Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 40 Issue 11 • July 15-21, 2010
now in our 40th season

Celebrating our 40th Anniversary!
Island Memories

Charmed Life

In many respects, I have lived a charmed life, and being born and raised on Nantucket is something that I am both intensely proud and fiercely protective of. The sense of safety and freedom that I felt, (well tempered with the understanding that, if I did misbehave, Mom would know about it before I walked through the door) was something I thought kids everywhere had.

My ten year old self seems a life time ago. It was 1970, and I was in fourth grade at Academy Hill. Every morning, my dad, a mechanic at Al Silva’s garage, would drop me off on his way to work. We would drive down Lily Street, and he would let me out at the bottom of the back steps. Academy Hill, while it seems tucked away, was actually a great spot to watch the seasons turn and the weather roll in. Witnessing the change in the big, beautiful Elms and Maples that flanked the front of the building as the fall turned to winter then spring was a gauge of sorts to a fourth grader.

nother measure was Field Day.  Each Spring, all of the grades would pile onto the busses and head to the high school for a day of competition. Running around the track, relay races, lunch on the field and the day’s success measured by the ring around the tub. . I  don’t remember being in school much past Memorial Day, but once Field Day came and went, my focus turned to when the Penny Patch or Susie’s Clam Bar would open and less about reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. In my memories, summer vacation was longer. 

In the winter, Saturday afternoons were spent at the matinees at Straight Wharf Theatre. Pink Panther was a favorite. Whenever the Mill Pond was flooded and froze, we’d spend the days skating, and my mom, Madelyne, would bring hot chocolate and cookies. If it snowed, Dead Horse was the destination, and Mom was there as well.  The Penny Patch was only open in the summer, and seemed to move around in those days. I believe in the summer of ’70 it was either in the building that housed the Straight Wharf laundry mat or on Main Street next to the Camera Shop. Regardless of what shop was there (The Camera Shop, the Penny Patch, or my favorite, Kareka, where I spent my hard earned pay on silver earrings) it was seemed somehow adventurous and thrilling to go in.

I’m sure the entrance was no more than three or four feet, but my long ago memories has it as a tunnel. Every Fourth of July, we watched the fireworks from the parking lot at Al Silva’s. I can’t even imagine how many car roofs and hoods we dented bouncing around.

In the summer, my best friend, David Rose and I would walk down to what we knew as South Shore Beach, now Washington Street Beach. At seven and eight years old and up, we would mosey past Oliver’s on Pleasant Street, and down Williams Street to David’s families bakery; Aimee’s. His grandmothers had what could only have been asbestos hands, as they reached again and again into the steaming pot of potatoes to peel them for their potato salad. David’s dad, Frank, would stop for a minute, slice one of the large hams, split open a couple of his Portuguese rolls and wrap them in wax paper for our lunch. My Aunt Fran worked at the counter, and it was magical to watch the counter girls’ package up the baked goods and whip the red and white striped string around the boxes from the big, brassy spools that hung from the ceiling.  David and I would spend all day at the beach, sometimes by ourselves, sometimes with an occasional babysitter or grandparent, and wander home by dinner, always stopping for a minute or two to play on the little front porch of the old Boy’s Club, (where I got the worst splinter one afternoon, and limped, crying, all the way home!)

At the time, I didn’t understand why David’s dad would get so angry when I called at eight or so at night. After years of working baker’s hours I sure get it now! We lived so close, I could easily have stood in my back yard and called his name instead of using the phone. We had quite the neighborhood, with Frank Rebimbas next door, the Haynes up the street, Honky and Ethel Garnett  and Wendell and Maxine Howes across the street, and the Killen kids on  the corner.

I started working; part time of course (I was, after all, only ten. Full time didn’t start until I was eleven) for my Uncle Jack at Poet’s Corner Press on Orange Street. I would ride my bike to work and back. My job was to deliver the Nantucket Vacation Guides that we printed at the shop. I would drag a shopping cart around town, making stops from Young’s Bike Shop to the Information Bureau and everywhere in between. A right turn at the corner would take me past Mitchell’s Book Corner, the barber shop, Maude Dinsmore’s, the Camera Shop and Kareka. The Bosun’s Locker was along here as well, and if it were late afternoon, you might just cross the street instead of walking past the big, plate glass windows….just in case. After Charlie’s Market was Buttner’s, where every girl went to start their school shopping. On my bike ride home up Orange Street, I would often stop at Ryder’s Market for a bottle of Coke.

The wharves were under construction around that time, and over the next couple of years turned into the Boat Basin. There were these great, horseshoe shaped benches that lined the strip between Straight Wharf and Old South.

Instead of using Field Day and the seasons as a gauge, I’ve found that I’m on the cusp of the next level in Looking Backward in the Inquirer and Mirror. Talk about a time line!

Growing up and raising my own family here has been a gift. There are fewer and fewer of us who have these treasured, shared memories of Main Street way back when, and the names and faces that have come and gone. Some of the changes are good…others, well, a matter of opinion. I’m glad I was ten then, and knew the joy of the island as a youngster.

—Maryjane Mojer, Nantucket

This season is Yesterday’s Island’s 40th year publishing on Nantucket.  We’ve seen many changes on the island in those four decades, and over the years we’ve made many changes to our newsmagazine.

As part of our anniversary celebration, we’re printing memories of the island in 1970 that have been shared with us by readers.  Jo Ann Hubbard saw our request on the Yesterday’s Island Facebook page and was the very first to respond.  We’d like to thank her for sending in her story, and we hope that it jogs some memories of others on-island 40 years ago.
If you have a memory of Nantucket Island in 1970 that you’d like to share with us and our readers, please email it to or mail it to us at P.O. Box 626, Nantucket, MA 02554.


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