From an article originally published in 1992 in Historic Nantucket about the various summer rituals based on the various parts of the island throughout the 20th century. Early in the 1900s, people kept much more to their own village rather than heading into town, or even ‘Sconset.
Many summered on Tuckernuck in the 1920s, rarely going back to the “big” island. Wauwinet-ers had a community center and brought a priest in from ‘Sconset on weekends, foregoing the journey themselves.
Here’s an excerpt on the Wauwinet Yacht Club.
The Wauwinet Yacht Club was founded in 1876 and is the second-oldest registered yacht club in the United States. It has had as many as a hundred and fifty members, and in the early days they raced the Nantucket Yacht Club for the Lillian Cup, which derived its name from the steam yacht—and later, catboat—Lillian, which began its trips between town and Wauwinet also in 1876.
The Wauwinet Yacht Club’s official opening for the season took place on July Fourth at a gathering on someone’s lawn or, if it rained, in a garage or living room; refreshments were served. Although the meetings were informal, serious matters were discussed for the Wauwinel Yacht Club was responsible for organizing the season’s social and recreational activities, such as tennis tournaments and field days.
When the business meeting adjourned, the local children paraded in a circle around the old Wauwinet House and into the Crow’s Nest compound. Each summer the parade had a different theme, defined by what was current or popular at the time. The group was so small that you might have missed it if you blinked, but the children of Wauwinet marched proudly in their cleverly designed, handmade costumes. Prizes were given for the most authentic and original each year.
Wauwinet’s Fourth of July celebration centered around the family, as did other activities. The people who lived and summered in Wauwinet “always made their own fun,” according to Jane Lamb, who has lived there all her life. Throughout the summer children played at potato races, kick-the-can, flashlight tag, and scavenger and treasure hunts. Families traveled en masse to Coatue for sumptuous all-day picnics.
The families in Wauwinet were a close-knit group, and the community was self-sufficient in many ways. In the early 1900s, residents raised the funds to build a community center that served both for worship services and entertainment.(Later it was moved up next to the Wauwinet House from its original location on the beach.) A minister went out from ‘Sconset on Sundays, and members of the Actors’ Colony and other local residents would put on theatrical presentations in the same setting. The people of Wauwinet felt little need to travel into town for entertainment because life out there was so satisfying. Although the summer population is more transient now than when Jane Lamb was a girl, she maintains that “once you get sand in your shoes” out in Wauwinet, you keep coming back.
Read the full piece Summer Rituals: Wauwinet to Tuckernuck.