|Edgartown Hardware, final days downtown.|
I love Edgartown Hardware. Well, I love all hardware stores, actually. Hardware stores are my favorite stores in the world. I love gadgets and tools and fasteners, and the hardware store is where you'll find them all, and then some. I've always loved working with my hands, in all media, from sewing and knitting and weaving, to carpentry, plastering, painting, and gardening, and I believe that all things are possible with the right tool (my most recent acquisition, something I've wanted for ages, is my Makita cordless 18v, 1/2" chuck drill/driver with a light. Every girl should have one of these.).
|Polly Emin, waiting on a customer.|
Edgartown Hardware is one of the original stores on Main Street - well, as far back as I go, anyway - and the last of the vital services that remains; the last of the "real" stores, a store where you'll find something useful, something necessary for living, and one of the few stores that is open during the winter, Edgartown being a virtual ghost town from December to March, a shadow of its pre-1969 self (yes, that 1969; the year of Teddy's plunge into Poche Pond, the moonwalk, and Woodstock; the year when everything - and I mean everything - changed).
The last nail, indeed.
When I was growing up in town in the fifties and sixties, Edgartown's downtown area, primarily the three blocks between the courthouse and the harbor, boasted:
four grocery stores (A&P, Connors, First National, Mercier's - really - four grocery stores.)
two pharmacies with soda fountains (Lenny's and Pete's - with Lenny's surely being the geographic center of the universe in those days)
two liquor stores (Harborside and Al's)
two barbershops (Jordan's and Gentle's)
a 5&10 (Addie Nichols')
a clothing and shoe store (Hall's Department Store)
Edgartown Hardware (twice the size it is now)
a paper store (Irving "Are-you-going-to-buy-that-comic?!" Willoughby's)
the post office
a coffee shop
a toy and housewares store (Avery's, where my mother bought me my Ginny dolls)
the movie theater, where the little mini-park is now
town hall, with the police station and other town offices
the county courthouse
a dentist's office
two doctor's offices
a blacksmith's shop (my Uncle Orin Norton's)
a gas station/auto repair shop (Sibley's Garage)
and a fish market (Eldridge's)
(and what was that little store that Mildred Arnold ran - a little curio shop next to Jordan's barbershop where I had my first exposure to Mad Magazine and Alfred E. Neuman?)
Oh, and let's not forget the school, a mere four blocks from downtown, around the corner on the West Tisbury Road (not the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road as it has come to be called; in Edgartown it is the West Tisbury Road, in West Tisbury, the Edgartown Road). Also, there was the Edgartown Boys Club (no girls allowed except at Saturday night dances) a few blocks down School Street.
Every single thing we needed was in those three blocks. We were contained, mostly self-sufficient, and safe. Most of us lived in town, in those big white houses that the rich summer people occupy now (and I still hang onto mine, only by the skin of my teeth). We walked everywhere we needed to go and saw each other, face to face, and often. We walked to school every day, were let out at 11:30 to walk home for the hot lunch our mothers cooked us, and walked back to school at 12:30 for the afternoon session. If any of the handful of bus kids in my class (all of about six in those days: three from Ocean Heights and three from the Great Plains) played their cards right, they'd get invited to one of our homes so they weren't held captive in the deserted classroom during the lunch hour.
If we lived in Edgartown, our doctor was in Edgartown (either Mills or Nevin); our dentist was in Edgartown (LeRoy Erickson); we bought our food in Edgartown and used Edgartown banks and insurance agents (Vose). If I came home from school and my mother said, "Get in the car, we're going to Vineyard Haven," she may as well have told me we're going to the moon. Vineyard Haven was a far-off, exotic place, a place we only went to once in a great while, either to Brickman's (if Hall's didn't have our shoe size), or to the big Ben Franklin 5&10 (remember those little painted turtles, not the species, but those poor things' shells had actually been painted different colors). There was none of this traipsing all over the island every day the way we do now. Edgartown was Edgartown, Vineyard Haven was Vineyard Haven, and Oak Bluffs was Oak Bluffs. As for up-island, that was where we got taken on family expeditions to Barnhouse Beach once a year.
Following the post office's move, in very short order, the area between the A&P (now Stop and Shop) and the Triangle would become home to Al's Package Store, Dukes County Savings, Granite 5&10, the Mailroom, Paul Sheehan's pharmacy, and more. At the same time, one by one, the little stores on Main Street that had once been our life-lines became ice cream, tee-shirt, and tchochke shops.
Many summer evenings I get the urge to wander into town for a walk, to take in the cool night air and maybe run into a friend or two along the way, somehow expecting it will be like it used to be, like old home week, with greetings of "How was your winter?" and "So good to see you," with news of the family heartily exchanged, but I always come home disappointed. I mostly don't bother anymore, and neither does anyone else, apparently.
And that's the sad thing about Edgartown Hardware's departure. That little store was the last semblance of normalcy on Main Street, the one place in town that still drew a fair number of locals onto Lower Main Street. A place where you could count on greeting and having a conversation with the local contractors, especially in the early mornings. Year-round.
Once Edgartown Hardware is gone, there will be little-to-no reason for any of us to go downtown, sorry to say. The process that was begun all those years ago will be complete, the total relinquishment of our town to the tourist trade.
Not that the death of Edgartown is John and Pat's fault - to the contrary, they deserve much credit for holding out as long as they did. I wish them well, and look forward to walking up to the new store, though it won't be the same.
In truth, the departure of Edgartown Hardware is not the death of Edgartown - Edgartown was already dead. The departure of the hardware store is not the last nail in the coffin, it's the last shovel of dirt on the grave.
Edgartown, I will miss you. R.I.P.
|Pat Montes and Jonathan Polleys|
|John Montes keeps his hands in the business|
|Billy Anderson and satisfied paint customer, Nicky Huff. Billy is former owner Lauress Fisher's step-grandson. Billy also owned the store at one time.|