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Volume 40 Issue 18 • Sept 2-8, 2010
now in our 40th season

Celebrating our 40th Anniversary!
Island Memories

A Pivotal Year

Catherine StoverI often reflect on my life as a young person on Nantucket.  1970 was a pivotal year, not only for me, but for most Americans.  Historically, things were changing rapidly, not just on Nantucket, but everywhere.  Young people all over the country were getting their Irish up about the Vietnam War.  The majority of them had no idea what effect their umbrage had on the young men that had to go to Vietnam, nor the generation of Americans who had given birth to those young men.  It seemed as though the anger generated toward the War was the catalyst for a rejection of the social mores of the time.

Nantucket was awash in Hippies.  Folks were beside themselves about Them and worked into quite a lather, entirely, you should excuse the expression.  Were They respectable? Reasonable? Drug-crazed?  I rather fancied the look of Them and ran out and bought myself a pair of pink granny glasses with which to view the world.

I was a member of the graduating class at Nantucket High School.  I was happy to be leaving, as most of us are when we don’t know anything about anything.  At least half of my fellow graduates were going off-island to further their education, including me.  I considered it a Great Adventure, and started to pack my dorm trunk with the things I couldn’t live without.  The first thing I put in was a paperback copy of Gone With the Wind which I had finished reading during summer babysitting jobs.  I just knew I was going to be reading it over and over.  I don’t believe I ever have since.  In fact, I didn’t see the movie until long after I was married and had produced a stack of children to watch it with me.

I had a boyfriend from Colorado that I was absolutely crazy in love with.  He was a wonderfully sweet, respectful, gentle guy without an angry bone in his body.  We met through a mutual friend during the early summer of 1969.  We went to the dances at the American Legion Hall.  We watched the Moon Landing on television with my grandparents.  We took walks, listened to Country music, sat for hours in the yard of the Atheneum and planned our future together.  We occasionally splurged and bought a grinder from Henry’s which was operational in the Tap Room of the Jared Coffin House during the winter.  We went to movies at the Dreamland, and watched TV at his aunt’s house.  In late August 1970, just before I left for college, he returned to Colorado to continue his education.  We would probably still be together if not for a comedy of errors that commenced with an anonymous letter to me from a jealous rival for his affections.

The Sexual Revolution was going on all around me, and I never “fired a shot.”  Things were much different back in 1970.  Unfortunately, I believe the notion of “Free Love” as it was evolving rocketed us toward a dangerous era of unprotected intimacy, both emotional and physical.  I don’t remember being mistrustful of anyone, nor anything, until late in 1970.  Would I want to return to an America and a Nantucket that wasn’t hardened by anger, suspicion and disbelief?  Yes, but only if I could carry the lessons I’ve learned since back with me.

—Catherine Flanagan Stover


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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