OYSTERVILLE, Mass. This exclusive enclave on Cape Cod does not spring readily to mind when tourists think of summer vacations, and the local Chamber of Commerce aims to keep it that way.
If you have to ask how much it costs per week, you can’t afford it.
“Home prices are stable–even rising–here because we work hard to keep riff-raff out,” says Marci Eberberg, current President of the organization who is a realtor on the side. When asked where she would draw the line separating the hoi-polloi from the hoity-toity, she says “If you have to ask, you don’t belong here.”
What has in the past been an informal set of guidelines has been formalized to discourage slacking-off among the more impecunious merchants in town, such as a renegade t-shirt stand that opened up near the exit off the main highway through the Cape, only to be promptly shut down by local authorities.
“We’re just trying to sell obscene or slightly rebellious t-shirts–is that so wrong?”
“We really threw the book at them,” says police chief Earl Lindstrom. “We cited them for lack of decorum, irreverence, and failure to coordinate summer colors.”
Long-time residents approved a mandatory code of conduct at Town Meeting last fall, when most “summer people” had returned home and emptied the sand from their shoes.
“I don’t want to see none of them ‘Buck Foston’ t-shirts next summer.”
“Men are not allowed to walk the streets without a collared shirt,” says Matthew Ornsby, a “selectman,” the New England equivalent of a city councillor or alderman. Does that apply to young boys this reporter asks, trying to suppress a note of incredulity that creeps into his voice as he talks about himself in the third person. “Especially to young boys,” Ornsby says with stern emphasis.
The revised town by-laws also outlawed flip-flops, the ubiquitous rubber summer footwear, because the flapping of the flip flops flustered many older residents who navigate the sidewalks with walkers. “I thought it was shots from a musket, and I saw my life pass before my eyes,” says Asa Tompkins, IV, a scion of a family that arrived here on the Mayflower. “My life has consisted mainly of clipping interest coupons off of investment-grade bonds, and lately polishing my grandfather’s Stutz-Bearcat, so it was a ripping good show.”
“How many miles to the gallon of oats do you get with that thing?”
Massachusetts was one of the last states to abandon an established religion, and a moralistic tone can creep into the most casual of conversations among lineal descendants of the Puritans, a Protestant sect that emigrated to America to escape what they considered to be the frivolous excesses of the Anglican Church in England. “They put padding on the pews, that was it for me,” notes Elihu Root, who died in 1630. “I’ve got to run, I’ve got a witch-burning tonight.”