It is astonishing that it took only 15 years (1867-1882) for Erastus P. Carpenter and his crew — Captains Shubael Lyman Norton, Ira Darrow, Grafton Norton Collins, William Bradley and William S. Hills — the members of the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company, to build Cottage City. Promoted as a ‘Summer Residence by the Sea,” sales literature extolled its virtues as “The healthiest and pleasantest watering-place of the country”; “the finest views of Vineyard Sound”; “the soft and balmy atmosphere” and the “moderate temperature of the water attributable to the proximity of the Gulf Stream.” Published in July 1867, the facts of the hyperbole are that it is actually Nantucket Sound unless you’re on the west side of East Chop, and the Gulf Stream comes as close as Noman’s Land by August — but never gets near Oak Bluffs.

I wouldn’t call July water temperatures moderate. To most, the 82 degrees of the pool at the YMCA is moderate, and seeing people in the water at the Inkwell between now and July is a dead giveaway they’re from Canada. Bathing was a new social event in those days and swimming was unheard of until the 1890s. Bathing in Oak Bluffs consisted of standing in chest-deep water fully clothed, and was an activity pursued principally by women and children. Women arrived at the beach fully clothed in high bustled dresses by designers such as Godey’s, and they used rented bath houses to change into outfits almost as elaborate, replete with tights and where, evidenced by early pictures, the only exposed body parts were faces and hands. Most people at the beach in those days were gawkers that mobbed the boardwalks and bath houses to watch those who had adopted the new pastime of, well, standing around in the water, specifically from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on sunny days, but not Sundays. Photographs show few men in the water until the latter 1880s — similarly dressed head to toe — and it wasn’t until the 1890s that bathing suits became sleeveless. Bathing suits were made of serge cotton, a rough, heavy material that held water, did not dry quickly, and one can only imagine how they must have smelled after a saltwater soak.

A columnist of the Boston Traveller described a lady’s suit: “It was composed of dark blue serge, pants of the same, trimmed with white. The sleeves came half-way between the shoulder and the elbow, and were scalloped and bound with white. The tunic, for that was the shape, reached just below the knee, also bound and scalloped, belt round, with white pink stockings and sandal slippers. A neat straw hat completed the costume.” Articles and reviews about bathing suits back then were derisive to the point of insult. In 1886 the Martha’s Vineyard Herald wrote “The amount of physical beauty necessary to render

a man sitting on the sand, clad in his bathing suit and nothing else, is possessed, possibly, by one in a thousand. Such an Adonis may be tolerated, with patience, but the nine hundred and ninety-nine unlovely dudes and nondescripts should hide their ugliness beneath the waves.” Chiming in on the Victorian attitude, if you’re a man over 30 you shouldn’t wear a Speedo at the beach. It’s unlikely the water will hit 65 degrees this weekend even should there be sun enough to visit the shore.

Memorial Day weekend — welcome back, snowbirds! Henry Beetle Hough once wrote, “In this new period there was a slighter overlapping, a narrower contact between the summer community and the all year residents of the Island. The early summer visitors had mingled with the Islanders; in the early clubs, the two worlds had met on something like equal terms . . . . Now the summer visitors were apt to be strangers who remained strangers, except to themselves.” There’s a mutual moral to that story, and we should all be happy the guests are returning.

There’s a full moon Saturday, highlighting the season’s kickoff and the annual Memorial Day 5K Road Race takes place Monday. The Oak Bluffs Police Department alerts that parking rules are being enforced for the season.

The allegory of the treadmill someone left at the roundabout is simply delicious. Brilliant, whoever did that!

My fingers are crossed hoping construction on the Island Theatre results in a historically renovated, operating movie theater. On the other hand, it’s creepy and alarming that the highest use of the lobby of the wood-framed Sand Theatre seems to be gasoline-fueled moped storage.

Keep your foot on a rock.