The Oak Bluffs Library is clearly the pride of Pacific avenue. Tomorrow begins one of the Library Friends of Oak Bluffs book drives from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday features the imaginative Yoga for Tots at 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. Director Sondra Murphy is a virtual community curator and she and her staff go to almost any length to achieve their mission of supporting community, building cultural awareness and providing access. At 1 p.m. Thursday, for example, attendees can learn about the Pinterest website and at 6 p.m., Bonnie Stacy will talk about her (and our) new book from the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, Martha’s Vineyard. The cover of the new book features crowds arriving on the ferry in the 1920s at Oak Bluffs, the gateway to Martha’s Vineyard, the town we all believe is the one travelers think of when they think of Martha’s Vineyard.
Like the story the Emperor’s New Clothes, however, my nationalistic jealousy has developed an itch to scratch as a result of last week’s announcement that our western neighbor on the other side of the bridge has (deservedly) been named the state’s newest cultural district. They too have a new library and a historic district. They have art galleries like our popular Arts District. They have a downtown harbor—like we do, promoted as the largest marina on the Island which, come to think of it, defies my lying eyes as I stand and look at Edgartown’s from almost any vantage point. Some may point out that we have more slips so maybe I should go count them. Vineyard Haven has the Katharine Cornell Theater, the brand new Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse and the state-of-the-art Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. Oh yeah, they have the Capawock theater – we have two of those—even though neither of ours is in as good shape. Once nicknamed The Great Watering Place, Oak Bluffs seems to have troubles with our principal beach, three weeks before the July 4th weekend.
In an earlier column this year I highlighted an 1877 travel guide that said: “As to Oak Bluffs, with its great number of first-class hotels, its countless cottages, beautiful as the abodes of fairy land, its excellent society, moral, intelligent, and high toned, yet reasonably open, democratic, and kindly disposed to all, the best and safest shore for bathing almost on the Atlantic coast – it is the most beautiful of the seaside resorts of Massachusetts.” Later I quoted Howes Norris, editor and publisher of the Cottage City Star who wrote, “We don’t think the voters are quite willing to sufficiently recognize the wants and needs of the summer residents…Non-residents pay our taxes. They don’t grumble at supporting our schools and other expenditures, from which they receive no benefit. Let us in turn do the little in our power this year to show them we mean to look after their comfort and pleasure by doing a few little necessary things for their gratification.”
Like fix the beach. Like address the situation of the theaters at the foot of our town. Because otherwise it looks like the emperor is butt-naked. My hat’s off to Vineyard Haven.
Tomorrow at another Island’s library—in Chilmark—photographer Marilyn Miller begins her exhibit, This Sense of Place, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Ms. Miller is an Oak Bluffs resident whose photographs were used in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 “Savor the Moment” calendars published by the Oak Bluffs Library in honor of Della Hardman, the widely revered former writer of this column.
Renaissance House at 31 Pennacook avenue begins its writers salon Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. with John Hough Jr.’s reading from his book, Little Bighorn. Of note is that the group will read the Frederick Douglass Speech, “What Does The Fourth of July Mean to a Negro,” at 1 p.m. at the Inkwell with a potluck dinner. I found out from my colleague Tom Dunlop here at the paper that Frederick Douglass himself spoke at two lectures here on Martha’s Vineyard in 1857.
That interesting news comes on the heels—oh the irony—of the Smithsonian Institution’s designating Oak Bluffs a Place of Pride in the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Keep your foot on a rock.