna, and a few grandchildren and took his movie camera everywhere.

The group of Edgartown men at work on the morning of April 23, 1932, the first day they tried to open the newly-dug channel to the sea.

“I think he had a great sense of history as [the past] moves into the future,” said his great-grandson, D. Warren Vose of Edgartown, who with his sister Dianne Durawa gave a copy of the digitized film to the Gazette for its Historic Movies of Martha’s Vineyard project. “Because, you know, the fact that he took these pictures – some of them obviously were for historical reference.”

The Historic Movies of Martha’s Vineyard project saves, archives and introduces old Island films to the public. For information about the initiative, contact historicmovies@vineyardgazette.com. (To avoid damage, please do not run an old film through a projector.) To see the collection of 12 Vineyard films presented to date, go to vineyardgazette.com/historicmoviesofmarthasvineyard.