In New England Old Is Good
Welcome to the April 2012 edition of
Jud’s New England Journal, the rather
curious monthly musings of Judson Hale,
the Editor-in-Chief of Yankee Magazine,
published since 1935 in Dublin, N.H.
In New England
Old Is Good
That is, in most cases. (But not all.)
It’s true that in New England old is good while new is, at best, somewhat suspect. For instance, in the social scheme of things, old houses are regarded more highly then new houses. Old companies are better to work for than new companies. Better to own an old barn than to build a brand new one. Old wooden boats are much admired. New fiberglass boats less so. Old-time New Englanders (young people being an exception) are not inclined to wear showy new clothes. As the late Cleveland Amory once wrote, “For a woman to dress too smartly…is to open herself to the charge that she is a social climber.” Of course, that sounds ridiculous today but nonetheless I think wearing slightly threadbare clothing that has been around for years is still, in some circles, a subtle sign of gentility. (Old but definitely not stained.)
I haven’t been in any of the three yacht clubs in Marblehead, Massachusetts, for some years, but I remember how each used to demonstrate physically it’s place on the New England social ladder. Out on Marblehead Neck, where many summer people own houses, are the Eastern Yacht Club and the Corinthian Yacht Club. Old families with old money belong to the Eastern Yacht Club whose clubhouse, as it seemed to me, looked as if it might collapse during the next storm. It needed stain or paint, there always seemed to be a loose board or two out on the porch, and the dining and other facilities were modest, although, with a certain quiet, old charm. The Eastern was — and probably still is — THE club to belong to.
The Corinthian Yacht Club, on the other hand, attracted people with new money and its clubhouse and dock were new, meticulously maintained, modern and rather posh.
To, say, a Texan or anyone else not knowledgeable in New England ways, an inspection of the physical facilities of the Eastern and the Corinthian back in the comparatively old days, would have caused the Corinthian to be the immediate and obvious choice. And from the old New England point of view, that would be all well and good. Let those newcomers enjoy the Corinthian. As someone once said, “A Texan may be many things, including sometimes a braggart — but he can never be a snob.”
Then there was the Boston Yacht Club, located across the harbor from the “Neck”, in the town of Marblehead. As far as I know, it’s still the place for those not interested — or not able to be interested — in social considerations. So the clubhouse was neither obviously old nor obviously new, neither run down nor posh. It was comfortable, practical, and I’m sure that’s what it is today. Some Marbleheaders, particularly the young ones who come from old families with old money, join both the Eastern and the Boston Yacht Club. That’s known as covering your bases.
As for me, I don’t currently belong to a club of any kind. On the other hand, at least I’m old. And, as I’ve said, old is good. But, you know, I guess I’d sooner be young.