From the May 12, 1967 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

After all the excitement of the past several weeks with the Menemsha post office, here one minute and gone the next, and then back for the summer only, then possibly back for all year, it seemed advisable to take a trip to the other side of the Island to find out how the Menemsha postmaster, William C. Seward, was surviving.

Mr. Seward really seemed rather unconcerned about the whole confusing situation, and feeling that the government worked in wondrous ways, he planned to wait out the rise and fall of the political tide with an open mind.

He explained that to his knowledge there were sixty-two seasonal post offices in the country and their postmasters were all being paid on a year-round basis regardless of how many months their offices were operative. Therefore, on a government economy drive, orders had been issued to close them all. Last year also there had been considerable hubbub over the discontinuance of the Menemsha office, but with luck and little intrigue the office had remained open. Now here Postmaster Seward was going through the whole thing all over again.

Two weeks ago Mr. Seward received notice that the Menemsha office would officially be closed on May 5. This was ten days before it was to have opened for the summer. A week later, Mr. Seward was informed, through reliable sources, that the office was to be opened for the summer, but this was positively the last time. The reasons given were that Mr. Seward had several months still to go before he was eligible to receive his pension.

Hard on the heels of this announcement came another saying there was the possibility that the Menemsha office would remain open all year. Going in rapid succession from one extreme to another didn’t set Mr. Seward’s head to spinning in the slightest. He just went on spring cleaning the Seagoing Grocery.

Mr. Seward said that in the matter of his pension he needed twenty-five years of government service, which he will not have acquired until Jan. 1 of next year.

“This,” he said, “is inclusive of the years I spent in the Coast Guard.”

“On Sept. 1 I will have been postmaster here for twenty years, but the office itself has been here for fifty-seven years. It was first opened on July 1, 1910, and the postmaster was Carl E. Reed. I took over from him. When it was opened it was called the Creekville postoffice. On Aug. 1, 1913, they changed the name to Menemsha.

“This building was built in 1926, I learned from a cement post somewhere underneath, and it was across the road, where the Home Port restaurant is now. There was no store in the building. I opened that in 1948.”

Not long thereafter Joseph Chase Allen nicknamed it the Seagoing Grocery in his With the Fishermen column in the Gazette, and the name has stuck. Mr. Seward has himself become one of the regular characters in the column and sometimes has difficulty untangling fact from the fiction for his friends.

Through the use of the postoffice and store by the summer people, the office has become a famous one. Mr. Seward is frequently asked to pose clutching one of the uprights on the building’s front porch, and the quaint scene has been on numerous postcards.

In October of 1948 Stevan Donhanos, cover artist for the Saturday Evening Post, set up his easel out front, but it was not until August of 1950 that the picture was published. The distributor asked how many copies he would need, and Mr. Seward said that he thought ten would do it.

“How little I knew!” said Mr. Seward. “Those ten copies were gone before the magazine even arrived. I was selling them for years, 4,000 copies in all.”

Mr. Seward said that if the office were to be discontinued it would be hard on the many summer people. “There are 185 families on Menemsha hill,” he said, pointing up the road. “They couldn’t have rural free delivery because this would block the already congested traffic. The Chilmark office, which would be used instead, is only a mile and six-tenths down the road, but many people don’t have cars, and many of them are on boats.”

On the question of keeping the Menemsha postoffice open all year, Mr. Seward said, “Well, I’ll have to put in heat,” and he let it go at that. The 185 families on the hill and the twenty-one businesses in town during the summer evaporate into eight families in winter.

“Quite a comedown from the chaos of summer,” said Mr. Seward. “I never get out of town from June 15 until Oct. 15 and have even resorted to cutting my own hair.”

Mr. Seward said that he was not an Islander but had arrived on the Vineyard via the Coast Guard in 1941. After his release he met and married Barbara Flanders, an Island girl, and has been here since, running the store and the postoffice and fathering three children, the twins, David and Douglas, and a daughter Nancy. He is now looking forward to becoming a grandfather. This will probably happen plumb in the middle of the hectic summer, postoffice or no postoffice.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox