From the Dec. 10, 1954 edition of the Gazette:

Bill Wigley, who lives down the Neck, is talking these days just like the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Bill says: “When Old Man Winter comes out with his practice team at this time of the year, as he has done, you may expect him to put on a full-scale program a few weeks from now when the season really opens.” Or words to that effect.

Some of his hearers say that this is a defeatist attitude, while others declare that he ought to be suppressed.

It all came about through the appearance of Monday’s snow, which Islanders have called a freak storm, that being the up-to-date tag for any snow on the Vineyard in these days. While the actual number of inches was about six inches, nobody would have guessed that it was so little after having wallowed through the drifts or faced the driving smother that came out of the nor’west. The fall began before daylight on Monday and continued into the night.

Snow plows were busy in some towns and could not keep up with the snowfall, but tough as the street departments found it, their troubles ranked a long second behind those of the garages. Cars were stuck in the snow everywhere, and frantic calls for assistance, for wreckers, chains and other equipment, came endlessly throughout the day and into the night.

No serious damage was reported anywhere, and the temperature remaining low, the snow was dry and did not collect on wires which was a thing for which telephone and electric light line crews, not to mention the house-holders, gave thanks, for many of them know well what it means to lose heat and lights because of storms.

Few Islanders were really prepared for a major storm so much earlier than any in recent winters. The advance billing indicated snow for Cape Cod and the Islands, but only as the day wore on did the weather bulletins catch up with what was really happening. In the main the snow was not pretty or romantic — not a single tree was “ridged with pearl” and nobody saw any natural object wearing “ermine too dear for an earl.”

The most worried people were the few fishermen who were holding live fish for the Christmas market. These were the tautog, caught and kept in wooden cars or crates some weeks and even months ago, in anticipation of the fancy prices paid for them on the approach of the holiday season. A check-up of the amount of fish, so carred, at Vineyard Haven, showed probably a couple of tons or more, worth, at normal Christmas prices, a thousand dollars.

Actual cold does not affect these fish generally, but the combination of low temperatures and snow or ice will quickly kill them. Fortunately, the snow did not continue long enough to chill the water dangerously but there were some anxious men alongshore while it was falling.

Local weather prophets predicted the snow thirty-six to forty-eight hours in advance, and directly contrary to the weather predictions broadcast over radio and TV.

Monday’s snow did its part in disrupting cross-Sound traffic. The ferry Islander was unaffected insofar as the boat itself was concerned, but it was running forty minutes late at noon because of the delay of the connecting train into Woods Hole. However, the trip to Nantucket, was canceled because of the storm.

Most New England school children used to learn those magic lines that begin, “The snow had begun in the gloaming, and busily all the night . . .” What a picture of eventful innocence was that poem a generation ago, before automobiles had changed the habits and the point of view!

Seldom in recent years, for we have checked the point carefully, has the snow begun in the gloaming, although it has begun at almost any other period of the day to spread its “silence, deep and white.” As the time is out of joint, so too the innocence of the first snowfall has gone. Nothing is the same as it used to be. Snow, even in December, with Christmas not far ahead, is more nuisance than anything. Can it be that it was a nuisance to our forefathers, fore-uncles and fore-aunts, even though they had no tire chains to wrestle with?

Yet, somehow, the younger generation still has sleds. Despite a succession of almost snow-less winters during which people have talked about the melting of the polar ice cap, the caperings of the Gulf Stream, and green Christmases, the children have acquired and maintained ownership of sleds and skates as well. Such faith has not only its own reward but the reward of a snow such as that which began this week. In the streets and on the white slopes the sleds appeared with ruddy-faced youngsters as zestful after the rewards of winter as their predecessors of the pre-gasoline age.

Not for years has the Island had so early a snowstorm, and many a recollection went harking back to the old untroubled times when — if one is to believe the reminiscent oldsters — snowdrifts used to be chin-deep and would often decorate the Island all winter through.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox