What an exciting summer this has been, as the Island became the backdrop for filming the first episode, Stranger at the Door, of Bill Baker’s documentary, The Brownsville Texas Incident: The Source of Teddy Roosevelt’s Biggest Blunder. It was filmed by cameraman Carl Holt, a demanding lensman seeking perfection; the complexity and intricacy of filmmaking were made plain as he told the actors, “We’ll shoot it over and over until it’s right.”

The opening episode was shot at the Stoney Hill Farm in West Tisbury and at Martha’s Vineyard Airport. It tells the story of a small boy of five or six, in southwest Georgia in 1936, who learned about the Brownsville, Texas incident of 1906 during the Great Depression from his grandfather, a former slave and self-educated man. The child remembers a stranger walking down the dirt road, his clothes old and tattered, wearing a quaint, funny-looking wide-brimmed hat, an oddity to the boy, his shoes kicking up clouds of red dust which rise to the top of his boots. The little boy, fearful, scampers up the steps yelling to his grandma that a beggar is coming. The man mounts the steps but hesitates when the grandma appears on the porch. Thinking she is white, he doesn’t want trouble. After assuring the man she is “colored,” she gives him bread and a blessing, refusing to take the few pennies he has in his pocket.

The next day at dusk, evening shadows begin to fall as the boy and his grandma leave the grocery store in town. They expect the boy’s grandfather will be coming over the hill at any moment and wait there for him. Suddenly, the boy hears the screeching of tires and sees a car skidding up the road. He hears brakes squealing and smells burning rubber as the car tries to stop, creating a cloud of dust which trails the skidding car. He turns in time to see an old man trying to cross the road. Someone shouts, “Watch out! Car! Car!” But the warning comes too late. The boy hears a thud, a cry of pain as the car hits the man and drags him several feet, then speeds away. All the commotion draws the white storekeeper from the meat market, who plows his way through the crowd toward the lifeless body. The boy runs to him, grabs the corner of his apron, pulls him toward the man on the ground, his eyes beseeching him to help the stranger, but the storekeeper only makes a shocking racial epithet about the old man which the boy never forgets.

The boy crosses the road, picks up the old man’s hat and rushes to where he lay motionless on the ground, face up, eyes wide open. The boy recognizes the man as the stranger who came to his grandma’s door asking for bread. As he turns to walk away, he sees coming through the crowd his grandfather, who kneels beside the old man, lifts his hand to feel his pulse, and then looks off into the distance. The boy walks to his grandfather, hands him the old man’s hat which his grandfather places over the dead man’s face. He tells the boy that he knew the old man from long, long ago; that he was one of those soldiers from Brownsville, Texas, who was accused of shooting up the town.

That little boy in this episode grew up to be Lt. Col. William Baker, who served at the Pentagon and was the last researcher of the infamous Brownsville, Texas Incident of 1906, when some 167 African American soldiers were discharged without honor by President Theodore Roosevelt after the town of Brownsville was shot up by unknown parties. His documentary tells the story of how justice was served some 66 years later. Mr. Baker’s research is in the National Archives. In January of 1974, Col. Baker stood in the White House Oval Office, and watched President Richard M. Nixon fumble with the pens, struggling to hold them between his fingers as they kept slipping out of his sweaty hands, as he nervously signed the legislation granting compensation to the last two survivors, a capstone of Bill’s work. After all, it was the height of the Watergate scandal. He is the producer of the documentary. Other episodes are being filmed and edited by PBS WITF-TV, Harrisburg, Pa., and by WFSU (NPR), Tallahassee, Fla.

After returning from taking the last grandkid, Wesley Walker, home to Washington, D.C., on Amtrak’s fast train, I was among those boarding the Island Home ferry in Woods Hole who witnessed an end-of-the-season drama. A 20-foot sailboat drifted into the starboard side of the bow, leaving all observers in a quandary as to what the confused-looking helmsman, with a bent cigarette hanging from his lips, could have been thinking. A fast Chilmark acquaintance, Sara Cluver, was the first to make us aware of the accident as we sat on the lower passenger deck, starboard side, wondering why a sailboat’s white mainsail was flat and flapping as the sailboat bounced off the ferry. I briefly stepped out onto the gangplank to check out the situation, but the ferry agent was shooing everyone back inside. By now Sara had mounted the steps to the top deck and returned to deliver every detail. She told us, after overhearing a conversation between the Steamship Authority workers, that the helmsman may have been celebrating the holiday too enthusiastically and drifted into the ferry! The handy ferry guys jumped aboard the sailboat, started the in-board engine, and we watched the sailboat move to safer waters. What a relief! Yes! The helmsman delayed our departure, and though the Island Home has the fastest crossing time, with a top speed of 16 knots, we missed the 7:15 VTA bus to the Park and Ride lot in Tisbury. What a delight it was meeting Sara Cluver and learning about her father’s vision to purchase a family property in Chilmark years ago and her friends in Oak Bluffs. I’m sure we’ll meet again.

Labor Day 2011 ushered in a new set of proposals from the President to boost the nation’s fragile economic recovery with emphasis on jobs. As the more affluent summer residents leave the Island, while some remain as year-round residents, there is a keen awareness that enjoyment of the two-home-plus lifestyle is under scrutiny even among the well-off – some for economic reasons, for others, ease of living as they age. To those who continue to struggle on and off the Island and are in economic pain, challenged by the Great Recession of 2008, and to those who share their concerns, it is worth remembering Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s role in redefining class in America with his New Deal and how those policies, programs and safety nets have worked over time, sustaining even today those fighting their way out of this recession and back to jobs that provide good economic outcomes for their families. FDR said it well in his Second Inaugural, January 20, 1937, which changed the course of the American democratic experiment: “The test of our progress,” he said, “is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Services for Kathy Allen, who passed away on August 31, 2011, have been arranged. A memorial service will be held atLemeual Haynes CongregationalChurch in Queens, N.Y., at a date to be determined later this month. There will be a memorial service on the Island inher honor during the summer of 2012. Mrs. Allen is survived by two sisters, Ruth Scarville Boneparte and Millie Henderson; a son, Millard; granddaughter, Alysa Taylor; and two great-grandchildren, Latrell and LabialBest. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to The Cottagers,Inc. (BuildingFund) P. O. Box2595, Oak Bluffs, MA02557. Cards should be sent to Ruth Scarville Boneparte and Millie Hende rson at P.O. Box 917, Oak Bluffs MA02557.  Kathy Allen’s presence on the Island for more than 50 years, her beautiful personality and engaging smile, will be sorely missed.    

On Sept. 11, the Rev. Alden Besse will be the preacher and celebrant at Trinity Episcopal Church in Oak Bluffs. Rev. Besse retired to the Vineyard in 1990 from his parish in Whitensville. For 15 years he served as Pastoral Assistant at Grace Church in Vineyard Haven, and as former chair and now cochair he has served the Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council for many years. He is also well known on the Island for his longtime participation in the annual Crop Walk. Trinity Episcopal Church is located opposite the Steamship wharf in Oak Bluffs. Service begins at 9 a.m. All are welcome.

The Tivoli Day Pancake Breakfast sponsored by the United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard will be on Saturday, Sept. 17 from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Trinity Parish House in the Camp Ground in Oak Bluffs. There will be a full breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and beverages.

The gardens have yielded their bounty, the roses bloom for the last time, and soon the Montauk daisies will open white, yellow and glorious. Though I arrived late on the Island this summer because of a broken kneecap, the question remains, admittedly mundane, Where did the time go? That answer always is personal yet there is a familiar reply, “Where we chose to spend it.” When I listen to friends account for the summer the inevitable recriminations from some surface — too many guests, the grandkids stayed too long, and next year’s going to be different. It’s as if we need summer resolutions as well as New Year’s resolutions to make wiser choices. I’m uncertain that wiser choices can be made when so many friends and family want a piece of heaven.

My tenure with the column will end mid-September with yet another great High Season. My house will close gently until summer returns. The windows will be shuttered, heat lowered, the flower and garden beds cleaned. As the autumnal equinox arrives, the days will be cooler, the streets eerily quiet, the days shorter. This will be a summer to remember for long, quiet beach days, memorable sunsets, a presidential visit, and what has become a season of hurricane watches. As always, I’ve loved writing about you and what seems significant for its time. I will be turning the column over to my friend and prolific writer, Holly Nadler on Sept. 16.

All the best, Bettye.