“How about a coin?,” we used to entreat passengers aboard the ferries while visitors from America embarked and disembarked at the dock in Oak Bluffs on the way to Nantucket. The bigger kids — and faster swimmers — were able to get closest and catch the best booty of half dollars and quarters while the slower, smaller kids dove for nickels, dimes and pennies further away. The smaller kids saved coins to buy flippers to increase speed, and masks to see those missed that sank to the bottom.

I spoke with Ed Charter, owner of the new Pirate Jack’s Burger Shack across from the police department and the SSA — where, it turns out, Ed used to work during summers off from college and where one of his responsibilities was trying to corral the risky but profitable pastime of coin diving, as it was called. When deciding on his burger enterprise, Ed and his marketing consultant Bill Engler initially planned to name it The Coin Diver — since it was across from the dock. “Aah,” I said, “So you were one of the guys trying to kick us out of there huh?” He laughed saying that the SSA wanted us to be safe. Having forgotten why and when coin diving ended, I of course called The Island’s favorite SSA person, Bridget Tobin, who teased that she didn’t know what I was talking about but then told me folks haven’t been allowed to get within 500 feet of ferries as a result of 9/11.

Bridget, by the way, is quite proud of daughter Emma Sara’s graduation from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she studied sustainable agriculture — which runs in the family, as her Dad, Matt Tobin, owns Eden Market and Garden in Vineyard Haven. One thing leads to another and I called Richard Washington, one of the half dozen original coin divers, who, at age 16 and 17, (after seeing an adventure movie at the Island Theatre with kids coin diving) decided to try it for himself. Richard and his wife spend part of their time in St. Lucia, where he sails and races his sailboat, Hot Chocolate. He is, coincidentally, a former commercial abalone diver and for 28 years a movie and television stunt man. His memories of coin diving match mine except he has more and better ones, like when kids bought masks and flippers they went to the Tobin Dive Shop in Vineyard Haven owned by Wally Tobin: yes, Matt Tobin’s Dad! I was one of the louder, smaller kids — and a slightly older coin diver, George Giosmas, looked after me since his and my mom were friends. The Giosmas family owned the Captain’s Table — today’s Pirate Jack’s! It would be cool if they could get the old Vineyard burger recipe from Georgie, who fills in once weekly at Giordano’s Clam Bar.

The SSA dock is the gateway to Oak Bluffs, captured by Professor Ellen Weiss’s extraordinary book, City in the Woods, extolling our architectural history from the Camp Ground tents of 1835 through the Land and Wharf Company’s development of Cottage City in 1867. The intricate ropes tied atop tents in Wesleyan Grove which used to differentiate one family’s tent from another, became the design for the Victorian gingerbread houses that worldwide travelers come to see today. Professor Weiss portrays the social and religious mores that lent to the design and construction of America’s original architecture, Camp Ground or carpenter Gothic revival. Where now we have a modern but conforming SSA terminal, there used to stand a formal building and dock attached to the first Seaview Hotel — designed by Samuel Freeman Pratt. In addition to his design of many of the structures and one of the four jewels of Oak Bluffs, Mr. Pratt designed between 18 and 22 homes—about 12 of which remain. Most are easily spotted on my route to the post office via Canonicus and Samoset avenues. Several are on Narragansett, Pequot and Tuckernuck and each is a carved wooden work of art. The four jewels of Oak Bluffs? Ocean Park, The Flying Horses, The Tabernacle — and Mr. Pratt’s majestic Union Chapel.

Summer’s first Oak Bluffs Arts Stroll last Saturday was fabulous, and Offshore Ale’s concoction, the Shandi, offered at Alison Shaw’s Gallery, was particularly tasty. It would be nice if traffic was stopped for the few hours of the stroll.

The Portuguese Holy Ghost Feast and Parade starts tomorrow at the Marina and the P.A. Club.

The Jim Thomas Spirituals Choir performs at Union Chapel tomorrow evening at 7 p.m.

Douglas Peckham’s art show and sale is at 56 Pennacook tomorrow and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A service at 4 p.m. Sunday at Trinity Church in the Camp Ground celebrates the lives of Bishop John Burgess and his wife, Esther. Mr. Burgess was the first black diocesan bishop in the Episcopal church. He and Mrs. Burgess were active in civil rights and died respectively in 2003 and 2004 after retiring to the Vineyard in 1989. The preacher will be the Rev. Mark Bozutti-Jones of New York’s Trinity Church, and all are welcome.

The Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament started yesterday.

The Cottagers host the eighth annual African American Cultural Festival yesterday and today with a series of events.

Our official summer began with the return of Vanessa, the Farm Pond sea creature (welcome back), and Ken DeBettencourt’s flower stand, which is now open on Wing Road, across from the fire station, where the zinnias remain one of the best deals in town. I asked and Kenny told me — the repurposed flower cans come from Giordano’s — where we spent many a coin from diving on fries and clams.

What a nice place to grow up — where people threw you money!

Keep your foot on a rock.