From the November 29, 1957 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Chris Murphy of Chilmark was the big winner of the “buggy race” or “soapbox derby” held in West Tisbury on Saturday, and planned as the first in a series. There were eight participating hot-rod vehicles, and sixteen participating kids, counting drivers and pushers, and a good crowd of spectators. Two preliminary heats and a deciding heat were held.

The race, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., took place on Scotchman’s Bridge Lane, which was closed to traffic for the event, with Sheriff David J. McBride stationed at the entrance to the Vineyard Haven road, and Chief of Police John E. Palmeir stationed at the entrance to the Old County Road.

It was thought at first by the unofficial umpires, Everett D. Whiting and John J. Scannell, that the entire race could be run off in one heat. But as they lined up the first four arrivals, a fifth arrived, somewhat crowding the width of Scotchman’s Lane. The late arrival of a sixth still further complicated the situation, and the appearance of a seventh buggy had the entire starting line almost solid, with no allowance for inevitable left or right deviation. Two heats were then decided on, and the eight vehicle arrived just in time to make it an even division.

The starting line was just off the entrance of Scotchman’s Lane into the Vineyard Haven road, with the finish line near the Barth driveway. However, none of the contestants made the finish in the first trial run, so the race was shortened and the finish line moved closer to the Vineyard Haven road.

Winner of the first heat was Allen D. Whiting, in the buggy Lissa (No. 7). The Lissa was pea-green, and painted with pale pink hearts. It was named for a last summer’s love. The starting-pusher was Eric Magnuson. Other contestanst in the first heat were Kevin Alley, with pusher Jimmy Athearn; Eddie Smith, pusher Danny Whiting; and Johnny Scannell, pusher, Roger La Hart. None except Allen made the finish line. Johnny Scannell crashed in the first twenty feet of the race, as he had in the trial run. Winner of the second heat was Chris Murphy, pusher Johnny Alley, buggy No. 88, license number 40 705, Mass. 1918. Angela Waldron, pusher Julie Scannell, took second. Mark Kurth, pusher Alby Scott, was third. Prudence Whiting, pusher Georger Athearn, spun in and failed to finish. The final heat between Chris Murphy and Allen Whiting was run off, while the spectators — the occupants of some nine or ten cars, plus a number of others who came on foot — ran along the sidelines, cheering. Chris won by a good margin.

Asked if he had any statement to make, Chris only laughed, but pusher Johnny Alley commented, “Tell ‘e, we had it all the way!”

Chris later went to claim his prize, $1.25 to be spent at Albion Alley’s store, and was greeted by a group of hangers-on, demanding treats. Said Chris, “At this rate, I’ll soon be poor again.” The prize money was contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Barth, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Reuter, Mr. and Mrs. Everett D. Whiting, Mrs. Worth Brehm, and McDonough’s Service Station.

The buggy race was the brain child of Allen and Chris, who went on their own to see Selectman Nelson S. Bryant, and arrange for the closing off of Scotchman’s. Another race is scheduled for tomorrow at 1 p.m., police willing and the weather clement. Participation is invited from all parts of the Island, but the kids have plans to enforce a few restricting rules.

No child more than 12 may participate, except as a pusher. Children more than 6 years old must make their own buggies. There is little restriction on the buggies themselves - Saturday saw everything from plain wood to heavy Metal, stripped down hot-rods to easy-chair backs and sheepskin saddles.

But no motors, please.


Many Island families were united for Thanksgiving, and the shortly ensuing weekend will prolong most of the visits home.


There are many signs that the Christmas season comes swiftly on in the wake of Thanksgiving — even before the first meals of Thanksgiving turkey are digested, and before the turkey hash is even made. Overhead is the early, new brightness of stars in the colder winter sky, and around us are the lights in the stores that gleam in the early pre-Christmnas twilight.

Long ago in childhood it was so. The sun would set before the time for stores to be closed, and the mixture of darkness and chill, and the lights reflected upon cold sidewalks and streets, or even upon the snow, would tell of Christmas near and nearer.

How bright now are the lights in the stores, and how gay, because these are our own, part of our own lives, and because of the spell of approaching Christmas, not much more than three weeks away.

They have more lights in the cities, but not more inward light, which is what counts, and not so much memory of the outdoor simplicity of Christmas in bygone years. Under the stars it comes on again, the season that is the climax of the year.

Compiled by Hilary Wall