As the summer of 1946 approached I began to think about getting a summer job. I was finishing up my sophomore year at Brown University and had not yet found any ideas or clues as to where my future would lead me. I had no particular skills or experience to point me in the direction my life might take me, and I don’t remember even wondering what I would do — or where I would go — after I graduated from college. If I graduated from college. None of the courses I had taken had grabbed my interest. I didn’t do very well taking Spanish — what kind of a job could I get because I could speak Spanish? Philosophy didn’t sound very promising and neither did sociology. Psychology? If I couldn’t help myself with my problems, how could I help anyone else?

None of the sciences seemed interesting to me — I liked my course in music appreciation but I didn’t have any bent toward making music. Same with art, and I avoided anything to do with math. I did like to read, mostly novels.

That left courses in English literature. Introduction to English literature sounded promising and maybe the contemporary novel.

Meanwhile, the end of the semester was approaching and when my fellow student Mary Ellen approached me with the suggestion that we apply for a waitress job on Cape Cod, I was enthusiastic. Two of the other girls in our dorm had already signed up for waitress jobs on an Island off the coast of Falmouth. I had never heard of Martha’s Vineyard, but then, the whole world, near and far, was beyond my imagination. World War II was over, I was 20 years old and I felt like a grownup.

Plans were made and then began to fall apart. The two girls who had planned to work on the Vineyard decided that it might be too isolated, so far from mainland entertainments, and canceled their agreement with the Edgartown hotel. Mary Ellen and I decided that it might be more exciting to work on an Island. What did we know? We had never been on an island, let alone lived and worked on one. We canceled our Cape Cod job and stepped into the jobs our friends had just vacated.

Then another glitch occurred — Mary Ellen’s parents did not approve of this adventure, so she dropped out of the plan. I found myself on a large ferry boat heading out of New Bedford to an unknown job on an unknown Island where I knew no one. Well, maybe one — a war veteran in one of my English classes. But I didn’t know him well enough to really know him.

An hour on the ferry and a cab to the hotel. The Harbor View hotel was ahead of its time and owned a small cottage behind the hotel to house the waitresses. I settled into a single room and unpacked my clothes as I watched other young women arrive. They all seemed about my age, probably here for the same reason I was — to fill the time until the fall semester began and to earn a little money while having fun.

The next morning we all gathered in the small lobby, waiting for the young man who would take us on a tour of this elderly but welcoming piece of architecture at the eastern end of Edgartown, with a long front porch facing the bay and the Edgartown lighthouse. Built in 1891 to encourage more people to visit Edgartown, it was an all wooden building with no fire escapes.

Instead, beside one window in every bedroom, there was a long and large rope hanging on the wall, and next to that a sign instructing the occupants of the room to “throw out and climb down.” I was appalled, considering the ages of some of the temporary visitors to this relatively new hotel. But this was still early in the 20th century and concerns about escaping from a burning building were below the concerns of comfort and beauty of the place chosen for a quiet vacation.

The rest of the hotel seemed cozy and quiet, and we started work the next day. A few boys had been hired to work as busboys, so we waitresses had only to take meal orders and serve them. At first there weren’t many residents and so we had time to learn how to best stack the dishes on a tray and carry the tray on one arm. Delivering the food was hard as we couldn’t stack the dishes and we had to move carefully to prevent spillage. We became acquainted and helped each other.

The hotel was paying us $30 a month plus room and board. In 1946 we thought this was reasonable, as waitresses usually relied on tips to add to their salaries, and make a living wage. But tipping was in its infancy and no one was figuring 15 or 20 per cent on their meal bills as it was contained in their overall residency bill. They left their tip at the end of each week. I can remember two tables I served — one, a single man, left me $1 for serving him twenty-one meals. The other table, a family party of six, gave me $5.

I was hoping to put away some money toward college expenses that summer, but at the beginning it didn’t look like I would be able to put away much. That first week netted me $13.

But it was fun. We swam and played on the lighthouse beach between meals — waitresses and bus boys. Sometimes a local boy would show up looking for a date — one of them, Bob Carroll, later did well in Edgartown and actually owned the Harbor View Hotel between 1965 and 1986.

This luxurious resort hotel, however, has gone through periods of being not so luxurious — and 1946 was one of those periods. I can’t remember who the manager was, but the waitresses complained about the meals we were getting — leftovers from the guest dining room (string beans three nights in a row, never an egg for breakfast, etc.) We got no satisfaction from the manager and we threatened to go on strike if our meals didn’t improve. He didn’t believe us but we did. The next day none of us turned up at lunchtime and later the bus boys told us of all the elderly residents milling around the kitchen looking for something to eat. Our menu changed for the better.

However, I realized by the end of July that I wasn’t going to make enough money to help my folks pay for my education, so I quit and walked into town to look for another job. I was in luck as the Edgartown Café (now the Wharf) had just lost a waitress and they hired me. Ralph and Sophie Levinson paid me $25 a week, plus dinner (anything on the menu except lobster) every night I worked. I rented a room in the yellow house on Main Street for $10 a week and with tips jingling in my pocket, sometimes as much as $40 or $50, I walked to my room every night.

After a few days I got in touch with Johnny Mayhew and we dated a few times. He took me up to see the Gay Head Cliffs — the only thing there was poison ivy. The next summer Ralph invited me back to be a waitress at the Café again, and by the end of the summer I quit college and in September of 1947 Johnny and I were married.

I have lived in West Tisbury now for 71 years. Johnny died at 91 after 65 years of marriage; we raised a son and two daughters and three granddaughters in this town. It has been a good life and it is hard to believe, when I have dinner in this lovely hotel that a waitress job in 1946 put me onto my life’s journey.