That right there is a synopsis of island mentality – we’ll stereotype the heck out of somebody, harass him even though that stereotype is of a sort known to kill those who disrespect them, and then accept them after they’ve flipped us off.
It was during that time of prosperity in this country when the paradigm shifted. Locals whose families had farmed the island’s open spaces now provided services to the seasonal homeowners living in houses built on what once were fields. Along the fringes of these fields was the waterfront, and that, too, demanded massive homes to be built by local carpenters and masons. The summer people did business with the locals, hired them to cut grass, dig pools, plant shrubs and flowers. One bought fish and produce from the other. One shopped in the small ma and pa grocery, ate at the clam shack, got his boat commissioned at the little marina, had his plumbing fixed. The other made sure these services were available when the summer people returned each spring. Fall and winter were spent closing houses and then scratching a living from the land and bays. Scallops meant a good Christmas and money to see folks through until the weather turned and the vacation homes needed to be opened again, the grounds groomed of winter’s debris, the water turned on.
Thus symbiosis developed, evolved really, as the East End had been a summer resort destination since the last half of the 19th century. Now the automobile had outgained the steamers and railroad, and a host of other post-war technological advances gave the burgeoning upper middle class the tools to thoroughly fulfill its revisionary Manifest Destiny, serene sanctuary from the Rat Race back west. What could be better than a Friday afternoon spent on a long drive with extremely excited and impatient kids? Seriously, that was about the only drawback in those days. Out here, there were no crowds even on the Fourth and Labor Day weekend.
I was a summer kid who early in life moved from the west end and became a year-rounder. And I left after school to try and join the bourgeoisie, use it as a stepping stone, really, to the elite. My foray into Wall Street ended abruptly. Its fundamental premise of getting something for nothing agitated an already festering internal decay that I’d first noticed when I left the island to attend boarding school.
I’d raised chickens and ducks when I was a kid; we invested money in feed and the results were eggs and roasting ducklings. If a fox or raccoon got through the wire and killed some fowl, it was a setback, a loss, and my father and I would repair the weak spot and look to secure the pen better. I couldn’t apply that rational to the stock market and so I languished in big city purgatory before sucking up my pride and moving back. My psyche was flooded with all the negative connotations of “moving back,” and if only I had truly understood I had not failed at my attempt to succeed but rather had redefined success, maybe the transition would have been smoother.
I was a summer kid who’d become a year-rounder and had attempted to be a city person only to end up moving back and grudgingly except my fate as a local. I wrote for the weekly paper, filled with ads for restaurants, stores and service people who catered to summer people. I cooked weekends at a restaurant and worked construction, feeding the people whose houses I was helping to build.
I’d noticed another element (maybe I should call it layer) had begun to appear. They had little regard for island traditions, considered locals the unwashed masses, scoffed at the older established summer families and their shingled Victorian manses, and thought the island’s dwindling wild spaces were in need of sterilizing. They had newly-acquired wealth, virtually limitless in quantity, and demanded certain amenities the island had never previously furnished. Of course, we locals brought our raised hackles to what in hindsight amounted to protests at the posh places springing up where clam shacks had been once. My platform was so eloquently simple. It begged the question, “Why the hell would you move out here if you’re just going to bring all the ugly trappings of urban life with you?”