Cottage City was the first Island town to have electricity in 1884 and the first with street lights in 1895. One writer called ours the “City of Lights, a fairy land,” and nothing exemplified the magic of our town, renamed Oak Bluffs in 1907, better than when the Tivoli Ballroom was built. Originally called the Cottage City Casino, the Tivoli was located where the police department is today. There were shops beneath its second floor ballroom — Harry George’s Waterfront Ice Cream Parlor, Whiting’s Milk Store, a baggage express counter and taxi stand, a souvenir shop and a shooting gallery that shared space with a restaurant. For a time the Tivoli showed films in a small ground level room that was our first movie theatre. Over the years the ballroom was used for dancing to the music of band leader Will Hardy, who wrote one of the hits of the day, Tivoli Girl. The name Tivoli came from the Tivoli Gardens, a famous amusement park in Copenhagen. Among the diversions offered there were boxing, female wrestling, roller skating, midget and bear fighting, and basketball by the time I was a teenager. Young folks from all over the Island came to Oak Bluffs for the Tivoli experience and the music of their lives; “There I would waltz with my summertime maid/As proud as a duke or an earl/And she gave me her heart while the orchestra played/There I won my Tivoli girl.”
The creator of Copenhagen’s original Tivoli said it wouldn’t abandon its original charm or traditions. Generations later Walt Disney said his Tivoli-inspired theme parks would continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. He would try to emulate the Tivoli Gardens’ “happy and unbuttoned air of relaxed fun.”
Torn down in 1964 and replaced with town hall, the Tivoli lives on as the name of an inn on Circuit avenue, the license plate of a popular restaurateur and a day of gleeful recognition by folks too busy to have seen each other all season long. Circuit avenue is closed to traffic tomorrow and open for the business of “unbuttoned air of relaxed fun” on Tivoli Day.
The United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard is hosting a Tivoli Day breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Trinity Parish House Café. Cost is $8 for adults and $5 for children.
Support the Jena Pothier Flying Horses Scholarship Fund — Jena’s Ring Challenge is at the Flying Horses tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. There is a $10 per player entry fee with divisions of mini junior up to age 8, junior ages 9 to 15, an adult category 16 plus, and all entrants receive a commemorative brass ring.
Many are distressed to hear so many of us “all the timers” complaining about summer people on oh so many anti-social media comment sites. Dukes, the least wealthy county in the state, has high dependence on tourists to stay in our hotels, inns and establishments, acquire T-shirts, use our harbor, eat in our restaurants and support at least the seasonal employment of so many. There are those who own homes — who the Vineyard Gazette’s readership study says have been here longer than most full-timers, but who haven’t yet figured out a way to stay like many of us have. They and our visitors donate substantial amounts of money to our hospital, our foundations, and our institutions, such as Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. We’d be in difficult straits without these contributions — and we shouldn’t let the very few new visitors with certain bad habits and attitudes stereotype those who love Oak Bluffs as much as we do. And we have Tivoli Day.
I wish that the Tivoli Day banner was hanging across Circuit avenue instead of at the back of the police station.
Keep your foot on a rock.