From the March 2, 1956 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Down at Colter’s Garage in Edgartown the other day, William Bassett was holding forth to an audience of a few of the younger generation. He was talking about a new, push button transmission now installed in a few of the latest model cars, which, the manufacturers claim in their advertising, is a revolutionary step in the automobile industry.

The new push button gadget does away with all shifting of gears and other driving chores, and nowadays all one has to do to get from high gear to reverse is exert the muscles of one finger. But Mr. Bassett can tell you a thing or two about this “revolutionary” device.

“Why, that isn’t new,” he was saying. “I remember the same thing on a car I owned forty years ago.” He paused and looked around at a circle of unbelieving faces, one of them belonging to a young man who makes his living selling, among other things, these new transmissions.

“Of course,” Mr. Bassett continued, “that was back in 1914 or 1915, before most of you were around, so you wouldn’t know what I’m talking about. That was back in the days of raccoon coats and such. Why, everybody had one of those raccoon coats! I bought mine in Boston, at Lamson & Hubbard’s and they’re still doing business today.

“But anyway, one of the first cars I ever had was a Haynes, and it had a push button gearshift.”

Once more, the expressions of disbelief registered, even more strongly this time, on the surrounding faces.

“How did it work,” someone wanted to know.

Mr. Bassett explained that with a handicap it is somewhat difficult to drive an ordinary car. “Oh, I’ve driven lots of cars,” he added, “but the Haynes — well that was something special. It had four buttons, right in the middle of the wheel — where the horn is usually, and they were labeled 1, 2, 3, and R. You just threw out the clutch, pressed your button, and off you went.”

Now the audience dropped their skeptical attitude. The Haynes, they were told, was one of the best cars made at the time, and this was a special model, experimental in nature, which also boasted a compressed air starter. The listeners wanted to know more about the old days and the old cars.

“Well,” Mr. Bassett went on, “after that I had a Lexington, and then... Oh, I’ve had a lot of cars. But you see, there’s nothing new in this world. Everything’s just the same thing over again. Look at these new, charcoal grey trousers, for example. I can remember a long time ago when they were in style. There’s really nothing new at all...Just the same thing over again. It’s always been that way.”


As the kind friend drove toward Boston, he inquired as to whether we had yet driven over the new road. We were a little bewildered. “The Gay Head road you mean?”, Moshup’s Trail, now in embryo state, being the first thing that came to mind. And then we could have blushed for our provincialism, and probably did.

For it was the world outside of the Island to which he referred and which we are prone to forget after a prolonged dose of things insular. There is, indeed, a world outside, some of it so disturbing as to provoke an instinctive retreat and an impulse to turn the car’s nose toward home and the Island.

But this was nothing more alarming than the Fall River turnpike or whatever it is called, which was in process of being built for years on end and still unfinished when we last saw it slashing its way across the once nearly sylvan road of Middleboro to Taunton.

There are still many people who like to take their outdoors wild, with trees and tangles as well as beaches and boulevards. And this is worth being recalled, even harped on again, as the town of Gay Head, with new roads a-coming, decides how its thousands of inviting acres are to develop, with some forethought and planning of helter skelter. On the Fall River highway as on all through ways now, development is permitted at only started points, where gas stations and the concomitants can go only at specified intervals. If Gay Head must develop, let’s keep this in mind.


The days grow long! And the perennial debate as to whether to aid the Almighty in lengthening them is on again, with a preponderance of the adult residents of twelve north-eastern states in favor according to a Gallup poll. As usual, the farmers say avast with daylight saving, but the fact that it is already so eagerly welcomed and the cry is to advance it to the first of April as well as carrying it through October, proves that the movement has a momentum that will be hard to beat.

Probably there are other Vineyarders who, like Ezra Shaw, delight in marking the northward advance of the sun by measuring it in early morning by means of certain landmarks, signs and protents, and watching the sun reach for them, first hesitantly, than confidently, at an ever earlier hour. Spring may be hesitant but it advances, and who can doubt that it will reach and surround its objective?

Compiled by Hilary Wall