The late colorful Oak Bluffs character Eben Davis Bodfish (1869-1944) was known as a successful real estate agent who made his offices in the Greene’s Block building (just before DaRosa’s) on Circuit avenue. He built his practice with signs all over town saying, “Ask Eben” and “Lots for Little,” a tactic that certainly made him stand out. He was apparently an impeccable dresser appearing with a shirt and tie, a tall Panama hat and a rose pinned to his lapel in a photo on the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s website.

Real estate wasn’t his only occupation, however. For a period of time after college at Bridgewater State Normal School he taught on the Cape for awhile, and later during his first marriage to Ann Webb, Eben worked at her parent’s hotel and resort in Cotuit renting bicycles. Leaving for home on the Vineyard where he was born caused a divorce and Eben then worked at his brother William P. Bodfish’s grocery store, Bodfish & Call in Vineyard Haven in 1905. The store morphed into SBS sometime later. One of the first people on the Vineyard to own a car, the Vineyard News of April 8, 1920 noted that Eben had purchased the Horatio Pease property near the lighthouse to use as the Island’s first parking for a restaurant he planned to open in Gay Head. While driving was a passion, it wasn’t something he was good at — as the Gazette reported, “Eben was stuck again” when, driving in Gay Head he often had to have a team of oxen to pull him out after driving off the road.

In November 1921 Eben Bodfish at age 52 married Elizabeth Jewett Legg, the niece of Hamilton J, Greene, a prominent town citizen who owned the Greene’s Block Building. Greene was also the grandfather of Stuart MacMackin, our favorite Circuit avenue street kid. Bodfish was vice president of the Vineyard Grove Company, the successor to the Oak Bluffs Land & Wharf Company where Hamilton Greene was also an officer. Eben served on the Oak Bluffs finance committee from 1923 to 1932. On Feb. 3, 1939, the Gazette reported he owned a cranberry bog near Makonikey in a story about a mysterious animal appearing there that despite various descriptions, most of us would believe to have been an otter. He owned various other properties including his folk’s home that was bequeathed to him by one of his brothers. His obituary in the Oct. 27, 1944 Gazette noted that over his 75 years Bodfish had been principal of the Sandwich Grammar school, principal of the Cotuit High School, associated with the summer hotel business, a member of the board of assessors and a director of the Martha’s Vineyard Cooperative Bank. A Mason, he was also a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club. He also is credited as being the first to sell East Chop homes to black people, something prohibited by past practice and restrictions that even today remain in certain land and deed documents. What causes me to recall the esteemed Oak Bluffs character Eben Davis Bodfish, however, results from a Jan. 31, 1924 mention in the Gazette noting that he had sold the Eagle Theatre for Allen R. Norton to Carroll J. Darling for $20,000, one of the largest transactions in Oak Bluffs in years.

In today’s dollars that would amount to about $270,000, coincidentally close to what the Martha’s Vineyard Theatre Foundation needs to complete renovations of the Strand in Oak Bluffs and the Capawock in Vineyard Haven. Your tax deductible contribution to this worthy cause can be made on their website,, or via snail mail c/o Winnetu Oceanside Resort, 31 Dunes Road, Edgartown, MA 02539.

Congratulations to Phil daRosa, a recipient of a Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council Grant. There is a reception honoring recipients Wednesday April 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Vineyard Playhouse.

Next Wednesday learn how to make a magnet from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Oak Bluffs Library (with a repeat session Friday, April 25). You may want to use this weekend to box up lightly used books for the library’s book drive Saturday, April 25 starting at noon.

Back Door Donuts opens tonight at 7 p.m. Yay, fritters! Giordano’s Restaurant opens May 21.

Warm thoughts and best wishes to the candidates for office in the town of Oak Bluffs. “Give us pure candidates and a pure ballot box, and our freedom shall stand as firm as the rocks.”

Keep your foot on a rock.

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