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7.1.15

Encyclopedia Vineyardia: M

Moon-cusser: a term for a member of an ill-behaved class of beachcombers who, in the Age of Sail, supposedly set up false lights along the shore on foggy or stormy nights. The idea was to lure vessels onto the rocks, wrecking them, and thus making them fair game for salvage operations. If the moon came out, the game was up, hence the term. Confirmed cases of moon-cussing are virtually nonexistent, and the earliest known references are to “cursers” not “cussers.” From the Boston Spectator in 1814: “These fellows are like moon-cursers, they hold out a light to destroy the ship.”

Moon-Cusser Coffee House: a legendary folk-music venue that opened in Oak Bluffs in the summer of 1963 at the present site of Basics Clothing Company. With décor that founder David Lyman described as “barn-board and burlap,” and a lineup that included some of the bigger names in the folk scene – Jean Redpath, Tom Rush, José Feliciano, the Country Gentlemen – it was a huge, if short-lived, success. Especially popular were Monday night open-mic hootenannies. “Probably the most outstanding young folksinger on the Island is young James Taylor, son of Dr. and Mrs. Isaac Taylor of Chapel Hill N.C., and Chilmark,” the Vineyard Gazette reported on July 5, 1963. “Monday night at the Moon-Cusser Coffee House Hootenanny, 15-year-old, barefoot James got up and entertained the audience with his sincere folksinging, accompanying himself on the guitar. The general opinion of everyone who has heard and seen James ... must be that for a young boy, he is definitely talented and has quite a performing career ahead of him.” The coffee shop closed in 1966.

Money Hill: a deposit of glacial till at Chilmark’s Squibnocket beach, named for a cache of treasure supposedly buried there by pirates or shipwreck victims. The ocean has long since removed most of the original hill, but the treasure has never been found. In the early 1800s Massachusetts maintained a lifesaving station there, not for swimmers but for shipwrecked mariners. Ironically perhaps, the obscure place has been mentioned most recently in reference to plans for relocating the road and beach parking lot, plans that have pitted the extremely wealthy homeowners of Squibnocket Farms to the south of Money Hill against the merely extraordinarily wealthy homeowners of Blacksmith Valley to the north.

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