Pausing to Remember

This season marks the 50th year that Yesterday’s Island has been published. To celebrate that anniversary, we are indulging in some nostalgia, remembering 1970 on Nantucket through interviews with island residents who were living and working here half a century ago. At that time, the island was beginning to draw more attention and more tourists than it had in quite some time. As H. Flint Ranney put it, “… about 1970, somebody sped up the music.”

This season, “the music” has stopped for now, and looking back to Nantucket during a gentler time has turned out to be comforting as we hope not to be among those left without a chair.

In an article published in National Geographic in June of 1970 titled Life’s Tempo on Nantucket, author Robert Benchley wrote of an island “with a scanty year-round population of 3,900” and “a secret allure” that during the summer draws “some 16,000 people, from almost every state and from many foreign countries.” Benchley continued: “This most prized of Nantucket commodities—a sense of isolation—is what draws the summer visitor. For the Nantucketer it is the heart of the matter.”

Those we have interviewed so far remember 1970 on Nantucket as a time of family gatherings, hippies (and “anti-hippie” bylaws passed in November), streaking, dune buggies, beach parties, surfscasting, and weddings. They remember a fierce August storm, arson, extension of the HDC, a new addition to Nantucket Cottage Hospital, Sankaty Head Lighthouse getting a new and far brighter light, and the Nantucket High School Whalers winning the Mayflower Championship. An emergency airlift of 35,000 pounds of food to the island took place in January 1970, after ice in the harbor three-feet thick left the island without ferry service for days. And on March 7 of 1970, Nantucket went dark when the island was in the path of totality of a stunning full solar eclipse (only from Nantucket and Monomoy Point could this be seen).

In this, our first printed issue for 2020, we share some memories of Harvey Young, whose family has been very much a part of Nantucket for generations.

If you have memories (and photos) of Nantucket Island in 1970, we would love for you to share them with us! Please email them to yi@nantucket.net along with a phone number if you’d like us to give you a call to reminisce.

Happy anniversary to us, and here’s to a happy 2020 for us all!