From the September 8, 1939 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Labor Day, and the annual exodus of summer visitors and weekenders, reveals the crowds shoving off for the mainland in a body like the embarkation of an army. The exodus began on Sunday when several hundred visitors, taking advantage of the lull before the figurative storm, and likewise of the fine weather, left with their cars and baggage. If they remembered the stormy Labor Days of yore and feared that Monday might prove to be just another one, their fears were unfounded, for no fairer day has ever dawned than Labor Day. Because of the fine weather, the throng of people, closely calculated to reach five thousand, left the Island by easy stages, never crowding any of the numerous boats leaving but embarking with an orderliness that left the steamboat officers and agents experiencing a seldom-sensed pleasure.

The departures began with the first boats, and increased more or less as the day wore on. The largest trip before evening was the 4:30 double-header from Oak Bluffs, when 600 passengers completed the steamer Nantucket’s load, she having brought a heavy freight from Nantucket, and 1,400 boarded the Naushon. It was this crowd, and the next double-header at 7, which really thinned out the Island’s summer population.

The farewell scene was typical. Tanned young men carrying baggage, with frail, bathing-suit-clad females accompanying them. Gangs of giggling girls, tripping along to join the crowd that was penned at the wharf entrance. They did not have to be penned, but they seemed to prefer it, as usual. Anxious mothers, clutching small children; anxious fathers, ditto. Groups of boys heading back to college, perhaps, clustering together in the midst of the crowd to give the traditional yell for “dear old some-thing-or-other,” and likewise singing “drink her down!” with variations.

Budding manhood and womanhood, taking the first flight from the family nest, and getting kissed goodbye before all the people — what a letdown! Troubadours, who split the atmosphere with a chorus of noises tortured from musical instruments, and couples who attempted to dance on the sidewalks. An exhibition of bathing suits that never, never would pass the board of censors, seen among the audience who came to watch.

The crowd swayed back and forth, everyone good natured, everyone joking, many singing, and plenty of them pleasantly exhilarated, by the clear autumn atmosphere, no doubt.

At last the stream of passengers started for the boat. The runway was filled with moving people, the wharf soon filled as well. Ever increasing, the crowd that formed on the decks of the boats, and ever louder the chorus of goodbyes that were shouted to those ashore. This shore crowd thinned out as the voyaging crowd grew, and suddenly there were no more people moving; all were still.

A thrash of propellers, a long-drawn blast of the whistle, loud shouting and a chorus of auto horns: the summer folks had gone, and much of the spirit of summer had gone with them. So passed Labor Day, one of the busiest on the steamboat wharves in years.

We turn on the radio in the morning and it fills the room with anxious news and alarms. Again and again we subject ourselves to the torrent of the strife and the woes of the world. This is being well informed.

Of course it is a marvelous thing to hear the voice of a ruler in Europe as soon as he has spoken, and to know the death caused by a bomb in Warsaw as soon as it has fallen. But there is a great danger in this marvel, and it is that the world of radio may bury the real world of our own which is capable still of peace and happiness up to the limit of our own imperfect capacities.

No one can deny the grim reality of the warring forces in Europe, or that it is hard fact which we hear over the radio; yet the fact, unfortunately, is quickly transformed into emotion, and this emotional involvement of ours is not real. Suddenly we find ourselves listening as we listen to a closely contested baseball game or a prize-fight. Our emotions are making a game of it all in spite of our horror.

Can anyone doubt that we need to keep alive the normal things of life? It is better to still the terrible words of the radio after a time, and fill our lungs with the fresh air of the Vineyard. Beach plums are ripening, the early morning mists will soon be white, there are daily occupations to be followed through in store or office, on the farm and on the waterfront, September gilds the land and the sea. This is ours. And it is a priceless thing to keep just as it is now, life for life’s sake, when elsewhere no such thing is possible.

Everyone is glad to be well informed, but the sheer volume and excitement of information should not be permitted to shake the peaceful pursuits in this world. It is as if we had a trust to keep for all mankind.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox