It could be nostalgia that brings so many to Oak Bluffs for so many years where. As Arthur Railton said, “something was always going on.”
Three of us old buddies since the 50s, Boston Federal Reserve Bank’s Rich Walker, airport entrepreneur Bob Crews and I were reminiscing late one night recently about the times then and changes now. The raft at the Inkwell having seen its day was probably our fault, throwing each other off it to impress girls, for example. No one remembered what happened to the paddle boats at Sunset Lake. I remembered one daytime date on the paddle boats in particular — and there were others — but now I regret not having rented them more often as perhaps it was my slacking off that made them economically unfeasible, if indeed that was the reason they’re gone.
Writing this column I often meet a bunch of you who have also grown old but not necessarily up during summers in Oak Bluffs. We had a couple of bowling alleys and a cool pool hall operated by a guy named Maverick who it wasn’t wise to play against for money. It was fascinating to watch the really old guys play bocce on Sundays in Ocean Park, decked out in white from head to toe, despite our not knowing the rules of the game. They could leave those balls there all the time because we were all smart enough not to touch them. The Tivoli could be counted on for a periodic dance, and basketball indoors under the lights, if not. Conversations about Waban Park’s frequent New York versus Boston football games lasted well into the evening house parties, but the outcomes were predictable: Bobby Tankard, whose family had moved from New Jersey to the Vineyard, could decide to play for either team — usually the team that won. We were pretty sure Bobby could throw himself a pass and get a touchdown. I played it safe on the sidelines with the girls.
In the halcyon years of Cottage City, the diversions included skating rinks, a toboggan slide and gambling at the Dreamland Casino. Hockey teams were fielded at the skating rinks using roller instead of ice skates. Roque — a game generally similar to croquet that used clay courts in Waban Park — was a passion. In 1873 trotters raced at Girdlestone Park, where the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School is today. I’m sure there were cash stakes involved along with the excitement. Bicycle races were held between the horse races. Along with big bands, the promoters at the Tivoli brought the public midget and bear fighting and boxing. The Tivoli, built with an upstairs ballroom in 1907, was the Island’s first movie theatre. Called the Tivoli Temple, it showed movies until the Eagle (today’s Island Theater) was built in 1915. In the 1920s there were four movie theatres operating in Oak Bluffs. While two movie theaters remain, there are no movies today in Oak Bluffs. Maybe someone will buy the Sand Theater and make it a bowling alley — like it once was.
From the late 1800s when Cottage City was founded, developers needed to promote the town and the Island and used its weather and diversions to convince people to come, to buy and rent homes. Today visitors come to see and enjoy what was built. But Vineyarders come for the nostalgia.
The Douglas Peckham Studio hosts its annual art show tomorrow from 1 to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the porch at 56 Pennacook avenue. The peripatetic Mr. Peckham’s art work is available for sale and all are welcome.
The embattled Annual Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament wraps up tomorrow afternoon. Congratulations to both the winners and the ones that got away.
The Portuguese Holy Ghost Feast is this weekend and the parade starts at Washington Park tomorrow morning.
The original people called Monday’s full moon the buck moon for when deer grew new antlers. It was also sometimes called the thunder moon due to frequent thunderstorms in July. The Buck moon rises Monday at 2:16 a.m.
On Tuesday, July 23, happy birthday to the late, luxurious Seaview House hotel, designed by the genius Samuel Pratt. It was dedicated with fanfare and alacrity in 1872, but had only a short life of 20 years after burning to the ground in 1892.
The work and research of Elaine Cawley Weintraub and Carrie Tankard since 1989 led to the establishment of the African American Heritage Trail in 1997. This Wednesday, July 24 the African American Heritage Trail honors Ralf Meshack Coleman (1898-1976) and Luella Barnett Coleman’s (1896-1996) “Coleman’s Corner” at 2 p.m. at 12 Myrtle avenue in the Highlands. Mr. Coleman was called the dean of Boston’s Black Theatre, having been the first black director of the WPA Theater Project from 1935 to 1939. Luella — who we all called Granny — created Coleman’s Corner, a three-plot family homestead acquired from Manuel Gonsalves for $800 in 1944. It is now in its fifth generation of family ownership. Coleman’s Corner joins 24 other historic African American Heritage Trail sites, half of which are located in Oak Bluffs. You can find more information about the Islandwide black contributions to Island history at mvafricanamericanheritagetrail.org.
I really miss those paddle boats!
Keep your foot on a rock.