When I was younger, the thought of retiring in East Chop was something I never considered. The image I had of winters here was one of boarded-up homes, dark streets, and boredom. When Jere and Emma Carmichael came to East Chop to live full-time in 1972, I thought they were crazy.
“We came because we had deep roots,” Emma explained. “Jere and I always dreamed of moving to the Vineyard full-time. It’s not like going to Florida or some new place. We already had a house and lots of friends.”
The idea of Vineyard roots was a common theme among the several retired people I interviewed for this column. In addition to roots, Joan and John Potter are here because all three of their kids work on the Vineyard. Full-time employment on the Island, a career! I couldn’t imagine such a thing several years ago.
Seniors are also here because it’s a place their kids love to visit, according to Joan Perrine. “Allie and Paul love to come for Thanksgiving to see ‘their island’ off-season.”
For the many retired seniors living in East Chop, the Island becomes smaller after Labor Day. “We can’t wait to see our ‘off-season’ friends,” commented Debby Lewis. “It’s so easy to meet new friends in the winter,” Patsy McCornack chimed in. “We all share this common love of the island. That gives us something in common.”
And social opportunities abound, according to Lal Dowley. “Both the men and women have their Thursday luncheon groups. Then there is Garden Club, and many winter residents are members of bridge and book clubs.”
“The Oak Bluffs Senior Center sponsors lectures, exercises classes, and trips to Boston,” Beth O’Brien said. “We still have theatre and music here,” Patsy McCornack added, “but I like to escape the Island every now and then.” That was a common sentiment expressed by several retired seniors.
“Don’t forget, Rick. We still have our sports in the winter,” Liz Huss interjected with a smile. “We played golf well beyond Christmas last year, and there are several places for tennis after the Tennis Club closes.” Many East Choppers have winter memberships at the Edgartown Yacht Club where tennis is routinely played in the winter months.
Finally, many retired seniors continue to work either through volunteer service or part-time employment. Bob Huss chairs the Port Council for the Steamship Authority while Bill O’Brien is a member of the charter commission. Terry Appenzellar has so many volunteer irons in the fire that her friends can’t keep up with her. To afford tickets to high school football games, Joan Perrine fixes clocks. Emma Carmichael still works for Town and Country Realty.
Despite all these many differences from winters past, some things may not have changed that much.
“It’s certainly dark when I go home at night,” Joan Perrine admitted. “It can be a little scary. Our street has no lights, and people go to bed so early in the winter. And yet, the important thing is that I’m really going home. New Jersey was nothing more than a temporary residence.”